The week of Barack Obama’s first anniversary as President was marked by serious hits to his administration, encapsulated by their dramatic rise of Scott Brown to become the next Senator from Massachusetts. There has been no shortage of debate and analysis of that race and its implications for the White House; predictably, there is not much of real use to be found amid most existing reports. The restrictively dualistic nature of the “left vs. right” standard of political thinking, which is so rigorously enforced by the gatekeepers of establishment media and the major parties themselves, has again failed miserably to truly understand why it happened, and what it really means.
But we shouldn’t be too surprised, since those same trusted sources also failed to get a proper handle on the Obama himself, and as such have done an even worse job covering the backlash than they did mapping the trajectory of his ascent. This is too bad, since it appears the administration remains joined at the hip to those interests who helped him forge a fantastical façade that has now developed sizable cracks. Expectations were raised very high, but it now appears clear that neither Obama, now the Republicans, the media or the American People ourselves had any clue just how deeply the systemic rot ran into the heart of the globalized economy. Amazingly, many still don’t.
The GOP was too quick to claim credit for Brown’s defeating the hapless Martha Coakley; that’s like whoever bombed the levees in New Orleans angling for a piece of the Saints’ Super Bowl split. Those losers helped force through the policies that created such widespread anger among the population, then piggybacked existing activist groups to serve their typically nefarious needs.
If Obama’s supporters had been half as classy and gracious as the man himself, he might still be in a position to force through his agenda. In fact, Obama should personally shoot the person responsible for the proliferation of the disastrously counterproductive “teabagger” meme; that phrase has become this President’s “Axis of Evil”, as surely as Goldman Sachs became his PNAC. The Tea Party demonstrations that happened in 2009 began as disparate, disorganized malcontents from a GOP that had been in free-fall since Katrina. By blithely dismissing legitimate concerns in snarky, insulting tones, Obama’s acolytes set him up as the strawman for the same mock-populist demagogues who once advocates the very policies whose results get them so mad.
Ultimately, the “teabaggers” were just the first of those millions to lose their jobs in this recession. As those numbers grew, it provided a ready-made base for action. Like the Sarah Palin phenomenon, as just a different expression of the same sentiments that helped sweep Obama into office. There was a window in which Obama could have used them every bit as effectively as the Republicans did, but his submission to Wall Street (which is a key factor in assessing the failed stimulus and the debacle that was this round of health care “reform”) made it impossible to win them over.
To this day, these cadres have neither credible leadership nor even full comprehension of their own origins, and with some two dozen former Republican congressmen contemplating running for their old seats again, who knows what may happen? The situation in Florida, where Charlie Crist is presiding over a meltdown of his state GOP, illustrates how volatile things are. Until the party embraces the economic vision of Ron Paul, they cannot fully access those masses. But neither can Democrats, and that is the issue: the majority of voters hate them both now.
The Tea Party movement represents the intersection of political concepts being generated from across the spectrum. To reduce them to their most vocal extremes is a dangerous simplification. “Independents” and “moderates” of the two parties have been radicalized by what they have come to view as an increasingly hopeless situation, and they are coalescing around a wide variety of specific concepts. The conduits of such information (from Glenn Beck to Rachel Maddow) have reaped the benefits.
A year ago, it seemed entirely possible that the Democratic Party could control all three branches of government for eight years, while steadily uprooting Republican power bases in major states like Texas and Florida. Now, the party Bush left for dead is stirring, and Obama has one-term potential. To avoid this fate, Obama should reassert his policy footing while finding ways to subtly remind the people what they already know: There may be no one else who can do his job, especially after last year.
January 26, 2010