Saturday, March 7, 2020

Gone Missing—the Soul of America’s Political Parties

I listened to a Washington Post podcast titled The fight for the soul of America’s political parties. It parsed a great many aspects of what it means to be a Republican or Democrat, including historic backgrounds and past fluctuations in party loyalties.

And I’m bemused because it was well researched, wonderfully presented and entirely missed the point.

We have a president nobody expected to win, particularly his own Republican party. He lost the popular vote by three million votes. In my lifetime, that’s the first time we elected a president no one wanted. And he seems well on his way to re-election.

No one seems to understand the Trump phenomenon and that’s the part that fascinates me.

This will be my 15th presidential contest. Those elections gave us some outstanding leaders, some who failed to live up to expectation and a few who were just plain awful.

But we’ve never had a president like this one. I’ve seen presidents hotly debated by critics and three who were impeached—which I suppose says something about our national choices. But I have never seen a president so roundly ridiculed on comedy shows, so regularly and accurately accused of outright lies and so willing to continue populist campaign rallies during his presidency.

This one knows more than his generals, understands the law better than his Department of Justice and announces diplomatic policy, cabinet firings and war policy on Twitter.

You might expect, after all that premise, I have a take on it. So you will understand me better, I’ve always voted a split-ticket and have given my vote to both parties—not always equally, but as impartially as I could manage. 

I understand Trump voters and do not think they are collectively nuts, nor do I feel Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden will cure all ills.

We’re more partisan than ever before in my memory, although that’s been steadily on the rise ever since Ronald Reagan. Hold your prejudice, I voted for the fucker—twice. He embodied all  aspects of the 1984 Sade song Smooth Operator:
“Melts all your memories and change into gold
His eyes are like angels but his heart is cold
No need to ask, he's a smooth operator…”

He and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher might have been twins joined at the hip for their political aspirations, but that’s a conversation for another time. Suffice it to say both Great Britain and America have since engaged in a mutual chase down the social and political rabbit-hole.

But the conversation at hand is the soul of America’s political parties. Reminds me of the Atheist’s Pledge:

Dear God, if there is a god, save my soul, if I have a soul.”

Reagan not only captured the presidency for two terms, he scared the bejesus out of the Democratic Party. They not only fell under his spell, they emulated his policies.

Busting unions was clearly not good for the working classes, but they raised not a whimper when he sent all the air traffic controllers home. Trickle-down economics was a proven fraud, but Democrats climbed on board. Free Trade agreements sounded great on paper and in the spoken word, but any economist (other than the Milton Freeman crowd) knew they were another way to take what was left of American industry, wrap it up, put a bow on it and ship it off to whatever third-world country offered slave wages.

Meanwhile, with a Democrat House and a Republican Senate, Congress went merrily ahead on a plan to slip all business controls out of the governmental tool-boxes, guaranteeing the rich would get richer and the poor teach the third-world how to do their jobs.

Essentially, Democrats and Republicans alike shared in both the reasons and party rewards that screwed American workers and left them on their backs with their legs spread for the past 40 years.

Understandably, they’re  tired of that shit. Also understandably, if you care to take the time to understand it, they quite accurately saw Hillary and all of the Republicans except Trump, as four or eight more years of the same shit.

Donald promised to drain the swamp. His voters didn’t so much care about the swamp—Washington had been a swamp as long as they could remember—they wanted the system broken. Not only that, they want working class equity, their old jobs back and the assholes on Wall Street to begin paying their taxes. Automatic deductions are getting their taxes and they’re tired of carrying the load.

Who can possibly blame them?

Yet in the bubble that is Washington, Democrats have chosen to frame the November election as defeating Donald Trump at any cost. They’re going to get their ass handed to them.

Bernie had the message they wanted to hear and so did Liz Warren. But Bernie is too angry and ‘socialism’ still too toxic a word in America.

So the misguided Democrat majority in the Primaries did what they’ve been best at for 40 years—curled up in a fetal position, stuck their thumbs in their tiny little mouths and voted for Joe Biden. Good old Joe, who can no longer get a coherent sentence out of his mouth, even with a teleprompter and scares the shit out of no one.

Trump will have him for lunch and still have room for several cheeseburgers. And Wall Street is ecstatic—“Hey guys, business as usual again and ain’t it grand?”

Elizabeth Warren having been squeezed over to the curb and forced into the bushes is a great disappointment to me.

Not because I hate Trump, since I don’t. But for the reason that we have forgotten that kicking the other guy in the balls is not a political platform.

There is real work to be done in America that’s been ignored while we pissed away our fortunes and reputation in the Far and Middle East. It’s as though the breath had been sucked out of us and we’re flopping like fish on the bottom of the boat.

Trump voters know who’s boat that is. Democrats, I fear, don’t even know there is a boat.

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