Time and Tides

These days events and issues and the nation seem to be sweeping toward some irresistible something that’s bigger than all of us. It feels like river currents rushing toward a waterfall. Have you felt that, too?

History shows us that no status quo lasts forever, no matter how solid and immutable it seems. Sometimes changes are slow and imperceptible, but occasionally some confluence of events breaks the old order apart and sets up a new one almost overnight, or at least within the space of a few years instead of a few decades. Most of the time invasion or insurrection are involved in these changes, but not always. The breakup of the Soviet Union is a prime example of events taking over and forcing change almost overnight without gunfire.

I’m not saying I expect armed revolution or a change in our form of government. I am saying that the political status quo that has prevailed in America for the last few decades is disintegrating rapidly. I suspect the next two or three years will be disorienting for most of us.

Assuming Barack Obama wins the election — it’s looking good, folks, but it ain’t inevitable — I don’t expect a replay of the Clinton years, in which a huge right-wing juggernaut worked relentlessly to destroy the Democratic administration.

Oh, they will try. I fully expect that within two weeks of an Obama inauguration, Tony Blankley will be all over cable television explaining ever so unctuously that the Obama administration has already failed. Hell, he might not even wait until Obama is inaugurated before declaring the Obama administration has already failed.

But Blankley is complaining that other “conservatives” are abandoning the cause, leaving him to fight on alone. His old comrades in arms, like George Will, Peggy Noonan and David Brooks have left the field of battle, he thinks.

In an Obama administration, George Will will still be an insufferable prick, Peggy Noonan will still mistake her psychological projections for insight, and David Brooks will still be an idiot. Some things will not change. What will change, I believe, is that the Right’s ability to dominate the national conversation and overwrite real issues with its phantasmagorical agenda will be much diminished. This will happen not because they’ve changed, but because the political climate of America will have changed.

The powerful Rabid Right is becoming old and shabby and, like, so last decade.

Please let me be clear that I do not expect to wake up on January 21 living in political utopia. I’m a Buddhist, remember; all phenomena are dukkha. And as I said, there will be massive disorientation while the Powers That Be figure out the new rules — indeed, until they begin to notice there are new rules. And there will be disorientation across the political spectrum, not just on the Right. It will take some time yet before Democrats in Congress stop cringing in fear of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

We see disorientation already in the way the McCain campaign evokes a “real” America that looks like the America they thought was out there somewhere, but which they are finding strangely elusive. Rosa Brooks writes,

The GOP code isn’t hard to crack: There’s the America that might vote for Obama (a suspect America populated by people with liberal notions, big-city ways and, no doubt, dark skin), and then there’s the “real” America, where people live in small towns, believe in God and country, and are … well … white. … But with each passing year, the “real” America of GOP mythmaking bears less and less resemblance to the America most Americans live in.

At the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove writes that “the tax argument still works.” He lays out the arguments that he thinks McCain might still employ to pull off a win. Remarkably, these are the same arguments McCain has been employing and which are not working.

Meanwhile, Karl’s masterpiece, his personal Frankenstein monster, is a pariah even in his own party. People still listen to Karl … why, exactly?

The GOP is losing because they are marketing to a demographic that doesn’t exist — America circa 1980-2004. The political shift began with Katrina. It is being accelerated by the financial crisis. We are rushing toward something that is very different from where we have been. My hope is that Barack Obama is the leader he seems to be, and will steer us into a soft landing.

See also: Joe Klein, “Why Barack Obama Is Winning.”

14 thoughts on “Time and Tides

  1. Maha,

    Great post. Where else can one ponder: immutable, imperceptible and confluence followed by: “George Will will still be an insufferable prick”? Too funny.

    I must however admit that your tone worries me, if Obama wins it aint gonna be by much, and I suspect it may end up in the courts. Don’t believe the hype, don’t forget to Hope.

  2. I, too, am clinging to your confidence, maha.

    Interesting quote from “Bush’s Brain.” Rove’s ultimate wish is the establishment of a new Republican majority, much like the 30-year reign of the GOP a century ago that was built on a rising industrial elite. With the electiion of McKinley in 1896, Republicans won six of the next eight presidential elections. It was an era of high influence and authority for the GOP, a period marked by conservative values and easy money and the Gilded Age crooks. Mostly, to Karl Rove, it was a period of Republican dominance that ended only with the catastrophe of the Depression and a new political realignment in America, this time producing a 30-year reign of Democrats from the New Deal through the Great Society.

  3. Don’t believe the hype, don’t forget to Hope.

    And above all, don’t forget to vote! And make sure everyone remembers that was the point of all this campaigning in the first place.

  4. I’m watching too much MSNBC recently – need to keep my spirits up and my hope alive, after all – so I’m not sure whether it was Tweety or Olberman who gave this stat…

    Whomever it was said that you have to go back to 1928 to find a winning GOP ticket that did not include a Nixon or a Bush on the ticket. I believe he meant it as a comment on the POTENTIAL failure of the McCain campaign. I took it as a sign of hope for the future … assuming we can keep Jeb out of the ring.

  5. Two points come to mind here.

    First, I wrote a post a while back wondering if one day Karl Rove wasn’t in some hotel bar with another political operative, and cocky Karl said, I’ll bet you $1.00 that I can get the most stupid man in America elected President (ala “Trading Places”). I’d say he won the bet.

    Now on to my more direct thoughts on your post. Over a year ago I read an on-line article (which to this day I could find again). I don’t even remember who wrote it, but the author talked about how we are going through (the whole world) one of the major cyclical changes that the world goes through every so often.

    He talked about how it scares people (generally afraid of change as it is) to see such dramatic changes, and so groups of the population want to pull back from the precipice and return to idealized version of a past time. Like now, with the evangelicals in America wanting to return to back alley abortions and gay people back in their closets, and blacks in their neighborhoods and whites in the suburbs.

    The author remarked that it has, througout history, resulted in very dark times during the transition, but it was always better once we got on the other side. He seemed to think that this generation would not see us get to the new order, and maybe we won’t, but I think the technologies driving the new communications methods and such may be accelerating the process more than in the past.

    As everyone above agrees, keep hope alive, but realize that groups of the population will resist the change, sometimes to the point of violence…and their desperation will only grow over time.

  6. The straight talk express was headed west as I was going east on I-4 today. It was preceeded by what seemed to be a mile of motorcycle cops. When I steped out of my truck to gas up, a rather unkept looking 40 something guy shouts out “did you see McCain passing on the highway?” I replied yes, and isn’t it a shame that our politicians need an army to protect them when they go out?
    He then said he’s voting for McCain because he’ll keep spending down, and that Palin would nuke Afghanistan if her son is harmed fighting there.McCain /Palin for him because Glen Beck likes them.. He was picking up his wife who works at Arby’s, and his car looked like it is on its last legs.
    I don’t understand how they can keep voting against their best interests time after time.

  7. Maha, as for the meaning of dukkha, perhaps “challange” fits the definition a bit better.I view life as a river rafting trip, sometimes its calm and lazy, sometimes fast and furious, but you can’t appreciate either without the other.

  8. As to your opening question, headed towards a waterfall pretty much nails it., or perhaps jumping out of an airplane with a parachute packed in China?

  9. I think that the invasion of Iraq, and the issue of state sanctioned torture played a big part in bringing America to where she is today. I know that on a personal level those two issues have separated me from America. I can’t reconcile those two issues with my beliefs and values of what an American is, or what an American should find acceptable. Bush assaulted my values and destroyed my love for America in the process. Belligerence and torture aren’t consistent with my love for country.

    Obama says…”Let’s return to our best traditions”. I can dig that!

  10. The political wave has been moving strongly toward Democrats and a vague and unfocused progressivism since 1996. The Clinton impeachment was enough to stall Gore’s election in 2000. I strongly believe no Monica, no War on Gore, no Bush.

    9/11 gave Bush and the Republicans a wave of support they could never have earned in any other way. It also cowed Democrats up to and including the 2004 election.

    This year is, then, a course correction. We are back where we were headed before Monica and back to where we would have been moving before 9/11.

  11. beautiful post, maha. I, too, feel this sea-change roiling under us and it feels overdue.

    I am a transplanted Texan in New York City, I was here on 9/11 (I link to your 9/11 post on the anniversary every year because it so closely resembles my experience and is so much better written than anything I could produce) and I have felt besieged in the years since that awful day because my friends and loved ones back home never asked me then or now about my experiences. They only want to talk AT me about what they think it all means. Their politics is always like that. They would rather tell me why I am wrong (and going to hell) than have a conversation wherein we have a rational exchange of ideas and perhaps shift each others conclusions a little bit.

    The prospect of an Obama presidency has driven my family truly insane. My parents aren’t coming to visit me here in New York City because they can’t bear the thought of visiting such an “anti-American” part of America. My mom told me yesterday – her voice cracking on the edge of tears – that she was scared of what an Obama Administration will do to people like her and my father. Without saying it, I know she meant “white.”

    Such thinking will not change at first, I fear, because it can’t break through the self-imposed filter of Limbaugh/Hannity/FOX hatred & lies. It will take time and it will never succeed fully, especially as long as a demagogue like Palin is out there whipping up the orcs, but I hope that the rift in my family can be repaired along with the nation.

    Thank you once again for your beautiful post.

  12. #13 Joe, you might try telling your Mom Obama was raised by a woman just like her that he adores. He would not do anything to harm her.

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