Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Full Term Birth of the Partisan Obama

Just a Bit About "Political Climates" 
When both the representation and the represented are the problem

Of course there is a compelling "string" of historical similarities if not between the personal attributes of the Presidents themselves, at least between the national environments each one respectively encountered while trying to meet the responsibilities of his office.  Although even if it's not emphasized in the public media very much, there is still the citizen's chore of facing facts.

"Rocket science-wise," citizen "fact facing" must begin with a bit of "fact knowing."  That, of course, begins even more fundamentally with "being interested."

For our own peace of mind, we have to accept the idea that Americans don't particularly trust their grasp of historical realities enough to comfortably bother with drawing many such conclusions on their own steam.

It turns out that coast to coast education failure is, indeed, the "gift that keeps on giving."  Happily, whatever expertise citizens seem to lack with respect to the precise details of the Great 2008 Republican Economic Disaster, they are unquestionably acutely aware of the pain.  The fact that it continues to be further aggravated and compounded isn't missed by many, either.

With the Congressional servants of the oligarchs showing no signs of even slightly beginning to release their suffocating death grip on the remnants of the thoroughly looted economy, remedial economic policy relief remains out of the question.

So, what remain "in the question?"

It may well not be an answer which sparks much optimism in citizens, but it appears to be the single glimmer of hope that's left among the twisted wreckage.


First, Let's Look At Some Similarities

Yes, it's all about these two. (image source)

If distant history will enjoy a reconciling "numbing" of the immediate trauma, it may point more to the similarity of national environment encountered by the two Presidents than to their personal natures.  In both cases the oligarchs had seriously "over reached" with their looting penchants, crippling the possibility of the respective economies continuing to function -- even as wounded animals staggering forward only on blind instinct.

In both cases the severity of the damage was under estimated until it began to manifest in terms of daily suffering.  Then it was relentless.

There is no way to reasonably imagine what the "end game" conditions anticipated by these "money class Vikings" might have looked like -- at least, what it might have looked like to them.  MeanMesa doubts if either the 1930's oligarchs or the 2000's oligarchs realistically expected the dire results which would follow their unchecked, wild largesse.

Almost certainly the oligarchs had no expectation of ever having to face the hundreds of millions of people they had just wounded.  On the other hand, they did probably expect to emerge in the aftermath as some sort of repackaged nobility, so rich and so powerful that their newly minted class would become perpetual.  Their vision of what the rest of the country might be like in their wake is anyone's guess.

Nonetheless, in the American system all results of everything -- including these rampages of wealth redistribution, corruption and greed -- fall into the lap of the next President.  This was the case with FDR, and it was also the case with Barack Obama.  The tediously predictable route into these "caverns of misery" in both cases are hardly interesting.  They are the same in every instance.

However, while the machinations creating each collapse are uniformly mundane, the history of recovering from such disasters becomes fodder for future, heroic folk ballads.  This process took FDR a decade to even so much as begin to "turn the ship."  His antagonists, 1930's style Republican looters, tormented his every effort at each step of that journey.

In terms of comparison, while Obama has managed to "turn the ship" a little more agilely, his -- and our -- antagonists, 2000's looters, have fought back just as rapaciously as their Depression Era Robber Baron forbears, but  unlike the vast majority of citizens who fervently supported FDR, roughly half of the citizens with futures relying on the success of Obama's efforts have steadfastly allied themselves with the looters.

Among many other similarities, perhaps another one most relevant here does reflect on the personal nature of both Presidents.  Both FDR and Obama entered politics with a sort of individual, systemic personal disadvantage.

While the country was already beginning to feel the bite of the 1930 Great Republican Depression, candidate Roosevelt was the product of immense wealth.  Throughout the population -- including among those who would vote for him -- had to be the inevitable concern that he was simply too rich to relate to the challenges facing them.

Once in office, his actions steadily evaporated this concern although the rate of that "evaporation" measurably slowed in his early terms when his recovery strategy had not yet begun to produce relief.  FDR faced the continuing possibility that his depression damaged supporters would, exhausted, shift to a mood of intolerance and alienation toward his wealth.

The Republicans hammered on this as constantly as a boxer works on a bleeding eye.  Ironically, FDR's great difficulties with health issues actually evoked more than enough sympathy and support to mitigate this political vulnerability.

We'll be looking directly as some of FDR's words just a little later in this post.

By comparison, Barack Obama, once he assumed office, "discovered" two defining bits of information.  Neither had been incorporated in his 2008 campaign, but both were solidly ensconced on the Oval Office couch when he turned on the lights.

The first was the scope of the oligarchic looting which had destroyed the economy.  The Bush autocracy had been quite clever at obfuscating the dire gravity of the wreckage they were leaving.  Had Obama been more completely aware of the mortal damage, he might have included it much more openly in his Presidential campaign.  He also might not have.

If the schemes of the Bush cronies had been more aggressively illuminated during the Presidential race, Obama would have enjoyed more understanding and more support for his remedial strategies once in office.

The second "discovery" was an unanticipated racism, a fire too easily presumed as extinguished or, perhaps, still only slightly smouldering, by Obama as a Senator.  Within the gentrified civility of that body of snakes, the black Senator from Illinois had possibly slipped too far toward the overly optimistic view.  As a personally successful Ivy League academic or even as a black social organizer [largely among other Chicago blacks], Obama may have sincerely underestimated the level of "revealed" animus incited by his skin color.

As a result, when Obama took office not only were the loot starved oligarchs left over from the autocracy salivating at his shadow, tens of millions of previously quiet bigots -- everyone from a drooling, tax exempt pastor to a beer drinking plumber at the American Legion bar -- began to come back to life like vampires at sunset.  In no time there were pockets of the country where Ku Klux Klan hoods were back in style.

None of the reasons for this new "hat style's" reinvigorated popularity had anything to do with recession, socialism, liberalism, or anything else with more than one syllable.

Obama's first term was marked by his perhaps overly great caution to avoid introducing any unnecessary racial animosity.  If FDR was cautious to avoid being called the "spawn of plutocrats," Obama was cautious to avoid being casually classed as an "uppity Negro" and inciting the inevitable consequences.  Both Presidents suffered the same toothy gnawing from the oligarchs' Congressional servants about "being a socialist."

In Obama's case there were further complications not in place in the 1930's.  The nation had been looted to the bone by the unregulated crime family preceding him coupled with fairly substantial issues of out right crimes and, perhaps, even treason in the administration his replaced.  Reiterating the looting issue need not be set aside as hyperbole.  The looters had the money -- literally trillions by this time -- and they were clearly intent on discrediting him, re-establishing the oligarchic extractive mechanisms and, ultimately, usurping control of the country.

FDR had plenty on his plate, but he was not additionally burdened with navigating toward some level of economic recovery while simultaneously  employing delicately crafted political tactics to avoid civil war.  Ironically, at the time of this writing there are still Americans convinced that the events of the last decade were essentially coincidental.

MeanMesa is confident that with an even slightly more informed citizenry which would yield that "coincidental" verdict impossible, we would be in civil war.  The explosive outrage accompanying a full knowledge of the crimes would have made it inevitable.  Instead, we find ourselves immersed in tenuously supported Pax Bardus ["Peace by Stupidity"], in this case, hope's faltering grasp at a few more months or years before the conflagration and self-immolation.

Don't lock up the geezer just yet.

There's more.

MeanMesa's ominous strategic prediction is that, from here, we will have to move even perilously closer to that civil strife in search of a stable resolution.

A Memo to Obama: -- from FDR

Although it's difficult to absolutely retrieve such subtle details from the history of the time, FDR's efforts to repair the 1930's Great Republican Depression may reveal an approach similar to Obama's with respect to a "do nothing" Congress.  The Depression Era oligarchs, much like their more modern and possibly even more destructive, kinsmen, were very determined to regain control of their unregulated "gravy train."

FDR had tried the cooperative, civil approach only to withdraw the hand of compromise to find a few of his fingers had been chewed away.  Much like Obama, he continued to propose even more of the same genteel entreaties in the hope that the "hypnotic spell of avarice" might relent long enough for his Congressional adversaries to return to their senses.

Then, like now, there was no sign of any of that change emerging.  Oligarchs, just as much as ideologues, don't negotiate.

Let's reconsider the "Politics" suggestion from above.  We can look at the traditional advantages that our country has enjoyed in past crises, but the resulting inventory is not too promising.  We can call on no "reserve" of leadership types in the House or the Senate, and the heavily soiled ideologues controlling the Supreme Court offer nothing particularly promising.

After woefully deleting these corresponding elements from the list of "parts of the representative government," we are left with a both apathetic and frightened, uninformed, low interest, politically exhausted electorate still under daily shelling from a now imaginary "Fourth Estate," and a respectfully progressive President left stranded, isolated without any particular allies.

In this sense Obama may actually have it worse than FDR.  However, there is one, additional, chilling side, too.

FDR enjoyed the possibility of job creating programs such as the WPA and CCC.  Obama doesn't.  For half of the modern unemployed, the prospect of holding a shovel for even half a shift would be an inconceivable physical impossibility.  The wheezing, over weight American is also not at all "ready" to work a shift on a machine lathe or welder even had that factory not been off shored to China a decade ago. 

In the 1930's of FDR, if an average American youngster had a chance to attend and graduate high school, or if a hungry, downtrodden, unemployed, Depression victim had a chance to pick sweet onions for two days, no force on Earth could have stopped either of them.  Not so for Obama's 2010's.

THAT's why MeanMesa concludes that only "politics" is left.  In terms of salvaging the country, even if the 2013 population can't really work like they could in the 30's, they can still vote.

That is, if they once again become interested in voting.  
FDR was quite familiar with this difficult to manage "territory."  Folks had grown overly comfortable with -- and dangerously tolerant of --  really bad politics during the Roaring 20's. By comparison, Obama has, similarly, been knee deep in the same "inertial political dilemma" every day since before he was even first elected Senator.  It was the same problem he tackled as a community organizer in Chicago.  Contemporary voters, in their own time, have endured equally nasty, really bad politics during the last decades -- plus, this time, exposure to roughly 10,000 times more hours of very suspicious media messaging.
So, politics.

Of course FDR said and did all sorts of things to restore the country, but right here we'll focus on a single, notable speech he made in 1936 to introduce his continuing plans for The New Deal.  At first, MeanMesa was simply going to supply a link and then "slice and dice" a few excerpts for inclusion in the post.  However, on further thought, the whole speech belongs here.

[A note from MeanMesa: After all,   Short Current Essays has long ago quit apologizing for, well, not being short.  A "short" essay from the mid-1800's would currently be considered a book.  While the 2013 definition of "short" might be anything from a laconic text message to a fly-by quip of a comment to a thread on a social media page -- or even a 140 character, conceptually castrated Tweet -- the Short Current Essays definition of "short" is more than liberal enough to include the whole speech.]

This speech by FDR marked the end of his efforts to deal with the Congressional Republicans and their oligarch puppet masters.  It marked the end of his careful admonition to the American voter to continue to try to "not get upset."  It marked the end of his patience to keep toiling at his efforts to make a broken, corrupt system behave as if it were otherwise.  It marked the end of his previous commitment to continually encourage everyone to simply have trust that the government system would eventually correct itself.


 of President Franklin Roosevelt's Radio Address unveiling the second half of the New Deal (1936)

Campaign Address at Madison Square Garden, New York City. 
"We Have Only Just Begun to Fight." October 31, 1936

(American desire for peace and security at home and abroad—What we have done to fulfill that desire—We shall continue in our fight to attain our objectives.)

Senator Wagner, Governor Lehman, ladies and gentlemen:

ON THE eve of a national election, it is well for us to stop for a moment and analyze calmly and without prejudice the effect on our Nation of a victory by either of the major political parties.

The problem of the electorate is far deeper, far more than the continuance in the Presidency of any individual. For the greater issue goes beyond units of humanity - it goes to humanity itself.

In 1932 the issue was the restoration of American democracy; and the American people were in a mood to win. They did win. In 1936 the issue is the preservation of their victory. Again they are in a mood to win. Again they will win.

More than four years ago in accepting the Democratic nomination in Chicago, I said: "Give me your help not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore America to its own people."

The banners of that crusade still fly in the van of a Nation that is on the march.

It is needless to repeat the details of the program which this Administration has been hammering out on the anvils of experience. No amount of misrepresentation or statistical contortion can conceal or blur or smear that record. Neither the attacks of unscrupulous enemies nor the exaggerations of over-zealous friends will serve to mislead the American people.

What was our hope in 1932? Above all other things the American people wanted peace. They wanted peace of mind instead of gnawing fear.

First, they sought escape from the personal terror which had stalked them for three years. They wanted the peace that comes from security in their homes: safety for their savings, permanence in their jobs, a fair profit from their enterprise.

Next, they wanted peace in the community, the peace that springs from the ability to meet the needs of community life: schools, playgrounds, parks, sanitation, highways- those things which are expected of solvent local government. They sought escape from disintegration and bankruptcy in local and state affairs.

They also sought peace within the Nation: protection of their currency, fairer wages, the ending of long hours of toil, the abolition of child labor, the elimination of wild-cat speculation, the safety of their children from kidnappers.
And, finally, they sought peace with other Nations-peace in a world of unrest. The Nation knows that I hate war, and I know that the Nation hates war.

I submit to you a record of peace; and on that record a well-founded expectation for future peace—peace for the individual, peace for the community, peace for the Nation, and peace with the world.

Tonight I call the roll—the roll of honor of those who stood with us in 1932 and still stand with us today.

Written on it are the names of millions who never had a chance—men at starvation wages, women in sweatshops, children at looms.

Written on it are the names of those who despaired, young men and young women for whom opportunity had become a will-o'-the-wisp.

Written on it are the names of farmers whose acres yielded only bitterness, business men whose books were portents of disaster, home owners who were faced with eviction, frugal citizens whose savings were insecure.

Written there in large letters are the names of countless other Americans of all parties and all faiths, Americans who had eyes to see and hearts to understand, whose consciences were burdened because too many of their fellows were burdened, who looked on these things four years ago and said, "This can be changed. We will change it."

We still lead that army in 1936. They stood with us then because in 1932 they believed. They stand with us today because in 1936 they know. And with them stand millions of new recruits who have come to know.

Their hopes have become our record.

We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle.

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

The American people know from a four-year record that today there is only one entrance to the White House—by the front door. Since March 4, 1933, there has been only one pass-key to the White House. I have carried that key in my pocket. It is there tonight. So long as I am President, it will remain in my pocket.

Those who used to have pass-keys are not happy. Some of them are desperate. Only desperate men with their backs to the wall would descend so far below the level of decent citizenship as to foster the current pay-envelope campaign against America's working people. Only reckless men, heedless of consequences, would risk the disruption of the hope for a new peace between worker and employer by returning to the tactics of the labor spy.

Here is an amazing paradox! The very employers and politicians and publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them.
Every message in a pay envelope, even if it is the truth, is a command to vote according to the will of the employer. But this propaganda is worse—it is deceit.
They tell the worker his wage will be reduced by a contribution to some vague form of old-age insurance. They carefully conceal from him the fact that for every dollar of premium he pays for that insurance, the employer pays another dollar. That omission is deceit.

They carefully conceal from him the fact that under the federal law, he receives another insurance policy to help him if he loses his job, and that the premium of that policy is paid 100 percent by the employer and not one cent by the worker. They do not tell him that the insurance policy that is bought for him is far more favorable to him than any policy that any private insurance company could afford to issue. That omission is deceit.

They imply to him that he pays all the cost of both forms of insurance. They carefully conceal from him the fact that for every dollar put up by him his employer puts up three dollars—three for one. And that omission is deceit.

But they are guilty of more than deceit. When they imply that the reserves thus created against both these policies will be stolen by some future Congress, diverted to some wholly foreign purpose, they attack the integrity and honor of American Government itself. Those who suggest that, are already aliens to the spirit of American democracy. Let them emigrate and try their lot under some foreign flag in which they have more confidence.

The fraudulent nature of this attempt is well shown by the record of votes on the passage of the Social Security Act. In addition to an overwhelming majority of Democrats in both Houses, seventy-seven Republican Representatives voted for it and only eighteen against it and fifteen Republican Senators voted for it and only five against it. Where does this last-minute drive of the Republican leadership leave these Republican Representatives and Senators who helped enact this law?

I am sure the vast majority of law-abiding businessmen who are not parties to this propaganda fully appreciate the extent of the threat to honest business contained in this coercion.

I have expressed indignation at this form of campaigning and I am confident that the overwhelming majority of employers, workers and the general public share that indignation and will show it at the polls on Tuesday next.

Aside from this phase of it, I prefer to remember this campaign not as bitter but only as hard-fought. There should be no bitterness or hate where the sole thought is the welfare of the United States of America. No man can occupy the office of President without realizing that he is President of all the people.

It is because I have sought to think in terms of the whole Nation that I am confident that today, just as four years ago, the people want more than promises.

Our vision for the future contains more than promises.

This is our answer to those who, silent about their own plans, ask us to state our objectives.

Of course we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of America—to reduce hours over-long, to increase wages that spell starvation, to end the labor of children, to wipe out sweatshops. Of course we will continue every effort to end monopoly in business, to support collective bargaining, to stop unfair competition, to abolish dishonorable trade practices.

For all these we have only just begun to fight.

Of course we will continue to work for cheaper electricity in the homes and on the farms of America, for better and cheaper transportation, for low interest rates, for sounder home financing, for better banking, for the regulation of security issues, for reciprocal trade among nations, for the wiping out of slums. 

For all these we have only just begun to fight.

Of course we will continue our efforts in behalf of the farmers of America. With their continued cooperation we will do all in our power to end the piling up of huge surpluses which spelled ruinous prices for their crops. We will persist in successful action for better land use, for reforestation, for the conservation of water all the way from its source to the sea, for drought and flood control, for better marketing facilities for farm commodities, for a definite reduction of farm tenancy, for encouragement of farmer cooperatives, for crop insurance and a stable food supply. For all these we have only just begun to fight.

Of course we will provide useful work for the needy unemployed; we prefer useful work to the pauperism of a dole.

Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless—that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief—to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be cared for when, as, and if some fairy godmother should happen on the scene.

You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side.

Again—what of our objectives?

Of course we will continue our efforts for young men and women so that they may obtain an education and an opportunity to put it to use. Of course we will continue our help for the crippled, for the blind, for the mothers, our insurance for the unemployed, our security for the aged. Of course we will continue to protect the consumer against unnecessary price spreads, against the costs that are added by monopoly and speculation. We will continue our successful efforts to increase his purchasing power and to keep it constant.

For these things, too, and for a multitude of others like them, we have only just begun to fight.

All this—all these objectives—spell peace at home. All our actions, all our ideals, spell also peace with other nations.

Today there is war and rumor of war. We want none of it. But while we guard our shores against threats of war, we will continue to remove the causes of unrest and antagonism at home which might make our people easier victims to those for whom foreign war is profitable. You know well that those who stand to profit by war are not on our side in this campaign.

"Peace on earth, good will toward men"—democracy must cling to that message. For it is my deep conviction that democracy cannot live without that true religion which gives a nation a sense of justice and of moral purpose. Above our political forums, above our market places stand the altars of our faith—altars on which burn the fires of devotion that maintain all that is best in us and all that is best in our Nation.

We have need of that devotion today. It is that which makes it possible for government to persuade those who are mentally prepared to fight each other to go on instead, to work for and to sacrifice for each other. That is why we need to say with the Prophet: "What doth the Lord require of thee—but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God." That is why the recovery we seek, the recovery we are winning, is more than economic. In it are included justice and love and humility, not for ourselves as individuals alone, but for our Nation.

That is the road to peace.

MeanMesa's Note to the President

Mr. President:
As citizens we call you.

You may consider civility to be paramount, a refreshment of past process.

It is not.  

The past process is finished, obsoleted by the forces which have emerged from the remnant of the Republican Party

They prevent us from using our own resources to solve our problems. They are killing us. They are effortlessly pillaging what remains of our wealth, and they are doing this with impunity.

You may have a personal ambition for a legacy of equanimity, of restoring the genteel  politics of our past and of avoiding the incendiary consequences your race incites in some.  Forget all of this.  There is no equanimity to be had.  No part of this can any longer be genteel or even civil.

We find ourselves without advocate beyond you.  The House of Representatives is nothing more than an extension of a failed media dancing to tune of unseen oligarchs. The Senate remains under the control of the Minority's whim.  The Supreme Court rules every issue possibly useful to us unconstitutional.

We suffer.  We are ready to end this.  For that we look to you.

MeanMesa is certain that you have read this speech more than once.  Take these words and this strength for your own.  Let them flow inside you.  The gravity of our situation has moved beyond politics or legacy.

You will either, as FDR did so long ago, mobilize the nation and prepare it for battle or you -- and we -- will quietly expire without meaning, noted only with the dismal epitaph reserved for those who would not even try.


No comments:

Post a Comment