Sunday, January 23, 2011

The rise and fall of political popularity

After the midterms, and with the beginnings of the new Congress, there are of course many musings about the rise of the Republicans and the fall of Obama. Or, as Obama and the Democrats seem to rebound while anointing themselves with the blood of their fallen Congresswoman from Arizona, there are more musings about these latest shifts. It was Alexander Cockburn over at that got me thinking about this with his recent column.

The Republicans have lost their ’mo, at least for a while. But efforts by their leaders to damp down the bellicosity of newly elected Tea Party types is running into the fact that the Tea Partiers have only the high volume setting on their amplifiers, just like Palin. They're like a couple having a fight at a funeral; politely sotto voce, then suddenly bursting out fortissimo with their plaints and accusations.

Meanwhile Obama is looking more chipper than he has in the whole of the last year, a unifier at last, acting presidential as he triangulates just as Bill did in 95 and the years thereafter. Clinton and Gore “reinvented government” and Obama vows to do away with irksome regulations (like storing long form birth certificates securely) that hold America back.

Yet, all of this misses the bigger picture.

Both of today's political parties run much better in the opposition. There's good reason for this. Both parties serve essentially the same class of society. That being the class that can afford to give the maximum amount to campaigns, or far more to parties or political committees or such. Both political parties run their successful campaigns based on the large amounts of money that they can get from this class of people. The winner of almost any election can be guessed on watching which party or candidate does a better job of getting the money from this class.

This means the party that takes power is committed to the interests of the very small group of people who can afford to give $4,000 or $10,000 or a whole lot more to campaigns. And the unspoken part of this is that when a party takes power, they are committed to working against the interests of most of the rest of America.

Thus, the party that is in power will always be unpopular. The party that is in power is deliberately shafting the majority of Americans to serve the interests of the small class that funds their campaigns. Therefore, the party that is in power is unpopular with the majority of Americans.

The party in power will support wars. The wars make huge amount of money for the suppliers of war material. The wars make huge amounts of money for the bankers who loan the money to fight the wars. Meanwhile, millions of Americans spend their life in military service, and we've managed to kill more Americans in their wars than Osama Bin Laden did on 9-11. With tens of thousands more maimed or psychologically damaged when the do come home.

We just saw the Democrats work on 'health care reform'. The one thing that was clear from day one is that the profits of the big health corporations were certain to be at least protected and more likely enlarged. Single payer, the popular choice of a majority of Americans, was ruled off the table from the beginning. A vague 'public option', almost certain to be underfunded by future Congresses, was tentatively proposed. It was also the first thing pulled out of the bill in a very strange debate where the Democrats constantly changed the bill to suit the big health corporations to get Republican votes that they never got anyways.

And of course, no matter which party is in power, whatever Wall Street asks for, Wall Street gets. Wall Street says they need hundreds of billions of our public money to stay solvent, the Congress races to see who can support the bill soonest. Wall Street just committed the greatest fraud in the history of man, stealing trillions of dollars of real estate equity worth from most Americans one solid investment, their home, and no one goes to jail. A sham reform bill passes, but the bill is such a loophole ridden sham that Wall Street cheered its passage.

No matter which party wins an election, these policies stay unchanged. And all of them are detrimental to the interests of most Americans. Most Americans don't want their children coming back from wars maimed or in body bags. Most Americans didn't want to be the mandated customers of the most hated corporations in America. Most Americans didn't pay their taxes wanting that money to be handed over to Wall Street bankers to make sure the bonus checks never even slowed down.

All of this is to the harm of ordinary Americans. And, ordinary Americans are aware of this. They know their lives seem to get harder every year. They don't like it when the only jobs for their kids are in the military. Which isn't a great surprise since that's the part of the budget that always goes up no matter who's in power. Ordinary Americans know their health insurance costs more and more, and they know how their claims are denied when they try to use it.

So, the party in power is always declining in popularity. Meanwhile, the party out of power basically lies to the people and pretends to be on their side. Thus, the party out of power will always rise in popularity.

Both of our political parties only find political traction when they are in the 'opposition'. This explains the Republicans rapid rebound from their total rejection by the voters in 2008. It also explains why President Obama is quickly acting as if he's now even more powerless than he claimed to be before. The Republicans control the House. The Democrats control the Senate and the White House. The worst that should play out for the Democrats is as grid-lock. But instead, we've seen Obama quickly claim that he's now out of power. Of course, he did this by surrendering to the Republican agenda by making sure that the Bush tax cuts for the rich stay in place, and that the Patriot Act gets extended even further. Of course, neither of those is a real surprise to the people who noticed that the Democrats mostly supported both of those measures with their votes while voice their pretended opposition to Bush.

At some point, you have to ignore the details of which horse is a nose ahead or a nose behind. Instead, you have to notice the course the horses are running. This course runs in a direction that benefits a few. And most of the rest of us pay the cost. We pay higher taxes, but get little or nothing back from the government in return. We pay more and more for 'health care', and have to fight more and more to get the health care we need. And the body bags and maimed young people keep coming home from our wars. The horses run this same course no matter which horse is in the lead.

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