Thursday, January 30, 2014

Confession time

Don't get me wrong.  I like Barack Obama a great deal. I voted for him twice. I support and defend him when he does good things, or tries to, which is most of the time.  And I love to hear him speak.  His speech to the 2004 DNC, which introduced him to America, was one of the greatest political speeches of my lifetime.

But I have not watched, listened to, or read more than short excerpts of any of his five State of the Union addresses.

People who know me as a politics junkie might be surprised by that, although I am less interested in political matters than when I was younger.  Today it's justice, not politics, that dominates my interest--and that includes the conventional justice as well as economic and social justice.

But the reason why I am not interested in Obama's formal speeches, especially the State of the Union, is that I don't need him to tell me what the state of our union really is.  I don't need to hear the platitudes and plans.  I don't care about the applause lines.  I couldn't care less which Republican yells out "you lie" or walks out in the middle of the speech; the Republicans these days are classless in that way, and it is hard to expect them as children to behave in conformity with any standard of adult conduct.  I suppose they never had the benefit of a mother who taught them that if they couldn't say something nice they should say nothing at all.

The truth is that Obama's agenda, such as it is, is never going to satisfy my view of justice.  I'm tired of expecting that it will.  As proud as I am of what Obama, the man, has achieved, I am underwhelmed by the achievements of Obama, the President.  There were some notable advances in the first half of his first term.  But the wheels of government have ground to a halt.  Very little of that bit is of his doing, of course.  He faces a power structure in the House of Representatives that is equal parts insane and entrenched and thoroughly un-democratic.  The opposition to him is increasingly divorced from reality, but their agreement is required to make any advances, and they have rigged the game through gerrymandering so that their majority is elected by a minority.  It might well be impossible to separate the idiots from their offices in the near term.

He is, of course, better than the alternative.  As moderate as I think Mitt Romney might have been as President, he would almost certainly usher in a new era of bad governance.  To pick a semi-obscure example where that has occurred, you need only to look at North Carolina.  Pat McCrory was the Republican mayor of Charlotte--a heavily Democratic city--for seven two-year terms, three more than any other person in history.  He was able to function in that role because he was among the most moderate Republicans.  That Pat McCrory has no place in the GOP today.  He's been replaced by Governor McCrory, a right-wing ideologue who has presided over the rollback of most of the popular reforms that five Democratic gubernatorial terms running had brought the state.  Sadly, McCrory ran as the same moderate the people of Charlotte remembered; after getting elected, it became clear that he was running a bait-and-switch.

From time to time, I come into contact with people who have come to oppose Obama reflexively.  Some of the comments I see and hear are founded on open or thinly veiled racism.  Some of the other comments are so stupid or ignorant that it is hard to believe that otherwise-intelligent people would speak them publicly, which suggests that they are veiling their racism more thickly.  (Often, I want, but elect not, to respond to them with the line, "Why don't you just call him a n----- and get it over with?")

There is a hard core of people who will simply never support anything Obama proposes to do, no matter how much it's needed, how much it will benefit them personally, or how good of an idea it is.  Those people are a minority in the country, but they constitute a majority of the House and a filibuster-proof minority in the Senate.

The country is screaming for reforms.  We're stagnating economically and politically.  Obama can fill up the airwaves with pretty words and grand plans, but I'm more interested in action.  It's time to act, by whatever means he can conjure, and in the meantime, by all means necessary, to bring the recalcitrant minority to its knees in shame.

If they have any capacity for shame left.

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