“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Obama Losing Control and So Are the Rulers and Masters

American revolution: the Tea Party movement could transform politics

Midterm elections 2010: Prepare for a new American revolution

More than three centuries ago, the residents of America staged a rebellion against an oppressive ruler who taxed them unjustly, ignored their discontents and treated their longing for freedom with contempt. They are about to revisit that tradition this week, when their anger and exasperation sweep through Congress like avenging angels. This time the hated oppressor isn't a foreign colonial government, but their own professional political class.

In New York last week I was struck by the startling shift of mood since my last visit, during Barack Obama's first year in office. This phenomenon took varying forms, of course, depending on the political orientation of my interlocutor, but the underlying theme of despair and disgust was almost universal. Liberal Democrats (who hugely outnumber most other factions in that city) were despondent and disappointed with the collapse of Obama's popularity. A few of them (remarkably few, actually) were ready to blame this on a "Right-wing conspiracy" of vaguely racist motivation. But most of them were frankly critical of the strategic mistakes they believed the White House had made, and the baffling inability of their President to connect with the people in an engaging way. His shocking lack of emotional expression during last month's commemoration of 9/11 – a point of particular significance to New Yorkers – was remarked upon by a number of people I met.

There was a general sense that his personality was over-controlled and repressed, and that this was perhaps a function of his self-invention: the effect of having made a conscious choice to adopt an identity and a history (the Chicago black activist) which was unconnected to his real past. It occurred to me that, in an odd way, he was a Gatsby-like figure who had reinvented himself but whose new persona could be sustained only with a tremendous act of will. This psychological analysis seemed not unconnected to the political one, which revolved around his peculiar inability to sense what most Americans would regard as alienating and contrary to their own values and culture.

My Republican friends, perhaps surprisingly, were not gloating. They were too furious. But contrary to the superficial British assumption (heavily promoted by the BBC), they were not devoting their excoriation exclusively to the Obama Administration – or even to its clique of Congressional henchmen, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. That they were opposed to the Big State, European social democratic model of government which Obama had imported to Washington went almost without saying. But they were at least as angry with the leadership of their own party for having conceded far too much of the argument.

And this anger – again, contrary to the general understanding in Britain – is not new: it goes all the way back to the Bush presidency. It was widely known in Europe that the American Left hated George Bush (and even more, Dick Cheney) because of his military adventurism. What was less understood was that the Right disliked him almost as much for selling the pass over government spending, bailing out the banks, and failing to keep faith with the fundamental Republican principle of containing the power of central government.

So the Republicans are, if anything, as much in revolt against the establishment within their own party as they are against the Democrats. And this is what the Tea Parties (which should always be referred to in the plural, because they are not a monolithic movement) are all about: they are not just a reaction against a Left-liberal president but a repudiation of the official Opposition as well.

Nor are they simply the embodiment of reactionary social conservatism, which has been the last redoubt of the traditional Republican Right. There were plenty of people in New York who wanted to believe that Tea Partiers were just a new incarnation of the gun-totin', gay-bashing right-to-lifers whom they found it so easy to dismiss as risible throwbacks. This is a huge political miscalculation, which quite misses the point of what makes the Congressional midterm elections this week such an interesting and historic political event. This is so much more than the predictable to-ing and fro-ing of party control midway through a presidential term. What the grassroots rebellion is really about is an attempt to pull the Republican party back to its basic philosophy of low-tax, low-spend, small government: the great Jeffersonian principle that the best government is that which governs least.

One of the more electorally far-reaching effects of this is that Republicanism could become the home once again of a plausible political and economic programme, rather than simply an outpost for those who seem to reject many of the features of modern life. The gun-toters and gay-bashers and pro-lifers may have jumped aboard the bandwagon, and Sarah Palin may be frantically attaching herself to the parade, but this is not their show: the Tea Party protests began (as their name suggests) as a campaign against high taxation and the illegitimate intrusiveness of federal powers. That is what they are still about.

As some astute commentators have observed, the ascendancy of the Tea Parties has meant that fiscal conservatism can replace social conservatism as the raison d'être of the Republican cause. So rather than being a threat to Republicanism, the election of Tea Party candidates might be its salvation. It represents a rank-and-file rejection of what many Americans see as a conspiracy of the governing elite against ordinary working people. All of which makes clearer the appeal of even the naivety and inexperience of some of the Tea Party contenders who have challenged incumbent Republican candidates. If what you are rebelling against is a generation of smug, out-of-touch professional politicians, then a little dose of amateurishness or innocence might strike you as positively refreshing. (In a poll last week, more than 50 per cent of voters said that they would be more willing this year than usual to vote for someone with little political experience.)

The Democrats, too, are experiencing internal turmoil, with the Blue Dog congressmen (who represent conservative Democratic states) having to fight all their natural instincts to support Obama's healthcare and cap-and-trade policies. If they are annihilated in these midterm elections, their resentment against the White House will be terrible to behold. This could be a seminal moment in American post-war history, when popular rage against the political elite brings about realignments within parties which change the whole nature of the country's democratic choices.


  1. And to think it all started with my wife and I in lawn chairs and our Rat inspired Pirate of the Potomac signs, in the Coeur d Alene City Park, first Tea Party here.

    We have no one to blame but ourselves. and nothing to lose but our chains!!!!

  2. That was nearly two years ago now.

  3. And I still got the home mortgage.

  4. Make History, Not Horoscopes
    Create Destiny, Don't Accept Fate

    Old Tea Party Slogan

  5. Been raining all night here, hard.

    Going to get the Sunday paper, read all the political letters, it will tell me who's going to win, I bet, between Minnick and Labrador.
    Big letter writing town here. Democratic stronghold.

  6. NPR's Nina Totenberg said Friday that she's very afraid of the upcoming elections.

    Newsweek's Evan Thomas, her co-panelist on "Inside Washington," said historians might look upon November 2, 2010 "as kind of a joke...obviously the political system’s a mess" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

    GORDON PETERSON: Nina, columnist Paul Krugman says if the election goes as expected, his advice is be afraid, be very afraid. Should we take his advice?

    NINA TOTENBERG, NPR: I am already afraid, very afraid. I mean, it’s not like governance has been going great. I think we’ll, I don't know whether I should be afraid, but there will be gridlock.

    Read more:

  7. Mo and Mo, Obama been losing his big Mo and now he is losing Mo Dowd

    Barack Obama became president by brilliantly telling his own story. To stay president, he will need to show he can understand our story.

    At first it was exciting that Obama was the sort of brainy, cultivated Democrat who would be at home in a “West Wing” episode.

    But now he acts like he really thinks he’s on “West Wing,” gliding through an imaginary, amber-lit set where his righteous self-regard is bound to be rewarded by the end of the hour.

    Hey, dude, you’re a politician. Act like one.

    As the head of the Democratic Party, the president should have supported the Democratic candidate for governor in Rhode Island, the one the Democratic Governors Association had already lavished more than $1 million in TV ads on. If Obama was going to refuse to endorse Frank Caprio out of respect for Lincoln Chafee, the former Republican who endorsed him for president and is now running as an independent, the president should have at least stayed out of Providence.

  8. {...}

    Reductio ad absurdum: After two years of taking his base for granted, the former Pied Piper of America’s youth had to spar with Jon Stewart to try to get the attention of young people who once idolized him.

    Obama still has the killer smile, but he’s more often sniffy than funny. When Stewart called White House legislation “timid,” Obama got defensive and offered a less-than-thrilling new mantra: “Yes, we can but ...”

    “We have done things that people don’t even know about,” said Obama, who left his Great Communicator mantle back in Grant Park on election night.

    In 2008, the message was him. The promise was him. And that’s why 2010 is a referendum on him.

    With his coalition and governing majority shattering around him, President Obama will have to summon political skills — starting Wednesday — that he has not yet shown he has.

    His arrogance led him to assume: If I build it, they will understand. He can’t get the gratitude he feels he deserves for his achievements if no one knows what he achieved and why those achievements are so vital.

    Once it seemed impressive that he was so comfortable in his own skin. Now that comfort comes across as an unwillingness to be wrong.

  9. {...}

    We want the best people to govern us, but many voters are so turned off by Obama’s superior air that they’re rushing into the arms of disturbingly inferior pols.

    Obama admitted to The Times’s Peter Baker: “There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top — that we were going to do the right thing, even if short term it was unpopular.”

    But who defines what’s “right”?

    With the exception of Obama, most Americans seemed to agree that the “right” thing to do until the economy recovered was to focus on jobs instead of getting the Congress mired for months in making over health insurance and energy policy. And the “right” thing to do was to come down harder on the big banks for spending on bonuses instead of lending to small businesses that don’t get bailouts.

    Many of us thought the “right” thing to do was to ratify the civil rights of gay Americans in marriage and the military. (A new Pentagon study shows that most U.S. troops and their families don’t care if gays are allowed to serve openly.)

    In an interview with progressive bloggers, the president was asked why he was lagging behind Republicans like Ted Olson on gay marriage.

    Noting that he has a lot of friends and staffers in committed gay relationships, Obama conceded only that his attitude was evolving. “I think it’s pretty clear where the trend lines are going,” the president said.

    Trend lines? Really inspiring, dude.

  10. Now Maureen tells us what she really thinks:


    One top aide told me that the president — who perversely tried to marginalize a once-captivated press corps — was beginning to realize that he had not used his charm as effectively as he could have.

    His inner circle believed too much in the power of the Aura and in protecting the Brand. They didn’t think they needed to sell anything or fight back when the crazies started sliming them. They didn’t care that the average citizen needed an M.B.A. to understand the financial plan and a Ph.D. to fathom what the health care plan would mean.

    Because Obama stayed above it all on health care and delegated to Max Baucus, he missed the moment in August of 2009 when Sarah Palin and the Tea Party got oxygen with their loopy rants on death panels. It never occurred to the Icon that such wildness and gullibility would trump lofty rationality.

    As the president tries to ride the Tea Party tiger, let’s hope for this change: that he puts some audacity in his audacity.

    Maureen, baby, it is not Obama's lack of message. We get that. Time for you to get it, that it is his message, that is the problem.

  11. Mr Quayle will not be Arizona's "Agent of Change in DC" after he is elected.

    The loss of the "Blue Dogs" from the swing States will have a negative impact in DC. If the reader thinks that passage of legislation should be considered a positive thing.

    John Boehner will not lead the House any more effectively than has Ms Pelosi. There may be a series of "investigations" of the Administration, but no "Change" will ensue.

    There will be no move towards a Growth Energy policy, no move to restructure the US military and no move to dismantle a single Federal agency.

    There will not be a restructuring of the Forest Service nor BLM and the land management policies in the West, where the Federals control well over 60% of the land, will not change.

    The US military will not reinforce the frontiers of the continental United States and there will be no major improvement in the E-Verify program.

    All this anger, in New York, will not result in Carl Paladino being elected Governor, there.

    The country will still be split, on a about even basis. Blue and Red.
    Liberal and Conservative.

    The backlash against the Bush era incompetency is about over.

  12. By 2012 the Tea Party candidates of 2010 will be Republican incumbents, with a record of inaction to defend.

    The infighting within the Republicans ranks will become legend. Much as the Whig/Republican split of 1860 was and has since been forgotten.

    There may even be a rise of a reasonable third Party candidate, like Mr Lincoln.

    Though many, at the time, did not consider him to to be reasonable, at all, but a radical progressive.

    What with his anti-slavery rhetoric and his proposals to distribute Federal land as welfare, instead of selling them to finance the Government.

    Will the United States get another President that only garners 39% of the popular vote, in 2012?

  13. The Republicans have a long history of fratricide.

    From their very inception and Mr Lincoln's campaign against the Whigs to Teddy Roosevelt's run as a Bull Moose (Progressive Party) which allowed Woodrow Wilson to serve as President after garnering just 42% of the popular vote.

    While the two Republicans, together, received 51% of the popular support.

    The Socialist, Eugene Victor Debs of Indiana, picked up the remaining 6%, back in 1912.

  14. If it is back to the future we are moving, we should at least be cognizant of where that path leads.

  15. Recall, also, that in 1860 The Democratic Party split, on a North/South basis.

    There were four candidates running, then.

    I'd say that in 2012 the Democrats will hold their base together, I'm not so sure of the same about the Republicans.

  16. It would seem that not everyone considers Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government to be radically Islamic.

    Istanbul, Turkey (CNN) -- At least 32 people were wounded, five seriously, in an apparent suicide bombing in the center of Istanbul on Sunday, police said.

    Those injured in the attack in Taksim Square included 15 police officers and 17 civilians, said Istanbul Governor Huseyin Azni Mutlu. The five people in serious condition were all police officers, he said.

    The male bomber died at the scene, Mutlu todl reporters.

  17. The PKK denies that they are responsible for the attack.

  18. .



    November is approaching. In six weeks it will be time for the annual Bosco awards for best posts of 2010.

    I post this only as a reminder to get in all that 'good stuff" that you have been saving. This is especially true for those who only post here sporatically, LT, Gag, et al. the infrequency of whose posts put them at a slight disadvantage.

    Another reminder. Everyone posting here is highly intelligent. One could safely say we are all way "above average". Therefore, intelligent, logical, and articulate will not be the only basis on which the posts are judged.

    We will be looking for unique insights and, given the make-up of the committee judging the posts, extra credit will most likely be awarded for wit, humor, and quirkiness.

    November will be a big push month. Because of year-end commitments at Souls-R-Us, the Sagittarius scope (unless Melody elects to work as quest psychic), and an epic (in grandeur and style) poem promised to Bob for review, we hope to start the final post review for the Bosco's by the end of November in order to support the presentation program on December 15.

    This post will be repeated a couple of times over the next month.

    December 15 --- The Bosco Awards

    (Note: This post is merely a reminder and is not meant to exert undue pressure)


  19. "John Boehner will not lead the House any more effectively than has Ms Pelosi."


    Your bullshit gets further and further removed from reality, 'Rat:

    Mr. Moral Equivalence is proving what, exactly?

    Black equals white.
    (I'm so heavy)

  20. .
    Your bullshit gets further and further removed from reality, 'Rat:

    Got to go with the rat on this one. Boehner is worse than a product of the system, he is the system.

    I would say he is Pelosi's evil twin but they are both evil.

    The tan can't hide what he is.


  21. Here we have a disgusting faggot who testified for a child molester in court, and employed another molester running for office as an incumbent.
    Declared bankruptcy twice due to two HIV positive related diseases.


    Running against a retired captain who headed the Maui Police Department.
    (also owned Maui's first ISP and hired our kid for his second job when he was 16)

    I suppose in RatWorld these two candidates are equivalent, morally.

  22. Gay Victory for Child Molesters:

    Legislative races: Mainland “Gay Victory” money flowing to molester’s buddy Joe Bertram and HB444 sponsor Blake Oshiro

    Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund is also directing contributions to Rep Joe Bertram. Bertram showed up in a Maui court on April 1, 2009 to ask for leniency for convicted child predator Mark Marcantonio leading to national headlines and a denunciation from Marc Klass, father of Polly Klass. Bertram also employed convicted child molester Leon Rouse as a legislative aide for the 2007 legislative session. In 2008 Bertram was the only legislator to vote against increased penalties for predators who solicit sex with children on the Internet.

    According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund website, “Hawaii’s LGBT community needs more voices like Joe’s in the state legislature.”

    Charles Wolfe, President and CEO of Gay and Lesbian Victory, also got his start in gay politics by targeting children. He played a central role in the so-far unsuccessful effort to force gay scout masters on the Boy Scouts.

    The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund seek to impose its chosen candidates upon communities nationwide. Oshiro is one of only four “featured candidates” for Gay Victory in the Western US. They are backing over 100 local candidates nationwide.

    Ironically, Bertram’s primary opponents include Netra Halperin, who touts her legislative experience working as a “Legislative Aide, State Rep Rida Cabanilla, 2009 session” which means that Halperin worked under Cabanilla’s office manager, who just happens to be the very same Leon Rouse earlier employed by Bertram. Kihei may be the only place in America, if not the world, where voters will be given a choice between two competing molester-connected candidates. (BTW Kihei’s State Senator Roz Baker hired molester Rouse for the 2006 legislative session as a committee aide.)

    Kihei’s only molester-free HD 11 candidates are Democrat Johanna Amorin and a strong Republican contender, George Fontaine.

  23. Does anybody know what happened to Squishy?

    He only posted once as I recall.

  24. I have to admit, there is nothing exciting about the thought of John Boehner coming to the rescue.

    Pearl Harbor is more the American way. 911, as bad as it was, was not bad enough.

    Without a Pearl Harbor sized event, we will just keep muddling through.

    The momentum of the current federal system is staggering and the reality on the ground is that the country is still evenly divided within a narrow range.

    *Half the country pays no income tax.
    *41 million receive food stamps.
    *Governmental unions, big labor and teacher unions have a large footprint.
    * There is a large hangover of illegal immigrants.
    *The education system from K to 16+ is controlled by the left.
    * The judicial system is tilting in the wrong direction.

    Given that and much more, where is there enough political support to make substantial change?

  25. RCP--0/26/10 -- The latest polling suggests that this wave could engulf Minnick. It may just be too much to ask for him to hold on in this heavily Republican district, even as he has voted against almost all of the Democrats' agenda.

    After looking at the letters in the paper today I'm calling Id 1 for Labrador.

    And they are wrong up above, he voted for most of the agenda except Obamacare. Voted for Pelosi for Speaker.

    That's all from here, one nice thing about it is there isn't much to it.

  26. We'll get gridlock.

    That's the best we can hope for, and that's the best we will get. Overall, this will be a destructive congress. They will Not fix any of the Large problems, and will, out of misguided ideology, do the "wrong" thing many times.

    We will have the worst of the socialists going up against the worst of the reactionaries. It'll be a mess, and the results will be horrific. At least we're used to it.