The U.S. Polity: A Wonky Fit*
By Sol W. Sanders
Monday, January 5th, 2015 @ 6:37PM
The polls tell us that those Americans interested in politics are split almost evenly into two groups: those who approve of President Barak Hussein Obama’s leadership and those critical of it.
Further analysis shows something quite basically different between the two groups — and disturbing for those of us who want a country rich in diversity but engaged in a constant healthy exchange of ideas.
The President’s supporters are what my mom in her retirement among the elderly in Florida, with some envy, used to call “the alrightnicks”. They are members of an elite who either financially or politically — or both — have disproportionately profited from the system. They see themselves, and their nominal leader, Obama, as tapped by some unseen but knowing source to lead — especially to guide a rabble (excluding themselves, of course) which does not know its own interests and therefore what is best for them.
In fact, their numbers have recently been reinforced as the economy has marginally improved and the noise around Administration scandals and policy failures has dissipated with time in a fast moving society. (IRS persecution of political opponents, veterans dying because of ill-treatment at the VA, the sacrifice of lives at Benghazi, massive infractions of border security, mishandling of government lands, near collapse of the president’s personal security – Poof! Gone With the Wind!)
The other half of the politically oriented are fervent, if sometimes highly prejudiced, critics of Obama’s policies — or, indeed, the lack thereof in many avenues of leadership where he is counted among the missing. Domestically, they perceive inhibiting bureaucratic intervention or neglect of the always marginally effective governmental actions which could speed the economic recovery out of the disaster of 2007-08. Abroad, they see perennial crises deepen with a strategy of withdrawal of American power in areas where it has long been the arbiter, indeed, the presumed leader by the other foreign participants.
Any attempt by the critics to entertain a meaningful debate is largely ignored by the Obama followers whose allegiance to their leader lies elsewhere than in loyalty to issues. In reality, the Obama coalition is a motley crew whose interest in their leader is largely pro forma — that is, loyalty as a member of an ethnic or an interest group rather than based on broader issues or an attachment to ideology.
Some might take issue with this argument, of course, claiming that Obama, himself, is an ideologue of the left and has the support of what constitutes the American left in politics. That has some validity, of course. But as a scion of the amateur radicalism of the 1960s, I would argue Obama and his followers’ allegiance to leftwing politics is more sloganeering with as little understanding as their 60s mentors had of the long traditions of socialism and its offspring in Western thought.
Rather, the Obama coalition is a collection of Alrightnicks. There is the rapidly growing political class of government employees headed by his appointed superbureaucrats, many circulating through the revolving door of Washington government appointments and lobbying. It doesn’t take long for a visitor Inside the Beltway, the anointed circle of Washington, D.C., and some of the country’s wealthiest counties in Maryland and Virginia that surround it, to know that they are passing through a world all its own — often inured from the rest of the country’s trials and tribulations.
There is, of course, Obama’s following among Afro-Americans — who however disenchanted with the little accomplished by the Administration in pushing the economy, and therefore the fortunes of their impoverished and crime-ridden ghettoes, feels it has no choice but loyalty to the first Afro-American chief executive. The media, of course, are kept — best explained by Pat Moynihan’s dissection more than a generation ago of the capital press corps. He saw how — even before the print media began to collapse under the dynamics of the digital revolution — working class newspapermen had turned into media elite as they moved off to the suburbs to join the ruling class. There is Hollywood glitz, of course. Recently revealed cynical backstage exchanges have shown just how meaningless on both sides of the footlights Tinsetown’s is the glamour that rubs off on the Administration. More difficult to explain, of course, are the small but highly influential Jewish followers of Obama — although they have in so many ways built themselves into the Establishment in the shortest order, perhaps, of any once discriminated American minority. That they ignore Obama’s war on Israel is camouflaged by the increasing lack of liaison between younger Jews and Israel and the continuing barrage of empty statements from Obama’s spokesmen (some of them Jews) of the unbreakable U.S. alliance with Jerusalem.
Bringing up the rear is the traditional support for any president which is part of the American political scene, backed by the increasing influence of what Harry Truman rightly described as the most powerful executive in the world, accumulating strength contrary to the efforts of the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to limit it, as the world and the U.S. becomes an increasingly complex society to govern.
Looking at these two bumping mobs, we may well be at an historic crossroads just now.
For all the myriad reasons, the electorate has seen fit not only to give the Congressional opposition its greatest strength since the 1920s, reinforced with similar movement in most of the state legislatures and governors’ mansions. With what has been an all too incompetent leadership, that powerful control of the legislature branch — and has so often been argued, the courts, too, follow elections — the Republicans now have an opportunity to force a discussion of issues rather than of emotional loyalties. If they avoid the siren song of its few media sympathizers and reject “comprehensive” solutions to vast problems, but instead tend to the nitty-gritty of legislative minutiae, there will be a contest. It means avoiding such catastrophes as the pretension that myriad problems of one sixth of the economy could be solved with the bumbling as well as bogus ideology of Obamacare in a single piece of legislation.
Obama – or his most intimate counselors, whoever they are – has had a great deal of luck. But he does exhibit the art of a demagogue in directing the Greek chorus from his bully pulpit. Whether by happenstance or design, he has managed by moving immediately without the Congress on such issues as immigration and environmental regulation, to obscure the massive electoral victory of his opponents last fall. (The prostituted media helped, of course.) Someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue obviously sees what otherwise would be a gross violation of separation of powers as the way to bull through the lame duck years.
But, for the moment at least, the ball is now in the Congressional Republicans’ court. Let’s see if they know how to ace it!
* A version of this column was posted on Monday, January 5, 2014, on http://yeoldecrabb.com