Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Nonexistent President

Poor Alison Grimes couldn't bring herself to say she voted for Barack Obama when pressed by the Louisville Courier-Journal, afraid she might lose a valuable endorsement in the Bluegrass state.  She made it known she is a Clinton Democrat, saying she voted for Hillary in the 2008 primaries.  She was too young to have voted for Bill back in 1992 and 1996, not turning 18 until after the November 1996 election.

It seems our dear president has become nonexistent in the eyes of his fellow Democrats.  Even his former cabinet members seem to view him in the past tense.  It must be pretty lonely for Barack Obama in the White House these days.

Meanwhile, Republican candidates want to remind voters that Obama is not only very real, but that he is still the greatest threat to their personal freedom.  They scramble to link the Ebola virus to his immigration reform, as if offering a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants (or amnesty as conservative pundits call it) would open the flood gates to this deadly virus.  All part of the "Zombie Apocalypse" they have been pitching for six years, which has failed to materialize.

Like Italo Calvino's Nonexistent Knight, Obama has tried to carry out his presidency within the rules and protocols of the Constitution, painfully so as he continues to press Congress to allow him to close Guantanamo, when he could have done it himself by executive order long ago.  But, Obama believes in the Constitution, and has exercised executive power on rare occasions, although you wouldn't know it by reading the conservative media, which has often accused him of being a Dictator.

Our cerebral president has played a chess game of sorts during his administration, often two or more steps ahead of his political opponents, which is why he won re-election even when the approval polls had him well below 50 per cent.  But, as Paul Krugman points out in this article for Rolling Stone maagazine, the polls are misleading as conservative voters have made no effort to embrace Obama, so this doesn't offer an accurate gauge of his Presidency.  

The nation is more polarized than ever before.  It isn't so much because of Obama himself, as it is what he represents, which should serve as a cautionary tale to persons like Alison Grimes, as any Democrat would face the same abuse in the White House.  Just ask Bill Clinton, her new buddy.

The Republicans have done a bang-up job of denigrating traditional Democratic values to the point many Democrats now run away from these values, like Alison herself, in an attempt to court so-called independent voters, who are by and large conservative in nature.  The GOP has pushed the country so far to the right, that Reagan would be considered "liberal" by most conservative voters today, as he had signed an immigration reform bill which was very much like the one we see mired in Congress today.

While Obama has paid deference to Reagan, he has opted for tighter regulations on the financial sector that have given us a more balanced economic recovery than that we saw under Reagan.   It may not be enough as far as the middle class is concerned, but given where we were six years ago, you would have to have your head completely up your ass to not see that a major improvement has taken place.

Obama has also made a big push for raising the national minimum wage, which Reagan refused to do during his administration.  For all this talk that a $10.10 per hour minimum wage would kill the recovery, which most Republicans refuse to admit is taking place, states and cities that offer this minimum wage, and higher, are enjoying far more rapid economic recovery than the mean average of the country.  In our consumer society, higher wages mean more buying power, so it doesn't take a Nobel-prize-winning economist to figure out that better paid employees are more likely to spend, not save, thereby fueling the economy.

It is the rich that has been hording its assets, finding every way it can to avoid paying taxes, to the point of renouncing their American citizenship to take fuller advantage of tax breaks abroad.  But, you hear little of this on the campaign trail, Democrat and Republican alike still pitch for more tax cuts, particularly corporate tax cuts, which now amount to less than one-tenth of the annual federal tax revenue, where before Reagan it was nearly one-third of the annual federal tax revenue.

Obama has had to operate on a much tighter budget than any previous president, and yet he still has managed to reduce spending as a percentage of the annual debt, despite all the protests from the political right and left.  Again, you hear none of this because it doesn't fit with the conservative narrative that dominates the mainstream media.

It is not surprising that so few persons understand what has been going on the past six years, since most Americans seem to rely on manufactured opinions rather than look at the numbers themselves.  The major newspapers, television and radio stations are all owned by large corporations and media syndicates that shape the narrative.  Even with all the sources available to us on the Internet, it seems most Americans still turn to their favorite faces on television to give them the latest poop, which is why news pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews remain so popular.

Comedy Channel provides some reprieve with the highly popular Daily Show and Colbert Report, mocking the way news is presented in the mainstream media, to the point that Stephen Colbert has become a big thorn in Bill O'Reilly's side.  But, Papa Bear continues to score in the ratings, commanding a multi-year contract with Fox News that would make most professional athletes jealous.

Obama has tried to make himself more visible by going on The Daily Show and allowing O'Reilly to interview him each year on Super Bowl Sunday, but the president still remains in the shadow of this year's Congressional elections, with few Democratic candidates willing to embrace him, particularly in Red States like Kentucky.

Maybe Americans will come to embrace Obama after he leaves office, the way they have done Carter and Clinton.  But, the President still has two more years in the White House, regardless of how these elections shake out.  It probably won't make him any more visible, as media attention will predictably turn to the 2016 elections.

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