The Great Plotnik

Friday, November 05, 2010

Mulling About Politics: One

The more Plotnik thinks about it, the stranger it gets.

The Republicans say that, more than anything else, they want to get Barack Obama out of office in 2012. Think back, and this is exactly what they said about Bill Clinton, then they fell silent about George Bush.

Neither one of these men is a wild-eyed radical. The far right does not despise Obama any more than it did Clinton. It doesn't hate Nancy Pelosi any more than it did Hillary. It's not about race and it's not about gender (unless it's about both). So what is it?

Plotnik is not sure. The last three Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter, Clinton and Obama all came from more humble origins. The Bushes were New England Trillionaires and their seeming front-runner, Mitt Romney, is another. Is that it?

Think back: FDR and JFK were landed aristocrats. Ike and Reagan (and Truman) were not. So this line of reasoning doesn't hold up. And the Tea Party is anything but plutocratic.

Is it likeability? That's what they said about Bush verses both Gore and Kerry, and there was a lot of truth in it. They always said George Bush was the kid of guy you'd like to have a beer with. Gore and Kerry would have looked stupid at any baseball game, and probably Jimmy Carter too. But not Barack. He probably has a better arm than any of the others and could knock back a few brewskis with all of them.

So that's not it either.

Is it the ancient Republican litany: tax-and-spend, tax-and-spend? It's a legitimate worry. So Plotnik asks only one question of the right: how do YOU propose to fix America's problems if you don't pay for them by raising taxes?

Here is the bottom line. America at this point is two countries on either side of an enormous bay. You can't cross the water without a bridge, and without the bridge the country is eternally at war with itself over what to do about all that water. You have to build a bridge and you have to pay for it.

You have two ways to go about it: raise the money, or cut your other expenditures and put the money you saved into building the bridge.

But you know perfectly well that won't work. Everybody who has his favorite program eliminated, in order to conserve government expenditures, will put up an enormous fuss, backed by law suits. You'll never be able to touch the programs that cost the most: social security, medical care, pensions. So you'll cut library hours and remove half the stops on the 14-Mission. You'll raise the price of a parking ticket and you'll catch old Mrs. Jones, the Welfare Cheat. But you won't ever be able to save enough money to build that bridge and it's pointless to keep railing on about it.

And for Plotnik, the worrier, it can get a lot worse. What unites a country, traditionally, when all else fails? A nice war. Who can all the people, on both sides of the water, get mad at? The enemy. Who is that enemy? Whomever we go to war with.

The landscape is ripe for a demagogue, a Huey Long-style populist nice-guy not-too-rich not-too-poor one issue guy or gal. And that one issue is The New Enemy.

That enemy might be you. But it's probably the Other Guy.

Of course, we COULD compromise and build the bridge.


At 11:51 AM, Blogger notthatlucas said...

Wait - what about the cookies? I want the cookies.

There are two teams and neither likes to lose. And the losing team under no circumstances wants to appear like they helped the winning team, even if helping the winning team would mean a nice new ballpark for both to play in, more fans, and more money for both to play with. They will chew off a foot before they will help the other team do anything. Even if it means losing the old cruddy ballpark they currently have. It's the principle of the thing that matters most.

At 8:15 PM, Blogger The Fevered Brain said...

I had a conversation with a poli sci prof of my acquaintance. I asked him why the "ins" didn't remind the "outs" of the history of who got the country in its current fix. "Because the electorate has a 30 second memory," he said. "If they're mad right now, it's those they can see who are to blame, not the guys who actually caused the mess and have faded into the background." Makes me crazy.

At 6:55 AM, Blogger mary ann said...

Yup, not that is right again. On the other hand, the Enemy is money and privilege. I've been reading this novel on the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi and those were SUCH mean and violent times. Push/improve/shove back and a little progress is the result.

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Karen said...

William Saleton talks on Slate about why the health care bill (and other great accomplishments) matter more than the loss of congressional seats. Loss is the price we pay for progress. And what if we did things for the good of the people/country rather than to keep our party in power?


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