Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Full Political Gamut From A to B

A right-wing acquaintance of mine on Facebook posted a link to this blog post at the Telegraph's website. Fortunately I'm well inured by now to the absurdities of the right-wing media, or I might well have spluttered cola all over my keyboard when I read the title -- "Even America's liberal elites concede that Obama's presidency is crumbling" -- and I don't need cola in my keyboard again.

The post was inspired by an article in the Washington Post, which could only look like a liberal newspaper to someone like my acquaintance: someone to the right of Ronald Reagan, who I once heard lamenting that he'd liked Reagan until he was bought out by the corporations. (Since GE acquired Reagan in the early 1950s, I have often wondered what time frame my acquaintance thought he was talking about.) True, the Post is an elite paper, one of our national Newspapers of Record along with the New York Times, and as the writer allows, it is
usually viewed by conservatives as a flagship of the liberal establishment inside the Beltway. The fact The Post is reporting that not only could Republicans sweep the House of Representatives this November, but may even take the Senate as well, is a reflection of just how far the mainstream, overwhelmingly left-of-centre US media has moved in the last month towards acknowledging the scale of the crisis facing the White House.
The whole idea of the "liberal establishment inside the Beltway" is risible, to say nothing of "the mainstream, overwhelmingly left-of-centre US media". Like the Times, the Post always loved and enabled Bush and his wars, and always cautions Democratic Presidents to 'move to the center', i.e. to the right, the farther right the better. It would be comical to watch the Republican establishment pretending that they aren't "inside the Beltway" if the Democratic establishment didn't do it too.

Nor do I see how fretting about likely Republican gains in November constitutes some sort of apostasy for liberals. Is the idea that loyal liberals / Democrats are supposed to chant "We're Number One!" while ignoring little problems like Obama's dropping poll numbers and the growing disenchantment of much of his non-corporate base? If some unmistakably right-wing media outlet -- the National Review, Fox News -- had worried about possible Republican losses in November 2008, would that be a sign that right-of-center US media elites were conceding that Bush's presidency was crumbling, and what would that signify? Would it perhaps indicate that Bush should move "toward the center," i.e. to the left, the farther the better? Not a chance.

I presume the idea is that Obama's and the Democrats' troubles are somehow a vindication of the Bush regime and the right-wing bipartisanship that collapsed the US economy, which led to the disastrous electoral defeat of 2008 and Obama's shining honeymoon with people who believed that he was really going to break with the failures of the past. This only shows that the US Right, like my acquaintance, are as far out of touch with reality as ever -- much like the Democrats, but then, they're part of the American Right. I've noticed that American liberals are dropping the "reality-based" self-identification they adopted during the Bush years, and that's a good thing, because they aren't and never were much more in touch with reality than American conservatives. (Who also like to think of themselves as tough-minded realists.)

Obama's popularity has tended to drop when he acted like a Republican (that is, most of the time). The obsessions of the elite media (cutting the deficit, for example) do not, by and large, concern most Americans much, but that's hardly a surprise, since the elite media reflect elite concerns. I've quoted Noam Chomsky on this before: when the elite media speak of "special interests," they mean the vast majority of Americans, and when they speak of "the national interest" they mean corporate and political elites. What surprises me is how altruistically a non-elite small business owner like my right-wing acquaintance identifies with the interests of the elites. It's very big of him; I'm just not large-minded enough to worry about the welfare of Wall Street, corporate CEOs, and the national Party organizations.

Another thing Chomsky has said is that the function of the "liberal" media is to draw a line beyond which debate may not go. The Washington Post and the New York Times do represent the leftward extreme of respectable, responsible, "sober" (as my acquaintance would call it) political debate in these United States. Beyond that demarcation line there be dragons and cameleopards. So, everybody, brace yourself for a typically claustrophobic campaign season.