Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

09 August 2016

Four More Years


[For six reasons to vote Dem both up and down ballot, click here.]

When you think about it, it seems strange. Barack Obama never had his “honeymoon.” He never got any willing cooperation from Congress, not even in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

A few microseconds after Obama’s inauguration, Rush Limbaugh declared his failure the GOP’s chief and maybe only goal. A day or two later the catatonic cretin from Kentucky took up the cudgel. Think about that: the man who would later become our Senate Majority Leader took his marching orders from the sleaziest scumbag in American public life. In a later State of the Union address, a lowly congressman screamed out “You Lie!”—something no southerner would ever have screamed at an 100% white president.

But “No-Drama Obama” soldiered on. If all this hurt him inside, he never let it show. He just kept doing what he had to do to make our country better for more of us. Twenty million who never had it got affordable health insurance. Bin Laden got justice. The two gratuitous wars that Dubya started got wound down. The war with Iran that con-men neocons craved never got started.

The economy healed from its worst wound since the Great Depression. It didn’t heal as fast as it should have, because Congress was stingy with the stimulus. The nation moved farther toward energy independence than it ever had gone before. Detroit promised to double cars’ mileage. When things like Ferguson reared their ugly heads, one highly professional AG after another proved the racist undertones with detailed, indisputable fact-finding. Then the machinery of federal and local government began the slow, hard process of grinding them down.

In foreign affairs, Obama did what had to be done. He consistently challenged China’s unfounded claims to exclusive control of the South China Sea—in international tribunals, in diplomatic discussions, on the high seas, and in the air. The Ukrainian tyrant Yanukovych fell from power on his watch, and Obama limited the unintended consequences to a bloodless loss of Crimea and a short civil war in the Donbass. He thus faced down the smartest and most powerful tyrant our nation has ever faced, without serious loss, and without war. (Hitler and Tojo never had nuclear weapons, and neither Stalin nor Mao ever had enough to wipe out all life on Earth. None could dream of matching Putin’s cleverness.)

Despite mindless opposition bordering on treason, President Obama got so many things done that, over a year ago, it took me a whole essay to list them. There are more now, as he has kept at work.

The really funny thing is that, despite all the accusations hurled at him, Obama never was an ideologue. He never was a “socialist,” or “income redistributor.” He doesn’t start from an ideological red book and reason down. He’s just a practical guy who does what has to be done to improve people’s lives, step by step. He’s not an empire builder, but he tries to keep the international environment as stable and as good for all people as it can be.

Now his final term has less than five months to run. A whole lot of people are just beginning to understand how much we’ll miss him. How could anyone meet such implacable opposition and relentless demagoguery day after day, yet do his job and win? How could he maneuver the opposition into political corners, and show the world precisely who and what they are, time after time?

If there’s such a thing as political jujitsu, Obama is way beyond the black belt. Unfortunately, Hillary is not. She’s not very good at political jujitsu, as she herself has recognized.

But maybe that’s not what we need now. Maybe Obama’s political jujitsu has done the trick. Maybe he’s shown most of the nation that hate, division, obsessing about what people do in their bedrooms and their doctors’ offices, and drowning government in a bathtub are not milestones on the road to Nirvana. Maybe he’s proved that abstract and simplistic ideologies like those pushed by Fox are not as effective as solving real problems practically, one by one, with detailed expertise and empathy.

If so, maybe the country is ready again for a practical president who just wants to get things done. In that case we should all take a second look at Hillary.

What’s her ideology? Does she have one? After following her career on and off for over two decades, I can’t answer either of those questions. Nor, I suspect, can most voters. She’s just not big on ideology; she’s big on people.

One thing is clear. The nation and the voters are sick and tired of ideology and the abstract and useless disputes it fosters. They want action. They want results, not endless argument.

Maybe that Hillary’s greatest and so far unseen strength. She doesn’t reason from the abstract to the real, making up (or spinning) her own facts to fit her abstract principles. She works from the concrete to the general, from individuals’ suffering to a better world. She works from the bottom up, not from the top down.

Are we Yanks ready for that again? That sort of politics was our birthright, of course. Our Founders didn’t give us a blueprint for the size of government or a level of wealth that is “too high.” They gave us checks and balances and basic rights, and majority rule.

Majority rule in our Congress may be gone for good. But it might return some day if members stop trying to prove “my abstraction is better than your abstraction” and start trying to solve real problems practically again. Maybe a few will even begin to worry less about overarching theory and more about their constituents.

It’s a long way from where we are now as a nation to that sunny day. But examples are always more persuasive than argument. Hillary is an example of a doer and problem-solver who may inspire others, and not just other women.

I make no apology for supporting Bernie in the primary. His diagnosis of what’s wrong with the country was more accurate and probing than Hillary’s. We are still a great country, but Bernie showed us how close we’ve come to losing our greatness, and why. For that alone, he deserves the thanks of a grateful nation.

But Bernie does have one serious flaw. He’s a happy warrior in the ideological left-right wars that have riven our nation and paralyzed it. His call for a “revolution” scared many people, especially those whom Fox hypnotized to ignore the limiting adjective “political.”

Like Obama, Hillary has the potential to make progress without the drama. She rarely speaks in ideological terms. Yet she’s allowed much of Bernie’s specific proposals to be incorporated into the Dems’ platform, which her delegates largely controlled. It’s nearly all there: an increase in the minimum wage, free college (with a family income limit), breaking up the big banks, restoring Glass-Steagall, building infrastructure, and getting serious about energy conversion and global warming.

But Hillary avoids useless wars over abstractions. (Getting bogged down in “scandals” that other people create for her is not her fault.) She goes right to solutions to real problems, for which she has decades of experience and the scars to match.

Ever since Reagan, we Yanks have come to resemble the Englishmen caricatured by Jonathan Swift, arguing about which end of a boiled egg to break. Maybe we need someone like Hillary. Maybe, after all is said and done, she will bring us the third term of No-Drama Obama—a consummation devoutly to be wished. Maybe, by virtue of Obama’s Herculean effort, the time is finally ripe for a return to our nation’s birthright: solving real problems practically, a step at a time, with intelligence, empathy and good will.

It’s in that hope—and not just for despising Trump—that I declare, “I’m now with her.”

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