Regarding the present Bush tax cut extension hairball that President Obama wants Democrats to choke down, and Obama's percieved failure to communicate to a wide swath of Americans, Joel writes:
If Obama had a clearer public profile and ranted against the moneyed interests (à la TR, and FDR), there would be fewer like the elderly lady I met today in the dentist's office who believe he has a sinister agenda for the country. He doesn't say enough, appear enough to reveal this to be an absurdity!
Folks like your little old lady are to be found in large numbers across the land. I have found, repeatedly, that beneath their dark, irrational suspicions is always the fact that many are only seeing a "Negro" president whose middle name is Hussein.
Grant Park on election eve was not full of little old ladies, it was a much more youthful and diverse crowd of many colors and hues. I agree that Obama has been perhaps too calmly cerebral while he has continued to tackle tough, meaningful challenges during the past two years. Important diplomatic and economic progress has been made in spite of inheriting eight years of the George Bush fiasco abetted by a GOP moral insolvency.
Obama has calmly undertaken complex challenges like preventing a deep national economic depression and restoring America's image around the globe. But right now the general public is unable to appreciate or understand any of that. Simply put, history shows that a huge number of Americans are dumb as chickens.*
Perhaps a bit of populist Obama theater is in order. But with Fox being the "news" channel that so many of these very folks watch, Obama runs a risk of being easily pilloried for what would be characterized as pandering through the use of clever editing, out of context "quotes" and other typical Murdoch machinations.
Teddy and Franklin D. did not have today's frenetic, instant informational circus to deal with. "Bloggers" are now being interviewed as if they were journalists or somehow respected experts. The average Web Log, or "Blog" is a digital stump from which ordinary folks exhort and bellow forth opinions. There is little objectivity or academic credential in the average blog. There is an abundance of opinion.
Next consider the fear and struggling from continuing unemployment, foreclosures and other calamitous results of two terms of the GOP's sorry leadership, and people are just not rational. A dumbed-down presentation of how the calculating GOP got them into this mess would not, and has not, registered with the angry centrist majority.
The GOP, which has no shame, will continue to calculatingly lure these very folks right back so they can give them another screwing. And many will eagerly go back, hearing only platitudes, invocations of God's blessings and outrageous promises.
Finally, mix Ron and Rand Paul into this gumbo, add the other green so-called Tea Party populist winners, and then watch as they experience the harsh realities of Washington politics for freshmen members and back-benchers in both houses. We are in for a fascinating couple of years.
Throwing down extremist gauntlets on either side of the pendulum swing will provide brief moments of irritation, certainly. But if Obama and the nation are to break the paralyzing effects of today's political polarization, which is a pointless, greedy skunk pissing contest, the restive radical centrists must somehow be brought into the streets, whether literally or conceptually.
Imagine their anger shifted to the real villains, the wealthy, conservative Right who plays the ignorance of the average working stiff like a cheap guitar. You are the historian, Joel. How to organize a truly representative and overwhelming movement from the great centrist majority seems to be the question. Forget screaming leftists or right wing Doom Sayers. Where are the farmers or workers spontaneously organizing and demonstrating in huge numbers? Where are the outraged veterans and students who should be protesting in massive demonstrations over the seemingly endless occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?
My cynical yet studied observation is that they are all blithely uninvolved. Younger Americans are Twittering and Facebooking inanities to one another in the distracting echoes of the social networking vortex.
How do you see this on your wide angle lens? Will a new orange tinted, weepy Speaker of the House make anyone wonder what the hell this country has allowed to happen?
* ...or very purposefully misinformed. See: U of Maryland poll of midterm voters
Graphic -"Stump Speaker" Courier litho card, 1890's