The Temper Tantrum Election


    Eugene Robinson nails it in his opinion piece in today’s (3 Sept 2010) Washington Post when the headline says “We’re spoiled brats, and we vote.” He acknowledges that every poll and pundit worth his salt is predicting a Republican wave in  November, a wave which many see as flipping the House to Republican rule, and installing the tanned Mr. Boehner as Speaker, all based on a gain of 45-60 House seats by the GOP. Robinson’s reaction? Wait a minute.

    Mr. Robinson’s take: This is one screwed up election.  True, Democratic favorability ratings at 33 percent have tanked, and “voters appear to be fed up with Democrats,” yet voters are even more disenchanted with the Republican Party, whose favorability is just 22 percent, or way below that of Democrats. Yet the polls show voters choosing Republicans, whom they despise, over Democrats whom they despise less? Now, how could that be, illogical as it is?  Robinson says this election is not a Republican wave, “it’s a temper tantrum.”  

    “The refusal of Americans to look seriously at the nation’s situation—- and its prospects—- is an equal opportunity scourge,” because, Robinson explains, “the nation demands the impossible: quick, painless solutions to long-term, structural problems.”  Precisely. We have instant coffee, instant everything, and we expect instant answers to knotty problems which have no quick, fun solutions, wrapped and done in 60 minutes (minus commercials)—- that sentence is me talking, although Eugene is more gracious than that. He says politicians running for office, including Barack Obama, encourage the quick solution of “magical thinking,” but “when they get to office, they’re forced to try to explain that things aren’t so simple.”  In other words, re-structuring our economy, renewing the infrastructure, reforming entitlements, “redefining America’s position in the world,” and so on endlessly, all require long-term solutions that take a long time to implement.

    When he blames Obama for not framing the hard work required as “a national crusade that will require a degree of sacrifice from every one of us,” I am in complete agreement. From the way Obama handled the health care reform bill through Wall Street financial reform and even the Iraq and Afghanistan policies, it has been my contention that Obama has shown a surprising lack of political leadership.  He had a perfect opportunity to rally the nation to pull together in surmounting the Recession, and in tackling the many fractures and fault-lines in not just our economy but our social and political system, fault lines which brought on the crash and recession.  

    Instead, it is my contention that President Obama’s refusal to lead let the Republicans frame the issues and define him, and the magnificent opportunity slipped away forever. When that opportunity evaporated, the frustration and fear to which he could have given a noble purpose went over to the extremist Republicans, and what could have been used as positive energy in a progressive crusade was diverted into the Tea Party and the channels of reactionary hate, combined with a mis-directed libertarianism mingled oddly with authoritarianism, all of it funded by corporotists, that is, by business interests who are mortal enemies of Obama and progressives.  

    Eugene Robinson makes it quite clear that Americans don’t want to hear about the hard solutions, in which he includes laying foundations for a 21st century economy, weaning us off fossil fuels, building and maintaining infrastructure to support the new economy, fixing Social Security, improving schools, developing a reasonable immigration policy, and requiring sacrifices from all of us, including the rich (who must pay more taxes).  We are, in other words, impatient, we want “quick and easy solutions that won’t hurt a bit.” Therefore, don’t blame politicians for peddling snake oil, they are only “offering what the public wants to buy.”

    Democracy, as we know, is the worst form of government, until you consider all the others. It is also the only system which requires of its participants that they act like adults. This is a test.

    • Dan Sullivan

      is our social standard. The Greatest Generation did a lot of it and kept doing it so that their Baby Boomers would not have to know sacrifice. Sacrifice became unappreciated; undervalued.

      When we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should have been called upon to sacrifice so that the wars would not drag us into debt and economic distress. But that would have made the wars more difficult to sell, less popular. The military members’ sacrifices were made  sacrament enough and we could join in by saying we honor their’s. But without knowing sacrifice this “honor” is hollow. Nevertheless, to suggest sentiment against the wars was dishonorable because that disrespected the military members. We can’t even recognize dishonor now either.

      While I agree with you and Robinson, I am not certain that President Obama has the capital to right this right now. In fact, such an effort might bring the whining to a crescendo.  

    • Brian

      I’m a Unitarian-Universalist. The seventh principle is “respect for the interdependent web of life of which we are a part of.”  It tells the reader,on the card for seventh principles, that this is an environmental principle. We must counteract Global Warming.   I also am the maintenance person at work, on top of that, my parents taught me the value of seeing a section of a room and spotting clutter. When in doubt, throw it out, etc etc.  You said it yourself, we live in an”instant” world.  I would venture a lot of that instant world came about because of the Progressive Era that you love. I like it too. I’m not talking about the obvious of a president like Theodore Roosevelt trust-busting,though that does help. I’m not talking about the not so obvious, specifically Taylorism.  What is Taylorism but time is money. Hustle hustle hustle. I’ve collected more trash in things like shopping carts, that it’s so easy to pick your trash up and take it with you,but more people are concerned about the next task on the agenda for that day. And they leave the trash for someone else to pick up.  I’ve also seen employes not wash their hands properly. And I work at a Super Market.  There’s this pressure to get back on the floor. I remember applying sunscreen, because I work outside, and my manager just opened the door and stood there, as if I was doing something wrong.  A place like England or Spain is wired differently. England, they stop whatever they are doing and have tea at noon.  In Spain, they close the shops early, and they have meals at specific hours, they also don’t eat big meals like we do.

      So, I think there’s the American Protestant Work Ethic,and everything else revolves around that. And that means cutting corners.  

    • somethingblue

      The Secretary of the Writers Union

      Had flyers distributed in Stalin Way that said

      That the People had frivolously

      Thrown away the Government’s Confidence

      And that they could only regain it

      Through Redoubled Work. But wouldn’t it be

      Simpler if the Government

      Simply dissolved the People

      And elected another?

      – Bertolt Brecht

    • kindler

      …that we’re often more interested in expressing our oh-so-special feelings than in gaining actual results and consequences.  It’s like our lives have just become big, empty, pointless reality shows.  Sigh…