Monday, November 01, 2010

Some right-thinking reasons for voting Left tomorrow.

I'm going to take a brief timeout from my three-part series on "hate speech" to explain why I'm voting Democrat right down the line on Election Day. Not that anyone has asked.

That series is actually relevant in a way, however, because the Republican Party has allowed itself to become the party of hate. Before we go any further, let me clarify that I am not saying that all Republicans are haters, and I am not saying that Republicanism (or even conservatism), at its core, is about hate. My father was a Republican for most of his life*, and although Dad did have some of the knee-jerk prejudices
that were typical of his generation, he was lauding Goldwater-style conservatism long before the civil-rights movement came along and made millions of people tilt right for all the wrong reasons. Dad voted Republican because of a principle, which was also typical of his generation: the idea that people should stand on their own two feet, make what they can of themselves, and the government should get out of the way. (I think I told you this story, but Dad once refused to file for unemployment, even though he was eligible.) Today's GOP leadership still believes what my Dad believed, but cannot be absolved of blame for what we see happening throughout society. In its eagerness to swell the ranksto just win, babythe Republican party has knowingly and without protest allowed itself to attract large numbers of people who do hate, people who, in some cases, define themselves by their very hatred. And thatas Don Corleone said in The Godfather at the famous summit after Sonny's deathI cannot forgive.

Today's GOP puts out the welcome mat for voters (and in some cases, candidates) who don't merely disrespect poor non-whites, but who hate them and wish them harm; voters who aren't merely uncomfortable with homosexuality, but hope that every gay comes down with a good case of AIDS. It is one thing for Republicans to shriek Obamacare! at every opportunity, but quite another for a GOP candidate to talk about "Second Amendment remedies" to an election that goes the wrong way. It is one thing for the GOP to complain that government has gotten too big, but quite another to have two major party figures and right-wing intellectuals demean the president as a "Kenyan" and a "tribesman,"** words whose barely coded message to the faithful is hard to miss.

There's also a certain over-the-top selfishness now afoot that is hard to interpret as anything but a hatred of people (e.g. the nation's 40 million uninsured) who have the audacity to be poor, out of options and in need of help. As I see it, a fair number of Republicans (and especially Tea Party types) who rail against the evils of socialism as it relates to universal healthcare are really saying, "I don't want those unwashed lowlifes getting a damned thing free, all the more so if I have to pay for it out of my taxes! Let 'em suffer!" I'd like to believe I'm wrong about this. I just don't think I am.

Then, of course, there's the insane GOP premise that Obama is somehow responsible for the odiferous mess that his predecessor left smeared all over the Oval Office. I hear the sloganeering about "the deficit under Barack Obama" and "unemployment under Barack Obama," and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Worst of all, perhaps, in fanning the flames of this faux discontent, the GOP has rallied around charismatic idiots (see under "Palin" and "O'Donnell," to name just two), when it should, of course, be repudiating them. Yes, Obama was charismatic, too, but he's very far from an idiot. Idiots should not hold major elective office. The fact that they can viably do so today...well, gotta love that GOP.

Anyway, that's why tomorrow I'll be clicking all those tabs next to the word DEMOCRAT. If you disagree, I'd like to know why.

* as was, for that matter, his son.
** Technically, the author of this line, Dinesh D'Souza, was talking about Obama channeling the "tribal" dreams of his late father. D'Souza did not specifically refer to Obama himself as a "tribesman."


RevRon's Rants said...

It really goes against my grain to vote a straight ticket, especially since I hold Democrats responsible for their part in the deterioration of political discourse (and integrity) in this country, but I have to admit that I, too, plan to vote a straight Dem ticket this go-round, for the very reasons you describe, as well as a real concern as to what the Republicans will do if given more influence.

Now... prepare for veins to be popping out on the foreheads of the most extreme pseudo-conservatives (particularly out on the [predominantly] left coast!).

VW - stompum (says it all!)

roger o'keefe said...

I find this post to be not only wrong-headed but personally insulting. There are kooks and crazies in every political camp. For you to reduce the GOP down to a post like this is demeaning to those of us who still stand for the ideals on which, let us not forget, this great country was founded.

Vote the way you want, that is your right, but don't paint those of us who differ with an outrageously offensive brushstroke. We have good reason for feeling as we do, and it has nothing to do with a man being "Kenyan" or the fact that we supposedly hate gays. Get ahold of yourself, man!

Cosmic Connie said...

Count me in as another straight-ticket Democrat voter. Not surprisingly, polls indicate that the Republican party is now perceived by a majority as "the party of change," whereas the Democratic party was viewed that way a mere two years ago. Sometimes I feel on the verge of giving up on America and the whole voting process. We truly seem to have reached a point where many people are voting for change for change's sake.

After the last major election, "change" apparently didn't come fast enough for a populace that has come to expect instant gratification in all aspects of life. Whatever his flaws are, whatever mistakes he has made, whatever campaign promises he was not able to keep, President Obama got one point absolutely right. He said time and time again during the 2008 campaign, and has said it numerous times since, that change was not going to come overnight, that it would not be easy, and that things would almost certainly get worse before they would get better. Now, of course, he is being blamed for the fact that things aren't better.

I have my own arguments with Obama's health care plan (most notably, the mandatory purchase of health insurance, which will almost certainly not improve the health of the citizenry but *will* make the insurance companies healthier), but I don't think that voting the Dems out in the midterms and in 2012 will do one thing to resolve health care or any other issues. (Actually, many of the affluent or well-insured don't seem to even think there *is* a health-care crisis, apart from all of those whiners who don't have insurance and who think they have a right to decent health care anyway.)

While I fear that tomorrow's election results will reflect the mad obsession with change for change's sake, I'm also still a little hopeful that eventually sanity will prevail. I was, for example, very impressed with Jon Stewart's speech at the Saturday rally on The Mall. To me that is a step towards elevating the public conversation, and perhaps even the way politicking is done in the future. Or maybe this is just irrational exuberance on my part...

RevRon's Rants said...

Roger, I agree that there are crazies in every political camp, but the "outrageously offensive brushstroke" you describe was applied when the primary objective of a given "camp" became the ensuring that a democratically elected president was eliminated, one way or the other, rather than working within the political structure to try and improve conditions. There have even been numerous instances wherein Republican legislators vowed to defeat the very programs they had previously championed, rather than allow the president to have any stake in the programs' success. IMO, the hypocrisy in this kind of behavior is evident to anyone who chooses not to condone hypocrisy.

Frankly, I find the current political mood insulting, both to the intelligence of the American people and to the founders whose ideals are being so horribly twisted on the march to partisan victory at the cost of the well-being of the republic.

RevRon's Rants said...

If anyone is interested in a slightly less impassioned rationale for voting against the Republican ticket as a whole, here's an interesting NY Times column by Paul Krugman that describes the ultimate effect of a Republican takeover:

It should be noted that historically, the economy has fared better under Democratic leadership than under Republican leadership. I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but the truth of the matter is that neither are the vast majority of our politicians; they simply don the mantle of greater opportunism for their own personal benefit, and the public be damned. I just see that in the current environment, the damnation offered by the Republicans is more harmful than that offered by the Democrats.

Ahhh... for the return of advocacy over adversary...

Cal said...

What is your opinion of somebody like Karl Rove, who blasts O'Donnell at every turn but is a supporter of Palin? Is it that Palin may be somewhat wacky but she seems to be electable, while every time O'Donnell opens her mouth she makes Dan Quayle look like a Mensa member?

Rove also has panned the burgeoning Tea Party movement, while all the other GOP talking heads take it very seriously. So I don't know what to make of Rove's statements, since he was considered the brains who got G.W. Bush elected twice. He actually has gotten people elected, which means he is someone to actually listen to in my opinion.

But I do admit Steve, your statements seem the opposite of what is supposed to happen as you get older. It's supposed to work the other way from what I've observed, i.e, you get more conservative. And it's just an observation, and not a negative comment.

Steve Salerno said...

Cal: Good to "see you" again.

I think you pretty much nailed it as to Rove. (Is he still saying that about O'Donnell? I thought that was early on.) It's hard to look for any consistent standards or raison d'etre in the activities of political strategists other than the bedrock imperative, "How can I get this person elected?" This is precisely what makes people so cynical about politics. Of course, this bedrock imperative exists (and drives behavior) on both sides. I find Carville and Donna Brazile to be just as unpalatable, most of the time... And don't even talk to me about Keith Olbermann.

NormDPlume said...

If The Tea Party is composed= of hateful, mean, low-I.Q. white people, how come Joy Behar, Katie Couric and and Keith Olbermann are not members?

I think the US federal government is too big and too intrusive. I am not a republican, I am an independent voter. I like liberty. I like choice. I like to hang on to the fruits of my labor. I don't like pointless regulations. I do a better job spending my money than the government does.

Steve Salerno said...

NDP: If I'm lucky enough, tomorrow, that Warner Bros. comes along and wants to make a theatrical release out of a book I wrote, is that $2 million or $5 million really "mine"? Do I deserve it? I don't think so. I think it's dumb luck. I think that anyone who collects a huge windfall and thinks he or she "deserves it" is smoking something. No matter how hard I worked on that book, it's nowhere near equivalent to what some poor miner has to go through daily. What's more, why do my kids deserve it, once I'm gone? Sure, I'd love to give it to them, and I'd want to give it to them, and I'd fight to squirrel it away so that it could be given to them...but is that fair? Should I have that right? That just perpetuates the dumb luck to another generation. Meanwhile, people who aren't as lucky are starving. Seems unfair. I'm thinking that money over a certain threshold should be mercilessly taxed.

Now let's talk about charity. Maybe I have a favorite charity and that's how I want to distribute the "excess." But how's that fair? Who am I to decide who needs the funds most? If I love beagles, and I decide to give "Beagle Rescue" $2 million, that's very nice for the beagles...but come on. Maybe someone (or some entity) with a bit more perspective should get involved in that decision-making process?

Or let's say you're a really smart guy, Norm. You're really smart and really driven. You build a great business. So what? Did you choose to be smart? No. Did you choose to be driven? No. Those qualities were just "in there." So why do you deserve to be rewarded at such a high level for something you couldn't help but do?

You see what I'm driving at? Understand, this is from the perspective of someone who doesn't believe in free will, choice, any of that. I believe it's all scripted--not by God/god, but just by the nature of the way things come together. So if that's the case, somebody should be trying to even things out, such that the people who were scripted to be screwed by life get some recompense. That's all I'm saying.

NormDPlume said...

Steve, I see what you are saying:

We have no control over our destiny, it's all luck and genetics and we are along for the ride. We are all just characters in this Mario Puzzo-penned script. And if you are Luca Brasi, it doesn't matter how you try to better yourself, you will be sleeping with the fishes early on. And you might think your success has been earned on your own, Mr. Hedge Fund Manager, but the truth is you are just a lucky, stupid Fredo and your prayers won't do you much good in the end. Hope you enjoyed your boat ride.

Well, I don't buy that pre-determined outcome view of life. Maybe it's because my second-grade teacher used to say "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." Did she swipe that from coach John Wooden? I don't dismiss all self help/self improvement as nonsense.

For those who don't believe in free will, go ahead and ride the tide and see where you wind up. I will continue to believe that I can determine my own pay; my own sense of satisfaction and happiness; and the overall quality of my life.

Steve Salerno said...

NDP: I'm simply saying that the "tide you are riding" is the same as mine--predetermined. It's the same for someone who believes in predestiny (like me) and for someone who doesn't (like you). The fact that it's predestined isn't going to stop me from trying to take strides to better myself (even though those strides, and their outcomes, were also predestined, as were yours).

Point being--and moving away from the philosophical realm--you can't possibly believe (can you?) that some poor dumb schmuck who grew up as one of 10 children of a welfare mom on Fox Street in the South Bronx has the same odds as you and me, Norm. Maybe he has the same theoretical opportunity in this great and endlessly forgiving land of ours, but he can't possibly have the same odds. He certainly can't have the same odds as a Yale legacy like, say, our friend Dubya. And let's remember, both of those scenarios--the kid on Fox Street and our friend Bush-the-Younger--were accidents of birth.

And if all that is the case--as I believe it to be--then we need to have a formal mechanism for evening things out. We can't just leave it to chance or charity, not when the skew is as wide as it is in today's America. The notion that large sums of money that continue to accrue to someone already in a position of privilege is simply his or hers to do with as he or she pleases strikes me as obscene, especially in light of the foregoing.

NormDPlume said...

I agree that we don't all get the same odds for success. we all get dealt a different poker hand at the table o' life. But how we play that hand often determines how well we do. Sure, there is luck - good and bad. And there is genetics. There are many influences in how well we turn out.

Sure the odds are greater that a boy will become president if his family has produced a lot state and national politicians, and you get the Ivy League education. But you can also become president if your dad is a black guy from Africa who leaves your white mom shortly after birth and you spend a chunk of your childhood in Indonesia. Or maybe you are a poor white kid from Hope, Arkansas; or a kid named Leslie King who's parents split up 16 days after you were born. Leslie King still became president.

I read the Forbes 400 Richest Americans edition every year. Less than 25% of the people inherited their wealth. A majority didn't go to Top-tier schools. Some made their wealth over a seven or more decades; some made it in five years or less. Their stories of massive wealth are often as unique as their fingerprints. I just don't see why a family discount store from Bentonville, AR was predetermined to create a family of deca-billionaires.

Large sums of money left to future generations tend to even things out all by itself. The third generation usually squanders every last penny of it.

What do William Weightman, James Fair, Russell Sage, John Blair and Cyrus Curtis have in common? They all had wealth in the past 100 or so years which was a bigger % of the Gross National Product of this country than Bill Gates did at his peak. These guys were the filthy rich of the 1890s to 1930s. How powerful are their grand kids? Industries come and go. Wealth vaporizes. Power ebbs and flows. Dynasties crumble. Shit happens.

Elizabeth said...

If I love beagles, and I decide to give "Beagle Rescue" $2 million, that's very nice for the beagles...but come on.

Do it, Steve -- for the love of beagles. They deserve every penny of your 2 mil (at least that's what this one under my desk keeps telling me -- and I have no reason to disbelieve him).

One thought about charity (not exactly on topic, but close enough) to keep in mind:

Charity degrades those who receive it and hardens those who dispense it.

George Sand.

propman222 said...

I must agree Ndplume on this.
But what I really want to know is how someone who writes good material on how people should change their behavior ( beware cults,etc)
believe in predetermination at any level.How could people change. Why do you bother witing!

Steve Salerno said...

Propman: For about the 400th time (and I don't mean to sound annoyed, but it does keep coming up), the idea of predestiny has nothing to do with whether or not change is possible. The change is predestined, along with everything else. But we don't KNOW what's in the cards for us, so the idea of predestiny really has nothing much to do with how we live our lives. I do believe, however, that it should have an impact on laws, and notions of forgiveness, etc, among those who believe in it.

whamprod said...

Mr. Salerno, you can disparage profiting off of your own work as "dumb luck" if you like. Perhaps it is. But I can tell you as a self-employed person in a one-man shop that I worked my ass off for every single penny I earned. There was no "dumb luck" to it at all. I WORKED hard to land my clients, and I WORKED hard to apply my talents to their needs. I fucking EARNED every penny I made. "Dumb luck" would be if I did nothing and still got paid for it.

That was just a dumb-ass comment. Devalue your own efforts if you wish, but I'll proudly take every penny my hard work nets me as affirmation of a job well done from a satisfied customer, and I will joyfully pass it on to my son and his family when I die, so that he can work his ass off to make even more out of it—unapologetically and proudly.

And you want to take the fruits of MY hard work and give it away to people who not only didn't work as hard as I did, but don't pay any taxes themselves You're an idiot.

Steve Salerno said...

Whamprod, thanks for weighing in after all this time.

I have a question for you: What made you work your ass off? Do you have a great deal of ambition? Did you CHOOSE to have ambition? Or is it just part of your make-up? Let's suppose you were a lazy-ass. Did you choose that? Do people choose not to have the intellect or the drive to be successful?

I don't think so. In fact, every day, more and more evidence suggests that genetic make-up is largely responsible for most (if not all) of what happens to us--and we don't choose genetic make-up. Just the other day there was a news story about extreme longevity (another interest of mine), and once again we learned that some people are just "destined" to live long lives--no matter what they eat, no matter how infrequently they exercise, etc.

We don't choose life. It chooses us.