Although the election results continue to pour in, it looks as if the early predictions of a Republican wave retaking Washington are correct. At first glance this may look like a defeat and may even be incredibly disheartening. However, I suggest that we (those of us who find ourselves on the left) take this as a wake-up call. More specifically, President Obama should take this as a wake up call.
The Republicans (at least from the ads in New England) seemed to have run on more of an anti-Pelosi campaign than an anti-Obama one. Okay, now that Pelosi has been “fired” from her job as U.S. Speaker of the House perhaps we can get back to fixing the economy? The Republican win tonight is, I admit, deserved. From where I sit in Manchester, New Hampshire our two democratic incumbents, Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes both lost. Although I am mildly disturbed by this, I am not really all that surprised, and neither should anyone else be. Both Shea-Porter and Hodes were about as charismatic and effective as dead trees. I met Hodes twice and the first time he was pleasant (he was running for office the first time) and the second time he was arrogant. Shea-Porter was less than dynamic, if I am being polite. The reigns of the House of Representatives are now in Republican hands. I’m sure that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of the population will be extended and that the taxes on middle class will continue to rise.
A clear and present danger is going back to a deregulation level imposed by the Bush administration. I believe that this deregulation is what caused the economic metldown in the first place. Capitalism is a Darwinian concept through and through. It’s also an incredibly unfair concept. I, for one, do not want to put my faith in the free market. As much as I distrust all forms of government, I trust government more than I do the free market system. (For a really thought-provoking analysis see Hardt & Negri’s book, Empire published by Harvard University Press in 2000.)
The real threat to a civil society is the Tea Party. What we have here is a group of fanatics who claim to uphold the constitution yet are breathtakingly ignorant of our own history. When people like Rand Paul (an eye doctor who had to form his own board to get certified) wins, I cannot help but question the sanity of our citizens. There is no polite way to explain the Tea Party members. I find them to be overwhelmingly white, angry, racist, and really, really dumb. As I said, they claim to uphold the constitution as some sort of sacred document, yet they were silent when the Bush administration instituted the blatantly unconstitutional Patriot Act, among other things. Where was the outrage at fiscal irresponsibility at the War on Terror? They have sailed on a wind of fear into the lives of those too ignorant or lazy to think for themselves. Nevertheless, the Tea Party is here and we have to deal with them. How we deal with them will be a defining moment for the future of this country.
The Republicans won on a promise of “fiscal responsibility.” Socialism is a dirty word here, yet we are all, to some degree, in favor of socialist projects. How else should we pay for garbage removal, our schools, not to mention our police and fire departments? Fiscal responsibility is a myth. I recoil in horror when a would-be politician proclaims to, if elected, run government like his or her business. Well, running a government is nothing like running a business. The logic of a business is always, and I mean always, the bottom line; do more with less. We cannot run a society with this logic. This is not to say that we should spend our way into oblivion. But people, all people, have a right to competent health care and a good education.
So, now as the 2010 mid-term election results come in, and those of us on the left begin to feel that the progress made in the last two years is about to slip away, we need to take stock in what we value and form a feasible plan of action to get us to where we want to go. This election is not a disaster but a challenge. The American people are impatient and there are a lot of people in dire straits. Where we go from here will define us.
I do not pretend to provide answers. I’m an aspiring intellectual not a politician. My job is to raise questions and speak the truth to power. If and when I decide to run for public office I will try to formulate a plan of action. Until then…