Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Hollow Men (Politics as Spectacle II)

In my last post I lambasted the cant and banality of the Republican National Convention and Guerrilla Press is nothing if not an equal opportunity offender. So now let’s take on the Democrats.  As I noted last time, “I fully expect… [the] Democratic National Convention in North Carolina to be just as abysmally insipid.” And indeed it was.

The convention, which amounted to little more than a glorified campaign stop for the president, was filled with soaring, altruistic rhetoric, most of which was divorced from reality. As always, President Barack Obama proved himself a highly skilled and engaging speaker. If only President Obama more closely resembled Candidate Obama. As Naomi Klein wrote in The Guardian back in 2010,

The problem is not that Obama is using the same tricks and tools as the superbrands… The problem is that, as with so many other lifestyle brands before him, his actions do not come close to living up to the hopes he has raised.
Numerous speakers throughout last night’s session noted the “fundamental differences” between Obama and Romney’s “visions for America.” Yet, no such differences exist.
Sure, the Democrats certainly hold more progressive views on important matters like abortion, women’s rights, gay marriage and immigration. But these so-called “wedge” issues are traditionally held up during elections to distract voters from the broad, overarching issues of war and peace, civil liberties, corporate power, health care and the environment. On all of these fundamental concerns, Obama and Romney are virtually on the same page. And while voters can quibble all they want over which president would be “worse,” to claim there are any substantive differences in the policies either would pursue is, frankly, naïve.
And so it was with great irony the Dems opened their convention with Bill Clinton who excoriated the Romney-Ryan plan for economic recovery. Indeed, no recent president shares more blame for the Great Recession than Clinton.
It was under Clinton the U.S. engaged in mass efforts of deregulation and saw blue-collar manufacturing jobs shipped overseas through programs such as NAFTA (the North American Free-Trade Agreement) and the WTO (World Trade Organization). President Clinton dropped hundreds of poor Americans including single mothers from government assistance programs in the name of “welfare reform.”
And, perhaps most significantly, it was Clinton who oversaw the merging of the banking and commercial lending sectors.  When he repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had, for decades, prevented Wall Street from gambling with Americans’ savings accounts, Clinton destroyed the last vestiges of consumer protection and all but paved the way for the fraudulent banking practices and the sub-prime mortgage debacle that led to the 2008 economic meltdown.
Yet, despite Clinton’s destructive policies he remains a celebrated rock star among liberals who are either unaware of this history or simply rationalize he had “no choice” but to pursue such ends. As Howard Zinn writes in his classic, A People’s History of the United States, “Despite his lofty rhetoric, Clinton showed, in his eight years in office, that he, like other politicians, was more interested in electoral victory than in social change.” Sound familiar…?
Even more nauseating than Bill Clinton’s “feel-your-pain” phoniness, was the Democrats’ thorough and at times almost jubilant embrace of militarism. It was as though they could not praise the military enough, with speaker after speaker invoking the “courage,” of “our brave men and women.” Vice President Joe Biden bragged at length of the president’s killing of Osama bin Laden. “Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive!” he shouted at the end of his speech to ebullient cheers, standing ovations and idiotic chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”  And here I thought the Republicans were supposed to be the party of savage warmongering.
In fact, the Democrats’ boasting of bin Laden’s death is the subject of author and Constitutional scholar, Glenn Greenwald’s latest column. (He’s writing for The Guardian now.) “…The collective bloodlust on display…Thursday night was nothing short of creepy,” he writes (09/07/2012).

Even in those instances in which state killing is justified and necessary, it ought to be a somber and regrettable affair… Boastful, raucous, nationalistic crowd-chanting at every single mention of someone’s corpse, even if that someone is Osama bin Laden, is warped.
As for President Obama’s address Thursday night, he continued to peddle what Noam Chomsky would call, "useful fictions." He once again claimed he has ended the Iraq war. He has not. He vowed to fight to protect Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security, despite his previous claims all such programs are “on the table” in terms of budgetary cuts. He renewed his promise to invest in clean, alternative energy resources (including “clean coal”) and lead the fight against global-warming, even though his administration has taken no real action on these fronts. And there was no mention of the poor, though the president and other speakers made numerous references to the “middle-class.” One cannot help but wonder whether such a group even still exists anymore.
More than anything, the spectacle in Charlotte displayed how utterly hollow and morally bankrupt the Democratic Party and its supporters have become. Liberals who took to the streets to protest George W. Bush’s criminal war in Iraq, now cheer giddily for Obama’s brutal murder of bin Laden, and extensive use of drone strikes throughout the Middle East.
Perhaps Nietzsche was right after all: “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

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