A losing game
So John McCain picked a female evangelical, a virtual unknown, for his running mate. And I’ve been hearing some hand-wringing from liberal and progressive friends to the effect that this could actually help McCain win. A lot of people were surprised by the move, and I’m one of them—but on reflection I realize that a lot of us still cling to “reality based” notions of politics. And that includes some folks on the “right” as well. Who can blame us? The idea that politics involves a certain degree of serious consideration of issues and consequences helps give a sense of comfort and normalcy to our outlook. Unfortunately, events have proven this idea to be an obstruction to clarity.
The Republican Party does not really care about governing. And it doesn’t care about issues or ideas, except insofar as they facilitate corporate profits. Everything is about hidden messages, code words, imagery, personality, in short—electoral hypnotism. Previous cynical Repug candidates chose Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle to be a “heartbeat away.” Those guys may have had a little more “experience” than Sarah Palin, but weren’t any more thoughtful, or competent. The fact is that the Repugs proved with George W. Bush that they could install an empty suit in the White House and still run things—sort of. “Yeah, they ran things into the ground,” you might say, but the rich cronies made lots of money, and that’s all that counts to these people. Their true motto is: “We don’t care.” Power is all that matters. That’s Karl Rove 101, and the man himself pronounced the Palin pick a stroke of genius.
Confronted with the never-ending antics of insane wingnut freaks, the people who dominate the political discourse in the “United States,” I find myself most distressed at their pathetic Democratic enablers. Instead of an opposition party, what I saw displayed at the Democratic Party was the same old fantasy that somehow they could win by being nice and positive and reasonable. These people just don’t seem to learn.
In all the hot air blowing about in Denver, I don’t recall anyone talking about Alberto Gonzales and the attempt to turn the Justice Department into a machine for voter suppression. I don’t recall mention of the Plame affair and the Nigerian forgeries. Did anyone talk about the rampant war profiteering by KBR and other Bush-Cheney cronies in Iraq, which constitutes looting of the Treasury on an unprecedented scale? Or the simple disappearance of $12 billion in Iraq, along with untold amounts of weaponry and explosives? What about the Downing Street memo? Signing statements? Refusing to allow aides to testify? Domestic spying? Abramoff? Patriot Act? Abu Ghraib? The Terry Schiavo circus? Tom DeLay? False linking of 9/11 to Saddam? All the lying, lying, lying?
Why, I don’t even have the space to list all the examples of corruption. This administration is such a cesspool of criminality that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Maybe that’s part of the problem. We’ve been so bombarded with lies and hate and murder that it simply befuddles the mind. Of course there’s the huge issue of torture, which the Democrats have decided not to touch because their polling says that Americans are sadists and approve of barbarism. The evisceration of the Bill of Rights is a matter of concern, don’t you think? But if all you watched was the Democratic Convention, you wouldn’t know that was happening.
No, the Democrats didn’t hammer against the corruption of the vicious criminal regime that has made such a mess of the country in the last years. Instead they talked about the economy. Obama’s overrated speech focused almost exclusively on economic issues, appealing to people’s selfishness while dressing it all up in idealistic-sounding rhetoric. When it came to foreign policy, the message was that Iraq was a distraction from the true goal of getting Osama Bin Laden. Hey, John Kerry tried that last time. You remember how well that worked. At one point Obama actually mentioned “Russian aggression.” You know, I understand that a black candidate for President is in a difficult position. I don’t expect the Democrats to advocate an end to imperialism. But to not even attack the endemic corruption, the criminality, of Republican rule, is in my view, a foolish strategy.
The Democrats pay lip service to the reality of our degraded condition, albeit mostly in economic terms. But the basic assumption is that this is all still “business as usual.” If they simply present a better and more positive choice than the Republicans present, they should win. This amounts to seeing our extraordinary situation, a time or peril, as part of an ordinary political process. It is a losing strategy.
By refusing to hold the Republicans accountable for lying, stealing, spying, and betraying the country, the Democrats surrender whatever moral ground they pretend to occupy. The election then becomes just a choice between two valid alternatives. The popular perception is that the Democrats are frightened wimps, and I do think they’re so used to being bullied by the hard right that they’ve lost the ability to fight back, but the underlying reason for all this is that they’re trying to please the same corporate forces that the Republicans are. They fear that impeachment, or even an aggressive campaign against Republican corruption, will dry up the corporate money.
With Nancy Pelosi and Stoney Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel and all these other clever people running things, there’s a good chance of McCain actually winning. Then what will all their caution have gotten them? Another arrogant Republican president who can defy the rule of law at will. What will it take for them to learn the simple fact that you have to fight these crooks with everything you’ve got? You don’t win by being nice and civilized and reasonable. Go for the throat, for chrissake!
On a simple practical level, the Obama campaign needs to attack the Republican party, not just McCain. “Republican” is a bad brand right now, so you need to say that word a lot if you’re a Democrat. McCain positions himself as being somehow different from Bush, something new, something not exactly Republican. If all you do is talk about McCain and not the Republicans and their horrible record, you reinforce the McCain narrative. If I were Obama, I’d be slamming the Republicans every chance I got. Yeah, throw in your change and your hope rhetoric too, but at this point just about everyone who can be swayed by that call has been swayed. Does negative campaigning work? Of course it does. Why do you think we’ve had twenty years of Reagan-Bush misery?
Obama may win anyway, I suppose. I hope so, just so there’s a chance for even a little bit of sanity to seep into Washington. Anyone who isn’t ignorant should have already decided to kick the Republicans out by now. The ignorant vote is all that’s left, but unfortunately that’s a large group. After eight years of this shit, if people can be swayed by some “hockey mom” nutjob, or another Swift Boat smear campaign, then there were no brains in their heads in the first place.