FIRST, that was a "fiery" debate last night? A "fierce clash"? How 'bout "a group of privileged, unruly, and particularly unattractive grammar-school students shoving in the lunch line"? Christ, it's the barely articulate vs the marginally literate for the championship of the Greater Ottumwa Financial Institutions Slo-Pitch League. Mitt Romney strikes back! Like that's ever meant anything other than having some underling's assistant craft a strongly-worded letter, or leaving something less than his customary 10% tip. (I love the idea, by the way, that Mitt Romney personally spoke with his landscaper about employing illegals. Sure he did. Through a surgical mask.)
If Matt Bai was
Yes, it's early, and yes, none of this really has anything to do with the actual campaign. But that's going to start when the Republicans choose one of those colorless idiots as their standard-bearer, and no amount of time is going to make any of 'em look any better. Sure, there's a built-in Republican electoral advantage, and, sure, the President is plenty unpopular himself. But nobody in America can possibly like any of these people. There aren't even any ideas on that stage. Just slogans. The only suits that aren't empty are filled with something that, if you stepped in it, you'd just throw the shoes away and be done with it. And it's not like the Republican party suddenly finds itself thus trapped; this is what 2008 was, but with more, and less charming, Huckabee Wanabees. It's a semi-ruling and non-governing coalition of Bronze Age superstitionists, Ayn Rand acolytes, and itinerant hucksters, and we desperately need a better media to call them on it, not the one we have now, trying to fluff enough air into the thing to make Twinkie filling.
Cue the clown car:
Of course these international protests do have a few things in common, both with one another and with the anti-globalization movement that preceded them. They are similar in their lack of focus, in their inchoate nature, and above all in their refusal to engage with existing democratic institutions. In New York, marchers chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” but actually, this isn’t what democracy looks like. This is what freedom of speech looks like. Democracy looks a lot more boring. Democracy requires institutions, elections, political parties, rules, laws, a judiciary and many unglamorous, time-consuming activities, none of which are nearly as much fun as camping out in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral or chanting slogans on the Rue Saint-Martin in Paris.
I hate to detract from the originality of that statement, but, y'know, it tends to ring a little hollow coming from the pages of the Washington Post, the goddam poster child for the last thirty years of expense-account, Golden Rolodex, "insider" journalism, multi-mega mergers-and-acquisitions information empires, and ruling-class apologetics as a way of "balancing" "liberal" "bias" when your major local competitor is the Moonie Times. This is the paper of Sally Fucking Quinn, fer chrissakes. The birthplace of Vandalgate, conveniently at a time when the grubby little details of democracy pointed to a stolen election. Had the Post had the foresight to hire away Judy Miller it could have cornered the market in Iraq warflogging. It's the sordid sheet Politico was born on. So leave us not talk about people who'd rather chant than do grunt work when the Watchdog of Democracy has been hand-fed on filet mignon and vintage port while everything went to shit.
Check the log in your own eye. That'd be an original approach.
I'm guessing that, for a lot of people in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere, 2008 was a time when they imagined they did address the institutions of Democracy on their own terms. In this they were deceived, some naively, some willingly, and perhaps nearly all with the same lazy, self-absorbed, easy reach for easy answers as the rest of the American electorate. So what? The Teabaggers insist that the national debt can be eliminated while taxes are reduced, by targeting 20% of the budget. That's not inattention to the niceties of the democratic process (which they ignore, into the bargain). That's innumeracy. Yet the Teabaggers are the vital, grassroots, driving force behind the reenergized Republican party. Or were, until the quadrennial elections got close enough that it became inconvenient to hold any Republicans to an obligation to actually do anything about it.
Yet in one sense, the international Occupy movement’s failure to produce sound legislative proposals is understandable:
In every other sense, as well.
Both the sources of the global economic crisis and the solutions to it lie, by definition, outside the competence of local and national politicians.
Both the sources and solutions lie by definition, period.
If you’re upset about the austerity program being imposed on your country by indebted banks on the other side of the world, it doesn’t seem logical to complain to the mayor of Seville.
Correct. If he lied to you about it while stuffing his own pockets, and now presents you with a bill you have to pay, because "it's a global thing", complaining is futile. Plus, stringing him up by his necktie is so much more satisfying.
Unlike the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, to whom the London and New York protesters openly (and ridiculously) compare themselves, we have democratic institutions in the Western world. They are designed to reflect, at least crudely, the desire for political change within a given nation. But they cannot cope with the desire for global political change, nor can they control things that happen outside their borders. Although I still believe in globalization’s economic and spiritual benefits — along with open borders, freedom of movement and free trade — globalization has clearly begun to undermine the legitimacy of Western democracies.
“Global” activists, if they are not careful, will accelerate that decline. Protesters in London shout,“We need to have a process!” Well, they already have a process: It’s called the British political system. And if they don’t figure out how to use it, they’ll simply weaken it further.
And if they work within The System, generate serious, equitable, workable proposals, present them as part of The Process (lest they weaken it further), and give back 2/3 of their gains in the name of democratic "compromise", this time, with luck, someone in power will take the time to grease the Garden Implements of Democracy before shoving them unceremoniously up the Public Fundament.
Leave us say this plainly: you people had the opportunity to ensure fairness, to hold the Corporate Feeding Frenzy in check, to give some thought to, to spend some small fraction of your energies in aiding the poor, helping the helpless, and protecting the great Middle. And instead you gorged yourselves. You paid lip service to that rising tide lifting all boats, then you cut everyone else adrift. After Reaganomics crashed and burned in 1987 you set about reclaiming your own, not making things right; you saw to it the '88 election was about Willie Horton and tank rides, not the S & L lootings. You saw to it that the Clinton presidency was about blow jobs, and pushy, scheming wives, not solving the health care crisis. You've been whistling past this graveyard for almost four decades now; maybe you can convince some younger people this mess is of more recent, unavoidable, way-of-the-modern-world vintage, but the rest of us know where the stench is coming from. You fucks expect the Little People to praise God for their crude democracy, while you spend Sunday mornings at the counting house. And then you shit yourself every time it looks like the Great Unwashed might get wise, get angry, or stop buying nicknacks. You've had all this time to think about this, and think you did, but not in any way remotely resembling altruism (though I will grant you never tried all that hard to camouflage it). So let's start with you taking responsibility. Let's can the global claptrap excuse-mongering for the rich to get even richer, and set things to rights. My mayor can't solve global problems, but my Congressman, and Senator, and others can make it prohibitively expensive to rake in profits in this country while treating its population like ciphers. Well, not my Senator; I'm from Indiana, but you know what I mean. I've stood by for thirty years or more while democracy was expressly co-opted by sloganeering and dirty money, and heard that called Wise, and True, and Adult, and never once heard anybody ask where the reasonable, workable proposals were. And now it's reached the point, or damned near close, when large numbers of our fellow citizens will have precious little to lose because of it. They're not really going to give a shit about the niceties of The Process when it tells them it's time to starve. Or much care how you came by the gold in your parachute.
And whose fault is that?