Sunday, August 7, 2011

QOTD: HTML Mencken

The thing about the great internet satirists/comedians like Roy Edroso, Tbogg, and the Sadlynaughts is that to be a funny satirist you must first and foremost be an insightful and perceptive analyst in addition to whatever je ne sais quois makes one additionally hilarious.  So I was quite pleased to see HTML Mencken reappear at Sadly, No! a few days ago after a long absence, and it is no surprise to me that the author of one of the all-time great political posts (seriously, read and bookmark that thing if you've never seen it) is back with another great observation worth more notice (bold text added):
But it is Obama’s fault that he’s functioned as a de facto wingnut Trojan horse, and it’s his fanatic supporters’ fault that there is not a consensus on the left accepting of the reality that Barack Obama, a Democrat, has won victories for wingnuttery that Republican Presidents could never win — or dare to even try. One hears “Only Nixon could go to China” a lot these days in reference to Obama’s behavior, the point, I think, being that Obama is performing a superficially self-reversing maneuver in order to substantively further his and his party’s goals, for the good of all — which is what Nixon more or less did. Nixon’s tilt toward the Chicoms did not sabotage what he thought was the most important goal in his party’s foreign policy, which was the containment of the Soviet Union; in the context of conservatism, Nixon was unorthodox but “meant well.” In contrast, in making it safe to destroy social security and medicare, Obama does not “mean well” by liberalism; he does mean to sabotage the most important plank in his party’s philosophy, which is equality through a social safety net. Nixon was using liberal means to further conservative aims; Obama is putting a liberal face on conservative means to achieve conservative ends.
 That is a fantastic insight.  Nixon saved a major conservative goal from conservative short term stupidity in being unwilling to even talk to China when it would be clearly advantageous to the larger goal of containing the Soviet Union to do so.  Obama is not serving some larger liberal aim by cutting Medicare or Social Security.  The most generous interpretation is that he believes the neoliberalism triumphant TINA ("There is no alternative") hypothesis that says the demise of these programs is inevitable and at best he can only delay their demise (this is what I've read explains Tony Blair).   He is not even plausibly aiding his party's long term prospects.  Nixon going to China did not hurt average Americans at all.  He pissed off the extreme anti-communists but otherwise nothing bad happened to America as a result.  Obama is removing the floor that keeps the poorest Americans from falling into the basement when they get sick or old.  Lots of real people will be hurt by this, and they know it (or will be told of it by cynical Republicans happy to exploit a Democrat stepping on the third rail voluntarily).  They will vote accordingly.

The rest of the post is excellent and worth a look.  He makes reference to other events that are perhaps more comparable to what Obama is doing - Andrew Johnson siding against the reconstruction Republicans after Lincoln's death and John Tyler governing as a 19th century Democrat even though he was elected as a Whig under the deceased Harrison. 

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