Many of us on the left feel that Barack Obama is lost. Not being a child of the sixties, he clearly needs a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows. We don’t have a Weatherman available anymore, for the times have indeed been a’changin’. We have to rely instead upon the suspect corporate media and a geophysicist emeritus for our information. Why a geophysicist? The news that Tampa International Airport is re-designating their main north-south runways due to a shift in the magnetic pole may help to explain why Obama is lost.
London’s Daily Mail explains this phenomenon, which “results in the Earth’s north magnetic pole moving closer to Siberia by about 40 miles per year,” as being caused by “rapid changes in the magnetism of the planet’s core.” This change causes increased compass error, something that affects airline pilots and their ability to align correctly with runways when visibility isn’t clear enough for such use. I’m sure no one wants an incorrect compass reference aboard Flight 9765 interrupting American Idol by severing the satellite dish cable while landing in the back yard by mistake! (Image courtesy www.clker.com)
So how does this physical world phenomenon affect Obama’s political fortunes? In the political world, Republicans are racing like the physical North Magnetic Pole toward new positions far from their previous stands almost daily. They have traveled a very long way.
Rachel Maddow opened a recent show presenting the relatively liberal 1956 Republican Party platform, observing that if Dwight Eisenhower were to run for office today, he would have to run as a “Bernie Sanders independent”. Maddow also noted that Ronald Reagan committed mortal liberal sin when he won the largest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history in 1982, and that Richard Nixon did so as well by promoting comprehensive health reform legislation, “a program that was well to the left of what either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama ultimately proposed,” during his 1974 State of the Union address. She closes her opening monologue with the observation that formerly conservative values, such as these I presented from her research, are now considered so far to the left as to be “off the charts.”
Yet despite these polarizing shifts of the American political center, Barack Obama doesn’t seem to notice as he pursues his Kumbayah moments of bipartisanship. So what if members of both parties sat together to listen to him sing his paean to enhancing American corporatism? One can’t actually achieve such unity in action when one party dances about like Muhammad Ali in his prime while the other models the mob’s concrete overshoes!
Joshua Holland illustrates several examples of Republicans reversing political magnetic polarity regarding many policies they themselves originally introduced as legislation, apparently a mandatory element of any bills Barack Obama now proposes for passage. It should be a slam dunk for a constitutional expert well versed in history to point out these hypocrisies regarding his presentation of past GOP proposals. Yet by failing to gain support for these issues merely by presenting them, it is also apparent that Obama is not up to the challenge of actually winning such battles. I return to The Greatest to explain why.
Ali’s fighting style included a constantly shifting position, so that his opponent wouldn’t know where the next punch was coming from and be able to defend against it. The more Ali danced about, the more punches he landed, until the ten count ended the fight. It is also thus with the Republicans vs. Obama. By constantly changing their own positions, they drag the discussions further to the right and away from any chance that Obama has of winning. They are aided in their efforts to confuse Obama’s navigational bearing through claims that Obama is “moving to the center” with his very corporate-friendly SOTU speech and his corporatist Cabinet nominations of Wall Street executives. It is thus only a matter of time before they land the knockout blow on a dizzy Obama. He is a dope waiting to be roped.
Clive Crook, writing in The Financial Times, advocates that Obama also change the position of the political center, but away from the current Republican positions. In another article written for The Atlantic, Crook expresses his disappointment regarding Obama’s failure to do so, stating that Obama failed to “prepare the country for the coming fiscal restraint” and neglected to provide “an outline of the path back to fiscal control.” It’s hard to know where you want to lead when you clearly don’t know where you are and your navigational skills are affected by shifting standards. People will follow surety through times of travail, but will abandon the man who doesn’t know what he’s about even in good times.
Before Obama can achieve his agenda, or any minute fragment thereof, he has to firmly root stable standards of political navigation. He can’t do so by continuing his futile chase after Republican acceptance. That isn’t going to happen. He also wasted two years achieving little that the average voter sees as beneficial, so he has to plan on regaining their support if he seeks re-election. His political capital budget is heavily in the red, and continuing to follow the same losing strategy is a sure-fire plan for electoral and economic disaster. He can’t keep doubling down and hope that the other side finally notices the brilliance of his goals. It won’t happen. Obama might instead try to use some common sense.
There is a chance that Obama could complete something in his first (and only?) term which would regain popular support and political momentum, but it would mean shifting his focus away from his cherished bipartisanship. He would have to begin by not using the rapidly shifting Republican political magnetic pole as his reference, but use instead the opposite political magnetic pole as the basis of his movement.
In the real world, there is just such an example. Ronald Merrill, professor emeritus in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Ira Flatow during an NPR interview that while the North Magnetic Pole is charging away to Siberia, the South Magnetic Pole remains relatively constant, shifting just three miles a year. Basing his movement on a more stable reference would improve his chances of reaching his desired destination. But I doubt Obama ever learned how to navigate, choosing instead to outsource that function to “experts” like David Axelrod, who follows the pollster and not the Pole Star.
To regain popular support, Obama has to stop improving Wall Street bonus prospects and start improving the employment prospects of Main Street. Happy talk about how the Dow Jones index is up isn’t putting any more money in my pocket! Promoting historically massive corporate profits as a sign that the economy is improving isn’t going to save my teacher-wife’s job, nor that of my bookselling son, nor that of my unionized public employee daughter, and isn’t going to provide any employment for my two college students once they graduate. Prajakta Bhide, a research analyst at Roubini Global Economics, reports that “We’re still very much below the output growth rate needed to absorb the slack in labor market” despite the news that the economy is growing. Even Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner can’t avoid the truth when he admits to Charlie Rose that “It’s not an expansion that’s going to offer a rapid decline in unemployment.”
So stop listening to the Republicans for your directions, Barry! Paul Krugman exposes how lost they are, more so than you, when it comes to the economy. You have but one job remaining prior to the next election: to keep a stable economic heading, whether or not you run again. You have to turn things around to do so, and your opposition isn’t as strong as you might believe. Even Republican voters are no longer sure the nation is economically sound, whether you run the nation or their party does. You just have to keep our foreign investors from taking their money out of our economy due to a loss of confidence. Putting Main Street back to work can only help.
It’s a big job! You might take some notes on what to say next year when you again address Congress on the State of the Union, which just might be your last chance to say anything significant as president.