Messiahs & Monomyths

One of the most interesting pre-election interviews I saw was of arch-conservative Bill Kristol with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show just a few days before the 4th. One of the striking things Kristol said was that “I don’t think [Obama] would be a very radical president. I think he’ll disappoint a lot of people on the left, because he’ll be a conventionally liberal president.” I’ve thought a lot about this quote, especially as Obama’s picked his staff and proven Kristol exactly right so far. But I’m unsure just how “radical” anybody on the left ever expected him to be (we had Nader, Klein, Chomsky, et al to keep our expectations low).

However, whenever I stumble upon the lunatic fringe of the far-right (say, WorldNetDaily or FreeRepublic for example) I’m sometimes surprised at how often they try to paint Barack Obama as the left’s “Messiah.” It’s unclear, of course, who actually believes this. In reality, Republicans are far more obsessed with Obama’s supposed messiahship than liberals are. There’s no doubt that a number of people have said nutty things, among them Louis Farrakhan and, to a lesser extent, Oprah Winfrey, but there’s not much evidence that most people see Obama as anything other than an inspiring figure. Obama’s election team have admitted that McCain’s “celebrity” ads over the summer had them most worried — but being a celebrity is far different than being a messiah. (more…)

Why McCain Lost

“The newspaper reader says: this party destroys itself by making such a mistake. My higher politics says: a party which makes such mistakes has reached its end; it has lost its sureness of instinct.” – Nietzsche

With all due respect to Mr. Nietzsche, I’m about to point out the key reasons why I believe McCain lost this election. But I don’t wholly disagree with the quote — insofar as the Republican Party will live on in name, it’s not at its end. However, the party as it currently stands is in major need of an overhaul and a smart party needs to re-tool after every major loss. The Democrats didn’t after 2000 and got whupped in 2004. If the Republicans don’t, they’re going to find 2012 very painful (a sure way to further self-destruct: nominate Palin).

So, the three major reasons McCain lost big on 11/4/08:
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End of America

I watched The Rape of Europa the other night, a documentary about the Nazi theft of art during WWII. I was struck by how hard it is to learn lessons from the Third Reich. Compare anyone or anything to Nazi Germany and the conversation is effectively over (see: Godwin’s Law). I think part of the problem is that many people mistake comparison for identification. The result is that we’re essentially cut off from learning anything meaningful from that era — surely there’s more to take away than simply “Hitler bad, America good.”

Naomi Wolf is one writer who’s attempted to learn a little more from the rise of Hitler. She’s examined Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy in an effort to discover what steps usually happen before a dictatorship takes over.
Here are her “Ten Steps to a Fascist State,” or “How to Turn an Open Society Into a Closed Society:”

1. Invoke an internal and/or external enemy
2. Create a secret prison network
3. Employ a paramilitary force
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Infiltrate and/or harass citizens’ groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Restrict the press
9. Equate dissent with treason
10. Subvert and/or suspend the rule of law

“Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps” looks at how all ten of those have been implemented in the US in the last 8 years. Her book End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot fleshes out the argument even further. She has a documentary out called End of America as well, which can be viewed for free on the SnapFilms website.

If you don’t have time for a documentary, amuse yourself instead with Republicans gone wild. This blog also seems to be collecting videos of Republican asshattery. There’s a good deal of Democrats also acting loony in those videos.

Make Your Predictions

Time to call it: I’m predicting 292 electoral votes for Mr. Barack. Leave your predictions in the comments. Whomever guesses closest is a communist gets some sort of prize. The prize may or may not be a personal dinner with Pres. Obama, or an Obama Candy Bar, or just bragging rights.

Also, this is amazing: Alan Greenspan has admitted that the free market sucks ass. Or something similar. I wrote in Cedars a couple weeks ago that this current economic mess should cause a crisis of faith for freewheeling free market fundamentalists. I’m glad Mr. Greenspan is a fan of my column.
“You know why the ‘invisible hand’ is invisible? Because it doesn’t exist.”

My new Cedars articles (due Oct. 30th) are uninspired, but sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles. One piece is a review of Illuminated World’s “The Book: New Testament”. The other is an article begging students not to vote based on complete lies: Obama is a Muslim, Obama has a fake birth certificate, Obama hates the national anthem, and so forth. I ended by suggesting they utilize sites like Political Compass to find out which candidate more closely shared their own views. All I’m looking for is one person to say “Hey I’m still voting for McCain, but thanks to you I’m no longer voting based on blatant lies about Obama.”

Bigot on Wednesday, Churchgoer on Sunday

Sen. John McCain likes to depict the bigots in his party as fringe elements, a few “bad apples.” It’s become less obvious that this is so considering how widespread the nasty attacks have become.

The state of political discourse: from leaders — Rep. Westmoreland (R-GA) openly calling Obama “uppity” — to laymen (see above) the Republicans seem to feel very free to fan the flames of prejudice.
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The Fall of America, Inc

What I’m reading:

  • The Fall of America, Inc“Along with some of Wall Street’s most storied firms, a certain vision of capitalism has collapsed. How we restore faith in our brand.” Written by, of all people, the infamous Francis Fukuyama.
  • The End of Arrogance: America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role
  • Make-Believe Maverick by Tim Dickinson – “A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty.”
  • By the way, amidst all the talk of Bill Ayers make sure you watch the great Weather Underground documentary from six years ago. Speaking of bad associations, the Obama/Biden camp has created Keating Economics featuring a good 13-minute mini-documentary on McCain’s involvement with the Keating Five.

    And lastly:

    Also, Emo Obama comes courtesy of Ryan Futrell.

    “Creating is living doubly.”

    In “The Push to ‘Otherize’ Obama” Nicholas D. Kristof has a throwaway paragraph that’s better than the whole rest of the piece:

    Just imagine for a moment if it were the black candidate in this election, rather than the white candidate, who was born in Central America, was an indifferent churchgoer, had graduated near the bottom of his university class, had dumped his first wife, had regularly displayed an explosive and profane temper, and had referred to the Pakistani-Iraqi border…

    Be sure to also read Bill Saporito’s “How We Became the United States of France”, if not for the content then at least for the brilliant writing. Personally, I have no qualms with admitting my admiration of the French. I just finished reading The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus, one of France’s finest writers. The blurb on the back of my copy calls Camus “aphoristic,” by which I think they simply meant that he’s eminently quotable. A few of my favorites: (more…)