I always admired two qualities of Barack Obama: his tenacity and his convictions. Be it polls or news cycle or stories or protesters, the man does not blink when it comes to something he absolutely believes in. He will wait everyone out and do not what he thinks is popular, but what he thinks is right, from the point of social justice. A news cycle is just a news cycle. Gibbering talking heads on radio stations are just talking heads whose job is to sell more ads on radio stations, not govern. All these things pass. Wait. Be patient. Lose the battles you must to win the war. Then win the war. He is the Buddha Master of American Politics. All things pass — and if you stand on the courage of your convictions and refuse to blink, you win.
How easily we forget this is the first Black President and how momentous that simple fact is. We forget the primary battle. We forget the election. We forget how the simple fact he exists is remarkable on the face of it, and how doubly remarkable that he will stake his entire Presidency on his convictions. We forget he is already a major historical figure in US History. Yes, he bobbled issues in his first year but he has found his stride. Now, from a political standpoint, he can rally the oft wandering off in the woods members of the Democratic Party and say, we can do this, we can win, we can change things, we just need to stand there and do the work.
Will it work for him? Who knows. We’ll find out.
I don’t believe the process was American Fascism any more than the march to the Iraq War was American Fascism or Bush Tax cuts were American Fascism. We are a representative democracy. We elect representatives and send them to Congress. They vote on the wills of their constituents. Democrats campaigned in 2008 on health care. People elected them on the campaign for health care. Elections have consequences. That’s why you go and vote. We are not a Parliamentary System. We are winner take all.
It was a brilliant maneuver* on the part of the GOP to trot out the ugliness of American Democracy for a populace wholly ignorant of their own history. The populace saw the sausage making and went, “ew.” It is, by necessity, an ugly process of deal-making and compromise. It is horrible. It is ugly. It is the sucking chest wound of American Democracy. But this is what it is and has been since the beginning. We had fist fights over the assumptions of debt over the Revolutionary War. We’ve long since forgotten, say, the horrible ugliness of the fight over the Second Bank of the United States — hell, those people who dissented with Andrew Jackson**, He That Is On Our Money, dissented so violently they ran off and formed the Whig Party. That’s how badly they reacted to his success. Those who forget their 19th century history are doomed to repeat it. Jackson’s stand on nullification! Jackson’s stand on populism! Autocracy! We must defeat “King Andrew!”
And that worked out well for them. Who is Henry Clay again?
That is such an important point I am going to say it again: Those who forget their 19th and early 20th century history are doomed to repeat it. Sometimes American politics is trapped in Battlestar Galactica: all these things have happened before and it will happen again. Slavery! Reconstruction! Unions! Social Security! Civil Rights!
Of course, no one knows what happens next, now that the Senate version of health care reform is magically being poofed from a bill to a law other than we will be subjected to tedious Vote-A-Rama in the Senate on the Reconciliation Bill. Likely, nothing will change initially but I, for one, am happy and relieved I am not going to get the nasty “you have pre-existing conditions so screw off and die” call one day, a call that was otherwise inevitable. I’m not crazy about the bill. I feel it is weak and watered down. People ought to be allowed Medicare buy-in. But it is something.
So props to the Man. For good or ill, he won a big fight.
* Props where props are due. By focusing on process over substance, the GOP nearly won, because US political process is beyond ugly***. It’s the equivalent of the attack ad. David Foster Wallace wrote a marvelous piece of John McCain for Rolling Stone during the 2000 Republican Primary. The full writeup is in his book, “Consider the Lobster,” which shined light on the practice of exposing the horrors of the US political systems to the electorate to turn them off and make them go away.
** As a side note, I am not a huge fan of Andrew Jackson at all, but he won his battles simply by being the meanest guy in the room. And he makes a great example. Personally, I believe Barack Obama is much closer to Theodore Roosevelt in style and temperament.
*** Remember, Alexander Hamilton was shot and killed by Aaron Burr over what was essentially a 12-year long “your mother.” That’s how ugly it is — and has always been. At least no one is shooting at anyone today.