Anger leading to hate, honestly

What scares me most about the Carl Paladino phenomenon is not his use of hate and anger as a campaign tactic — he may be using it more than most, but does anyone remember Lee Atwater? Or a president by the name of Richard M. Nixon? No, it’s the eagerness of people to accept his outbursts as a sort of exceptional level of honesty lacking in mortal politicians, that Paladino is more “real” because he refuses (allegedly) to engage in spin, and there is more like us.

“I don’t think the man hates gays,” one Staten Islander told the New York Times. “He has his views. They’re true views. He’s a believer.”

Forget the fact that Paladino is wealthy enough to say things and not care what others think of him — hardly making him one of us — or that David Duke also said what was on his mind. But is the Paladino phenomenon the hangover we’ve collectively earned after decades of ever-increasingly sophisticated levels of spin? Or are we just poor historians? George Washington’s farewell address was co-written with him by a trio of speechwriters by the name of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton (and, of course, I am OK with that).

Yes, Paladino may be honest about his feelings. If those feelings are based purely on hate and anger, that may make him different from the average politician, but how does that make him better?

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Yay, Internet!

Sure, maybe the Internet has made us all more informed voters in a Democracy. Or maybe it’s become one giant braying echo chamber that amplifies exactly what you want to hear, from both the candidates you support and the candidates you don’t.

But this year, many candidates have developed a phobia of the Internet, and their reactions have made the democratic process less open and informed. They shy away from debates (we’re all waiting, Andrew Cuomo) and national television interviews because a single, tiny mistake could be disseminated and amplified by the Internet for weeks. They eschew town halls and public events because “trackers” from their opponents’ campaigns record every public utterance in the hopes of capturing another Macaca moment.

—”YouTube Has Scared Candidates Into Hiding,” Daily Intel, nymag.com

This is bad news for politicians on both sides of the aisle. Politico notes (via nymag.com) that “With a month left until the midterm elections, there is something noticeably absent from some key statewide races: the candidates.” Politico goes on to say that Republican Senate candidates Ken Buck, Rand Paul, and Christine O’Donnell have avoided public events recently, with candidates acting “out of fear of a gotcha moment that will come back to haunt them.” Upstate here, the Times Union noted that incumbent Assemblyman Tim Gordon (an Independent who caucuses with Democrats) has been hounded by a video tracker from his opponent’s camp.

And of course, with the antics of Carl Paladino, who would want to appear on video these days?

Despite some protestations against the devil mainstream media, who needs the media if you can send a staffer out with a video camera and upload whatever gaffe you find and post it on your YouTube channel?

In a few years (maybe even by the end of this election year), we’ll only hear from candidates via Twitter/Facebook, perhaps on sanctioned media stations (Fox News for the right, though even that may not be sanctioned enough for some righties; see Bill O’Reilly vs. Carl Paladino), and at candidate “town hall” events with pre-screened audience members.

Either that, or nobody is going to give a shit about what these candidate says (I mean, even less than they give a shit now).


Stuck in time

Not much more to comment upon after reading this New York Times article, except that, with their greater numbers population-wise, it’s no surprise that we’re still debating the issues of the Sixties, and will continue to do so until the Millennials are running the country and we’re all in the Gen X old-age home.

“In part, it is probably because so many of the Americans most engaged in politics — as well as those who run campaigns and comment endlessly on them — are old enough to remember Altamont. It is your classic self-fulfilling prophecy: the more the ’60s generation dominates the political discourse, the less that discourse engages younger voters, and the longer the boomers hold sway over our politics.”

—NY Times, Matt Bai, May 25, 2010


Tea bagged

It’s worth noting that this modern-day “tea-party” nonsense began with a rant by Rick Santelli, who railed against his fellow Americans as “loser” families (who’s anti-American now?) as they tried to grab a piece of the American Dream and simply bit off more than they could chew as others (Santelli anyone?) fostered a national mood built on Easy Credit. Santelli, just like the execrable Jim Cramer, admirably did their part to get us into this economic mess with their remorseless cheerleading of The Market and all but egging on the actions of greedy CEOs over this last decade. (And if you remember Santelli’s rant, you would recall the Chicago traders lustily cheering him on, who I am sure have only acted honorably and charitably in the last decade and did not pursue the greed that has landed the nation in this economic mess. I’m sure of it.)

The nation’s economy is not just the sum of its individuals. It is an interwoven context that we all share. To stabilize that communal landscape, sometimes you have to shower money upon those who have been foolish or self-indulgent. The greedy idiots may be greedy idiots, but they are our countrymen. And at some level, we’re all in this together. If their lives don’t stabilize, then our lives don’t stabilize.

David Brooks column, New York Times, Feb. 19, 2009

Meanwhile, we have these poor souls being used by propagandists —like so many nascent totalitarian regimes before them — who find taxes so distasteful because they obviously never had police protect their neighborhood, had their trash collected, had their kids educated, had their home protected by fire fighters, drove on roads or over bridges, had those roads and bridges plowed of snow, had their food protected and screened, had a seatbelt to wear, walked in a park or hunted on publicly protected land, filled their SUVs with gas, or, as Whiskey Fire pointed out, evidently never went to a “public space created and maintained by, uh, taxes” to protest taxes … you get the point.

Funny, these protests didn’t seem to crop up when the former President ran up a deficit fighting an illegal war or giving breaks to the more wealthy among us, forcing everyone else to make up the slack. Buy why protest President Bush? After all, he was one of us, not this, um, person in the White House who doesn’t look like any of us, right? Never mind that for almost all of them, their federal taxes have not gone up under the new President (h/t Whiskey Fire again).

As Paul Krugman said, it’s all so much Astro-Truf-roots.

But, apart from columnists like Krugman, the press is legitimizing the GOP talking points, once again.

That said, the Democrats are much to blame in continuing to lose the war for the hearts and minds. They preach to the choir too much, and, as I mentioned earlier, who but President Obama do they have that can promote their side of the story? Who are the young guns on their Triple-A team? As usual, the Democrats collectively roll over and too easily cede the bully pulpit, and we’re all going to eventually pay for this weak-kneed (lack of) reaction. It’s not good enough to be correct. You have get that message across, too.

This is clearly an extension of the Culture Wars begat first by Nixon and then perfected by Lee Atwater. Credit due: like the Devil who convinced the world he wasn’t real, to paraphrase Keyser Söze, the GOP continues to push its message and convert followers who have and will continue to suffer from the economic policies their very GOP heroes are pushing.

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Gen X GOP: The Next Generation

What’s a superhero without super-villains? Barack Obama and the Democrats were first to the finish line with the first member of Generation X elected president.

But as a previously (and possibly once-again) conservative-leaning generation, the politicians who came of age during the Reagan Revolution are starting to emerge as foils to the new President.

We’re talking about Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, born in 1971, who has been tapped to deliver the opposition party response to the President’s address to Congress on Tuesday. We’re talking about the “hyper-ambitious” Representative from Virginia, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, born in 1963 and said to revere both hyper-partisan Newt Gingrich and über-leader Winston Churchill.

And of course, there’s the 1964-born Governor Sarah Palin, whose cringe-worthy appearances we’ve been (blessedly) able to ignore since the end of the campaign.

(Disclosure: The Obama vs. Bizarro Obama superhero idea wasn’t mine. Slate’s Christopher Beam had it in an article about new GOP National Chairman Michael Steele. That works for me, but Lex Luthor needed his fellow masterminds in the Legion of Doom, even if Luthor was the villains’ acknowledged superior. Of course, this torpedoes my generational argument somewhat — Steele is a late-Boomer born in 1958 — shoo! Generation Jones™ commentariat — but does this work for you? No? Move along. Move along.)

With Obama carrying the mantle for Democrats born after 1960, he’ll need to both work with and occasionally battle these three Gen X rising stars from the GOP, who, like the President, have ascended to their leadership posts with diverse backgrounds — an Indian-American governor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, and the GOP’s first you-betcha’ing female VP nominee.

It’s somewhat worrisome, though, that the Democrats, at least in Congress, have no apparent Gen X sidekicks for the President. And according to my math, there’s only three Democratic Gen X governors, none of whom are household names: Chet Culver (born 1966) of Iowa, Brad Henry (born 1963) of Oklahoma, and Tommy Carcetti, er, Martin O’Malley (born 1963) of Maryland.

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If this is ‘getting screwed’…

Sen. Lindsey Graham says about the Stimulus Bill: “If I may say, if this is going to be bipartisanship, the country’s screwed.” So what does that make jamming $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for Haliburton-types down the public’s throat and 20 of 28 years of the trickle-down economy trickling precious few dregs down the legs of the wealthy to everyone else?

Can’t blame the senator for his lack of perspective (even though his dramatics in flailing around the stimulus bill on the Senate floor last week ought to get him an Oscar bid). His party wants to emulate terrorists. Nice.

Look, of course you can disagree philosophically on economic approaches — I may not agree with Sen. McCain, for example (and he was disappointingly playing by the Lindsey Graham-Eric Cantor playbook last week), but he’s certainly entitled to advocate for his party’s economic approach.

But calling a new President’s initiative, less than a month into his presidency, a stinker — in the words of Rep. Eric Cantor — and getting screwed — in the words of Graham — strikes me as especially classless (check out that previous link for a story about a video from Cantor’s office; this is from the employees of a sitting U.S. Representative and the minority Whip, no matter how much he’s trying to distance himself from it. And regarding Rep. Cantor’s love of Newt Gingrich — How long before Rep. Cantor shuts down the government because he’s forced to sit in the back of a plane?).

It seems to me the GOP is taking advantage of the new President’s efforts to extend to extend a hand to an opponent’s clenched fist by responding with a mugging and then crying foul when the privilge is refused.

It’s sort of like trying to make peace with the class bully in middle school, and then getting punched in the face in response to your offer — with the bully next running to the principal’s office to claim it was all your fault (and you getting sent to detention because the bully got his story out first).

Of course, if that’s the definition of bipartisanship according to the GOP, then I suppose I have to agree with Sen. Graham after all.


New Generation in the Senate (and Eat Local, too)

Kirsten Gillibrand officially became New York’s junior senator on Tuesday, and, at age 42, she’s the nation’s youngest. As JenX notes in her blog, there are six U.S. senators from Generation X.

Sen. Gillibrand is part of “a new generation of leadership,” as Governor David Paterson said in appointing her last Friday. He was talking about bridging New York’s upstate-downstate divide and perhaps was speaking extemporaneously.

But his comment highlights the rise of a new generation of leadership in this country, leadership that brings with it a pragmatic approach of considering ideas from both sides of the aisle. Generation X’ers (even with their previously and perhaps once again conservative leanings) and especially Millennials embrace this in a way that Boomers first embraced dogmatically idealistic notions as youth before selling out (whether for survival or greed, depending on your point of view) when they began to assume the leadership of the nation.

Sen. John McCain, Obama’s former rival for the presidency, has said “the American people are tired of the bitter partisanship” (at least, the Silent Generation senator must have felt that way until he backtracked on his earlier indication and opposed the confirmation of the new treasury secretary). This is a mantra and approach the new President has used time and again.

Gillibrand seems to get this, and seems to understand this beyond the old triangulation politics of Boomer President Bill Clinton. Just look at her politics:

Pro-choice. Pro-Environment. Pro-Gay Marriage. High marks from the ACLU and the Children’s Defense Fund. But she supports guns, held a hard-line on immigration, and voted against the bailout last fall.

Beyond these points, most impressively is that she is a New York politician who is pro-farmer. On Tuesday, she nabbed seats on the Senate’s Agriculture and Environment Committees (among others).

Downstate types wringing their hands over her appointment may blow this off as merely cow concerns, but if my fellow progressives from the City are serious about the Local Food Movement and Eating Local (to say nothing about supporting and eating organically, and though they’re not the same thing, we can support both approaches), then Gillibrand is a great pick in my book as the new senator from New York State.

If Eating Local and/or Eating Organically is merely a food fad to you, then you’re a hipster disgrace to meat-eating progressives like myself (and shit, you’re an insult to vegetarian and vegan liberals, too).

In the House, Gillibrand supported country-of-origin labeling for meat sold in supermarkets, and help for farmers converting traditional operations to organic farms.

The farm and food policy of this nation is killing two generations of children through the slow death of obesity, diabetes, and whatever toxins remain unregulated by the FDA but wind up in our food. It is leading to their enslavement to a broken health-insurance system and their ultimate untimely deaths. It’s an issue that Big Business would apparently rather sweep under the rug and debunk. But it is also a small-business issue, with local farms drying up and imported food coming over from less-than-well-regulated overseas nations. This is killing people.

Based on her support of local farmers, I am willing to give Gillibrand a chance to fight and change America’s food policies. I hope the foodies downstate remember this.

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