If you haven't already heard, an odd hodgepodge of nefarious ideological zealots have hijacked the Republican Party and turned it into a Frankenstein-like monster through which the "good ol' days" of America can be revisited and returned. By "good ol' days," these individuals mean the days of the Great Depression, the Civil War, Jim Crowe, and the Robber Barons. You know, the times in America when the federal government didn't involve itself much in the fortunes and ill-fates of its citizens. What a festive time to be alive, huh?!
Enter our new main protagonist, Rick Perry, a self-proclaimed God-fearing American and scorner of "big government" whose one-liners are as effective at destroying his political competition as a viper's venom is at killing its victims. Perry is so beloved by the Tea Partiers because he salutes our "brave men and women" in the armed forces while denouncing the existence of the bloated state, denies climate change while Texas continues through a horrible drought, and decries the evils of big government while readily accepting federal subsidies. What more could a truly patriotic Tea- Partier ask for out of his presidential nominee?
On the planet we call earth, in the year of 2011, in the great country of America, we have turned to face the right. Yes, we have turned to the right so considerably that George W. Bush brings back memories of Samuel Gompers and not, well, George W. Bush's two terms as president...
Okay, we get it, you want a "balanced budget." But aren't there better ways to reduce America's deficit and swipe away its debt than to put a gun to head of the U.S. (metaphorically speaking of course!)? Doubtless there is. But most conservatives and some within the libertarian fold see this moment in America's history as "the" time to clean up our economic house.
I feel as though I'm in a cubist painting, unable to grasp the full dimensionality of what the Republican Party and its followers are truly hoping to accomplish. Don't they see that their gamble could essentially throw America into an economic tailspin, the likes of which we may never fully recover from? I have to believe that these individuals are not so reckless. I have to believe that these individuals simply see the current political situation in an entirely different way than I do.
What is absolutely clear is that these individuals on the right of the political spectrum have become completely blinded by their "balanced budget" ideology and their fiscal conservatism, so much so that anything that seems to them to go against this dogmatic policy position should be fundamentally and totally rejected. Compromise? Nope, not on your life. They don't understand the meaning of the word.
The biggest curse and the biggest blessing of being a liberal is that compromise is built into our political ideologies. Compromise is not a bad thing, it's what makes a republic function without dissolution. But all too often, those of a conservative political persuasion, in particular, look at compromise as "unmanly," or whatever non-masculine term they wish to pluck from their limited lexicon.
Should liberals discard their willingness to compromise? No. Win or lose, we are in the right and our higher moral ground should not be abandoned for the mud holes that many Republican politicians always seem to be found in (e.g. Eric Cantor).
With the downfall of Rep. Anthony Weiner, the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the ousting of Senator Russ Feingold, and the dissecting out of Rep. Dennis Kucinich's congressional district, it's difficult to find many liberal members of Congress that continue to stand up for a no-excuses liberal policy agenda (granted, some of these said individuals didn't always toe the liberal policy line themselves). America, it seems, has moved further to the right and many of our "liberal" political representatives across the country appear unwilling to stick out their political necks for an agenda that seems less capable of making any political headway. Take Rep. Nancy Pelosi as one major example of this point. What some conservatives decry as a "radical liberal" (i.e. Nancy Pelosi) is to liberals like myself a pragmatic liberal who will shirk her liberal policies when circumstances dictate such an event.
Indeed, our Congress is full of pragmatic liberals like Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Henry Waxman, and many more. Although I respect these individuals for their relatively solid political leadership, they have consistently thrown off the liberal mantel when the coast has not been absolutely clear. Their unwillingness to stand up for a liberal policy agenda has left many of their liberal constituents without a voice in the Congress or a friend to turn to.
As America moves further to the right of the political spectrum, more individuals in the liberal camp will necessarily find themselves outside of the mainstream political discourse, a discourse which was never that liberal to begin with. If, however, you respond that the recent legalization of gay marriage in house of New York State provides a counterargument to my point, let's not be so quick to jump to that conclusion. The legalization (at least for now) of gay marriage in New York was not premised upon "equality for all," even though you'll hear shades of this argument. Rather, the right for gay individuals to marry was based upon an argument of "individual rights," a classical liberal argument. Liberals seek basic equality on moral grounds, not necessarily on grounds of individual rights and freedoms, even though this is a major component of modern liberal thought.
One problem that Obama is having -- and not just on the left, although it might be most acute there -- is the dissonance between the grand, poetic narratives of the campaign trail and the prosaic and transactional day-to-day grind of governance...Of course, it's also that the nasty economic recession that began under Bush drags on under Obama. Although I certainly believe that economic conditions are better today than they would have been without aggressive action by the federal government, most people still aren't feeling it, and that makes them grumpy and/or angry towards the people in power.
Nevertheless, I suspect that for most liberals, any real sense of progress has now been lost. Yes, the left got a good-but-not-great health care bill, a good-but-not-great stimulus package, a good-but-not-great financial reform plan: these are a formidable bounty, and Obama and the Democratic Congress worked hard for them. But they now read as a basically par-for-the-course result from a time when all the stars were aligned for the Democrats -- rather than anything predictive of a new direction, or of a more progressive future. In contrast, as should become emphatically clear on November 2nd, the reversion to the mean has been incredibly swift.
What liberals haven't had, in other words, is very many opportunities to feel good about themselves, or to feel good about the future.
Beyond (bad) economics, though, this really is the classic situation where expectations get way out of line with achievements. Basically, we were promised in 2006 and 2008 that if we took back Congress and the White House, particularly with a "filibuster-proof majority" in the Senate, we'd get everything we ever dreamed of: national health care, possibly even "single payer;" a strong, comprehensive, clean energy and climate bill; immigration reform; closure of Gitmo; the rapid end of "Don't Ask Don't Tell;" the winding down of the wars begun during the Bush Administration; a reversal of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and more broadly a return to progressive economics; investment in infrastructure, including both human (education) and physical (advanced power grids, high-speed rail, etc.) capital; more power to labor vis-a-vis business; etc., etc. On top of all that, we were promised a fundamental change in the way Washington does business.
How much of any of this stuff have we really gotten so far? As Nate Silver puts it, we've gotten a bunch of "good-but-not-great" on a lot of it, not much at all on other parts (e.g., the way Washington does business). Well, sorry, but after how hard we worked the past few years, it's frustrating, dispiriting, etc. to see it wither on the vine. What about that don't Robert Gibbs and the White House understand? And what do they really think they're going to accomplish by lashing out at their own base, while trying desperately to reason with the unreasonable on the far right (aka, today's Republican Party, who continue to call Obama a "socialist" even as he tries to be a "centrist")? Got me.