“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” –Emma Goldman
This election cycle finds me wearing the halo of the small businessman. As the improbable economic hero of the hour I claim the right to preach politics. These few short paragraphs won't change your party affiliation or your core political beliefs, so don't be afraid.
Pundits say that voters are about to sweep away the people who failed to restore prosperity in the past two years and replace them with the ones who ruined it in the first place. I see little evidence of anti-incumbent fever here; Massachusetts is better off than most states. But Americans have short memories, shorter attention spans, and even less patience. They just might be foolish enough to throw the bums out and reinstall thieves and cutthroats.
Over the decades my economic philosophy has spanned the spectrum from socialist to libertarian; morally, I’ve been consistently licentious and anti-religious. I voted for third parties and independents in every election except for Gerald Ford and Barack Obama. I voted for Ford because he was a friend of my dad’s, and how often do you get to elect someone with whom you’ve had coffee? I voted for Obama because I trusted him to sweep away the last eight years of Republican misrule that destroyed our economy.
The Great Recession pushed me back to the left. Our epic struggles with health insurance, as documented in this blog (see “health insurance” in the Labels list at right), made us staunch supporters of reform. Unemployment benefit extensions, the federal COBRA subsidy (and COBRA itself), and our state Medical Security Program kept us clinging to the bottom rung of the middle class; without them we’d have joined the ever-growing ranks of the poor. Thank the gods we live in the most liberal state with the most generous unemployment benefits in the US! Republicans tried time after time to eviscerate these lifelines; time after time, Democrats fought to preserve them. It’s obvious which party was on our side.
Today I am more sympathetic to the Democratic Party – or, more accurately, more hostile to the Republicans -- than I’ve ever been. This is not to say I’m a Democrat, though. I’m still independent and plan to vote for at least one liberal Republican in our state contests.
With my biases laid out for all to see, let’s get down to it. We have four choices on Election Day:
- The old-line forces of evil that got us into this mess (a.k.a. Republicans);
- The incompetent sellouts that failed to get us out of it (a.k.a. Democrats);
- The anti-government extremists who are financed by the old-line forces of evil (a.k.a. Tea Partiers); and
- None of the above (i.e., stay home).
Conservatives face an interesting dilemma. Your long-entrenched powers are losing control over the party to well-bankrolled ignorant and misinformed media darlings. A party agenda shaped by Tea Partiers would consign the Republicans to the fringe for many years to come, and I find that tempting. But the American political system works best when two evenly-matched parties fight over the middle and temper one another’s worst impulses. Conservatives should shun the Bush-era veterans who destroyed our economy, because they’re unashamedly promising more of the same. You should also shun the fundamentalists who will destroy your party if they gain power. That leaves you with supporting moderate Republicans where you have that option or staying home where you do not.
I mostly want to talk to progressives. We’re disappointed with the Obama administration and its Congress. They have so ceded the political narrative to the right-wing hate-and-fear machine that even their successes are twisted into political liabilities – a strange failing for such a mediagenic figure. The stimulus package is reviled even though economists agree that it averted economic collapse and should have been larger. George Bush’s TARP has been painted as a Democratic giveaway to greedy bankers, even though most of the money has been paid back – with $25 billion in interest. While the voters expected bold, New Deal-scale jobs programs we instead got a Republican-designed healthcare giveaway to the entrenched interests. Rather than fight for the single-payer “Medicare for All” system that we really need Congress enshrined private insurance coverage in law and condemned employers to forever deliver it. Extending coverage to 30 million Americans while reining in the insurers’ worst abuses is a laudable achievement, but we all know that it doesn’t address the crisis of rising prices.
So we have little enthusiasm for the Democrats (if indeed the pundits are right about that; early balloting suggests otherwise). They compromised repeatedly to evoke bipartisanship that never materialized while the Republicans somehow made a virtue of blind obstructionism. Who wants to vote for sellouts and cowards? We have no left-wing insurgency comparable to the Tea Party, but if we don’t support beleaguered Democrats the progressive agenda will be overrun by flag-waving fundamentalists. From global warming to energy policy to rebuilding infrastructure and creating jobs, there is still much to be done. You should only skip this election if your choices are limited to conservatives or turncoat Democrats. Obama isn't on the ballot; don't throw away your vote to express displeasure with him.
I have nothing to say to Tea Partiers. As a mercy to my readers I deleted six futile paragraphs of facts and logic because ideologues are impervious to those. They embrace that which supports their beliefs and reject everything else. It’s up to the rest of us to ensure that the Christine O’Donnells and Sharron Angles and Sarah Palins and their ilk remain amusing entertainers on the fringe.
By the way, my new Facebook blogcaster displays a thumbnail of my blog itself when it doesn’t find any graphics in the post. Since that’s boring, I’ll be embedding pictures more often than not. Sometimes they’ll be more relevant and interesting than others.
I rather like this one.