This huge and confusing thing we call the United States of America is in the midst of a major epochal reality check, not your usual, garden-variety recession. The roots of today's crises go back at least 60 years or more.
Politics in such a crisis state is naturally volatile, swinging this way, then that way, affected by fear and pride and all the usual human emotions. Like the stock market, electoral politics operates with rapid, shifting en-mass movements like a school of little fish into which one throws a rock.
At times like these, it's interesting to look at what's not being said the large elephants in the room going unrecognized. To talk about these things would take courage, self-awareness and humility, like the hard stuff shrinks and counselors try to get troubled patients to look at.
In our current climate of fear, courage is too often translated into military bravery and the capacity to do violence, and humility is virtually against the law, on par with being a "socialist," a "communist" or a "terrorist." Or else humility is seen as what the Tea Party has just done to the Democrats, which is humiliation.
So now we have the Tea Party Election. Right wing politicos and pundits are feeling their oats and talking like they've just won the Civil War, but this time the South won.
What we tend to forget in these moments, exactly what Barack Obama's overrated ascendancy to power two years ago has proved, political delusion is a temporary and vulnerable condition.
In this back-slapping, self-congratulatory right-wing moment, let's not forget that an unforeseen rock or incident can send a school of little fish off again in a completely different direction.
Hopefully and this seems to be a long-shot President Obama will not read the midterm election as a call to cave in to the likes of ex-bartender John Boehner and the snake Mitch McConnell. Hopefully it will not incline the White House to pull a Bill Clinton and become "Republican lite" for the remainder of his term, although many think he's there already.
I'm part of what used to be called the Democrat's "base" on the left, citizens who now feel they've been abandoned by this sitting President. We either did not vote at all this election, or, with zero enthusiasm, we did the very minimum and held our noses when we did vote. As this election made clear, you can't make that school of fish move your way by caving in to your enemies.
This past Saturday, a handful of activists in Philadelphia, myself included, put together a conference called The Town Meeting For Jobs Not Wars. Although we repeatedly sent out several dozen press releases, made some calls and did the whole public relations drill, we got no mainstream press coverage at all. We frankly did not expect any.
The reason is simple: The twelve speakers that included a US congressman were talking about ending our two on-going wars and cutting back on the sacrosanct and incredibly bloated Pentagon budget.
In the media business, huge elephant-in-the-room topics like this are never covered unless one of the major parties decides to turn it into a "pissing contest." Since both parties see the Pentagon budget as a given like the weather, it is never even mentioned. This was especially the case in this mid-term election.
Now we have the preposterous situation of a fired-up, Tea Party-infused majority in the House Of Representatives calling for an immediate $100 billion cut in discretionary domestic budget items, which amounts to about 15% of the budget. Their proposal would amount to a 20% cut.
On the other hand, the strange bedfellows duo of Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul are calling for a 25% cut in the Pentagon budget, which amounts to 59% of the budget. Of note, Paul's son Rand, like his father a libertarian Republican, just won a senate seat from Tennessee.
This would seem potentially to be a quite profound "pissing contest."
The problem is, so far, one side of this potential contest has failed to prepare for real political battle, instead taking on a "can't we all just get along" appeasement posture to avoid confrontation in hopes of holding onto power.