Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greetings from a Fake American

I haven't written very much about the political world recently. Frankly, the prospect of a McCain presidency, however depressing and terrifying, is presently so unlikely that it animates me less than the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency did during the primaries. (And, in a couple of weeks, I presume I will be receiving apologies from the Clintonistas out there who insisted that Obama would be powerless in the face of constant Ayers/Wright/Hussein smears from the right.)

Don't get me wrong; it's not in the bag and Obama is right to warn against complacency. In one respect, this will be a fairly close election: I would be very surprised if Obama is more than five points ahead of McCain when the popular vote is tallied. However, I think the Democrats' electoral strategy is solid, and I'm glad our hopes aren't pinned on Ohio and Florida. Barack doesn't need either of them to win; this year he needs Pennsylvania and Virginia. If he gets those two, it's over. He can lose Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Florida, Indiana and North Carolina -- and he'll win at least some of them -- and still take the election. (I base that on the assumption that Obama wins CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, IA, IL, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VA, VT, WA & WI for a total of 272 electoral votes.)

I guess now is also a fine time to admit that I was wrong on this point.

However, I am being roused out of my blogging apathy by the recent common mantra from the McCain campaign and their supporters that they somehow represent "real" America. First there was John McCain's brother, who said that northern Virginia was "communist country," which was echoed by McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer when she talked about "real Virginia." Touting "small-town" values had always been a part of Sarah Palin's campaign schtick, but then she had to go off in North Carolina and talk about "real America," saying, "the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit," and lauded them for their "pro-America" stance. (She has since apologized for those remarks.) Rep. Michelle Bachman of Minnesota called for an "expose" of anti-American members of Congress.

So much for George W. Bush's 2000 strategy of campaigning on a message of bipartisanship and his famously worthless oath to be "a uniter, not a divider." We've now reached a point where supposedly serious people can say with a straight face that only parts of this country are "real" or "pro-America," and we have a candidate for the White House who can somehow claim that grass-roots efforts to register first time voters and get them to take advantage of the primary fundamental right bestowed on us by the Founders threatens to destroy "the fabric of democracy."

Yesterday, McCain and Palin clarified their stance in an interview to air tonight on NBC. In response to a request from Brian Williams to define what they meant by "elite," Palin said this: "Oh, I guess just people who think that they're better than anyone else."

McCain went on to elaborate that by "elite" he means the folks who live "in our nation's capital and in New York City," adding, "Who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves."


Because, you know, our country's largest city and of course the capital don't have any "hard-working, middle-class Americans," just atheist feminist socialist gay-married immigrant welfare queens who drive Priuses, instead of American-made Cadillacs, on their way to abortion parties with a bottle of chardonnay in one hand and the Koran in the other.

The rhetoric from the right really is that bizarre these days. Consider Rep. Robin Hayes of North Carolina, who tried to deny that he warmed up a McCain rally crowd by saying, "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God" before he was exposed by a tape of the event.

You know, look: I'm a liberal. I'm gay, I drive a Honda, I live in an infamously progressive city, I believe climate change is real and has human causes, I think healthcare is a fundamental human right, I think the Iraq war was a mistake, I do not believe that all Muslims are terrorists, and I happen to like sushi, goat cheese, lattes, pinot noir and imported vodka. I supported Obama against Hillary in the primaries because she's too conservative for me. (Well, and she's a liar.) Sue me. But dangit, I was born in this country, I work hard (and make roughly one-fifth of Joe the Plumber's salary, apparently), I pay taxes and I frickin' go to church and believe in God. And I vote. I don't "hate" hard-working religious Americans, I am one.

The Republican Party, as embodied today by John McCain, has no message for the country and no vision for the future aside from a rude, non-sensical belief that (at least) half the country is fake, unpatriotic, hateful, lazy, elitist and amoral. Their ideas and policies are so exhausted and bankrupt that their last remaining argument is a spurious claim that they represent the "real" America. No wonder conservatives of principle are deserting in droves to endorse Obama.


Mike B. said...

Sarah Vowell put it quite well: if New York is American enough for Al Qaeda, it's American enough for me.

tully said...

"Who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves."

I thought the word for that, let's see...oh yeah- "Senator"

The foundation of institutional government is arrogance. Isn't it time we've come to accept this? If the people were prepared to make their own decisions, McCain and Obama would be out of a job. So would every craftsman and doctor-- if you can make your own decisions about what medicines to take, what good is a doctor? Of course, we don't say that doctor's are arrogant because they think they're better than us when it comes to medicine, because they usually are better, and we are eager to be benefited by their superiority. But a fake doctor receives the utmost contempt. You prove that they're fake by discussing medicine with them when you yourself have medical knowledge.

So what to do with these elitists who think they're better than everyone else? The Senator ought to be able to prove that they're not as smart as they think! If they turn out to be wise, they should be deciding what's good for everyone else.

Of course there's a slippery slope there. Pretty soon we'd be expecting all our politicians to be interested in truth. The next thing you know, they would be philosophers. Then, they'd diminish the need for government, and forfeit their own positions. You can see how dangerous this approach would be, then.

On the other hand, don't statistics show that cities are occupied mostly by young people? Let's be honest- young people are more likely to be elitist than old people. We almost always think we are smarter than we are, and assume that older and unsophisticated people are dumber than they are. Young people are unfit to govern, and unfit to vote, as a general rule. Ours is the time for listening, not for dictating the lives of our neighbors.

tully said...

There's a seeming contradiction in that last comment. Government is founded on arrogance, yet I say that young people are arrogant and therefore unfit to govern. Something's got to give out of these two statements. I say that the idea of government has to give- government is fit to exist because it is "arrogance institutionalized,"

Any thoughts?

kr said...


Both parties make me want to barf.

If we could ever get the money untied from public life (particularly from politics and institutional brainwashing) we might have a country to be proud of.

(Tully, I have to say that your summary of government as institutionalized arrogance is clear and apt. It's why I always give you such shit about The Republic ;).)

Gino said...

there is an answer:

get the govt out of money, and out of peoples lives, and you wont have 98% of the corruption and arrogance we see today.

Andy said...

Ummm...Gino? Libertarianism caused the financial crisis.

Gino said...

it did not.
governement dictates cause it.

all that bad paper would not have been issued if it werent for govt insistence that poor people be able to buy houses.

Andy said...

That's not the whole story and you know it. Libertarians and Republicans stripped away consumer protections and industry regulations on the grounds that the "free market" could regulate itself and that federal regulations would limit "competition" and strangle profit. And of course, yes, I will concede that the market did eventually start to correct itself, and in the process thousands of people lost their jobs and their homes and the entire global economy is now wobbling because of it. This was not unforeseen. This is the crisis that smart regulation would have prevented.

You are also overlooking the criminal role that predatory lenders played. Yes, people took out mortgages on houses they couldn't really afford and for that they hold some responsibility, but we must also understand how these loans were marketed: the bankers came to these people and said, "I can HELP you afford the house of your dreams." It was sold to these people like it was an opportunity that they would be stupid to pass up, and they were told to ignore the fine print, that's just standard economic mumbo jumbo. I'm not saying the borrowers are blameless, but I am saying the UNREGULATED industry took advantage of them. It's not that the government encouraged homeownership; nothing wrong with that. It's that Libertarians and Republicans created a situation where lenders somehow assumed that they could make a ton of money off of giving mortages to people with bad credit and modest incomes, and then used those mortgages as collateral against other loans. You can't lay the whole mess at the foot of the homeowners, it's more complicated than that. Liberal economists like Paul Krugman, who just won the Nobel, have been warning about this exact scenario for years, and the Republicans and the Libertarians drove full speed ahead off the cliff.

Jade said...

I liked Jon Stewart's test to see if you are a "real" or "fake" American. After all the questions and multiple choice answers, the last statement:
"And if you've answered any of these questions... it means you are watching The Daily Show, and you are a fake American"

I wonder... when they(McCain and Palin) are standing up in front of all these small town meetings talking about how all the hard working Americans are in little towns in the middle of nowhere - are they fully unaware that even though the towns are relatively remote, that those big ol' cameras are still capable of recording and broadcasting everything they say to every other part of the nation? Do they not realize how they are failing to recognize the hard working middle class Americans who are the backbone of every major city?

Jeff said...


Woot woot! The one good thing about this election cycle, though, is that when these jerks are caught talking about anti-America types, they're actually apologizing for it this time (or denying they said it). It's apparently not as socially acceptable as it used to be, and it's not working like it used to.

tully said...

We can't develop as free persons as long as government AND capitalism dictate our values and definition of success. The Right is right about values being central to improving America, the Left is right about capitalism being toxic to our well-being, and the Libertarians are right about government being toxic to our well-being. The conclusion: Government and Capitalism must be abolished BY ethics for the sake of our well-being. This doesn't mean politicians must become philosophers, but that the people (including politicians) must philosophize with one another. In order to do so, class structures must be abolished, not by revolutionaries, but by Love and Humility. Love comes naturally, for we always desire the Good, but Humility is necessary for Love to be actuated. If this Humility be before God, so be it, but as soon as we become sectarian in our worship of Him, we forfeit all Humility, and forfeit Love in the process. For religion is a form of state, founded on arrogance invested in sect and hierarchy, as is the state.

libhom said...

Your prediction of Sarah Palin being knocked off the Gopper ticket reminds me of predictions on the right that Hillary Clinton would replace Joe Biden. These are such odd times that people are expecting the bizarre to happen and get surprised when it doesn't.

libhom said...

gino: The crash of 1929 proved that libertarianism is wrong. You don't even need to pay attention to today's crash to see that libertarianism is intellectually bankrupt. Libertarianism is the Lehman Brothers of political ideologies.

Gino said...

andy: and there is even more to the story than that.

ya know, if you listen to msnbc, they'll tell you the free market and the GOP were to blame.

and FNC will blame it all on barny frank, franklin raines,et al.

the truth is somewhere in the middle.

lenders were indeed under threat, from as far back as janet reno, to loan to poor people or face senate hearings.
and there was a letter sent to the majority leader of congress (at this time, democrat) signed by several GOPers, mc cain included, calling attn to the coming crisis and a request for hearings. it was ignored.

all this paper was OK as long as housing prices were climbing, and troubled borrowers could always sell their way out of a bad loan.

there was still profit to be made, as long as the market continued to rise. smart banks with proper timing didnt get stuck with upside down mortgage paper.
i would have bought them,too.

but even i knew the rising market was a house of cards waiting to fall. many got stuck with paper they couldnt sell that had value six months prior.

most of these, 80% were fannie/freddie loans. guaranteed by the govt.
investers felt safe buying from a quasi-govt institution because of the political repercussions should failer occur.

if the govt wasnt guaranteeing loans in the first place, this would not have happened.

instead, the bad paper was not unlike the cheese program.
when govt is giving it away, everybody suddenly has an appetite.

but dont go blaming Libertarians unless you can name for me one Libertarian office holder sitting on any banking committe.

and you cant blame it all on the GOP when most of the political money from fanni/freddie/lehman et al were flowing to the coffers of obama,frank, and dodd.

Gino said...

jeff: how much cred would you give an opinion written by ann coulter?
and you expect me to even entertain an op ed by the NYT?

Andy said...

I'm not sure I would go as far as Gino; Ann Coulter is a fringe element unto herself. However, yes, any OpEd page that gives space to the likes of Bill Kristol should be regarded with at least mild suspicion.

Gino said...

actually, andy, you are right about that.

kristol is not a conservative. he's a neocon, and one the reasons the GOP is such a dump.

he gets very little intellectual respect from conservatives, and none at all from libertarians.

whats it say about an op ed that features kristol as a 'voice of the right' when he isnt?