["Here Are Some Thoughts I Had For America!" is a column that grinds up only the very finest American punditry and pontificating of the past week through a complicated process of recombination in order to create a fulsome catechism of bourgeois thought.]
Has anyone else been noticing that we are, as a society, inundated by a river of words? It is a noise from which one cannot escape. Words and phrases and clauses are everywhere, droning on and on and on and on, seemingly without end.
Hey! Why are you reaching for the mouse to click "close tab" in that ironic fashion? Stop that! Can't you see I'm making a rather excellent point about the modern condition, once again?
This all finally hit home when I was standing on the moving sidewalk at the airport. There I was, in deep contemplation, pondering why we don't have first- or, at the very least, business-class moving sidewalks, when I heard a voice overhead intoning -- rather impersonally, I hasten to add -- "The moving sidewalk is coming to an end. Please look down." My immediate thought was, "Is this really necessary?" I daresay that I mastered the art of ambulation a long time ago, and frankly, my understanding of eschatology goes all the way back to Saint Augustine. (I never undertake air travel without a copy of On the Catechising of the Uninstructed by my side.)
My point is this: there is too much noise, noise, noise. And I grow weary of it. I realize that this is a big reason that I have, in recent weeks, written about the indignity of having to share space in the city with Occupy Wall Street, who simply will not bear their perceived abuses in stoic silence. But I shan't pick on Occupy Wall Street this week. In fact, I'll have you know that I am willing and able to defend them against the charges that they are anti-Semitic. As the 56,823rd person to note that the Zuccotti Square gathering rather happily celebrated Simchat Torah, I believe that I can be considered the leading authority on the lack of anti-Semitism in this movement. (Don't get me wrong, these people are, in nearly all other dimensions, thoroughly detestable.)
With some regret, however, I feel like I must criticize President Barack Obama for being a leading contributor to the erratic, clangorous tintamarre that currently mars the body politic. I say "with some regret," because as you know, when Obama appeared on the scene, I got behind him. Close behind him. Uncomfortably close behind him. By Jove, I had resolved that if I had the chance to butter my lips with the sweat that pooled in the divot in the small of his back, I was not going to miss out!
See, I thought that Barack Obama understood that we are a center-right nation, with two political parties -- one that works hard to accommodate millionaires, and another that works hard to accommodate all of this accommodation, occasionally getting to expand the franchise of marriage to gay people if there was good money behind it. When Obama came to office, I knew that he wouldn't be the sort of president that sought to make the poor understand that they should be embarrassed to not be millionaires -- the country was in a bit of a tough spot, economically. I understood that he had to give the people some hope to cling to, quietly.
I was shocked to discover that he didn't intend to provide the middle and working class with hope at all. Rather, he somehow got it in his head that he needed to provide the middle and working classes with some kind of policy that -- get this! -- addressed their problems. I was flabbergasted, and of course, this idea didn't work. People argue with me all the time that these things didn't work because centrist Democrats and the Republican minority watered down these policies and lustily obstructed them, respectively. But as I tell those sorts of people, that's the point! You're supposed to listen to centrist Democrats and the Republican minority! And now, Congress has a nine percent approval rating for some reason. It's a mess!
Obama is campaigning these days as the populist fighter, the scourge of the privileged class. And that's caused many people to actually develop a set of expectations that he will do something to alleviate their problems. Where he once sought merely to produce a free-floating cloud of catch-all inspiration that -- take it from me, a man who frequently hovered above the waistband of his slacks -- should have been more than enough succor for the discontented, it now seems as if he is going to run some sort of negative campaign, in which he actually complains that his opponents are part of some sort of like-minded cabal that have strategically prevented the public interest from being fully served in order to reconsolidate power. All wrong!
Look: in order for Democrats to win elections in this climate they must -- I repeat, MUST -- defuse the Big Government/Small Government ideological debate. Poll after poll reveals that Americans are clamoring for the government to do something about unemployment, and I have decided that what they really mean to say is that they want a small government that doesn't actually attempt to specifically address structural inequities through policy. It's no coincidence, I think, that this is precisely the way I feel about the matter.
So this distressing amplification of common people and their tiresome complaints are a direct result of Obama forgetting these very basic things about American politics. What he seems to be doing is making an attempt to portray himself as some sort of fighter that champions a "base." And that is something that's really only okay for Republicans to do.
Oh, it's also okay for Bibi Netanyahu to do it -- but that's sort of the same concept.
The Fighter Fallacy [David Brooks @ New York Times]
Inundated by a river of words [George Will @ Washington Post]
Where are the anti-Semites of Occupy Wall Street? [Richard Cohen @ Washington Post]