I haven’t written about the US in quite a while, but tonight it’s the US I’m thinking about. It seems that tomorrow’s election in Massachusetts to fill Kennedy’s seat will almost certainly go to a Republican, which will end the Dem’s 60-seat majority and potentially result in the early death of “Obamacare,” an imperfect but huge first step toward true healthcare reform.
This letter a reader wrote to another blogger really resonated with me:
The past year has been a very difficult one for me, personally and professionally. I’ve been up a lot more than I’ve been down, and I’ve been angry and frustrated with life, as we all are at times. But I can’t remember the last time I felt such overwhelming rage toward a group of people as I have felt toward the Republican Party and the conservative movement since President Obama’s election.
I simply cannot grasp what motivates these people, what compels them to thwart even the smallest attempts to clean up the enormous destruction they wrought under Bush and Cheney. Irresponsible, hateful, mendacious, sleazy, destructive – these words do not even begin to describe them.
I am unemployed and have not found a new job after almost a year of searching. I have a mortgage. I also have a preexisting medical condition, thanks to emergency surgery I had to undergo nearly 18 months ago. My unemployment benefits expire in five months, my COBRA not long after. Like untold millions of Americans, I am preparing for the worst as the economy slogs through its agonizing turnaround.
I voted for Obama with proud but open eyes, knowing full well not just the magnitude of the tasks he faced, but the pure, unrestrained malevolence of his opposition. Health care reform will unquestionably help people like me. And now some low-rent hairdo, whose sole claim to fame is posing naked for some ladies’ magazine way back when, may happily destroy whatever chance this country has at moving in a more just, humane, and morally and fiscally responsible direction.
With unemployment the highest it’s ever been in my lifetime, by far, the number of Americans on COBRA, including good friends of mine, is unprecedented, and all of them are at risk if this fails. And I look with horror at what some liberal bloggers who can’t adjust to the fact that our elected officials are not ready to approve a public option are doing to sabotage what we’ve got and cause serious harm to millions of Americans who see the healthcare bill as their last chance for survival. More pragmatic liberals (like me and this one) are appalled.
I was reading today about how battered my state has been by the recession. We are about to close most of our state parks. We are slashing services. Our next-door neighbor California is bleeding to death. Most US states are teetering near bankruptcy. Make no mistake – straits don’t get much more dire than this.
You are witnessing a debt crisis play out in slow motion across the entire United States. California is going down first, then the dominos will start to fall. You don’t think there is a crisis brewing in states like Michigan when Detroit has an effective unemployment rate of 50%? The implosion is coming- it’s only a matter of time.
And where will our attention be focused? On the idiocies of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, on the preposterous wedge issues that place us in in permanent armed camps, ever at one another’s throats over issues that hold little or no actual relevance to any of us.
It is at moments like this that I wish we had an authoritarian ruler who could take over for a few years, a clear-headed liberal in the classical sense who could ram things through and get them done without giving a thought to the shrieks and cackles of the deranged fringes of either side. It’s at moments like this when I think, “The USA could use a little China, or at least a little Singapore.” A benevolent despot who can engineer solutions and force them to happen.
Of course, this is impossible, because once we agree to give up pluralism we lose control and anything can happen, as history has shown us. Franz Papen tried a similar experiment in 1933. Nothing can be more dangerous, considering the human frailties and temptations of anyone invested with vast power. But it’s nice to dream now and then.
Meanwhile, there will be no sweet dreams tonight for the millions of Americans who view tomorrow’s election as a matter of life and death. The notion that we can afford to put healthcare off for another six or eight years until we get the just-right bill passed while leaving those at risk with no hope is too impossibly frustrating.
I may not love Obama and I may have deep issues with his not pursuing the things I’d like him to. But he is what we’ve got, and healthcare is a noble goal and we are (were?) on the verge of making a major first step, a step that would change the lives of millions of Americans for the better. I know, he should have fought harder for a public option, but that would not have made the difference; even getting the diluted bill passed in the Senate was a herculean feat.
One of my favorite bloggers goes on an explosive rant today on this very topic – fingering those on the left and the right who are seeking to sabotage Obama, and who are using nearly the exact same talking points to damn him. He echoes my thoughts to the letter:
Now do you understand why I am wondering what the hell people are thinking? I don’t understand the logic of adopting the same frames as the right. I don’t understand the idea of killing HCR because there will be something better down the road. I don’t understand why everything has to be done immediately, the way the loudest want it done, or Obama is a sell out.
Maybe I am just an authoritarian at heart, and I know I am much more comfortable supporting a movement than I am attempting to lead one, but it just seems like the Democrats worst enemy right now is other Democrats.
Exactly. This all or nothing attitude is going to kill us. It’s going to derail all the progress we made. And don’t get me wrong; at heart I am an iconoclast and and even something of an anarchist. At the same time, I am a pragmatist, and I know when we’re fucking ourselves. Like that blogger John Cole, tonight I feel like “maybe I’m an authoritarian at heart,” too.
As for Massachusetts, it’s our fault. The Republicans will win because for reason I simply cannot fathom the Democratic candidate thought she could waltz into office, Massachusetts being a liberal Democratic state, after all, right? She did everything wrong, absolutely everything. I have to give the GOP credit for spotting an opportunity and exploiting Democratic complacency and stupidity. And now we’ll all have to pay the price, with the victims being, as always, the poor, the disenfranchised and the hard-up. (Please God, prove me wrong tomorrow.)
Yes, there are definitely moments when I admire what a country like China can do, free of the curse of having to campaign for re-election every waking moment. Moments, at least.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.