The Bold and The Clueless Both Offer Cliches


Maryville38BenShahn (2)

Ben Shahn photo. Marysville, Ohio. Downtown. 1938. FSA/LOC

The campaigns have become depressing. If the themes are bold and clueless, the tactics and media have descended into the same old cliches: “I’m a Democrat,” “I will work hard,” “you took money from billionaires,” “release your speeches,” “women should be punished for abortions,” “nobody builds walls better than me,” “they bring drugs, crime and are rapists,”American Muslim communities must be policed and patrolled,” “what is best for America is best for the world,” “the President won’t call radical Islam by name,” “my ten percent flat tax (up from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9!) will create 5 million jobs,” are the accusations and appeals being made to voters; snippets and fragments of lies and confusion and confession that have nothing to do with the skills to lead the wealthiest nation in the world with the most powerful army in history.
In the madness, certain patterns emerge: Hillary, the fighter, has a fear of losing that makes it hard for her to let go and her campaign routinely gives her last year’s advice. Her high ground is foreign policy: but when has she mentioned by name the discussions she has had with world leaders who spoke to her directly of the world they want to see? She has not brought the strength of her experience into the campaign. She no doubt has riveting stories of meetings with the Chinese and other Asian leaders, of discussions with leaders from the Middle East, but these are more protected than her emails, which dominate her remarkable time at State.

She danced in Africa, dined in Europe, drove to see ancient ruins that embody the ancient ideas that are the foundation of humanity and community; she can describe threats and alliances in human terms, yet it’s missing–absent from her stump speech and the 18 debates, the town halls she participates in–yet it has the power to humanize her and offering incomparable glimpses of her leadership and experience.

Instead, she allows the conversations about donations and emails to stifle her.

Bernie, who clearly sees the corruption of money in national politics, misses the careful decisions beyond education and healthcare that affect the poor. His Alabama campaign was unaware that his scheduled rally inadvertently closed a homeless warming station on one of the coldest nights of the year. His comment about “living in the ghetto,” took attention away from the real issue of race: the system of racism embedded in the attitudes, beliefs, and institutions of the country; its persistence in blocking opportunities and its denial that race is even exploited for political or economic advantage in ways that preserve white privilege and maintain racial oppression. His mention racially segregated neighborhoods showed no sense of the science or insight about racism while evoking a old, recycled cliche.

I have mentioned before neither Democrat candidate is building strong downlines. The campaigns are too top heavy. Policy changes demand strong roots in the states, continual work in local elections, strong candidates for Congressional seats. Where is the outreach? Shouldn’t it be a focus before the fall? Should the message–the best way to help the agenda–be reinforced?

Democrats have to not only to pick a candidate, but to merge two giant streams of ideas: how to gain control of the functions of government, esp. its authority and budgets and its laws and regulations and how to bring about a rebirth of an agenda deeply in line with modern times and modern models of success. These twin paths of work and promise have to merge rather than divide.

The Republican stealth candidate, Ted Cruz, continues to hide the ugly, harsh reality of his campaign, relying on shibboleths and platitudes and fear to gain support for the most regressive administration on earth, one that would be enforced through aggressive uses of legislation and power. Cruz is using democracy to create a dictatorship. Democracy is his means, but he long ago abandoned its goals.

There is no liberty he will not bring under the heel of the state. There is no function of government he will not crush in the name of the people.

As I wrote in my Times comment on Paul Krugman’s column this morning:

Cruz criticizes New York, but New York works! But wages are too low and housing costs are too high. That will not be fixed by Cruz’s agenda of ending abortion and corporate taxes.

What does it say about America’s politics when at every turn, as its great public work, a campaign proposes as monument to the country’s strength and greatness a high wall constructed in barren sage lands, built as a barrier between two friendly countries and long term neighbors, as evidence of the dangers of economic disparity–and as vote-for-me example of delusion and fear?

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