Just when you thought you'd reached the ground floor in the well of American self-destruction, you find out once again that that pit is absolutely bottomless.
Now that primary season is almost over, the far-right tea party movement has scored impressive victories over the far-right establishment in a slew of Republican primaries. I've always said that the regressive movement would end up eating its young, and now it is.
The new batch of Republican monsters includes a candidate now the official Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Delaware, mind you who has staked out a tough position against -- no, I'm not kidding here -- masturbation.
Christine O'Donnell once averred that "The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery. So you can't masturbate without lust."
And why the hell not? Surely the reason that our country has so rapidly fallen into decline is that god is punishing America because so many of us are jerking off all the time.
You know who you are.
Oh, and did you hear that she was once a witch? That she believes that scientists have bred mice-men with human brains? That she has no job? And that despite running on a platform of cleaning up Washington's fiscal disaster she has a train wreck for a record of her personal finances?
I'm not kidding. Remember way back when like, you know, yesterday when you would have accused me of bad comedy writing for making such things up? Guess what? None of these are.
America, this is you, 2010. Kinda makes you pine for the good ol' days of the thirteenth century, doesn't it?
Here in New York the nominee is a bazillionaire who sends out racist and pornographic email to people. Hah-hah. Love that kind of real working man's humor, don't you? After being rejected by the Republican party initially, Carl Paladino hired Richard Nixon's political hit man to run his campaign, injected millions of his own money to fund it, and trounced the hapless establishment candidate, Rick Lazio, who just couldn't get extreme enough to win, prostitute himself as he might, and as he readily did.
The Christian Science Monitor notes that, "Paladino, who espouses family values, has a daughter with a former employee who is not his wife". It is also noted of this great and incendiary paragon of small government that, "As a landlord, he made a lot of money renting space to the state in Albany and using state tax incentives for his real estate empire".
Similarly, Paladino has compared labor unions to pigs, and, according to the Huffington Post, "said he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in "personal hygiene'".
Did I mention that his father was employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression? Perhaps if Franklin Roosevelt had incarcerated pÃ¨re Paladino and instructed him in better hygiene instead of wasting taxpayer money to create a monstrously big government in remote Washington, DC that continually oppressed the people with stupid wasteful programs that like, oh, you know, kept starving Americans alive we in New York wouldn't be stuck with the fruit of his loins assaulting our senses today.
Whatever. I mean, what's the point of having Republicans if it's not gonna be all about hypocrisy and twisted sexual obsession, anyhow?
Meanwhile, America's thirty year March to the Sea goes on unabated. It is the most astonishing thing, if you think about it. Of course "thinking' and "America' are increasingly becoming words that can no longer be smashed into the same sentence anymore, even with the use of advanced new weaponry the Pentagon is producing. But indulge me for the moment.
What has happened to this country is that the United States which was holding a pretty goddam good winning hand, thank you very much, by the middle of the twentieth century started following (what were inaccurately labeled) conservative politicians and policies in the 1980s, and things got a lot worse. Then we followed even more regressive idiots this last decade, and things got a whole lot worse yet.
So what are we up to now, in reaction to these twin debacles of precambrian policymaking? Following even crazier still uber-extremist right-wing monster freakazoid criminals dressed up as ordinary angry citizens, of course. Natch, babe. In for a penny, in for a pound. In for a pound, in for a planet.
It is the stuff of fiction, really almost unimaginable to remotely sentient beings operating in the real world. Something that requires a master novelist to do it proper justice. But Orwell's long dead, so even that possibility is off the table.
Not everybody quite gets how perilous is the moment, however. Democratic pundits who are rejoicing over the tea party primary victories, thinking that they are good for the Democratic Party, are stupid slugs who ought to have the living sh*t kicked out of them, just for brainlessly taking up space on the planet. First of all, who could possibly care in the slightest about the fate of the Democratic Party? Am I really supposed to be so filled with motivating joy about the prospects of electing slightly less regressive agents of the American oligarchy to Congress that I will run down to party headquarters and start phone banking for my local Democrat? Are we really supposed get electrified and rally around our president and the inspirational likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, simply because they are marginally less obnoxious than the alternative? Golly, I just don't think so.
But more importantly, Democrats are the very reason for the tea party, this latest episode of American idiocy. Had the party done something with the grand historic opportunity handed to them two years ago, none of this would be happening. Had they not booted so badly a rare alignment of the stars that gave them crises allowing real, serious solutions, along with a despised opposition allowing the final crushing of the conservative disease for a generation or more, we wouldn't be sitting here today laughing at serious candidates for the United States Senate who have staked out firm positions on the societal perils of onanism.
If Barack Obama had channeled Harry Truman instead of Neville Chamberlain, this show would have been over a long time ago. But the president instead decided to make nice with vicious thugs, even though he never needed to, and even though they were publicly excoriating him in the ugliest and most deceitful terms, just as he was negotiating with them. And negotiating. And negotiating some more. The Fool Down The Hill spent a year cutting deals with Republicans in Congress on his health care debacle, giving in to them at every turn, and stiff-arming the progressives who had made him president, only to achieve exactly what anyone who has been remotely conscious since Joe McCarthy's day knew would be the outcome: no Republican votes for a bill they themselves had helped water down to near insignificance. Add to that Republican obstruction on every other issue, the almost complete absence of GOP votes on anything even legislation they had previously sponsored the Democrats favored, along with the right's continuous assault on every real or (mostly) imagined personal characteristic of the president, and now you see a huge part of the explanation for the tragicomedy that is American politics at this moment.
What's worse, Obama's stupidity is a gift that will keep on giving for a long time. By means of his actions in the White House so far, he has nearly guaranteed that he cannot recover in the coming years, no matter what. He has done one of the few things that more or less assures his presidency of being finished. The right will never let up on him, even if he were to adopt their agenda wholesale. And let's be clear about this he more or less already has. If you lay out the positions of the Obama administration on everything from civil liberties to gay rights to economic policy to national "defense' and more, there's hardly a damn shred of difference between his positions and George W. Bush's. It's a ludicrous lie to call this milquetoast regressive in a Democratic suit a liberal, let alone a socialist. And we've only just begun with Bad Barry, folks. After he gets his ass royally kicked in November, Obama will lurch even further to the right. But that will engender even greater scorn from the sickos living over there under their slime-infested rocks, as well as endless congressional investigations of bogus administration scandals, likely including an impeachment. Or did you miss the 1990s entirely, Barack?
But that's only the start of it. Because Obama was too dumb to recognize that everything hinged on reviving the economy (did you miss the last century, too, Bro?), and because he was too cowardly to move boldly on anything whatsoever that he did, he has also lost ordinary, centrist, independent voters who think both parties are generally worthless but will vote for anyone who can actually produce solutions. It's possible that you can bring those people back, but it ain't likely. The first rule of politics is that people vote their pocketbooks. Thus, any prayer at winning again would require an economic recovery. But that isn't gonna happen, in part because Half O'Bama half-assed the stimulus bill, partly because he was seeking bipartisan support which wait for it now never came, despite the compromises which reduced the size of the stimulus and turned one-third of it into ineffective tax cuts that the one-tune-jukebox Neanderthals demanded. It's also not gonna happen because this downturn is less a one-off event than it is the culmination (we grimly hope it could get worse yet) of a thirty year grand national downsizing project, and because it is less an economic recession than it is a wholesale and permanent restructuring. No economist I've heard of sees any shred of economic recovery anywhere on the horizon throughout all of 2011, and neither do I. In fact, there are good reasons to think it gets worse from here. And that means Obama and his party are toast, not just in this election cycle, but the next one as well.
Having thus irrevocably alienated aliens on the right in addition to the just-gimme-some-results voters in the middle, Obama is producing some of the same effect on progressives as well. It was a very bad idea to speak in bold, Lincolnesque strokes as a candidate if you intended to govern like a small town city manager, and a feeble one at that. Lots of young folks, especially, who flocked to the banner of hope and change are now feeling burned, and well they should. For many others including the dude I see in my bathroom mirror every morning this is more like the last straw, the final frontier. Having spent decades holding our noses and voting for Democrats just because the Republicans were so goddam destructive, many of us are now done, possibly forever. Not only is it unimaginable to me that I would vote for Obama in 2012 no matter who is his Republican opponent I refuse, with rare possible exception, to vote for any Democrat ever again, until the party can at least get back in the ballpark of progressive politics.
And so it is Obama and his co-conspirators in Congress have lost the right and the center, and at least the enthusiasm if not the votes of the left. But, more importantly, they have done so in ways that are mostly permanent, ways that mostly preclude any possible recovery of these voters' support. This is precisely the reason that Democratic pundits and functionaries are even more self-destructively stupid now than they have been for thirty years, rejoicing in tea party primary victories, thinking that those represent good news for their party.
Consider the appropriately-named Bob Shrum as one example, he whose great wisdom has produced an astonishing zero-for-eight record as a top presidential campaign staffer over the decades (in a hissy fit after nine days on board, he actually quit the Jimmy Carter campaign, the only successful one he was ever involved with). Looking ahead to the presidential prospects of 2012 given the surge of the tea party, he surveys the Republican field, noting that, "The GOP's 1964 tragedy of Goldwater, who was at least a serious figure, could be repeated in the farce of Palin. ... Newt Gingrich is positioning himself as Palin with a brain. Gingrich has now become a font of smears and off-the-rail ideas from privatizing Social Security to the transparently racist charge that Obama channels the Kenyan anti-colonialism of the father he barely knew. With his pandering to both prejudice and extremism, Gingrich could be the 2012 nominee. He would be unelectable. ... So would Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who's proposed scrapping the progressive income tax, the sinister idea championed by that great socialist Republican Theodore Roosevelt. ... In desperation, Republican strategists are thinking of Mississippi Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who would also compete with an appeal to the birthers, the resentful, and the backlash base. But Barbour was a legendary D.C. lobbyist for the most powerful vested interests, from tobacco to oil. Perhaps he could run on the slogan: "Remove the Middleman.' For Republicans, payback could come as early as November, with Democrats keeping the Senate maybe even the House. But 2012, I believe, will provide the ultimate irony: The people who most revile President Obama and the Republican leaders who enlisted them only to see their party hijacked by them may assure an Obama re-election."
To say that this analysis displays astonishing naivete would be an unfair and unkind cut on simpletons the world over. This is pure lunacy, and it shows both the self-interested narrowness and the analytical imbecility of Democratic strategists (to abuse a term) and pundits. Maybe these folks haven't noticed lately, but in American politics "pandering to both prejudice and extremism" is not exactly a losing strategy. Maybe these people (and there's a lot more of them than just Shrum) aren't paying real close attention, but most American voters don't even have a clue who Teddy Roosevelt was or what he did. And they don't exactly shrink from the idea of slashing taxes just because some dude had a different approach a hundred years ago. Or was it a thousand?
Most importantly, Shrum's assumption of rationality amongst voters leads him to conclude that the nomination of Palin in 2012 would result in the "ironic" "farce" of her Goldwater-like crushing defeat at the polls. It is no surprise this guy keeps booting presidential campaigns. The twin wonders are why anyone continues to hire him, and why anyone publishes his analysis of politics. For all I know, he could be a world-class expert at philately or the intricacies nineteenth century cricket, but, meanwhile, opinion journal publishers might want to take note of the increasingly inconvenient fact that the guy clearly knows nothing about politics.
Here's the deal, Bob (et al.), and feel free to take notes: This is not 1964. The country is not flush. The middle class is not robust, thriving and expanding. The incumbent party is not riding a wave of peace and prosperity, nor is it benefitting from public sympathy for the young, handsome, witty and beloved leader just recently tragically cut down in his prime. Okay? Which means that, unlike Lyndon Johnson and crew, Democrats are not gonna get a lot of votes from people happy with the magic of our moment, and therefore especially uninterested in a taking a gamble on a self-described extremist like Barry Goldwater. Indeed, precisely the opposite logic applies here, which will produce precisely the opposite outcome. Democrats should be familiar with this it's exactly the reverse of what transpired not even two years ago: Very unhappy voters in 2012 will choose the candidate of the party not in the White House, because those voters will desperately crave change. You remember "change", don't you, Bob? Thus, the real race will be for the Republican nomination decided exclusively by Republican primary voters, who are merely certifiably insane on a good day not the general election, which will be a sure thing for the GOP. And thus the next president of the United States will be Sarah Palin.
It would be nice if that were the bad part. But, sadly, as ugly as that prospect is, it's only the warm-up act for the real fun. Republicans tea party variant or not (and, ideologically, there ain't much difference between the two) have absolutely zero solutions for the crises the country faces (not to mention the irony of them being responsible for creating those crises, of course). Their only plan for economic recovery is more tax cuts for the rich. That will do nothing for the economy, of course, other than plunging the country deeper into debt and exacerbating already dramatic disparities in the country's distribution of wealth. Their plan for health care is to repeal Obama's. Their plan for global warming is to pretend it doesn't exist and support fossil fuel related industries such that the problem gets worse. Their foreign policy is war. Their plan for Middle East peace is to support Israel no matter what it does, thus guaranteeing no peace agreement. Their plan for the financial crisis is to slash any restrictions that might meaningfully control the behavior of Wall Street predators. And so on. They have no solutions, and can only succeed in making the bad situation they created worse.
And now here is where it starts to get really scary. Imagine us in 2014, the same distance into a Republican government (on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue) that we are today into a Democratic one. Except that there are two big differences. The first is that the public has had four more years four years! of decline, demoralization and economic terrorism under their belts by this time, with no solutions remotely in sight. What is their likely disposition? They will be turning on Republicans and showing their canines in a way that makes 2010 look like a friendly game of Scrabble by comparison.
The second difference will be in the nature of those inhabiting a government which at that point will be firmly backed up against the wall. About the only positive thing I can say regarding Democrats is that they have some limitations on what they are willing to do out of self-interest. Not much, but some. Not so the animals of the GOP, least of all the tea party sociopathic freaks. These people are not going to go down lightly. These people will be faced with a choice between humiliation and destruction on the one hand, and generating a diversionary, and probably jingoistic feel-good, catastrophe on the other. They would not be the first failing government in history to choose the annihilation of others in order to sustain a bit longer the unsustainable. They would not even be the first to take out tens of millions in such a quest. Scary only begins to describe where this is all going.
People often scoff at me when I tell them that I think Sarah Palin is likely to be the next American president. Or they think I wax a bit apocalyptic when I start talking about outcomes that smell all too much like Germany in the 1930s. So let me review the bidding in summary form to explain why we should be very afraid. Jump in anywhere you see a chink in the chain of logic.
The first question is, Will Barack Obama preside over economic recovery substantial and early enough to be reelected in 2012? Perhaps, of course. But not likely as things look now. Second, will voters conform with nearly universal past practice and choose to go with the alternative to the status quo under conditions of economic (and other) duress? Highly likely. Third, will they be willing to elect somebody whose ideas are extreme and who quite recently was widely portrayed in the media as a dummy and a clown, if that is their only realistic alternative to the failed sitting president and his party? I dunno can you say "Ronald Reagan in 1980"? Fourth, given the composition of Republican primary voters who are already choosing candidates so extreme that even Karl Rove is describing them as "nutty", and given what we saw from these people in 2008, who is most likely to be the 2012 GOP nominee, and therefore shoe-in winner of the general election in November of that year? You know her name. Fifth, will a Republican program of tax cuts for the rich, reduced standard of living for everyone else, increased economic insecurity, more war, environmental wreckage, a Wall Street bacchanal and unfettered corporate pillage give Americans in 2013 and 2014 the solutions they were looking for when they desperately voted out the incumbent in 2012? Of course not. And, finally, and most grimly of all, Would a Sarah Palin administration or its equivalent stand by and watch itself go down in flames of complete destruction sorta like what Barack Obama is now doing when it had at its disposal a way to instead change the channel of public dissatisfaction?
I think we all know the answer to that one too. Each of these questions has more than one possible answer, and I am far from claiming any outcome as inevitable. However, I will say that I think the sequence of events I've outlined above not just individually, but the more daunting probability of all these things happening is more likely than not. I have a hard time seeing this country recover in two years time. I have a hard time seeing Obama winning reelection. I not only cannot imagine a non-radical GOP nominee in 2012, I can't even name one such person in the party considering a presidential bid. I know for sure that their "solutions' don't work indeed, I, like you, am living the consequences of those very policies as we speak. And, finally, I also know that the people who did Iraq and debt hemorrhaging tax cuts and Katrina and torture and the rest are capable of anything. Anything. And these weren't even the tea partiers, who are even sicker than the Bushes and Roves out there.
People like Bob Shrum or perhaps Barack Obama and the strategists around him would merely be insane to applaud tea party successes this year, if all that was at stake was their own worthless careers. (And it is, of course, a measure of their utter failure as politicians that the best thing they have going in this election cycle is the hope that their opponents will choose lunatics as candidates.) Yes, yes, Bob and Barack and Rahm and David and David, this may be good news six weeks from now for a Democratic Party that is so pathetic it depends on the GOP to implode in order to only get partially devastated in the coming election. But even that won't stop scads of tea baggers from winning seats in the United States Congress this year. And far more importantly it won't stop the rise of this movement that is so disastrous for the country going forward.
Far, far more is at stake here than one failed president's second term, or the careers of a bunch of party hacks and media retreads.
The truth is, we stand now on the edge of a precipice. And it is a very long way down to the bottom.