18 September 2012

is it november yet?

The other day, Mitt Romney said that he doesn't care about the 47% of Americans who are going to vote for Obama—or something to that effect—and predictably enough the Democrats have been dry-humping Romney's gaffe ever since. Once again, it seems that Romney has tripped over the stereotype of Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly—the ur-capitalist who wet-dreams about deregulation and economic Darwinism at the expense of the nobodies who keep the machinery (so to speak) running.

The far-right perfected the art of demonizing its opponents—but the left is no slouch either. Romney—a rather bland, non-committal alternative to fire-breathers like Rick Santorum and Herman Cain—isn't even distinctive enough to mark a strong contrast with Obama, who (health care excepted) has offered up a mostly milquetoast centrist agenda to those wishing to cash in their hope-and-change vouchers. Yet the left has still managed to build up an effigy of Romney as a heartless, hoarding Scrooge who'd steal the money under your grandmother's mattress.

Whenever I see political posts on Facebook—particularly the ones that passionately denigrate or celebrate a given presidential candidate—I can't help it... I feel a little pity for the person who posted it. I mean, come on... Obama vs. Romney? How much will it really matter in the end? Without a doubt, I will ultimately support Obama, but how do these people muster up so much enthusiasm or fire and brimstone for the lesser of two evils? There's a reason why the right wing establishment isn't overjoyed that Romney is their nominee; it's because he fails to assert himself convincingly in many of the issues that preoccupy the mouthbreathing Republican base. In Middle America, for instance, there are still people who imagine that the president, with the wave of his royal scepter, can outlaw abortion. Pragmatic candidates like Romney and Obama, on the other hand, understand the business of American politics. It's a lot like showbiz, actually: image is everything. It doesn't matter if Obama contributed to the recession, helped slow the recession, or had no discernible effect on the recession—if the economy is bad at the time of the election, he will be blamed for it by many voters. This is the crude populist thinking that tries to establish a meaningful correlation between any adjacent ready-to-hand variables. Again, the perception of effective leadership will always trump the complex realities—which most voters don't even seek out, at any rate. And if they craved thoughtful and challenging political analysis, where would they turn? The Today show? Newsweek? If the constituent gets lucky and finds a source for news and analysis that transcends the almighty blurb, then that source will inevitably be impugned on ideological grounds. Oh, you read X? That's just liberal propaganda.—or: You listen to Y? He's practically the mouthpiece of the Republican National Committee. Alternatively, you can always think about what Noam Chomsky says—that media outlets are essentially beholden, ideologically speaking, to their advertisers or donors. You might think you're reading all the news that's fit to print, but you're really reading all the news that JPMorganChase thinks is fit to print.

Hey, I'm not offering my viewpoint as a recommendation to anyone. I know I'm not fulfilling my civic duties by remaining detached and coolly cynical about these proceedings, but at the same time I'm not sure how to drum up excitement about the status quo. And when I see people regurgitating the Democratic talking points on Facebook like giddy cheerleaders, I get... kind of horrifed, actually—because now I'm seeing them in the same light that I saw all those brainwashed right-wing ideologues. It's a disturbing realization—that they're just dogmatists with empty slogans too. 

As I said before—yes, I'll support Obama, but I'll do so with the same reluctant sense of duty that drags me out of bed on Monday mornings to go to work. There's no hope in it—and there's no certainly no sense of satisfaction that comes from electing someone I feel will make a real and substantial difference. We all know by now that a true dyed-in-the-wool liberal will not win a presidential election in this country—at least not in the foreseeable future—because 'liberalism' has been transformed (very effectively, I might add)  into a dirty word by the right wing. So as a compromise, we get Obama. 

To return to Romney's blunder again—that he doesn't care about Obama voters—when I hear anyone harping on this, I think, Really? This is what we're talking about? Of course, Romney doesn't care about Obama voters. And Obama probably doesn't care about Romney voters. Let's put on our big boy pants and face facts here. We all understand the hard truth, don't we?—that there is a strong ideological divide in this country that can't be remedied by rhetoric or P.R.? Romney only said what we know to be true—what is obviously true in American politics today: that a president's positions are dictated by his constituency and the practicalities of governance. The fact that we expect Romney to say otherwise exposes the political arena as second-rate theater on a grand scale. The script may change, but the actors remain the same—still strutting and fretting their hours upon the stage and signifying a whole lotta nothing. 


  1. Ah, well this is awkward. Looks like you saw my Facebook post this morning. :)

    1. Actually, no, I didn't! But a couple other people covered the same territory...

    2. I'll reply more later. I have a bit of history with Romney, since he used to be my gubnah. I have to go now, though!

  2. Ok, I have a second (enough time to spout a bunch of thoughts, but not enough time to make them coherent).

    I totally agree that the candidates are at the mercy of the populace who often judge them on factors beyond their control. And I also agree that Romney's remarks are easily explained away as realistic: he is saying he can't do anything about the segment of the population that has already made up its mind. BUT. He is also being dismissive about people that he would ultimately have to represent should he be elected, and that is what alarms me. I mean, he's basically saying that since these people do not pay INCOME taxes, that they are moochers of the state. He's ignoring the fact that they DO pay federal taxes in other forms (most of them do, anyhow) and he's pooling them all into this category of those that are—to him—useless and hopeless.

    Also, I always say to those who treat the Presidential election as the most important that the President has a lot less power than people give him credit for, and that they should be more concerned with who they vote into the legislature or even local office. So I'd agree with you there. BUT. I think it's taking it too far to say that it doesn't really matter who gets elected because the President still has the power of executive order and he has a lot of influence over Congress, so overall, I think it matters to a higher degree than you give it credit for.

    "We all know by now that a true dyed-in-the-wool liberal will not win a presidential election in this country—at least not in the foreseeable future—because 'liberalism' has been transformed (very effectively, I might add) into a dirty word by the right wing. So as a compromise, we get Obama."

    With that statement I agree completely.

    1. Whoa whoa whoa! Wait a minute here. I am not saying that votes in presidential elections categorically never matter. I am only talking about one presidential race: Obama vs. Romney. And as much as I try to be optimistic, I can't foresee many significant differences in the substantial effects of either one's victory.

      Also please note that I did say I would prefer Obama, but my support is entirely unimpassioned and unenthusiastic. I have no illusions about what four more years of Obama will mean.

      What you're saying about Romney being 'dismissive about people that he would ultimately have to represent should he be elected' is reasonable in the abstract, but how many elected representatives make an effort to compromise and represent their entire constituency rather than just their base? Some do, but I would say that most representatives on a national level do not. Romney merely (and accidentally) admitted what's been a political fact for a long time now.

    2. Yeah I think my comments are making me sound more impassioned than I am about the election, as well, but I still think there could be big differences depending on who wins. Obviously you're excluding the health care issue which is huge, so okay we'll put that aside. But even just their approach to to tax reform. You say that Obama is also probably secretly dismissive about the segment of the population that will not vote for him, but I think he hasn't been very secretive about it at all. I mean hasn't he basically been going around saying, "Look, dude, if you're rich, I'm gonna pretty much fuck you over." You know? I just think Romney's all smarmy about where he stands, which makes him seem more disingenuous to me than that black guy he's running against.

    3. I'm not ignoring health care—but that will have much more to do with Congress than it will with Romney himself. Sure, Romney can act as a cheerleader (or bully) for repeal, but it isn't as if he's the king.

      I didn't say Obama was secretly dismissive, or I don't think I did. I just said they were both probably dismissive of each other's hardcore constituency. Romney was just tactless (or unfortunate) enough to admit to it. This is why Obama will probably win; he's much better at managing his image than Romney is.

  3. have you ever seen the documentary the century of the self? or the power of nightmares? if so, prepare to hear me blab on about them anyway. both are bbc documentaries by a fella named adam curtis and completely changed my view of politics and the various democratic party systems i'm familiar with as they now stand. i agree with a lot of what you say here. i vote left, and at every opportunity, but i feel like my vote is a vain event to stave off the worst possible outcome every time. but there's a slide in the first world democratic cultures that i can't begin to see in a less than cynical light. so i saw these documentaries and it really solidified for me how limited power can really be, and i felt sorry for reagan! never thought that would happen. and i felt even sorrier for clinton. but that's not even everything that was mind-blowing! there's stuff about freud's nephew edward bernays who created the idea of public relations because propaganda was a dirty word. that is mind-blowing, and it also talks about est and esselin, and all kinds of fascinating ways we medicate our culture. :)

    i can't recommend it (and power of nightmares -- paralleling the rise of neo-conservatism in the US and the politicization of islam in the middle east) enough. you can see them on the youtube. :)

    but maybe you already saw them, and i just blabbed a whole bunch.

    welcome back! your dreams were your ticket out! :)

    1. Thanks for the welcome back.

      No, I haven't heard of those documentaries, but they sound interesting. I'll look into them. I hate to admit it—because it's not something I'm particularly proud of—but I find myself becoming more and more apolitical. I feel very passionate about certain issues, but the political route seems so hopeless. I realize that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy... but American politics have just worn me down...

    2. !!

      i was so excited after mentioning them here yesterday that i started re-watching (there's four hours in century of the self, and three in the power of nightmares), and you know, it's just amazing how much is in there -- the story about betty crocker and the egg takes two minutes? you'll reel with how ridiculous manipulations actually work on us poor souls. and i also realized the reagan stuff is in the power of nightmares -- here are two short intro clip links for you, so you can get a taste. :)



      i can tell you that for me, they actually made me feel better because i was so frustrated by the fact that the world is the way it is (there's our mutual weltschmerz again)and now i am just waiting for economic collapse and the chance to start over. i realize i need to build my survival skill set though. i would be lost in the wilderness. (only half-joking here).