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Building A Bigger Tent

8:12 am in Uncategorized by Kate Flannery

Post election I’ve heard a lot of talk from political pundits and writers.  But two refrains seem to be repeated endlessly and by an assortment of people – from the Right to the Left.  This isn’t the first time these topics have been analyzed and grumbled over – I remember well when the Republicans lost big in the 2006 midterms, as well as the 2008 all-around election and the drums were being continuously beat on these issues as well.  Then, as now, neither topic made even a whisper of sense to me.


The first big piece of conventional wisdom – is that the Republicans need to “widen their tent.”  Everyone says this.  I – Mean – Everyone – Says – This.  Widen – broaden – more inclusive tent.  It’s always a tent of some kind.  Anyhow…nearly all “serious” thinkers agree that this is imperative – Republicans, Democrats, independents, progressives – they finally agree on something.  This tent must now “reach out” and include more of a diverse base.  You know, Latinos, blacks, other minorities, young people etc.  Hey, maybe even gays!  After all, there are only so many white, middle-aged men to go around and vote for them. 


So, yeah, everyone who isn’t completely irrational in the Republican Party thinks it’s vital to appeal to a wider variety of people.  But the part that flummoxes me every time they trot out this particular bit of dogma is – how the hell are they going to do that?


If all they want to do is give the illusion of being inclusive without any substance, in order to seem desirable to the broader electorate – well – Mitt already tried that, didn’t he – at least in the last few weeks of his campaign?  All of a sudden he loved the Latinos, and wanted them to have a path toward citizenship.  He cared about 100% of the people and wasn’t anti-choice, not really.  He also turned suddenly into the “peace guy” and the “woman guy.”  And none of it seemed to make a difference.  Maybe because he didn’t really mean it – he was just saying it to be liked.


And at the Republican convention, didn’t they trot out every single woman and person of color that they could find?  Of course, they were all on the stage and not in the audience – but at least they existed – and they seemed to be in the tent. 


I don’t know…it doesn’t make any sense to me.  How do they appeal to minority and women and gay voters, when they really don’t like them?  They don’t have any policies or worldview that would be supportive of them, or that they might be in agreement with.  So, why do they keep talking about expanding that stupid tent?  They don’t like blacks, or Latinos or gays.  They might like women a little bit – but it’s in a psychologically damaged way.  And every time they try to fake it and pretend – well, it’s just offensive and embarrassing and no one buys it – because it is indeed, fake.


The second thing I’ve been hearing a lot – from both sides – and I hear this every time the GOP gets whupped in an election – is that it’s so – so – so important for us to have this two-party system of different ideas.  I heard Rachel Maddow wax passionate on this last night – but she’s not the only one, by far. 


Even given the narrow two-party “choice” we’re given every election, why does anyone think we need Republicans anymore?  Their ideas and intentions are stale and discredited – as has been made increasingly clear over the past thirty years or more.  Personally, I wish with all my heart that the Democratic Party had taken the House and Senate in a cataclysmic landslide.  Then something might get done around there.  The Republicans are only a colossal impediment to progress – not an asset.


They have no ideas to offer – they have nothing to bring to the table – nothing.  I wish the media and assorted politicians would let this old fantasy go already.  No one needs them.  Not the country, not the Constitution, not their constituents.  It’s over, Johnny.


Oh, some might say – “No!  No!  We can’t have one Party just running amok – with no counterweight.”  But, the good news is, we don’t…because the Democratic Party is already full to exploding with every conceivable point of view.  You’ve got your moderate Democrats, who are really the Republicans of old – and then you’ve got your more progressive or liberal wing….the whole governing package is there – no one needs the Republicans to muddy up the waters.  I wish people would stop trying to revive these fossilized relics of the past every time they’ve swallowed too much water and are about to drown.  The entire world would be so much better off if we just said goodbye, and let them go.

Obama’s Problem

9:06 am in Uncategorized by Kate Flannery

Let it be stated clearly, I am no fan of Barack Obama.  That said, he should be doing far better with the voting public than he is.  The fact that this presidential contest is as close as it is, absolutely sends my mind reeling.  Given the lack of substance, decency and authenticity of Romney – Obama should be ahead by a veritable landslide.  Sure, the argument can be made that there are millions of people out there that simply do not have a clue – and it’s true.  My personal understanding of those who vote Republican for any reason – and in any season, is threefold:


  1. They are very wealthy, greedy and selfish.
  2. They are filled with hate of one kind or another.
  3. They are dumber than a sack of nuts.


Still, the fact that they are apparently neck-in-neck still seems impossible to me.  The general consensus out there in political dreamland, is that Obma needs to appeal to the undecided, the independents, the swing voters – that odd and morally malleable group of fantasy individuals.  Therefore, all he has to do is persuade them that he is reasonable and remind them of all the good he’s done for them and the country over the past three and a half years.  So, whether in the debates, or in interviews, he keeps repeating his talking points – healthcare reform, Wall Street reform, more oil drilling and gas production to decrease our dependency on foreign oil, ending the war in Iraq and killing Osama bin Laden, saving GM and Chrysler, tweaking student loan debt, keeping more folks out of foreclosure through his HAMP program – ya know, stuff like that.  So, if he just keeps reminding all those forgetful citizens of how good he’s been for them under trying circumstances with a monstrous Congress, they will think good thoughts and vote for him in November.


My take on this is completely opposite from the conventional wisdom.  Forget the undecided voters, or the swing voters (I picture that rare breed swinging from trees like monkeys, by the way).  His problem – why he is not leaving Romney in his wake in a cloud of dust and sand – is because he is not addressing the many millions of people who are disillusioned and disgusted – not only with him, but with politics.  They had some hope and belief in 2006 during the Democratic midterm landslide, and again in 2008 – and they are either not voting at all – or they’re voting for a third party.  When they hear him spout his carefully rehearsed list of greatest hits – they know a little bit better what the reality is.


For students (and parents) stuck under crushing and permanent loan debt that they may never dig out from under – they understand that the interest rates are still high.  If you think 6% interest (and in many cases higher) is such a blessing – you try paying that off without a great job at your disposal.  They understand that even if they had to take the unwanted step of bankruptcy, they still can’t get rid of it.  They know that even the income based repayment that is available for some loans, is a confusing endeavor and that they have to deal with the lovely loan servicers – like the always horrible Sallie Mae.


For those underwater on their mortgages or facing foreclosure – millions of people – that have been through the process of HAMP and found it to be not only unhelpful but costly and emotionally debilitating, they are not fooled by his happy words.  They might also know that the policy wasn’t instituted to really help them, but to help the banks keep too many foreclosures off their books at one time.


For environmentalists, they are well-aware that Obama only gives lip service to climate change – and the debacle of the BP oil spill is still fresh in their minds.  For every time Obama utters the phrase, “clean coal” – he probably loses another ten thousand voters. 


For those who opposeAmerica’s imperial aggression around the world – they hear only talk of more war and the sickening mindset of “inAmerica’s interests” – knowing that means against someone else’s.  They hear him lament the death of four Americans inLibya, but not a word about the innocent lives taken through his drone attacks.


For those who care about civil liberties – they are well aware of Obama’s ramping up Bush’s warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention and other crimes.


For the health care bill – although it does some good, to be sure – they know it was a big French kiss to the insurance companies. 


For illegal immigrants, this is the president who deported and arrested more people than Bush.  Those kinds of memories are not easily forgotten, especially if the one deported is someone you know.


His Dodd-Frank reform bill – that has more holes in it than the sieve I drain pasta in, and a lot of people know it.


I could go on and on, but that would take forever – and I’ve got other things to do today, like finish reading the latest issue of Rolling Stone and watching The Maltese Falcon.


Obama continues to state that he has more to accomplish in his next term, although what those things are exactly, he’s not entirely clear on.  And what little he does offer, gives the more politically and socially engaged little to hang their hat on.  But, lesser of two evils?  Sure, why not.  I suppose that’s a good enough argument for some.  But that still doesn’t help his position overall.  And I think that’s because he has let those who were fired up in 2008, just flap in the breeze of neglect while he tries to win over some magical Walmart Mom inAkron,Ohio. 


If he wanted to win back his old constituency, or motivate them enough to give him another chance to do some more good work on their behalf, then he should have lied.  Give them the illusion that he hears their complaints and disengagement.  He already had the devoted Democratic voters in his pocket.  They would vote for a baboon if it had a “D” next to its name.  What he’s missing this time around though, are people who refuse to identify with a political party, but who would never vote for a Republican.  People that often vote for a third party, and might have done so in the 2008 election as well, if they hadn’t voted for him.  All those young people who were engaged and idealistic and truly hopeful for some meaningful change – only to be left staggering in the face of his corporate friendly White House.  Forget the so-called undecided’s or swingers or whatever.  It’s all the millions of others who know the truth of his policies and his bromides and do not buy his simplistic assessments for a minute that he should have been courting like a lovesick puppy.


Does that mean I’m advocating lying?  Of course not.  I hate lying.  Hate it more than just about anything.  But, let’s be real.  It’s not like lying is morally repugnant to him or most every other politician.  They don’t have any true, living, breathing moral compass to protect or guide them.  They can lie away with nary a second thought or uncomfortable feeling. 


I don’t think the closeness of this race-to-the-bottom is because Mitzy got independent voters over to his side and away from Obama.  I think he would’ve had the same amount of voters overall in any event.  Apparently there are tens of millions of people who really don’t know anything worth knowing about anything.  But I think Obama’s numbers would’ve been higher had he sought to attract back those he has lost – likely voters turned unlikely or toward a third party.  And his middle-of-the-road, carefully parsed, moderate, bipartisan approach is not going to cut it with them – not this time.

Stop Yelling At Me Sam

12:08 pm in Uncategorized by Kate Flannery

Recently a bunch of celebrities have taken to the airwaves to encourage or bully us into voting.  Well…not just vote in general, but vote specifically for Obama.  This is despite the fact that there are several interesting third party nominees to vote for – Rocky Anderson, Jill Stein, and my personal favorite, Roseanne Barr.


I’ve seen the Sarah Silverman ads – and she’s just so funny and adorable that she’s very hard for me to get mad at.  And Steve Carell is such a sweetie-pie.  And Ellen DeGeneres – well…I couldn’t possibly think of a bad word to say to her or about her.  If I met her, I’d just give her a big hug and then bust a move or two.


Then we have – Samuel L. Jackson who has been ordering us to “Wake the fuck up.”  And, well…I’m getting a bit irritated.  Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely LOVE Sam.  I’ve loved him ever since I saw him in JurassicPark– and was heartbroken when he got eaten by the velociraptor.  And I’ve loved him through the years, even in some movies that critics and audiences might have considered failures, like The Long Kiss Goodnight. But stop yelling at me, Sam.  It’s kind of none of your business who I vote for, or even if I vote.


Besides, not only do I have Sam shouting at me and trying to guilt-trip me into a vote for his candidate, but I have a long memory, as well.  It seems like only yesterday that Obama in a 2010 Rolling Stone interview chastised voters for not being sufficiently impressed with his wondrous achievements and who might then not show up in force for the midterm elections (and we all know how those turned out).  And before that we had Robert Gibbs (his former press secretary) suggesting that those of us who were complaining about Obama’s policies ought to be “drug tested.”  And then, who could forget the always charming and incorruptible, Rahm Emanuel calling many of us “fucking retarded.”


My feeling has been that they lost the House in the 2010 midterms because they had completely failed not only their supporters, but the entire country.  On almost any issue one can name, the Democrats became card-carrying Republicans.  We felt not only deeply disappointed, but foolish.  And you know what George Bush said about getting fooled again. 


If there is less than enthusiastic support for Democratic candidates and for Obama in particular, whose fault is that really?  Where is their personal responsibility for this failure to communicate and motivate?  People are not entirely stupid all of the time.  They know when someone is working for them and trying to help (whether succeeding or not).  They sense when someone is on their side or if words are just cheap.


The voter apathy that plagued the Dems two years ago, and may yet impact this election, didn’t just materialize out of thin air.  There are substantial reasons for it.  Of course, the irony is that after Obama has performed so ably for banks, corporations and such, his campaign has supposedly been struggling to get their financial support this go-round.  And there are only so many Sarah Jessica Parker’s and Jay-Z’s to fill in the gap.


Some folks point out some good things that Obama has done as obvious reasons to be excited to vote for him again.  The health insurance reform law for instance.  And being a decent human being (if I say so myself, and I will), I’m not just thinking about myself or my family.  I care about how policy affects other people as well.  But, speaking personally, the only thing that’s helped anyone in my entire family is the fact that we can keep our two daughters on my husband’s health insurance at his job until they’re 26.  Yes, that helps a lot.  Especially because the year before that part of the bill went through, we were paying over $400 a month with COBRA for our oldest daughter.  (Of course, what do we do next year when she turns 26?  Her health and wellbeing will be no less important to us.)  And, you know, my feeling on this is that it’s the least Obama and this government can do.  And, I mean that literally – the very least.  When I think of the percentage in federal taxes we pay year after year after bloody year (far more than Mitt, by the way), and the fact that they take 50% of what they scarf up from us, and send it off to the military – an expenditure that I completely disapprove of – then I think, sure we deserve some return on our tax dollars for the hard, physically difficult and sometimes dangerous work my husband does to earn a living.  But beyond our personal circumstances, there are people right this second who are struggling and dying for lack of money to see a doctor.  And that’s just not okay or understandable.  And beyond that issue, I’d like to see my taxes go toward helping to lift people out of poverty and supporting kids so they might go to college.  I’d like my money to go toward breaking up the banks and cleaning up the environment, not giving subsidies to Monsanto or ExxonMobil. 


And I’d like to see a president fight for something worthwhile.  But we’ve been at this rodeo before with this guy.  And though he’ll toss a few more crumbs toward the small folk out there than the other guy – there is nothing and no one that he won’t betray – women, children, gays, the elderly – it’s all up for grabs if he can strike the right deal.


Oh – and I hear the voices now, echoing in my head.  “The Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court.”  Yes, well…that may indeed be the only legitimate reason to vote for this dude.  But even on that issue, I really don’t trust Obama to do the right thing.  He might give the next open slot to Ann Coulter or something in another nauseating display of bipartisan fealty.


So stop yelling at me, Sam.  I love you, but I don’t care.  The realities of your life and most other people’s are far, far apart.  There’s a reason so many of us have lost all belief in the government and in Obama in particular.  And that’s his fault, not the fault of stupid people that you think don’t understand what he’s done for them.  Oh, they understand all right.