Take away the love and the anger...

>> Thursday, December 09, 2010

People ask what Twitter's good for. Aside from netting me my first sale, there's also the occasional odd productive conversation.

Wednesday night, it was being on the losing end of an exchange with Bob Cesca, though I'm not entirely convinced he's right. It started with:

@bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

Has the progressive whining and quitting slowed over the last 12 hours? I sense the answer is no.

And yours truly responding:

@sotsogm Eric VanNewkirk

@bobcesca_go You're not helping...

Which, to be clear, he isn't. It's not exactly mollifying to anybody the President insulted this week to pour gasoline on the fire by suggesting nobody ought to be upset and anybody who is, is merely throwing a tantrum.

That deserves elaboration before we move on: let us suppose the President is right that we unhappy progressives are myopic and immature, that we have little to complain over and overlook the President's list of progressive accomplishments. Even if true, it's a dumb thing to say unless he really doesn't need us.

I mean, I get e-mails from the President and First Lady every week, just about. I don't mean from the President and his wife: some staffer writes the thing and someone else probably approves it and then they paste a JPEG of the President's signature to it (or his wife's) and they send it out to the mass e-mail mailing list. "The President needs your support!" "Watch the President explain his policy!" "Michelle needs your help!" "The Republicans want to do something awful!" "Only you can help!" Yada, yada, yada. The President and his party want my time, my money, my vote, and they ask for it constantly. And then he says I'm sanctimonious and unrealistic.

The thing is, I don't actually care whether Democrats win or lose an election. If an Independent like Bernie Sanders is closer to my views and can be effective in pushing my objectives, he's the guy I want in office. I would, indeed, prefer a Democratic Socialist or Green candidate representing me in either or both houses of Congress and sitting in the Oval Office if such a character existed and was electable. This is why I'm an independent.

I vote for Democrats, and send them my money and would give them time if I had it for the same reason Sanders caucuses with them: because they're the next-best-thing to somebody I'd actually like to see elected. But I think this leads to some confusion; I don't vote for Democrats because I think they're particularly liberal, but because a few of them are and quite a lot of them are less-conservative, except maybe the "Blue Dogs" who are maybe barely-less-conservative than most (not even all!) Republicans.

At some point, rebelling because the Democrats won't or can't give me what I want isn't petulance so much as it's being sick of a politics of fear that demands I vote for an inferior representative because he's the only alternative to a repulsive one, as well as what you might call "addict's remorse," for want of a better phrase at the moment, as in, "Why do I continue to buy something that is slowly leeching away my dignity and rotting my heart and soul?" At some point voting for a Green candidate with no chance of winning or supporting a nutty fringe primary candidate like Dennis Kucinich seems less quixotic and suicidal than quixotic and brave. And at some point, really, one finds oneself inevitably asking what, indeed, is the difference, a logic that backfired horribly in 2000 for those of us who voted for Ralph Nader that year, not realizing that as poor a candidate as Al Gore appeared to be, his opponent would manage to fail every test of his mettle as President, but is nonetheless a pertinent question. I mean, it's frankly degrading to vote for the guy who won't actually represent you less only because the other choice is the other guy who won't actually represent you at all.

But that wasn't the only point of this post. The real point is that Cesca pointed to two websites full of things President Obama has done or allegedly has done (I'll explain that in a second, it's not just snark), and it was a reminder; there are progressive things the President has done that I overlooked in my anger this week and wasn't up to answering to with a bellyful of Guinness, hanger steak in sauce and homemade fries, so I'll concede the point and provide the links to those regulars who I know have commiserated with me in my frustration and rage.

We have The Obama's Achievements Center, which is sober and occasionally misleading and What The Fuck Has Obama Done So Far? which is vaguely amusing but more than a little asinine. The latter is the one to send your friends via Twitter or Facebook, probably, with it's bite-sized one-factoid-per-page format, click on the little box below each easily-digested nugget and see the next thing in the list. The Achievements Center is, I think, a little more worth your while, though I find it to be a mixed bag altogether.

The reason, and this goes back to my "what Obama's allegedly done" comment earlier, is that some of the things listed at the Achievement Center (and possibly at WTFHODSF?, though I didn't necessarily click through enough to say for sure) aren't really actually accomplishments or can hardly be counted as such. For instance, the President's stated opposition to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is listed, but the policy remains in effect and the Administration's actual actions have consisted of moving slowly, seeking review, and appealing a Federal District Court ruling overturning the policy even though they "don't like" DADT. Other points listed are, yes, to the President's credit, but don't rate as accomplishments: the denunciation of the Citizen's United decision, for instance, was appreciated, and thank you for reminding me that he talked tough about it, but the President's denunciation or endorsement of a SCOTUS decision counts for about as much as my opinion does; actually, upon consideration, I could imagine the President's opinion of a SCOTUS opinion counting for less than my own, since I'm more likely to personally argue with a judge over it in a courtroom than he is, but nevermind.

Winning the Nobel is an achievement, but I don't know that it rates as a progressive achievement or much of anything; indeed, it's something of a dubious achievement, and if it was meant to empower the President to bring a swifter end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or give the President some leverage in gaining the support of the United States Senate in ratifying treaties, it's kind of failed to do much of anything other than give critics of the President and the Nobel Awards Committee another target.

I could go on in that vein, but I'd prefer to concede this to Cesca: there are a number of items on the list that have merit from a progressive point-of-view. Reforming credit card laws, increasing access to student aid, providing education funding, what healthcare form he was able to get passed, pledges to curtail greenhouse emissions (though this could go into the same column as "DADT opposition"--sounds nice, but where do we stand action-wise?), expanded SCHIP coverage for children, et al. And while I'm still trying to decide whether this week's actual compromise was a good thing, President's asinine comments afterwards or no, there are certainly attractive points such as the extension of unemployment benefits. (I am not prepared to say, yet, that the middle-class tax cut extension was worth the extension of other tax cuts. I am a firm believer in progressive taxation and that the poor should pay less than the middle-class and the middle-class less than the wealthy; however, I also believe that a lot of Americans are going to have to bite the bullet and pay more in taxes across much of the board if we want to have a functional government capable of providing services to everybody. And yeah, that may include the middle-class.1

So there's a shot at the little piece of hope holding us together. There are accomplishments, actual accomplishments, progressive accomplishments that should be lauded and maybe ought to take away the anger, at least, even if it's hard to imagine restoring the love that some of us may have felt in 2008. I am mollified, at least. Whether this translates into something less than grudging--well, I have to be honest, I'm going to have to see how the next two years go. And no doubt someone--maybe Cesca--will ask what some of us want Obama to do, what will make us happy, and maybe the fair response is that nothing he can do will make us happy because he's not really the President we wanted, he's just the one we had to settle for because, gods, did you see the other guy? Maybe in the end we're foolish and unrealistic and immature, and should take what little we can get; I suppose that's fair enough to, as far as it goes, or it might be. (Is it poor taste to suggest that "He beats me but I can't leave him because he's all I've got," sounds suspiciously like the political version of an abusive domestic relationship? Maybe, but maybe it is what it is.)

But if you're looking for all we've got, well I guess there it is, and it isn't nothing, though I'm digesting whether it's much. But, point taken, Mr. Cesca.

1Did you know that it's actually hard to determine what constitutes the middle-class in America? The easiest place to look for a definition, Wikipedia, tells us: "While the concept remains largely ambiguous in popular opinion and common language use, contemporary sociologists have put forward several, more or less congruent, theories on the American middle class," and then proceeds to offer up definitions, many of which are less-than-concrete.

I looked, because when I was writing that bit about raising middle-class taxes, I very much wanted to add "like myself," only to recall that everybody in America thinks they're middle-class whether they live in a trailer or own a yacht, and it's totally ridiculous. It's asinine. We're all going around yammering about what will affect the middle-class or whatever, with this vague kind of social idea of what middle-class is and nothing objective to it, and that's why you get things like that asshole economist a few months back who was yapping about how poor and middle-class he was with his fancy Chicago home and kids in private-school, etc.

Anyway, here's what I'll say about myself: I can never remember my actual salary, so I get it online, which I can do because--I shouldn't tell you this, I imagine--it's public record. And if we define middle-class by way of one of Obama's accomplishments, the portion of the stimulus package called "Making Work Pay," which gave a tax break to single earners making less than $75,000 and couples earning less than $150,000, well, I'm middle-class by a comfortable-ish margin, and let's leave it at that.

The point being: yes, raise my taxes if it will pay for better government. And raise the taxes of people earning more than $250,000 even more than that, please, if it'll pay for even better government. And if it won't, nevermind.


jamie Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 5:37:00 AM EST  

You should move to Australia! Here the Green Party will hold the balance of power in the Senate from next year, and while my local district elected a a "conservative" the reason he got elected is because, well he's a liberal (In the American and Australian sense of the word, our conservative party is called the Liberal Party, it ammuses me)
Of course it's not exactley going to fix the problem that the Democrats don't seem to realise that they neex to keep the campaign promises they made. One of the reasons our Prime Minister got thrown out at the beginning of the year was because he ah, failed to keep his promises People wanted an emission trading scheme (and gay marriage) and he gace us well, fuck all (if you'll pardon my French) Of course his replacement, a woman to the left of him has since refused to pass either of those things, which tells you a lot about Australians' abilities to choose wisely, so yeah.

Eric Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 9:10:00 AM EST  

Jamie, that's really tempting and sounds like my kind of politics! I just don't know if I could get used to Christmas in mid-Winter and cold weather in July....

Janiece Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 9:56:00 AM EST  

I wouldn't describe myself as "progressive" - more a "tax and spend liberal," but even I'm disappointed and depressed on the tax cuts for the rich thing. I mean seriously - here I am saying, "yes, raise taxes on everyone but the bottom 20%, take my money," and the President and Democrats say no in order to appease the greedy SOB's who contribute to the Republican's campaigns? Really?

I don't get it.

I'm with you on the whole "middle class" distinction, too. Based on the criteria you used, the Smart Man and I would be above "middle class." So what does that make us? Upper class? Upper middle class? Rich assholes?

I absolutely recognize how very good we have it, and like you, I'm prepared to pay higher taxes in order to pull the U.S. out of the hole we've dug for ourselves. But I don't feel "rich." What I do feel like is someone who has no representative in our government.

Seth Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 12:59:00 PM EST  

Well, perhaps the President can explain it all to us when he comes by on his new tour.

(I actually think this would win him some friends.)

Eric Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 1:43:00 PM EST  


Good one, Seth, thanks for linking that!

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