So let’s talk about the Democrat problem.
Shall we take it as read that we all watched the Republican National Convention and enjoyed it for the mad-as-fuck carnival of gross dishonesty and terrifying jingoism that it was? Because come on, it was fun! Isn’t it fun to watch the bullies eat each other, thinning their ranks to a dust-smattering of screaming yahoos and stuffed shirts?
Since I’m evaluating the Conventions as theater, I’d give the RNC high marks for sensation and low marks for content. It was all empty calorie thrills, the kind you regret the next day. Sort of a Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen of political conventions. And just as endless (if you’ve never smoked weed and watched Transformers 2, I’m half-tempted to recommend it; it is an experience that turns your whole perception of narrative, time and sense on its head).
The Democrats have a slightly different problem: because they purport to care about people, they can be extremely boring. John Kerry was the victim of two things: the utterly ghastly Swift Boat business, and his own agonizing dullness. He was precisely the sort of worthy snooze that people support because, well, they’re supposed to. When Howard Dean got carried away during the primaries in 2003 and screamed like a goon out of pure joy, I was thrilled. Because here, finally, HERE was a liberal politician I could get behind. The sort of New Deal Democrat who was uncool enough to ACTUALLY LOSE IT.
Of course, that was that. And John Kerry ran and lost and we all sort of believed in him and sigh.
Adding to this problem is the fact that Democrats, as a group more liable to listen to other viewpoints than the doctrinaire, tend to get so swallowed up in the minutiae of policy and back-and-forth and compromise and this, that and the other thing, that they often have trouble presenting a unified front. If a congressional supermajority can’t ram through a healthcare bill that doesn’t heavily feature conservative ideas from a decade ago and fat giveaways to the very businesses who profit on denying healthcare to paying customers, then Democrats can’t be said to be terribly good at sucking it up and getting the job done. There’s a problem of unity here, and it needs to be addressed, because what Peter Barnes once called Slow Lawful Orthodox Progress (S.L.O.P.) is dying in the crib. Because liberals squabble with each other as much as they do with conservatives.
I thought the Convention was pretty awesome theater in general, specifically Michelle Obama’s roof-raising rebuke to the cynicism and pitiless social Darwinism proposed by the Right…
President Obama’s sober, earnest evaluation of his own performance relative to the performance of the nation in general….
And of course, the master politician. Bill.
Bill represents such a difficult figure. He’s the consummate politician, a slick, glad-handing dude all too happy to compromise if the ends come close to justifying the means (we can stop pretending he wasn’t complicit in the economic bubble’s eventual pop). But he’s also our foremost policy rock star; a man who can break down nearly every major piece of legislation the Right has used to tar President Obama and explain why it was good, necessary and sensible without sounding like…well…a constitutional law professor. With Barack Obama and Bill Clinton on the same stage (and, finally, on the same side) the DNC boasted more starpower than one could possibly imagine, the spectacle of our two greatest political orators coming together in tough times like the goddamn Wild Bunch. Joe Biden, of course, dropped by to be the awesome uncle he’s always been (it is fucking impossible to hate biker-flirting, cuss-cussing, doofy joke-telling Joe Biden).
Sure there was some hokey shit, exemplified by the derp-y pandering of Montana Governer Brian Schweitzer. But what do you want? There was plenty of dignity to go around, and we can all enjoy the spastic insanity of the speech by Jennifer Granholm.
So there you go. Rousing, impassioned, silly, nerdy, often inspiring, sometimes inspired. There’s your DNC 2012 in a nutshell. This was also the first DNC in a long time where there were some collective balls on display. The party platform included reproductive choice, healthcare, marriage equality and immigration reforms. And every single one of them got several mentions at the podium, and they were all applause lines. Imagine that! Applause lines! Sandra Fluke, a women who was subject to cruel punchlines at the RNC, got a chance to speak and put paid to the stupid notion that the War on Women is some construct of the Left.
So it was good theater, the kind of meaty, soaring piece of work Spielberg could put together in his sleep.
But then came the hangnails.
I was rather excited that the DNC platform didn’t mention God. Why on earth should it? God’s not an elected official, nor did God write the constitution, no matter how much that psychotic infant Glenn Beck insists that he kinda sorta did. The primacy of God (specifically the Judeo-Christian God, with an emphasis on Christian) in American political discourse has been a plague. Of course, the Republicans have made rather good business out of God. And, like always, the Democrats fall in line because no point is so persuasive that it can’t be argued.
Back went God into the party platform, despite the vociferous disagreement of a large number of delegates present for the vote. Just look at this video, and cringe in embarrassment:
That was not consensus. It was the sight of a political party shitting its pants the second it heard “boo.”
Oh, and you may have heard something in there about Jerusalem. The mere omission of the word from the party platform struck some idiots as an insult to Israel. The last time I checked on that, we don’t answer to Israel. They are an ally of ours, but they are run by a xenophobic hawk, the sort of man who doesn’t consider the lives of the Palestinians on the West Bank particularly worthy of concern, and who thinks nothing of driving the world into conflict with Iran. But hell, enough people have falsely conflated criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, so let’s just bend the knee on that one.
What of the Palestinians? Did they consent to living on occupied land? Are we not grown-up enough to have a real talk about the two-state solution?
Never mind. Don’t want to upset the horses.
The Democrats are only just learning to talk tough (there was a disturbing streak of hawkishness in this year’s Convention; yes, it was great to get bin Laden, no, you are not The Expendables). If they do well in the 2012 elections, expect to see much more spine on the Progressive movement. If not, expect further retrenchment and political center limping ever further right.
Hang on, though, stop the presses.
Mitt Romney’s stolen the spotlight again, and for all the wrong reasons. You’ve already heard his disgraceful comments on the administration’s response to the attacks in Libya (which may not have been from the administration, or in response to the attacks, but let’s not nitpick a Mormon), but if you haven’t seen his astonishing performance for a room of $50,000-a-plate donors, you haven’t lived.
If you ever wanted to see a full, ugly portrait of the plutocracy in bloom, look no further. Government has a habit of kissing big money ass, but to see it like this is something special. Mittington Romnecious makes some fine and disturbing comments about foreign policy, but the real meat is in his tone when he talks about people on governmental assistance. 47% of people choose to be victims? I’m sure veterans, old people and those whose jobs were shipped to China by YOUR FUCKING COMPANY really appreciate the name-calling. You don’t get to actively work to calcify the class division in America and then tell The Poors what a bunch of lazy sacks of shit they are for not being born rich.
Government assistance makes you a victim by choice, eh? How about the government assistance that comprises tax breaks for the immensely rich? That permits them to all but BRIBE politicians while calling it “lobbying?” Of course that’s different. After all, the monied class chose to be successful. In the view of those who benefit from these handouts, these are just the rewards of that choice.
No one chooses poverty. The idea that anyone does so is a sick, strange Randian fantasy. It lets the Objectivist strivers who languish in it imagine that somehow they’re better than the others and would get a chance to shine if only the government would get out of the way, and it functions as a sort of conscience-bypass for the immensely rich. It is a delusion, it is hurtful, and it deprives the underprivileged of dignity.
In order for people to choose, they have to have the right to do so. Voter fraud laws, gutting welfare, shipping jobs overseas and draconian immigration laws all deprive the individual of the opportunity to choose. They make blatant the Conservative inclination to shut out “those people,” whether those people be ethnic, poor or just different. Those in a de facto position of authority have a responsibility to create the conditions in which consent can even be a factor. If you’re working for a plutocracy, you don’t care about consent. If you’re working for a theocracy, you don’t care about consent. Democracy may be a shitty, ludicrous system prone to breakdowns and absurdities, but it’s the best one we have. Because it lets us choose. And that’s a responsibility as much as it is a gift.
So choose wisely.