Read Some Trotsky or Kate Richards O’Hare

Posted: October 13, 2010 in Editorial, Politics

Michael Stock

The Obama Rally in Madison on Tuesday, September 28th, succeeded in sending one message: “vote during the mid-term elections.” Not a half-bad idea. Vote! Be a part of this experiment in democracy! If the lunatic, extremist fringes of the Republican Party take over congress, it won’t be because the sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-Muslim, anti-working-class, scientifically inaccurate balderdash they spew on a day-to-day basis appeals to the majority of Americans. It would be a sign of voter apathy.

And you don’t even need to vote for a Democrat. Vote for one of the intelligent, not bigoted,fiscally conservative Republicans. Vote for the Green Party—they seem to be, consistently, the lesser of the evils that comprise our partisan system. But keep in mind, that though a couple Greens might get into congress, there will likely never be a Green Party U.S. presidency (Cynthia McKinney was robbed of any reasonable media coverage in 2008). Or, if you’re still disillusioned, read some Trotsky or some Kate Richards O’Hare.

It will be impossible to gauge the success of Obama’s message until after we see the mid-term election results. But here are some thoughts on how it was delivered:

As Obama appeared and the crowd cheered, all I could think was that Obama must really be sick of hearing U2 every time he walks onto a stage.

“Their message was, ‘No you can’t!’, but what did we say?” Obama said.

The crowd said, “Yes we can!”

Oh, the predictability of the speech! I remember seeing Obama at Madison’s Kohl Center during the campaign, and I remember how such catch phrases and talk about hope actually inspired feeling in me. Nearly two years later, though he is still an excellent public speaker and a good man, Obama’s favorite lines have become cliché.

This new Republican platform would like to give $700 billion in tax cuts to the top 2% of the wealthiest Americans, funding this in part by cutting money for education by 20% and cutting financial aid for 8 million college students.

Another boring familiarity was the general poo-slinging that, one could safely assume, has been happening since the very dawn of politics. It was the same old us against them, red-fish-blue-fish, spy vs. spy tactics. Yet Obama did make some good points against his opponents. This new Republican platform would like to give $700 billion in tax cuts to the top 2% of the wealthiest Americans, funding this in part by cutting money for education by 20% and cutting financial aid for 8 million college students.  Also, despite popular perception, Obama has actually cut taxes for working Americans.

“Republicans are asking for the keys back,” Obama said, adding, “No, you can’t have the keys back, you don’t know how to drive.” True, Republicans do not know how to drive, their views blocked by very opinionated and annoying window-stickies. He said pundits and conservatives “are not always interested in facts”, also funny and true.

Obama’s image has been attacked by the criminally insane, drowning out the sound of any legitimate critiques of his leadership. This September’s issue of Newsweek compared polling done by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Some results were contradictory; for example, 57% said federal spending to create jobs should be Washington’s highest priority, yet 58% disapprove of this administration’s stimulus spending. Obama has a higher approval rating than Reagan did at this time, yet Reagan is some sort of prophet to many of Obama’s opponents. And only 25% percent said “definitely not true” when asked what they think of the claim that Obama supports global Islamic extremism. What are the other three-quarters thinking?

Obama did not specifically address these misconceptions. Why should he? Like the question of his citizenship, these terrorist-sympathizer claims stem from some pathetic, ignorant bowel of this country, and are not worthy of a response.  Beyond social conservatives, he blamed pundits for misinforming the American public.

Obama listed the few points in health care reform people even understand: one can stay on his or her parent’s insurance until the age of 26, and people who are insured cannot be denied care for previous illnesses. He talked about the economy, saying it is improving without boring the audience with all the details and technical market jargon. Financial jargon has no other purpose, apparently, than to keep the average citizen from knowing what is really going on in Wall Street. The current problems with the environment domestically and planet-wide were only hinted at in the form of “America’s need to develop green technologies.”

Obama said that he held his promise to end the war in Iraq, without mentioning that 50,000 troops are still stationed there. He did not mention Afghanistan. He did not mention the Wiki-leaks scandal, in which classified information was released on the internet, including videos of U.S. troops having a delightful time gunning down innocent civilians. He did not mention the hundreds of thousands of civilians we have killed in both wars, or the thousands of dead U.S. soldiers, or how we are going to take better care of our wounded veterans. He did not mention Israel’s occupation of Palestine. He did not mention growing tensions with Iran.

He did not mention the recent “don’t ask don’t tell” repeal fiasco, in which hate and stupidity once again trumped progress in this country. He did not mention Europe’s currency collapse. He did not mention our failed and irrational drug war, or our horribly ineffective prison system. He did not mention the recent FBI raids of activists’ homes in Minnesota and Illinois (is Wisconsin next?). He did not mention what is going to happen to the millions of unemployed in this country.

“Change happens from the bottom up.” Of course it does. Now where is our generation’s civil rights movement? Where is our revolution?

He did not mention the racist immigration laws, which target most fervently our brothers and sisters in Central and South America. He did not mention the ridiculous xenophobia surrounding the mosque in New York (which is so far away from Ground Zero in the first place that I can’t understand why people are calling it the “Ground Zero Mosque”). He did not mention these trials of our times, yet he mentioned the civil rights movement of the previous century as one of America’s strong points. He even said, “Change happens from the bottom up.” Of course it does. Now where is our generation’s civil rights movement? Where is our revolution?

There was a lot he didn’t talk about, but I guess strategically it makes sense. A rally to inspire voters is no platform to bring up every depressing issue, especially since, in regards to many of the things listed, Obama has failed to develop a backbone and boldly, publicly, and firmly stand up for what is right.

There’s a lot of work to be done in this country. Get up and vote in November! And please, fellow members of Edgewood College, do not vote strictly on party lines. Do not vote a straight Republican ticket, or a straight Democratic ticket. Learn about the candidates. Think outside the suffocating box of American politics. To those who would say, “Part of my freedom as an American is the freedom not to vote and not to be informed”, I wish you the best of luck in your apathetic journeys. But such people probably wouldn’t have opened a newspaper in the first place, so I assume my audience this far into the article has some semblance of a spark inside them.

To conclude, here is a list of some football metaphors used by the three speakers on Tuesday:

– President Obama: “Change is not a spectator sport.”

– Senator Russ Feingold: “The game is not over. (Republicans) are using the same playbook… already dancing in the end zone.”

– Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett: “Democracy is the ultimate participatory sport.”

– President Obama: “The Badgers are looking good this season.”

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