Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Other Reason

In the history of the United States, only three Presidents have ever been elected to the office of President of the United States directly out of the US Senate.

Of those, only Barack Obama failed to complete his first term (ironically, the other two, Warren Harding and John Kennedy, were elected as their first term in the Senate was ending.)

As I was writing my most recent post about the frustrations and difficulties either Elizabeth Warren or Rand Paul would face in getting elected (and I mentioned the difficulties Barack Obama had in governing), this post sort of popped up and started coalescing.

It's easy to blame racism for the reaction Republicans have had to Barack Obama. It is undeniable that the Republican and conservative base is racist and they pressure their leaders to conform to their thinking. It is also undeniable that the Congress is, taken as the whole, a white legislation. In particular, the Republican contingent, which if memory serves has precisely three black members.

I mean, it's hard to understand a people if you never ever meet one, except in an elevator or deli. Obama has a lot working against him on the skin color front, to be sure.

But there's another aspect to the abject hatred he engenders, a layer on top of the racism that might even justify the racism in the mind of the racists: a simple truth.

Barack Obama hadn't earned his place in line.

As with so much about this remarkable and historic figure, it's hard to make comparisons. Both Harding and Kennedy failed to finish out their terms, as both died in office.

Harding, however, was under investigation in the Teapot Dome scandal and a raft of other shady dealings and people. Ironically, Harding was accused of being secretly black. These should give a sense of the level of hatred he engendered in the opposition.

Kennedy, too, had a very virulent strain of haters across the country, in large part because he was the first Catholic elected to the Presidency, echoing Obama's dilemma fifty years down the road. Indeed, in the city where he was assassinated, Kennedy was vilified and excoriated in manners that, too, would echo in Barack Obama's administrations.

But let's focus on the microcosm that is the Senate. It's a very traditional chamber, an old boy network that relishes in the fact it is the place where hot-headed measures and rants go to die (lately....? Ted Cruz puts paid to that notion). And there is a very definite pecking order. New Senators are expected to sit in the back, keep quiet and listen.

That both Cruz and Tom Cotton of Arkansas are now perceived amongst their peers as idiots speaks volumes about this system. That Rand Paul is making as many waves as he is says a lot about his chances to gain the support of his Senate peers beyond the obligatory speechifying.

In short, the Senate will not be put in a corner. And I'm sure they've had quite enough of being seen as a step on a career climber's ladder. Should the next President come out of the Senate after less than one term, there will be hell to pay.

Too, spending time in the chamber and paying your dues allows you to create a network that you can work with (altho nowadays...?). On the other hand, it creates a paper trail of legislation that you;ve voted on, along with every amendment. Thus is why you see these bizarre ads about "voting for/against abortion" when no bill about abortion was ever put in the hopper. It's usually tacked on as an amendment to another bill that either gets voted up or down.

Obama suffered a lot for this, I think, because you'll note that some of the opposition to him in the first term came from his own party (Max Baucus leaps to mind). That a Democrat would publicly flout his opposition to Obama's signal accomplishment speaks volumes to the resentment folks felt.

It will take a long time for the Senate to overcome this bias, if it ever does. Obama's skin color merely allows Senators to ignore their more insidious bias.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reality in Politics

I love me some Paultards.

Some of what I'm going to say applies to another candidate's supporters, but I want to draw a very careful distinction between the believers in Rand Paul and the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party and liberals outside the party.

Rand Paul is cuckoo. Rand Paul will never be President, even if he somehow manages to survive the primaries. His dad, Ron, made a great if futile run and so paved some paths for Rand, but Ron didn't have the same personal baggage that Rand has. Ron had some racist and crackpot newsletters, but they were published twenty years earlier, to be sure.

Rand? Well... let's just say "Google 'Rand Paul Aqua Buddha'" and go from there. Or "disabilities". Or the "Civil Rights Act". Or "Israel". Or...

He doesn't stand a chance. Even his political organizers have pretty much given up on him and we're a year out from the first primaries.

Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, would make a fine President, and apart from that annoying "Cherokee" thing, really has no bizarre past that she'll have to spend hours explaining away. If she was to jump in the ring against Hillary (assuming she's running), I would be hard pressed to choose between the two. Both would make great Presidents. Only one would make a great candidate in an era where issues don't matter anymore, tho.

Some of her supporters, whom I'll call Warrenterrorists just to distinguish them from sober, thoughtful folks, are supporting her out of spite for Hillary. Those people are the equivalents of Paultards, I think. My comments apply to them as well.

It's wonderful to live in a world where you can hang your hopes and aspirations on other people. Rand Paul (and with the codicils mentioned above, Elizabeth Warren) represents a fantasy figure, a chimera.

Rand Paul is Tinkerbell and boys and girls, if we all just clap our hands together, clap them real hard and real loud, Paul (Warren) can win! We like him! We really want him!

We can try, but it's not going to happen, less so for Warren than for Paul. But I get the metaphor: they represent some form of purity and morality -- or at least concise thinking that can be easily digested in a bite or two -- that people gravitate to in a nation bereft of truth and lacking a common point that we can all agree upon. We don't have a focus anymore.

Truth is, we've lacked one for many decades now, ever since the Soviets folded up. The American people weren't prepared for what came next, altho we should have been, the signs were there. The war on Americans, by Americans. The class war.

We're finally just waking up now, and if Paultards and Warrenterrorists want to, they can take comfort in the fact they are on the vanguard of that awakening and awareness. Small beer, I know, but I've been there on the edge of political change and it's exciting while you're there but even more exciting to see it take root.

The truth is, I really want a Lamborghini but I'm not willing to mortgage my income until 2119 to buy one so it's a fantasy. Yes, it's a great car to drive, and I could thumb my nose at so many criticisms and concerns because, Lamborghini.

So I buy a Toyota, and bite my tongue about it not being a Lamborghini and yes my Toyota, which I will call "Hillary," has her own issues that anyone else can pick on -- it contributes to pollution, the Clintons Toyota Motor Corporation has safety and quality issues and make massive amounts of money in this corporatist world --  but at the end of the day, it was the car I could afford that was the best compromise I could find.

At the end of the day, we all have to make them. Right now, Warren is my Lamborghini. But she's not going to win the 2016 election, at least not from this far out (things change, so I keep an open mind). I would love it if she did, but she won't. And I won't mortgage my daughter's future to the Republicans to tear the party apart in a losing cause.

This won't satisfy many die-hard Warren supporters, so I'm merely going to say that the frothy support of Warren now reminds me a lot -- A LOT -- of the same starry-eyed support a young man from Chicago had at about the same point in the election cycle of 2008.

How'd that work out for ya?

I seem to recall hearing an awful lot of supporters of President Barack Obama howl in desperation about his weakness and inability to get the campaign agenda put in place (by the way, in two years, he completed more of his checklist than Reagan did in eight), about how even with a (two month long) Congressional majority in both houses he couldn't pass a major policy (um, no, he did) and how now all he does is play golf and issue executive orders that conservatives tear apart.

Let me ask you: do you think any of that would change under Rand Paul? Elizabeth Warren? Paul might get a boost from Congress, but Paul is going to lose the Senate before he's inaugurated. Warren might get a boost from that same Senate (she's played the politics of the Hill rather nicely, it seems) but....well, let's just say that "Warren is the new black" is the mantra for 2017 should she win.

And yes when Hillary wins, none of that changes, and Republicans will make it tougher for her but heres the thing: she's been there, done that, seen it for twenty five years now. And she gives back with a tuned and measured response that not only deflates the criticism, but points out its flaws and foibles to the point of embarrassing folks.

In other words, she'll silence her critics. And then get stuff done. Even the Republicans will have to work with her or be exposed as sitting in Washington for sixteen years on their hands. Weaker Boener doesn't want that to be his legacy. Neither does McConnell.

And then maybe, just maybe, we can all take a long nap. We've earned it after the 24 hour temper tantrum that is the reality of politics today.