Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Choosing the New Decider

I can't help but care.

Judging from the CNN and BBC stories I see on TV, the news headlines in the Bangkok English press I've read, and the widespread internet coverage I encounter when I surf the web, the whole world will be watching as America votes. On Saturday, I was a substitute teacher for students studying English in the master's program in education at Mahachula Buddhist University, and the class of mostly younger monks were eager to hear of my support for Obama.

I am an expatriate American in Bangkok, a refugee from a country corrupted and decimated by years of failed Nixon, Reagan and Bush (I and II) economic and foreign policy decisions. There were many reasons for me to leave, not the least of which is the cost of living in Thailand compared to California, but several generations of conservative know-nothings have scared me absent. John Dean, Nixon's former law counsel who was convicted in Watergate, has written that Republicans rule by imposing their authoritarian power on everyone. The McCain-Palin ticket "scares the hell out of me," he said on a law web site. “If Obama is rejected on November 4th for another authoritarian conservative like McCain, I must ask if Americans are sufficiently intelligent to competently govern themselves.”

The world would agree. A McCain upset, unlikely as it seems at the moment, would marginalize America; the world would be justified in imposing a quarantine which could include demanding repayment of trillions of dollars of debt, a move that would bankrupt the good old U.S. of A. Extreme? Perhaps. But, as the news coverage ephasizes: this is a historic moment. Others outside middle America can see McCain and Palin as the fools they are.

So I care. But I am not under the illusion that Obama can do much more than stop the slide. He has had little to say lately about the Iraqi war, that debacle that empowered his campaign against the gang of thugs in Washington led by Cheney and his sidekick Bush. He advocates crossing borders in Pakistan and perhaps Afghanistan to capture "terrorists," a breach of sovreignty condemned by other nations. And, worst of all, he exhibits the same knee-jerk support of Jewish colonialism in Israel, the root of all Mideast conflict, that other politicians of both parties exhibit. Bush's administration and its blind support of deregulation (the legacy of godfather Reagan) will saddle an Obama reign with an almost unsolvable economic problem. As a candidate who has raised billions from contributions by corporations and financial mavens, it will be difficult for him to represent the interest of the common citizen he claims for his constituency.

Anything or anyone (even McCain-Palin?), however, would be better than Bush, the worst and now most reviled president in U.S. History. Historian Simon Schama dubs him "Nowhere Man" for his absence during this political campaign when all candidates have attempted to distance themselves from his follies. "Whatever else his legacy, the man who called himself "the decider" has left some gripping history," Schama writes in The Guardian (reprinted in CommonDreams.org). "The last eight years have been so rich in epic imperial hubris that it would take a reborn Gibbon to do justice to the fall." The Bush presidency is the spectre haunting the current campaign in more than tactics.
Although every conservative administration since Ronald Reagan has promised to deliver, through supply-side stimulation, economic growth without bloated deficits, they have never been vindicated in their blind faith in what Bush senior once rashly called "voodoo economics". Consistently, they have brought the US Wall Street crashes and recessions along with massive deficits; and yet somehow, the stake that history attempts to drive through the heart of their economic theology never puts the ghoul away.
Can American voters, who have believed strongly enough in trickle-down economics to elect its prophets for over 30 years, really be this stupid? Yes. There is stupidity everywhere in the world, blindness as the direct result of ideological illusions, but in America idiocracy rules.

One of my favorite writers, James Carroll, writes in his column in the Boston Globe that America's problems can be traced to the frontier myth of unlimited opportunity. When the pioneers had trashed their environment, they moved west, unconcerned about the consequences of the mess they left behind. My teacher Carolyn Merchant developed this metaphor to analyze American environmental history. This metaphor, according to Carroll
obviously applies to a long-operative environmental irresponsibility, as polluted cities were left behind for pastoral suburbs, and as sprawl-ruined suburbs are now being left behind for evergreen exurbs. The metaphor precisely describes the geographic state of American education, with trashed inner-city schools left behind by "No Child Left Behind." But the metaphor applies more abstractly, too -- as we see US foreign policy on Iraq, for example, defined, first, by wrecking the room, and then (now), by getting the hell out. (Let's try Afghanistan.) We solve our problems by leaving them behind. We don't do consequences.
Stupidity and blindness, which resulted in the conquering of a continent, is now the governing principle of the world's most powerful country. Can Obama change that? Carroll thinks that "more than policy, a change in American mythology is required. No innocence abroad; none at home. Good intentions aren't enough. The last frontier is long closed. No new frontiers. No moving on. Only one Earth. Love it or lose it. That's the truth, which has consequences."

Paul Krugman predicts that the Republicans will turn bitter after their expected defeat. He writes in his column in the New York Times that "the Republic rump,"
the party that’s left after the election, will be the party that attends Sarah Palin’s rallies, where crowds chant “Vote McCain, not Hussein!” It will be the party of Saxby Chambliss, the senator from Georgia, who, observing large-scale early voting by African-Americans, warns his supporters that “the other folks are voting.” It will be the party that harbors menacing fantasies about Barack Obama’s Marxist — or was that Islamic? — roots.
With Republican moderates defeated by the Democratic surge, those left behind will move rightward. They will see McCain's rejection as the result of an evil conspiracy rather than a repudiation of Bush's Republican agenda, blaiming the "liberal media" for their fall from power. Krugman says "thhe G.O.P.’s long transformation into the party of the unreasonable right, a haven for racists and reactionaries, seems likely to accelerate as a result of the impending defeat." Moderate Republicans have been in denial about the Bush administration’s dishonesty and contempt for the rule of law, but "one of these days they’re going to have to realize that the G.O.P. has become the party of intolerance."

The long knives are out as pundits on the left get ready for tomorrow's historic vote. The political divide is wider and deeper than ever, even if one side is confined to a survivor island. The followers of Sarah and Joe will not be satisfied by a democracy that delivers the goodies to a godless conspiracy of baby killers. These are the folks with guns, the vigilantes who patrol the borders for alien infestation and the religious martyrs who kill abortion doctors. I fear for my native country.

In the meantime, vote for Barack Obama.


Carlo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carlo said...

Hi, I'm Carl, How do you do?

Saw your post via your comment to Marcus that he get a laptop.

Excellent writing my friend. I agree with you and am enlightened by your erudition, as I have almost given up on the news, sorry to say (I used to tell people it was our responsibility as Americans to stay informed).

I used to be an activist. Now, like you, I am on a journey.


Carl ("Mando")

4:48 PM

Roxanne said...


I, too, am afraid for our country.

My 15-year-old daughter claims that, should McCain/Palin win this presidential election, she is moving to England. (How she plans on getting there, I don't know.)

In a recent blog entry, Laurie R. King referred to Sarah Palin as a woman who terrifies her when she thinks of her in the job of chief executive. Laurie remarked that she was never much of a supporter of Hilary Clinton. She wrote that "Hilary Clinton...is too slick a politician for my taste, but by God, it didn’t scare me silly to think of her in charge of my childrens’ future."

Thank you, as always, for your informative blog and your insightful comments. I learn more about our country's politics by reading your blog than I do in situ.

Take care,