Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reflections on U.S. Politics

The morning after Rick Santorum wins Republican primaries in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, as the self-declared most "conservative" candidate, leaving the talking political class holding their bets on a Mitt Romney assured nomination, and Newt Gingrich shaking his head in confusion, the U.S. is waking up to the fact, visible to all the world, that it has not previously, is not now, and shall not ever separate church from state.
Santorum is running as a "conservative" which, in his case is code for Roman Catholic. He is the most consistently opposed to abortion, having sponsored bills in the Senate, (his former life), as his website claims, "protecting" the rights of the unborn. Romney is reported to have received, in Nevada, at least, a truckload of Mormon votes, but struggles with a reputation as a Massachusetts "moderate" having crafted and passed a health care bill "twin" to the Obama Health Care Reform bill. Gingrich, on the other hand, is a newly converted Roman Catholic who has "made mistakes" (his words) in his relationships, and has more than a paper trail of two failed marriages, and an affair while married, and while impeaching then President Bill Clinton for his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
So on the moral, religious "purity" scale, the only one that matters to the Republican party, Santorum is most "saint like", Romney less so (only one marriage, but all that money, millions of it donated to the Mormon church!) and Gingrich the least "pure" morally of the three candidates.
(Ron Paul, the libertarian, hardly qualifies for consideration, except as a surrogate for his ophthamologist son Rand, who wants the nomination in 2016, also as a libertarian.)
Running against government as they see as the problem, and on behalf of the church (whether that be Roman Catholic or Mormon) while at the same time spending millions on character assassination (as Romney did to Gingrich in Iowa, and Gingrich responded in kind in Florida, with the millions from the casino owner who backs his campaign) is clearly a new low in American politics.
Sloganeering like "restoring American exceptionalism" or "putting America first" or "not falling victim to the hoax that is global warming and climate change (Santorum) is no surrogate for governing.
None of the three' "Mitt, Newt or Rick" are demonstrating so far that they are candidates who have captured the minds and hearts of even the Republican primary voters. And their "nicknames" demonstrate their attempt at familiarity with the electorate, in a country whose political system is broken, with each side blaming the other for the wreakage.
In fact, for all the high-sounding rhetoric, especially the high-handed and self-righteous moralizing of the candidates, including their expected derision of everything smacking of Obama, something they all share, there is an emptiness to their collective campaigns, that makes the campaign sound hollow....
Hollow of specific plans for anything except the socially conservative issues, like abortion, a rallying cry for many evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and Tea Partiers. Hollow on foreign policy in a complex and troubled world experiencing a seismic shift in geopolitical realities, hardly the kind of agenda to hand to any candidate whose intellectual and imaginative grasp is defined by narrow and strident positions.
Hollow even of moral and upstanding character, in the broadest sense of that word; inspite of his marriage failures, and other mistakes, Gingrich has won some voters because they consider him the "best debater" to beat Obama.
This is a high school land, politically, and even now economically. Its political class is reduced to slogans, to pandering to the cash (more money spent this year by super PAC's unleashed by the "conservative" Supreme Court (5 of whose members are Roman Catholics) and it is fixated on questions like a woman's right to choose, already having been decided, but about to be overturned if that bunch take over the White House and the Capitol, and just watch them provide even more tax breaks for the rich.
The party's primary voters are so vehement in their opposition to Obama, they will vote for their pettiness and against the broader and more profound interests of their country, in a electoral system that can be described best as one of "high revenge" in the style of the western saloon shoot-out.
And this campaign, full of trainloads of cash from the most wealthy, couched in religious and moral terms, while practicing character assassination, revenge, vindictiveness and simple-mindedness is supposed to bring about the "best" candidate in the interests of peace, jobs, fairness and justice.
The right believes, with all its heart that the federal government in one of its many faces and functions, is primarily responsible for the economic crisis....and many point to the Federal Reserve which made money too free and available during the George W. Bush presidency.
The left believes, again with all of its heart, that the greed of the private sector, specifically Wall Street, was responsible for the economic crisis.
More or less regulation?
More or less government?
More or less taxes on corporations and the wealthy?
More "interpreting the law" versus a strict reading of the constitution?
More public services for those who need a hand up or fewer because those entitlements (from the nanny state) are going broke?
More money for the pentagon or less money for the pentagon?
More money for national security or less money for national security?
Support for a woman's right of choice versus support for the unborn fetus?
Support for the lower and middle classes versus support for the wealthy?
Support for the mosque adjacent to the site of 9-11 or violent opposition to the project?
Support for immigration reform and amnesty or rejection of illegal immigrants?
Support for the right to bear arms (Second Amendment) in our purses and bedside tables, versus some restrictions on the right to bear arms?
It is quite clear that the U.S. has become a nation divided as deeply as a bipolar individual would be, without taking the option of examining its options.
None of these either-or options is exclusively the right one. Some compromises that bring both sides into a working relationship would demonstrate a growth in maturity within the government, and send both a light and a siren that the U.S. is really back in business.
A CEO doesn't tell his Board of Directors, it's either cut costs or increase production. S/He says something more like, "While we have to cut costs, we also have to increase production and sales. Both are possible, the first, as primary, will slow the growth of the second goal, which we consider secondary.
No one can reduce a corporation to a binary either-or system, at any point in its development.
No one can reduce the goals of a government to a binary,either-or choice, at any point in its development.
Just because our digital equipment can deal only with one signal at a time, eliminating the potential to deal with a second and different digital signal simultaneously, does not have to mean that we human beings have been reduced to mere imitations of those devices.
And the sooner we all grow up, including the adolescent media, most of whose scribes love the personality gossip and the horse race on all isses, including the campaigns, the more likely are the debt/deficit, and the entitlement and tax issues going to be resolved, effectively. Why are the editors in all news outlets not giving tutorials on "not insulting" the intelligence of the readers....or would that exercise contravene the right of free expression at the kindergarten level, to which we have all, it seems, descended?
In a poem I believe entitled, Billboards, Earle Birney retraces his auto trip along the Pacific Coast highway, with a hitch-hiker whose affiliation was strongly favourable to the Chamber of Commerce...and as the car poetically passes several billboards, we hear the writer exclaiming "krispies.....krumpies....Keeryst and Kruschev... Bordens' contented cows.....Bermashave!.....billboards build freedom of choice" in his rollicking satire of the American corporate system, as long ago as the 1950's!!!
It was Sir Winston Churchill who spoke prophetically, "The United States will always end up doing the right thing, after they have tried everything else." Only, now there is not time "for everything else." People are starving, within the borders of the United States; kids are being denied college because their parents cannot afford it; some elderly are foregoing food to pay for prescription drugs; meanwhile, prices of needed commodities like gas, oil, energy and food continue to spike, and Washington dithers.
Wasn't it Rome that burned while Nero fiddled? So much for human "progress"!

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