Thursday, November 4, 2010

I am so confused!

That I am confused is nothing new.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that it is a pretty permanent state.  But the past few months that I have spent in the United States have taken my confusion to a new high (or low).
Of course I am referring to the elections, which in their own right were befuddling, but also to the general tone in the country, which has caused my brain to move into paralysis.
On the one hand, like Tim, I firmly believe in the doctrine of “Get rid of the bastards”!  Term limits should be mandatory – in the States, perhaps 2 terms for Congress and 1 or 2 for the Senate.  Of course, there are already limits for the Presidency.  So the mood that engulfed the nation to sweep Washington clean had my strong support. 
The Democrats have squandered their chances to make a real difference by watering down Obama’s proposed legislation.  The reason?  So they could get re-elected.  Rather than stumping their constituencies explaining the pros of healthcare reform and so on, they slithered home to take ambiguous positions as to whether they actually supported change.  Whichever way the wind blew, so they went.
 The Republicans were in a good position.  Having left the country with two wars in progress, national finances that were far worse than anyone imagined (because the amounts spent on the wars were often secret), and a crippling real estate mess that largely resulted through lack of oversight by the Republican administration, they were able to sit back and criticize every move Obama made to try to rectify the situation.  The old mantra “A vote for the Democrats means a vote for tax and spend” rang our loud, clear and often, even though it was irrelevant.
The came the Tea Party – or Teapots, as I call them.  The Teapots are people who generally believe in ridding Washington of the old guard (hear, hear!), but want to replace it with something or some things that are difficult to discern.  A common cry was to “return to the Constitution”.  The problem with this rallying cry for people like me was that it was never spelt out what that meant.  The Constitution before the Amendments?  Or with some or all of the Amendments?  Or did it mean to life at the time when the Constitution came into being?  Votes only for the landed gentry?  No votes for women and people of colour?  And what about the Supreme Court whose job it is to interpret the Constitution?  Most of the Teapots came across as though there was no need for interpretation – that it was as clear as crystal.
A disturbing facet of the Teapot movement was that it comprises many fundamentalist right-wing Christians.  This made me ask myself about the viewpoint of the founding fathers.  As far as I can tell from my reading, the founding fathers of course had a variety of viewpoints, but the major architects of the Constitution definitely believed that no one religion should have precedence over another.  And the Constitution enshrines this.  So, I ask, what is the relationship between the Teapots, fundamentalist Christianity, and the Constitution.  So far the links have eluded me.
My own take is that the election was about something else.  For the first time, the voters in the United States are feeling the squeeze.  Ten million are out of work, millions of homes are being foreclosed, the balance of economic power is moving east, and the fundamental belief that everything in America is the best in the world is being shown to be a lie.  Americans are beginning to realize that the brilliance of the American marketing of their own country has for a long time covered up cracks that have been seen quite readily by people outside the country.
So people are floundering.  They do not know what to do.  They (quite rightly) don’t trust their politicians, who have lied to them, who have acted with monumental fiscal irresponsibility, and who continue to behave in the same-old same-old way.  The problems are so great that the voters are desperate, and will clutch at each passing straw, whether it is rational or not.  At the same time, I do not see any realization that the way of life that Americans have enjoyed – living on borrowed money – cannot continue.  I do not detect an acceptance that most people are going to have to pull in their belts and live within their means. 
There are several generations of Americans who, by the standards of the rest of the world, have lived a better life than their jobs would indicate.  How?  By borrowing.  According to, the average household credit card debt is nearly $16,000 at an average interest rate of 14.5% – well over $2000 per year in interest alone.  Nearly 50% of households spend more than they earn.  And the borrowing has become habitual.  Restraint is rare.  And the borrowing habit has, of course, spilt over to the federal and state governments.  Everything is in debt – some, like California, actually bankrupt.
So, I don’t think this election was really about liberalism or conservatism, about tax and spend versus cut taxes and spend.  It was an election of fear and confusion. 
And my fear is that some charismatic idiot, a saviour, will appear who will lead the country over a cliff.  Or into another war.  Or both.

Stan - Thursday


  1. Stan, you make it sound that when I get on that plane in a few weeks headed to the U.S. I'll end up back in GREECE, with subtitles.


  2. Two years ago, when Obama was elected, people on my side of the spectrum cried because it seemed that we were a better nation, a better people, than we thought we were. And then we found out, quickly, that we were even worse.

    Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, someone who will be part of the new Congress was asked about the policies and agenda they will be bringing to Congress for the people. The response was that there was no new goal; it was the same goal that they have had for the past two years. Rush Limbaugh announced it on January 20, Inauguration Day. The goal was to make sure that Obama failed. Two days ago it was re-stated as a determination to make sure he is a one term president.

    Their two front runners for 2012 are Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. Romney made his reputation with a company that was operating deeply in the red. He turned it around quickly and made it very profitable and he made himself much richer. His program was simple: fire as many people as possible.

    John McCain has a lot to answer for. What he did two years ago was calculated evil. First, he believed that the women of the US were so stupid that they would vote for any woman. Second, he knew exactly what Sarah Palin was and he didn't care. That was another insult. Again, one stupid woman is just like every other stupid woman. Sarah and Hillary are equals intellectually. And third, he proved that he had no interest in the country that he once served with honor; he knew that at his age this was his last chance at the brass ring and he didn't care what it took to make the grab at it easier.

    If McCain had really wanted to do something for the country by choosing a woman as a running mate, there were two female senators he could have chosen. They are the two Republican Senators from Maine, Olympia Snow and Susan Collins. Both have been in the Senate since the mid-90's.

    McCain's reputation until 2008 was unimpeachable. He refused early release from a POW camp. Now he is just the man that wanted to make Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency.

    Massachusetts did the right thing. Not one Republican was elected to any office, state or national, on Tuesday. We were the one state that didn't give our electoral votes to Nixon in '72. We are, despite the large pockets of poverty in the cities and in the western part of the state, the only place that didn't fall for the absurd logic that the Republicans really care about the people.

    It is naive to believe that racism doesn't play a significant role in the hatred that is aimed at Obama. Jeff, until Greece has an 24/7 news outlet that spits venom and lies constantly, only the US, Great Britain and Australia are contenders for the reward given by Rupert Murdoch to the country he can most destroy through his media outlets. The US is way out in front.


  3. I don´t comment on the politics of other nations than my own, but may I say that I like your post?

  4. This election was about ideology. The Teapot party success was based on the growing dislike of both parties. Those Teapot party winners all said the same thing, the Republicans have to stop lying and actually achieve the changes they have been promising for over a decade. If not, the Teapot Party will split from the Republicans. Then it will get fun to watch, since the national Republican party lost repeatedly to the Teapot party choices.

    It did not help that Obama lost the support of the people who put him in office. Many moderates are moving to the right.

    America is a big place. My soul remains in Los Angeles where everything except Prop 19 went the way I would have voted. Due to poor health I live with family in Louisiana and it is a completely different planet.

    The next two years will be interesting. I wish the voters had longer memories. They might remember the last time America had small government with open free market it lead to a depression. That we got out of the depression by spending government money. There are reasons for the way things are. Changing to a way that has failed every time before in history is stupid but very human.

    One last thing, I know the World hates our wars, but it is not an issue here. The majority still believe the wars was and are justified or don't care. While I side with the World on this issue, many Americans have little interest in what others think. But it is a big place that has a habit of changing its mind often, hopefully in two years.

  5. I agree with Beth (MurderByType) that America's far right has taken over the Republican Party and would rather see Obama fail than American succeed. Not only did Rush Limbaugh state he hoped Obama failed, but another radio wingnut, Sean Hannity, 'declared war' on the President on inauguration day. They have gone to great lengths to paint Obama as non-American (and unAmerican), a Muslim, a communist, a 'foreigner' who wants to destroy the US, when all the evidence points the other direction.

    The Tea Parties ('teabaggers' as some critics call them, a sexual slur) have been as much hindrance as help, and it's unclear what effect they may have on the Republican Party. If they are so outraged at draconian policies and a tanking economy, why didn't they speak up when it was happening, rather than wait when someone else tried to fix it?

    If Sarah Palin ran on the Democratic side, the far right would be screaming she had no right to run– a quitter who bothered to register to vote shortly before she ran for election and whose husband espoused the belief that Alaska should withdraw from the Union.

    It's a crazy time and I don't recall politics as vicious as they are now. I hope we mature soon.