Monday, September 10, 2012

A Thinking Dog Commentary

Weighing in on 2012 Convention Politics
Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens
            Now that the Republican and Democratic political circuses are over, it seems a good time to take stock of where things stand in this contentious U.S. Presidential race.

           I couldn’t handle much of the Republican convention. It would take a book-length autobiography to explain why, but, in a nutshell, I spent my formative years in a small, fundamentalist, Republican town in Pennsylvania and know what repression, bigotry, and conformity to authority are all about. Today’s Republicans, with few exceptions, tout late 1940s-early ‘50s consciousness without the least embarrassment. To propose taking our country back to that is an invitation to social chaos and collapse. It’s just not realistic.
Paul Ryan
            That said, though I missed Ann Romney’s speech altogether I felt a citizen’s duty to watch Paul Ryan’s headliner Wednesday night, since he’s the advertised Republican fire-cracker, the major guarantee to the Tea Party base that its program of social deconstruction is being heard at the top. But he did not dispel my impression of him as a little-league player crashing the majors with more ambition than ability.
            And, of course, I felt required to watch Romney’s speech the final night of the convention. I was mostly bored. He proposed nothing of substance, as everyone who saw it had to recognize. Yet we all know of Romney’s allegiances among the rich and very rich, which, as in all his other public statements, he continued to keep obscure in his Norman Rockwell-style depiction of the illusive American Dream.
Mitt Romney
            I came out of that week depressed about the future—my own, the nation’s, and the world’s. I wondered if it would be better to die now rather than wait for the repeal of Social Security and Medicare to finish me. That is, if rising sea levels, fossil fuel pollution, and asphyxiation from global warming don’t get me first.
            Nor did I have much hope that the Democratic convention would improve my outlook. But I was taken by surprise on Tuesday night when speaker after speaker addressed my ideals, particularly on social issues; and as the TV cameras panned the hall, revealing the diversity of skin colors and ethnic dress among the assembled, I confess I was moved to tears. As I said to Jala, “I believe I must be a Democrat.”
            Michele Obama’s address capped that night, and I had to agree with newscasters that she was masterful, a strong and beautiful presence at the microphone. All my doubts about the Obama Presidency dissolved in a premature euphoria, and I was ready to seek my role in securing his reelection.
            We had out-of-town guests Wednesday and Thursday, so our participation in the rest of the convention was limited. But we all watched Bill Clinton on Wednesday night. It was the best speech I’ve ever heard from him—intellectually precise and down-to-earth, something any cracker could understand yet no pundit credibly refute. With facts to back him up—only a few mildly slippery, according to fact-checkers—he argued convincingly that electing Romney-Ryan will not only reverse the good Obama has done for common people since the financial bubble exploded. It will also let loose on us a wave of new troubles worse than the ones before.
            “We can’t let that happen!” he said repeatedly—surely the most effective rallying cry of the convention. If it doesn’t get apathetic Democrats and compassionate Independents to the polls to vote for Obama on November 6, nothing will.
            Could Obama top that on the final night of the convention? I didn’t see how, and, indeed, he didn’t. His speech was timid, modest—more of an echo than a climax to all that had gone before. It opened the way for his critics to argue effectively that he simply hasn’t done enough on any number of critical issues and has no real plan for significant improvement in the future. From the economy to the devastating degradation of our Mother Earth’s environment—my choice as the gravest issue of all—he left us unsatisfied.
            Any euphoria I had left over from Tuesday night wafted out the window with Obama’s disappointing final act. Yet I remained convinced, faced with the prospect of a Romney-Ryan win, that “we can’t let that happen,” and I wondered what I could do to help prevent it. Perhaps I could work to register voters and educate them on how to get the required state ID, Virginia being one of those states which has made it more difficult for some people—mostly poor, minority, and elderly Democrats—to vote.     
            But, though I didn’t realize it at the time, my experience of what’s at stake in this election was not quite complete.
            Saturday evening, Sept. 8, I tuned into Bill Moyers on PBS. Bernie Sanders, the Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont, filled the first guest spot. In the second were Green Party Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. The order of appearances couldn’t have been accidental.
Bernie Sanders
            First Sanders eloquently dismembered the illusion that either party, under present conditions, will benefit the vast majority of Americans. Both parties, he said, are bought and paid for by a handful of billionaire families. Astonishingly, one of those families alone, the Waltons—owners of Walmart—own forty percent of American wealth, he said. By contrast sixty percent of Americans share only two percent of American wealth. And in this radically unequal formulation, the wealthy not only want to keep what they have but increase it through government favors, like low taxes, which they have paid politicians to provide for them.
             America, Sanders warned, is on the brink of plutocracy.
            Everyone knows this, but the Vermont badger brings it to light with the authenticity of one who is there in the middle of it, trying to beat it back. It’s a very instructive interview which can be viewed on demand at
            Moyers then introduced Stein and Honkala, the Green Party alternatives to Romney-Obama. Most people don’t realize there is a Green Party alternative, but there is.
            Jill Stein is a medical doctor and a mother from Massachusetts. Cheri Honkala, also a mom, is an anti-poverty worker in Philadelphia. Both women are well-informed, well-spoken, but thin on political experience. It is exceedingly doubtful they will even ripple the vote in November.
Honkala (L) and Stein
             But I may vote for them because Sanders in his interview with Moyers confirmed my suspicions that Obama—though it wouldn’t have to be this way—has caved to the will of big money over the will of the majority of the American people, and Stein and Honkala want to remedy this with policies I agree with. Obama proposes a mere fraction of those policies. Romney, none.
            If the Republicans are the Party of the Past, as I suggested in an August 25 post, the Democrats are the Party of Present Weakness. There’s life in the body, but its arteries are badly clogged. A quadruple bypass might help, but will the patient admit he is sick and submit to the surgery? It doesn’t look that way now.
            So after my two-week swim in political waters, I’m leaning Green while wishing Obama would pick up on at least some of the strategic ideas Sanders presents and the Green Party pledges to implement, if ever elected. The hard truth is, after he won in 2008 Obama abandoned the base who elected him, and now he’s trying to woo it back. So far, he hasn’t succeeded. He’s coming across as the lesser evil who hands out snacks for real life sustenance while his rivals let the people starve entirely. That means this election is not about choice—not real choice. It’s about either giving more to the rich (Romney-Ryan) or not quite so much (Obama-Biden). Either way, I won’t benefit, and neither will most Americans.
            If I vote Green, as I may well do, I will vote with a hope for a future which, in the present political climate, is hard to see but worth voting for. As someone I know once said, “Reality sucks. Go for the dream.”


At 6:47 PM , Anonymous Keith Staman said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, D.D. They pretty much parallel my thinking on the election, down to my respect for Bernie Sanders (and Bill Moyers!) and my47 probable vote for the Greens.

At 9:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

DD: I too have a new knowledge of Bernie, and liked what was said that night. - other dave

At 11:51 AM , Blogger BethK said...

And by voting Green, you do what the Ralph Nader voters did in Florida and turn the election. How short-sighted. I wish the president had more innovation, but he's had a hard task. I'm voting for him again.

By the way, the Waltons have huge wealth but not 40% of all America's wealth. (!) They have about the same wealth as the total wealth of the poorest 40% of Americans. Many of those people have negative net worth which subtracts. But even so, the Waltons do not have 40% of America's wealth.


I don't know what Sanders actually said on what you watched.

At 1:43 PM , Blogger Delaney said...

I favored Nader but voted for Gore. Bush won. I voted for Kerry, Bush won. One more stike and I'm out. Your argument no longer works for me.

On your other point, I was confused myself until I looked it up on the transcript on Here's what Bernie said:

"Bill, among all of the other issues out there, what really drives me a little bit nuts, and we don't talk about it, is distribution of wealth and income in this country. Distribution of wealth, I want people to listen up on this one. You got one family, the Walton Family of Walmart, that now own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people. One family, top one percent owns 41 percent of the wealth in America. The bottom 60 percent...owns less than two percent."

How else can that be construed?

At 3:37 PM , Blogger Tom Ellis said...

If I may add my two cents to this perennial controversy about voting--I agree entirely (of course) with everything you said, and I can understand your desire to register your protest by voting Green. But please remember, Delaney: a vote is a political act, however infinitesimal it may seem--it is not just a personal statement or protest. It can and does have consequences. In this case, Virginia is a "Swing State" and Hampton Roads is a "Swing Region"--and this means that the outcome of a close election could very easily hinge on what happens in our own area. This being the case, and given the simple arithmetic of the dominant two-party system we are stuck with, a vote for anyone other than Obama, even if that candidate were Jesus or the Buddha himself, would mean another vote for Romney.
And while there is not an enormous difference between the moneybags who back them both, there is still a huge difference in consequences:

The Republicans and Democrats are both corporate whores, as you indicate, but there is a significant difference: Democrats are corporate whores out of necessity in a thoroughly corrupted, bought-out system, while Republicans are corporate whores as a matter of principle.

If Romney wins, forget about environmental protection, workers' rights, or a sane foreign policy. The oil industry will get everything they want--no questions asked--so forget about any prospect of curbing global warming! In other words, if Romney wins, you can kiss off our planet and be sure there will be no future at all. If Obama wins, a future remains possible (however remotely). It is THAT important.

This being the case, please hold your nose (if necessary) and vote for Obama.

At 4:07 PM , Blogger Delaney said...

I understand what you're saying perfectly, Tom, and have always (or almost always) behaved in the past with the pragmatic rationality you advise. But I'm tired of going to whores and participating in loveless matches. I'll make my final decision on election day, but "everthing's on the table" here, and if enough of us say often enough and loud enough, "Well, maybe not, Barack," perhaps Barack will give us a little more love than he's been inclined to since he jilted us after the last election.

At 11:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your correct view of the Green Party Delaney. It's platform promotes a clean environment, womens' equality, peace, education, and a return to civil liberties. Obama promised hope for change in 2008 and continued the 08-09 bank bailout (theft of the U.S. Treasury), surveillance, torture and undeclared wars. He has expanded the drone wars with the ability to kill anyone, including Americans, without trial. The 2008 election was decided by the Supreme Court who stopped counting votes when the recount favored Gore, who had conceded to Bush, then changed his mind. Vote what you beleive to be true.


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