Monday, February 20, 2017

Liberty & Union: From Obamboozled to Trumped

I was opposed to the politics & pomposity of Barack Obama from the moment he first rose to national prominence as the junior United States Senator from Illinois & candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential campaign. The '08 campaign was a triumph of style over substance, with citizens from all across the political spectrum projecting their hopes, beliefs, & ideals onto Obama, who welcomed the nigh-messianic fervor, referring to himself as "the change we've been waiting for." I foresaw a parade of horrors & was proven right, time & time again, to my great sorrow.

Instead of seeking to unify a fractious body politic, President Obama governed in a narrow, intensely partisan manner, eschewing input from even the most center-left Republicans, such as Senators Snowe & Collins from Maine. The nation became more divided & debate less civil; race relations grew more contentious & instances of violent crime, including murder, rose for the first time in decades. Freedom of speech was curtailed, as I.R.S. agents conducted targeted audits against organizations from only one side of the political spectrum; local prosecutors, following the federal government's lead, launched S.W.A.T.-style raids against the law-abiding, loyal opposition. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory in Iraq, giving rise to the "caliphate" of Daesh (I.S.I.S.), the "Islamic State" that is even more violent & expansionist than the bin Laden affiliate, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, from which it spawned. Russia invaded & annexed the Crimean Peninsula, facing only trifling sanctions in response, & is conducting on ongoing insurgency in Ukraine, designed to break the eastern provinces away from the national government in Kiev. Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, was given massive quantities of cash & precious metals in exchange for intentionally unverifiable promises of suspending the atom-bomb program it never admitted to operating. I could go on, & on, & on & on & on about the horrors of the Obama administration's parade of horrors.

For years, I looked forward to 20 January 2017 as an auspicious day, a day of national redemption & reconciliation. So much for that hopelessly naïve notion.

The 2016 presidential campaign proved ever more fractious than the preceding eight years. The Democrats nominated for president Hillary Clinton, former United States Senator from New York & Secretary of State, whose viciousness; callousness; & sleazy conflation of the State Department with her personal charity-cum-slush fund, the Clinton Foundation, made even her most ardent supporters lukewarm & dissatisfied. The Republicans nominated for president Donald Trump, real-estate mogul & reality-T.V. star, who had previously donated to both Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaigns & the Democratic Congressional Committee, who pettiness; nativism; & sleazy personal & business dealings made even Mr. Obama & Mrs. Clinton's most ardent opponents lukewarm & dissatisfied. Such is my personal & political animosity toward Secretary Clinton that I would have been willing to hold my nose & vote for the despicable likes of libertarian demagogue Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), but Mr. Trump was a bridge too far. I could not in good conscience vote for him—& I did not. Such is my personal & political animosity toward now-President Trump that I left the Republican party over his nomination; my politics have not changed since this time last year, but I simply will not countenance Trump. I awoke on Wednesday, 9 November 2016, assuming that Mrs. Clinton had been elected president, as all the news anchors & pundits had been saying she would for months & months. I freely confess that I smiled when I learned that she had conceded defeat the previous night. I was not happy that Mr. Trump was to be president, but I was thrilled that Mrs. Clinton was not. As of this writing, I'm still stuck, stranded 'twixt the Devil & the deep blue sea.

I oppose President Trump's crony capitalism (Carrier, Boeing) & blunderbuss conflation of border security with anti-terrorism: cracking down on visa overstays & lone wolf radicalization within immigrant communities has nothing to do with closing the border to refugees fleeing from persecution by Daesh in Iraq. But it's not as if I can make common cause with the left, those who say all are welcome at the Women's March & then exclusive explicitly feminist groups that happen to be pro-life, those who denounced as racist anyone who dared voice even the smallest objection to President Obama's policy agenda (saying nothing at all against the man himself) & yet who proudly declare Trump #notmypresident. It is an interesting illustration of the difference 'twist conservatives & progressives; I remember seeing many a T-shirt that also declared the second President Bush "Not My President," yet no similar widespread phenomenon ever existed denying President Obama's status as president of the United States, even by those who gleefully worked to thwart his agenda &, in the first term, deny him a second. Conservatives believe in representative democracy even when we disagree with the outcome of elections; progressives only agree with the principle of "government of the people, by the people, for the people" when it produces outcomes they like.

As I wrote, I'm stuck. I'm no longer a Republican & I can't be a Democratic. In the nearly two centuries that have passed since the end of the single-party "Era of Good Feelings," third parties in the American republic have only served to ensure electoral victory for the faction to which they are most stridently opposed. Disengagement is not an option, since the Church's clear social teaching is that Catholics must be good citizens, using politics to promote justice & solidarity. Kobayashi Maru.

Operation AXIOM: Presidents Day/Washington's Birthday (Observed)
After Inauguration Day came & went unremarked, I saved the skeletal framework of this post for publication on 20 February, figuring one month's distance would make perspective & reflection easier & thus comment more illuminating. I did not realize at the time that 20 February was the third Monday of the month, & thus the observance of the federal holiday of Washington's Birthday & the similar state holiday, known by a variety of names in the several states. (In sacred Michigan, 'tis neither Presidents' Day nor President's Day, but Presidents Day. I find the lack of an apostrophe puzzling & disappointing.) Spooky timing, that.

About the only good news is that, once again, we had a peaceful transition of power. A quick glance around the globe should remind us that this is still a far from universal experience, & we Americans should not take it for granted. We must always honor General Washington for the priceless, peerless example he set by relinquishing his office after two terms, thereby setting a precedent all future presidents honored, save one—& the Constitution has since been amended to prevent anyone else from vainly, cynically clinging to power as did the second President Roosevelt.

Bonus! Songs of the Day
Big D & the Kids Table, "President" from How It Goes (The Last Angry Man)

Commentary: A ska-punk song that has a proper punk cynicism about politics & politicians.

Fitz & the Tantrums, "Dear Mr. President" from Pickin' Up the Pieces (The Last Angry Man)

Commentary: A far more earnest cry for political action to solve social & economic problems.

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