Garry Wills, who is a smart man, is really mad at Roberto Unger and others who are tempted to stray from the two-party system.
All these brave “independents” say that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties, and claim they can start history over, with candidates suddenly become as good as they are themselves. What they do is give us the worst of evils.
Long sad sigh.
First, no one ever said there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the candidates. Some of the points Wills makes are valid, and a reign of Romney, especially one combined with Republican control of Congress, would be a dark age indeed.
But for the overwhelming majority of Americans, and millions living in countries unfortunate enough to be “strategically important” to Washington, so was the Bush era. And so are the Obama years. Yep, Romney would be worse, but as David Swanson’s tweet below says, our choices are calamity and catastrophe. Definitely there is a difference, but forgive us for not getting excited about it.
The Obama years have taught me (and I am slow to learn, though not as slow as some) that what binds the parties is more important than what separates them, and that the areas of agreement, the issues that aren’t even on the table, are a bigger problem that the things the parties fight about. As Conor Friedersdorf wrote recently, “the political press mostly covers whatever arguments Republicans and Democrats are having, a tendency that effectively outsources judgment about what’s important to partisans.” Or, to be a little less polite, party hacks.
I have been trying to summarize these commonalities with a catchy little acronym. I’ve been stuck on WASP for some time (War, Austerity, Surveillance and Prisons) but it left a lot of things out. This week, I had a breakthrough. Tossing on a hot sleepless summer night, this came to me: our politics, it’s like those old Bud commericials, you know: WASSUP!
So. WASSUP? No matter who wins the 2012 presidential election we will get:
WARS, lot of them, declared and un-, fought with armies, swarthy special forces spooks, and robots. Wars fought in particularly dirty ways, like bombing wedding parties, and targeting first responders who come to the aid of first strike victims. And those are only the ones we know about.
AUSTERITY, in just slightly differing flavors.
SURVEILLANCE: Your right to privacy went out the window in September 2001. That’s the story and both parties are sticking to it.
SECRECY, for the gubmint, not for us. See above. I mean, who saw this coming? You couldn’t have been more skeptical about Obama than me, and yet I’m shocked on a daily basis that the man who ran as the transparency candidate has been an absolute nightmare on that front. And don’t get me started on whistleblower persecutions, especially as that would mess up the WASSUP.
UNDEREMPLOYMENT, and (bonus letter) UNAFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE (and education).
PRISONS, and prisoners, inside the United States, at Guantanamo, and God knows where else. An area where the USA can proudly and truthfully claim We’re Number One. Not just in the number of people incarcerated, but in the staggering variety of cruel and unusual punishments a true growth industry can create when motivated: from Supermax to the pure evil of the death penalty system, to mandatory long sentences for the pettiest of crimes.
More on this latter, but all I have to say is (wait for it) WASSUP with that? WASSUP?! WAZZZZZAAAAPPPPPP!!?????
And to get back to the Gary Wills thing. It’s a little disappointing. I expect, and usually get, sophisticated analysis from him. That NYROB piece is a bit lazy, based on straw men and oversimplifications, and as a bonus perpetuates the canard that Nader cost Gore the election in 2000.* How tedious have arguments been over that very point for the past dozen years?
The 2012 election will make that argument seem as brilliant as the repartee in Gertrude Stein’s salon. Yeah, Obama’s been appalling, but Romney would be worse. Can’t WAIT to rehash that simple proposition in all its permutations for the next six months.
And I don’t disagree. But … calamity/catastrophe. Not exactly stoked about the choice.
* Here is a more than decent summary of the state of the truthiness in that Gore Nader thing.