NUANCE-FREE – JUST ADD WATER

July 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Democrats are doomed in November.

A recent poll found that over half the country thinks President Obama is a socialist.

Over half.

The President and his administration can take a lot of the responsibility for this collective malaria on the part of a large portion of the US electorate.

But before we get to that, let’s first aim our guns at the pollsters. Because remember, these polling companies are businesses, and as such, they need to constantly be coming up with juicy stuff that will attract headlines, just like the one I’m discussing today.

When are the pollsters going to show some integrity? I have news for you- whoever took this poll was in on a dirty little secret that no one in the media ever talks about when speaking of the President and the public’s perception of him as a ‘socialist’; it’s a secret that would threaten to make the whole subject a little less sexy. Would you like to know what the secret is? No? Tough. I’m going to tell you.

Most of the general public don’t even know what the word ‘socialist’ means.

That’s the twist here. I think Barack Obama would be quite content to be  called a socialist, even to use the word himself in his political discourse if he felt the word was being used appropriately.

But of course, it isn’t. ‘Socialism’ is now on the same polemical scrapheap as ‘liberal’, or the words ‘gun’ and ‘control’ when joined together. The right wingers have done a marvellous job; just as they managed to equate liberal with weak, wasteful, naive and even gay, they have long since made socialism absolutely synonymous with communism. I hear that in Texan schools the two words even come right after eachother in the dictionaries provided for the students.

So let’s look at the two, shall we?

A summary of The Oxford Revised Second Edition definition of communism reads this way: ‘a political theory… advocating a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person is paid and works according to his or her needs and abilities.’

Hmm. And socialism? Let’s take a gander at that: ‘a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange should be regulated or owned by the community as a whole… socialism has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state Communism and social democracy.’

Ain’t that the truth, Oxford. That’s exactly what Fox & Friends (many, many friends) have been doing- brainwashing people into believing that a social democracy- exactly what the United States has always been, similar to every other Western industrialized democracy in the entire world- must mean people standing in lines for bread and the great, unwashed proletariat coming to tear down your mansion and behead your entire family as well as all of your servants.

But socialism, as defined by the dear Oxford, sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Something any sane person could get behind, right? The community owning certain enterprises better left untouched by private profiteering and regulating the rest for the greater good? A very good formula for peace and prosperity for a large share of the population.

And guess what? When most Americans are asked questions with a tad more nuance related to these issues, they usually feel the same way. So instead of asking powder-keg, tabloid-style questions designed to produce results that will be talked about by the models and actors posing as news anchors on cable and network news, pollsters could actually be of assistance in illuminating the political landscape of this country and giving all of us a better reflection of exactly who we are and what we stand for. Here are some questions that might produce a slightly different impression of the average American voter:

  • Do you believe every American child should have access to a decent public education?
  • Are you in favour of the very richest in this country paying a lower rate of tax than yourself?
  • Do you think the nation’s air, water and soil should be clean?
  • Do you think corporate lobbyists should have greater access to Congress and the Administration than the general public?
  • Should a citizen have to bankrupt themselves and possibly lose their house if they get sick?
  • Should every American citizen, including you, have a fair chance at having a job with decent conditions, a genuine living wage and the chance to send their children to a good university at an affordable price?
  • Should the general public have access to intelligent, impartial news broadcasting entities that are free of heavy corporate influence?

I am convinced that if people chose to answer honestly, they would probably give answers that would lead us all to the conclusion that wait, most US citizens believe in a social democracy, a blending of private enterprise with public regulation and State providence in the areas of education, environmental and economic protection and health care, to name a few.

But we won’t see that. Because it requires nuance- on the part of the ‘news’ and polling organizations who are less interested in the truth than they are in making a profit for their shareholders. But we can’t put all of the blame on them. It also falls on us, the citizen. Most of us are conditioned from a young age not to probe beneath the surface, to challenge edicts, decrees and perspectives that are supposed to be accepted as fact. Somewhere along the way we all decided that capitalism and socialism had to be mutually exclusive. Many others have known better, from the Founding Fathers through to FDR and, I suspect, Barack Obama.

So where to go from here? The Democrats, most of whom have long since been bought many times over by Wall Street, refuse to call the Republicans by their true name: Rich fatcats serving the needs of fantastically wealthy corporations at the expense of the poor and middle class in this country who, nuance-challenged as they are, just want to kick out whoever’s in office and get someone else, even if it means a return to the policies that broke this country in the first place. And while President Obama remains well spoken and polite, little will change before November.

So here’s what you do, Mr.President. You take a leaf out of Alan Grayson’s book. Remember him, the Congressman from Florida? During the healthcare debate he went onto the floor of the House with a presentation that declared that the Republicans’ answer to the healthcare problem was for poor people to “die faster”. No, it wasn’t pretty nor was it particularly fair but the spirit of it was right: in effect, what Mr. Grayson was saying in flashing neon lights was: “THESE GUYS DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU.”

That’s the tone you and all of your representatives must take, Mr. President. It’s time for the fireside address to come back- except it won’t be by a fire. It’ll be at the homes of people who can’t afford to have their illnesses treated due to the lack of an affordable public coverage option. It’ll be in hospitals where people are dying of emphysema due to pollution in their cities, pollution that is allowed to remain thanks to Republican opposition to clean energy bills and stronger environmental protection legislation. It’ll be at unemployment lines where people spend fruitless hours looking for decent blue collar jobs that have long since disappeared overseas due to the ‘free’ market and a lack of government oversight and regulation that would work to keep industry alive in the US, the kind of regulation that Republicans and corporate-bought, right-leaning Democrats kill before it even has a chance to breathe.
You, Mr. President, with your persuasive intelligence, mellifluous voice and quiet strength,  would rail at these senators and congresspeople every single night, putting their pictures up on the screen, listing their campaign contributors and focusing on the thousands of votes they have cast in their political careers protecting the rights of Big Business at the expense of the rest of us.

Would it work? I have no idea. But at least you and your party would be going down swinging, in addition to finally calling out these people for what they are.

But, in the spirit of Colombo, I have one more question, Mr.President:

If you do ever decide to go on that kind of attack, what are you going to do about your campaign contributors?

Maybe it’s time to have coffee with the folks at Goldman Sachs and the rest of the bad guys who are keeping the campaign coffers full and tell them you want to break up. Move on. It’s not them, it’s you.

Because I think you yearn to be free, Barack. You’re like Jack Nicholson’s character Nathan Jessop in A Few Good Men. You want to tell the truth. And in spite of what the pollsters might be telling you…

we can handle it.

Pictures, from top:   Alan Grayson- the right idea.
                                 Jack Nicholson as Nathan Jessop, A Few Good Men, 
                                 Columbia Tri-Star Pictures, 1992.

 

 

 

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