The Frustration of an Obama Supporter (Part 2: Hamstrung by Reality):
This is where we are in our political spectrum: yesterday in Cleveland, President Barack Obama, a noted Kenyan socialist who pals around with terrorists, gave a speech that, in its core proposals, could have pretty much been given by Ronald Reagan. Yet it's still considered to be wild and woolly radicalism by the American right wing. And it's considered a barn-burning attack on Republicans by the left.
This is our current desperation, for Obama's failure on the right, for his success on the left, both sides needing their world views validated. The Rude Pundit is not immune to this. His feeling while watching much of Obama's speech was "Yeah, shove a fist right between John Boehner's charred carrot ass cheeks." Obama delivered punch after punch, mocking, for instance, the idea that millionaires should get hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax breaks. Fuck, yeah.
It was all class warfare-sounding, with exhortations to bringing back the middle class and angry denunciations of the Republicans' ability to run the fiscal policies of the nation. The speech really was a beautifully enraged, yet carefullly modulated, summation of where we are and how we got here. If it had been FDR or LBJ making it, that would have been followed by an announcement of some momentous program that would be directly transformative for vast numbers of the underclasses in America.
President Obama proposed tax credits and deductions, along with $50 billion in infrastructure spending. He got applause for saying, "That’s why we’re fighting to extend the child tax credit and make permanent our new college tax credit, because if we do, it will mean $10,000 in tuition relief for each child going to four years of college." An expanded Pell Grant program might be nice, but, sure, this is good.
Many are gonna read this as criticism. But it's not. It's recognition of the political and economic reality. George W. Bush murdered the possibility of government enacting sweeping programs in this country for at least another decade, if not a generation. He did it with his wars, with his tax cuts, and with his rhetoric: he planted the seeds of current GOP intransigence. Republicans went for nearly five years, passing whatever the hell the President wanted, but faced with actually having to negotiate with Democrats, the GOP decided to honor Bush by blocking Obama.
Obama had his shot to do a couple of huge things, like the public option on health care reform or a huge stimulus plan, right at the start, but Democrats weren't used to winning the argument, so they compromised it all down to things that seemed politically tenable. And rather than take a victory lap on what they accomplished, Democrats have acted as if they were caught on cell phone video masturbating in the boy's room at school, ashamed and shy about having saved the economy and expanded health care while the GOP acted as if they had won by losing.
So, for the Rude Pundit, the most encouraging part of yesterday's Cleveland speech wasn't the game of tax cut chicken that the President is playing with Republicans. It was that Obama owned his accomplishments. He didn't apologize for them. He said, "That’s why I kept my campaign promise and gave a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of working Americans. That’s why we passed health insurance reform that stops insurance companies from jacking up your premiums at will or denying coverage because you get sick. That’s why we passed financial reform that will end taxpayer-funded bailouts; reform that will stop credit card companies and mortgage lenders from taking advantage of taxpayers and consumers." And while he didn't use the dreaded word "stimulus," he did own his economic plan. He said, in essence, "Yeah, that's me jacking off in that video. Look how good I stroke my dick. Jealous?"
Democrats, including Obama, have allowed the GOP to set the terms of every argument. Yesterday, Obama explicitly threw the shackles of bipartisanship back at the Republicans. In doing so, he joined the fight to save a Democratic Congress. You don't go back to trying to play nice with the other side once you've called them motherfuckers because they fuck their mothers.
No, there wasn't much meat there for progressives, but there were plenty of side dishes. For now, for the realistic Obama supporter, the one who knew who he was voting for all along, that will have to suffice.