Friday, October 10, 2008

“This Guy’s Good!”

You’d think, from the rage that has been expressed by McCain/Palin fans at McCain’s recent campaign stops, that the current election campaign was a sporting event. I thought Americans only worked themselves into such a frenzy, screaming “Kill him!” about the opponent, when something really important was at stake, like the outcome of a high-school basketball game. As Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show the other night, McCain promised his fans to “take the gloves off” for the debate, and brought forth jello nailed to a wall. Much like Obama’s fans, McCain’s seem to be hoping that he’ll say what he really (in their dreams) thinks, that deep down he’s one of their own instead of a practiced political hack. (And McCain, as he and his partisans keep reminding us, has had lots of practice.)

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I thought I was pretty familiar with the delusions of the American Right, but I must say, the Angry White Man who spoke up against Obama here surprised me. “Socialists”? If Obama, Reid, Pelosi, the Democratic leaders who have so cravenly supported Bush are socialists, then so must the President be, to say nothing of McCain. And were you paying attention to that first clip of Obama, attacking McCain for supporting the Bush/Paulson bailout that Obama also supported and voted for, and “helped arm-twist recalcitrant Democrats, particularly in the Congressional Black Caucus, to vote for the Paulson bailout, in the national interest, the line urged on House members by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank.” The bailout has turned out to be very unpopular politically, so it’s understandable that Obama would want to disavow his role in it, but he and McCain are both stuck with it and shouldn’t be allowed to wriggle free. Nor should McCain’s hydrophobic fans forget that their man is playing on Obama’s team as far as ‘socialistic’ takeovers of the banks are concerned. (And why isn’t it as discrediting to be an Angry White Man as it is to be an Angry Black Man?)

On the other hand, while Obama’s fans might be skittish about the word “socialist” for PR purposes, the most enthusiastic do seem to see their man as being a man of the left who’ll bring the world peace, equality, and solar power -- which makes them just as delusional as McCain’s fans. And it’s not just Obamamaniacs who feel this way – the friend I’ve mentioned before, who stressed the importance of appearing “moderate,” is ambivalent about Obama and more aware of his actual positions and history than most people seem to be. Yet I had to keep reminding my friend that Obama has not been tacking “to the center” during this campaign, that he was always right of center and has been making that emphatically clear as he’s gone along. Obama himself accepts numerous Bush-Junta fantasies, such as the nuclear threat posed by Iran and the crisis faced by Social Security; he only disagrees on what should be done about them.

Where do people get these notions? The corporate media play a role, I’m sure, but their own wishful thinking must be a good part of it. And of course there are plenty of grassroots and quasi-grassroots sources of political propaganda, long pre-dating the Internet, to feed their fantasies. In this US, though, that kind of material mostly seems to come from the right. The hysterical red-baiting of that Angry White Man is familiar enough to me from my own Midwestern 50s and 60s upbringing; right-wing spokesmen. If the John Birch Society could believe that Dwight Doggone Eisenhower was a Red, of course post-Birch American rightists can believe that Chicago-School Friedman disciple, Harvard Law School product Barack Obama is one too. His foreign name by itself is enough to drive such people insane:

Outside a Strongsville, Ohio rally, a blogger asks a woman who says her name is Mindy Green if she thinks the Democratic presidential candidate is a terrorist. "His name says it all," Green says. "I think he is."

They’re canny enough not to say, “Can’t you see that that man is a ni?” in front of a camera, but that’s probably a factor too.

As Dennis Perrin wrote today, “Since Barack Obama is not against imperial war per se, just the kind that isn't managed effectively, he really can't respond to the right on principled grounds, only tactical ones. It'll be interesting to see how reactionaries assess Obama's war making in the coming years. He'll be killing those whom right wingers insist are the enemy, but to them, it'll be for the wrong, insidious reasons. Hmmm. Sounds familiar.” Yup, Bill Clinton all over again – Clinton (whom the Right hated with the same demented fervor as they hate Obama) squandered his political capital and skills pushing Reagan-Bush (I) policies into law: NAFTA, GATT, “welfare reform,” bombing Iraq, opposition to same-sex marriage, and on and on. The more he played the Reagan Democrat, the more the Right escalated their campaign against him; that they carried out a coup against him, instead of embracing him as a Republican at heart, shows how deeply personal their loathing was. If Obama wins the election, the next four to eight years could make the Clinton administration look like a tea-party.