Thursday, May 7, 2009


posted by Armadillo Joe

Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation magazine, is a regular on Keith Olbermann. He is also an astute observer and one helluva writer. I have to put him in the same group as Matt Taibbi, as someone on whom I also admit something of a literary man-crush.

I think these paragraphs from his column in the latest issue of The Nation sum up exactly where we are and how we got here, both in D.C. and the world at large, far more succinctly than twenty long-winded posts from yours truly. From "Notes on Change":
With all the talk of balance sheets these days, I've taken to tallying up each side of the "change" ledger: forces pushing toward reform on the left and those that maintain the status quo on the right. After 100 days, this is what I have.

On the right: three decades of accelerating inequality and oligopolistic rent-seeking that has produced a sophisticated set of entrenched interests whose sole mission is to expand the reign of the corporations and the wealthy people they represent; a constitutional system engineered to stymie change and moderate the influence of the rabble; a Senate whose rules and customs bestow maximum power on each sitting senator so that a lone reactionary like Tom Coburn can hold up funding for national parks for more than a year; a degraded (albeit slightly revived) culture of civic engagement; a class of Democratic operatives who seem to have no beliefs, principles or commitments, or who once had them but have been co-opted; a mammoth, ferocious national security bureaucracy willing and able to conduct what Bob Gates cheekily called "guerrilla warfare" to defend its turf; a president who seems to have little appetite for a fight.

On the left: control of both houses of Congress by large margins; dozens of progressive legislators; a wildly popular center-left president who ran on the most ambitious progressive domestic vision in a generation; a polity disgusted with conservative rule and conservatism, so much so that "socialism" has been staging a reputational comeback; a financial crisis that has exposed the bankruptcy of the elite economic consensus; a savvy progressive infrastructure built up during eight long, dark years; and finally, what should perhaps be definitive, healthy majorities who favor a progressive agenda--ending torture and the Iraq war, providing universal healthcare and pursuing a clean energy economy.

Amid the euphoria of election night, it seemed the left side of the ledger was all that mattered. For the past three months it's been hard to ignore the right side. Now it all feels balanced on a knife's edge.

I'm rooting for Obama, even though I have expressed misgivings in the past, I just don't know if he is up to the task. I don't know if any living human is -- or any dead one ever was -- up to this task. We are a dying nation, hovering near the precipice of a self-induced implosion on the scale of the Fall of Rome, poised to be fatally undermined locally, and on a small-scale, interpersonal and perhaps civic level by Corporate Amerika's shocktroops, those teabag-flinging, racist hillbillies (sorry, dontpanic23, I had to go there) who are so convinced of the righteousness of their Cause and the pernicious, anti-American "otherness" of their opponents, that they would choose to destroy this village in order to save it, even though they also live in the village. Dismiss their patience and resolve if you will, but we are still arguing about the Civil War 144 years later.

And Corporate Amerika is ready willing and able to help them crush the whole enterprise to ensure their continued material comfort, slurping on mai-tais in their Carribean tax-havens.

In between? The sheeple, who voted for Obama -- and big props for that, yo -- but not before giving the Keys to the Kingdom to an aging frat-rat, mean-as-a-pit-viper, half-wit rich kid who likes to play-act as a cowboy and play dress-up as a pilot and thinks he talks to God because they wanted to have a beer with him. Twice. I don't have much faith that those same people will not allow themselves to be bamboozled by the same forces who made them think someone not named Dick Cheney was running the country for the last eight years.

And as much as we like to imagine our opponents as a bunch of inbred confederates in overalls pining for the days when The Coloreds knew their place (and though a sizable chunk of our not-so-loyal opposition are exactly those people - looking at you Jeff Sessions), many of the people rooting for Obama to fail actually have the power to see that he does.

I think Chris Hayes is right that we are balanced on a knife's edge and Naomi Klein's appearance on Rachel Maddow last night reminds me that -- just like the best history teachers make history come alive by illustrating how today's world could have turned out very different, because in any struggle the outcome is not pre-determined, something is always and forever at stake -- something is deeply, truly at stake here and now: America's soul.

Obama's victory wasn't the end of the struggle. It wasn't even the beginning of the end. But it was the end of the beginning, an interruption of the upward arc tracing the rise of conservative hegemony from Nixon, through Reagan and both Bushes. The outcome is far from settled.

An epic fight lies before us. Let's get about it.

1 comment:

Annette said...

Great post Mr. Armadillo Joe.. very good.