By Manifesto Joe
Adlai Stevenson was once famously quoted as saying that in a democracy, people usually get the government they deserve.
After seeing the virtual Supreme Court appointment of our 43rd president, and the high court also striking down limits on corporate money in political campaigns, I'm no longer sure that the U.S. can in any way be described as a "democracy," or even an honest republic. Plutocracy seems more accurate. But if what the polls show is accurate, the very confused American people may indeed be getting the government they deserve, and soon.
Poll after poll shows Republicans poised for big gains in both houses of Congress. They are expected to retake the U.S. House, albeit narrowly by some projections.
But when you look at what Americans who call themselves likely voters are saying to pollsters, it -- well, as the watermelon-smashing comic Gallagher often says, "It don't make no sense."
Contradictions on health care
Let's take on health care first. That issue seems to have half the country in a state of near-insurrection, if you judge from the Tea Party "movement" and letters to the editor.
But a recent AP-GfK poll (here's a link to the story) showed that less than a majority of likely voters -- 37%, to be exact -- favored a complete repeal of the new Obama-backed health care law. Statistically, about as many -- 36% -- want to revise the law so that it does more to reform health care. About 15% would leave the law as it is.
This means that a solid majority of likely U.S. voters -- 51% to 37% -- favor health care reform that at least goes as far as the watered-down junk we're having to settle for. I favor single-payer, which makes perfect sense when you look at the rest of the developed world, but would go further than what most Americans think they want. I support the current plan simply because I try to be politically pragmatic. It's what we seem able to do right now, given our plutocratic political system and the pathological obstructionism of Republicans.
And these are the people who are about to vote Republican candidates, among them Tea Party darlings, back into the Congress? "It don't make no sense."
Instant gratification denied
I think what we're seeing is voters who, as consumers, have grown accustomed to instant gratification, and have memories that go back perhaps as far as the last Super Bowl. It's becoming clear that Barack Obama was expected to walk on water, and resurrect the dead (well, at least the economy). Many don't seem to remember his predecessor, or have a delusional memory of him. ("Remember me?" asks the widely circulated Web image of Il Doofus.) I recall him very, very well -- the dude who left office with a record-low, and much-deserved, 22% approval rating.
Far too much was expected of Obama, especially considering the debacles he inherited from Bush 43. He hasn't been in office two years yet, and the economic disaster that confronts us now was 30 years in the making. But we seem to be dealing with swing voters who weren't quite sure what they were voting for two years ago, and now they're pouting and plan to vote for the other side, regardless of the recent past.
Obama 'coalition' was all over the place
He put together a center-left "coalition" that added up to 53% of the popular vote. His victory was the biggest that a reputedly liberal Democrat has won in America since the LBJ landslide of 1964.
Now, the left attacks him because he's been too accommodating, and hasn't fulfilled some of the promises. We're still in two wars, and we didn't get a public option on health care. And the economy still sucks.
The self-described "center" attacks him, too. My skepticism rises here, because I've talked to a few people in my life who described themselves as moderate, but they eventually sounded pretty right-wing to me. It depends on what one's definition of "center" is.
One person who talked to a reporter seems to embody this dilemma:
Like many others, Aaron Bonnaure doesn't blame Obama for the nation's woes. But he wants Congress to keep the president in check. That's why this 23-year-old moderate from Pittsburgh who voted for Obama now is looking at Republican candidates.
"He ran as a centrist. I don't think he's a centrist at all. ... His whole economic platform is the more government spends, the better things are," Bonnaure said. "We have a far-left government. The answers are in the middle."
Here's a link to the entire article.
I would have to ask, the "middle" of what? If Obama hasn't governed as a centrist, it's hard to imagine what that would involve. I think some of the American people are so politically illiterate that they expect centrism to be something that is actually center-right.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has rather sadly proceeded as Il Doofus probably would have. The economic stimulus that Republicans so excoriate Obama over actually began under Bush 43 and was signed by Bush. Obama inherited a larger deficit than the one we have now. And on health care -- well, a lot of progressives would have preferred to see him go down fighting for the public option. Instead, he caved and took a centrist approach in order to get something done. I reluctantly appreciated the pragmatism of that. Something is better than nothing.
But somehow, a lot of people didn't get what they wanted (and the economy still sucks). This begs the question -- what exactly is it that they want?
They want services, but don't want to pay for them
Blue Girl and Yellow Dog of They Gave Us a Republic do a nightly news roundup, and they found a great little piece that sums up the problem well:
The term mental health professionals use for this is "Magical Thinking"
"A majority of Republicans, 57 percent, as well as 65 percent of independents, say they are not willing to accept cuts to Social Security and Medicaid to trim the deficit. ... Six in 10 Republicans and 53 percent of independents said they would not accept cuts to defense and homeland-security spending. ... Meanwhile, 60 percent of Democratic voters said they wanted their lawmakers to bring home the benefits, while only 28 percent of Democrats wanted their lawmakers to cut spending. ... The firm Penn Schoen Berland contacted 4,105 likely voters in 10 House battleground districts between Oct. 16 and 21. The survey had a margin of error of 1.5 percent for the aggregate sample." (At least Democrats realize that things have to be paid for!)
Here's a link to the full article.
Something that's even sadder is that the rank and file of U.S. voters would have to pay little more to both balance the budget and still pay for all those expensive programs. Just get big corporations and wealthy people to pay the same rates of federal income taxes that they were paying in say, 1959 (See Barlett and Steele's America: What Went Wrong?) and before long a surplus would probably materialize, with no cuts in programs.
Hell, if they merely paid what they were paying a decade ago, when President Clinton left office with a record surplus, that would go a long way.
But Americans have been so knee-jerk conditioned against any discussion of new taxes over the past 30 years that, even if you're just talking about raising rates for the wealthy and fatcat corporations, some bozo who makes $10 an hour in a convenience store can be quickly convinced that you're talking about him.
Anyway, even though America can scarcely be described as a republic anymore, let alone a democracy, it looks like American voters are poised to get the government they deserve.
Unfortunately, since I live here and pay taxes here, I'm in this, too. So, I'm hoping for devastating scandal to turn things around for several years. It seems to take something catastrophic to wake people up.
And, I'm counting on some new Tea Party members of Congress to make gaping asses of themselves next year, providing Democrats with plenty of fodder for 2012.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.