Tag Archives: Star Wars bar

Can Newt Beat Obama?

I had assumed that the Star Wars bar of Republican wannabes would have winnowed down by now to exclude Newt. Instead, the cast of characters from the paleoreactionary wing of U.S. politics proves that you could walk into any bar in Brooklyn and find 7 drunks more qualified to run the country. I mean no disrespect to my favorite borough’s barflies.

Michele Bachmann is clearly a woman who, in my mom’s words, can’t find her ass with both hands. Perry is a mass murderer on Percocet — or whatever other back pain meds he’s on that renders his Bush Jr. retread routine dopier than the original. Mitt’s an unrepentant 1%er with the temerity to actually commission a $12 million tear-down on his La Jolla beach house while running for president in a depression. Santorum’s homophobia is so repellent to millions that his last name is best associated with sexual fecal matter. Ron Paul actually says out loud what the rest believe: we should all have the freedom to be homeless, uneducated and drop dead without health care. And Huntsman is a political dust mite on a flea’s ass.

Then there’s Newt. His abilities were best summarized by Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in a definitive journalistic smackdown: Newt is “a stupid man’s idea of what a smart man sounds like.”

Nonetheless, the cultural Lilliputians and economic dingbats of our era have canvassed their ranks and offered up the crème de la crème of their ilk: Newt.

Lest we forget — and for those of you too young to know — Newt’s last foray into national politics in 1994, when he swept into Congress as the head of the “Republican revolution,” didn’t go so well. Here’s a snippet from an excellent piece by Alan Maass on “The rise and fall of Newt Gingrich”:

Gingrich claimed that the election results represented a “political sea change”–and a mandate for the Republican right. He vowed to pass the Contract with America–a 10-point program of right-wing proposals that included tax cuts for the rich, welfare “reform,” harsh restrictions on government spending and various other items that had been on the Republican wish list for years–within the first 100 days of their reign.

The mainstream media hung on every word from the Gingrichites and produced countless stories familiar to us today–about how the Republicans would be free to do whatever they wanted in Washington for years to come.

It didn’t turn out that way. Not a single bill from the Contract with America became law. The popularity of the Republicans steadily faded. And Newt Gingich, the leader of the “revolution,” became the most hated man in American politics.

Lately, coworkers and family ask me if there’s any chance Newt could trump Obama in the 2012 election. Just to be clear, I don’t believe we should vote for anyone or party that expands wars, including the one against the 99%, which both Democrats and Republicans have done with vigor. We should protest, petition, #occupy, mic check, picket, sit in and organize till our dying breath, but I do not believe that the 99% have a dog in this race.

That said, barring a politically cataclysmic development, I believe the odds of Newt (or any other Republican) winning are bad. Not because he’s a moron, that’s never disqualified anyone for public office in this country (See: Ronald Reagan, Bush Sr. and Jr.) And not because Obama will inspire anything like the movement feel of Election 2008, when tens of thousands took off work and school to actively campaign for a man they truly believed in.

No, Obama has squandered that option for 2012. People may trudge to the polls out of fear of the barbarians at the gates — though many will join me in abstaining, I suspect — but nobody is projecting anything like a repeat of 2008.

My belief is primarily based on the political and economic facts of our Not-So-Great Depression. As the economy worsens and Europe’s debt crisis reverberates back on the homefront, even steeper austerity measures will be called for by the 1%. What could possibly compel the ruling class in this nation to dump their financial and political support for an imperial and political leader who’s proven his worth to them?

Obama’s bailed out the banks, pushed through a health care plan that leaves private insurance intact, allowed industry to remain unregulated, expanded occupations and wars under the pretext of ending them (including the one on immigrants, with record deportations) — all while making it seem, at times, as if he is actually doing something for ordinary working-class people.

Add to that the explosion of the Occupy movement, which is now taking over foreclosed homes, shutting down ports and mobilizing workers, unemployed and students to fight cuts and it seems that the 1% need Obama today even more than they did in 2008, when Wall Street was among his biggest backers. They don’t even mind Obama’s few rhetorical snipes at the 1%, since it keeps the charade in play:

One top banking executive who raises money for Obama, discussing fundraising efforts on the condition of anonymity, said reports of disaffection with the president “are exaggerated and overblown.” He said a strong contingent of financiers in New York, Chicago and California remains supportive of Obama and his economic policies, even as some have turned on him.

But, this donor added, “it probably helps from a political perspective if he’s not seen as a Wall Street guy.”

It turns out that even the private-equity firm co-founded by Mitt Romney has  donated more to Obama’s campaign than to their old boss’s. Bain Capital’s employees have so far given $34,000 to their old CEO, but as of September Obama’s taken in $76,600 of Bain’s beneficence, according to the Washington Post. Meanwhile, Obama’s fundraising appeals to the rich, which consume at least 12% of his time one year out from the election, are garnering him a fair amount of ready cash, as Tom Englehardt details in his report, “The 1% election.”

The sideshow taking place among Republicans is not at all where progressives’ attention should lie. No, we have real fights to wage and lessons from this extraordinary year to assimilate.

See you at the occupations, and bring a book, this may take a while.

Join me and other authors at our publisher’s 10th anniversary bash in Washington, D.C., this Saturday, Dec. 17, Busboys and Poets, 7:30PM. Haymarket Books — weapons for the 99%, details here.

A Modest Proposal for Republicans

Leftists are sort of giddy these days. Between mass upheavals in Egypt and Wisconsin—two places that before this week had never been mentioned in the same sentence—belief in the potential of collective action by ordinary people has been reaffirmed.

Of course, the scale and stakes between Egypt’s revolution and Wisconsin’s battle for union rights are hardly comparable. But in their own ways, struggle against injustice and the power of working-class people to unite are on display in ways most of us have only read about in history books. We are all Egyptians! And yes, we are all Badgers, too!

I’d like to address the gripes of those on the right, such as Governor Walker in Wisconsin and his Republican cohorts in Congress who believe that at the core of all evil lies the danger of big government. I have a modest proposal for the Republicans and all the Tea Flotsam across the nation.

Given their expressed hostility to government intervention in the lives of ordinary people—except when it comes to bringing in the National Guard against workers and murdering Brown people in foreign lands—I suggest we grant them their wish. Walker, Flotsam and Co. should reject all pesky intrusions by federal agencies and recuse themselves from receiving any “big government entitlements” that they all so deeply despise.

Yes, I think we should allow them to stop paying taxes so that they can politically and socially secede from the Union. First, that would require that these public officials all step down and resign their offices, since tax dollars pay their salaries and benefits. No worries, guys, I hear Wal-Mart’s hiring.

Of course, they would no longer be eligible for any form of Social Security, disability benefits through SSI, Medicare, Medicaid etc.  But let’s not stop at the obvious “entitlements.”

The national highway system was constructed in the 1950s with federal tax dollars, as those ubiquitous plaques at highway rest stops acknowledging Eisenhower’s contribution to killing mass transit remind us. So of course, they would be barred from driving on the highways (and no potty stops either, those quintessentially American toilets with vending machines assuring we all have access to excessive amounts of sugar, fat and salt are paid for with tax dollars too!).

State and local roads, plus subways and el trains in the 4 or 5 cities where they actually exist, would also be off limits to them. Bike lanes, by the way, are courtesy of those pesky state coffers, but I think a simple tollway for them on pedestrian sidewalks (more taxes at work) should provide an adequate compromise.

While we’re on the topic of transportation, let us not forget that the department charged with preventing airplanes from crashing into one another and wings falling off midair, the Federal Aviation Administration, is also a tax hog. So flying’s out, even in the center, eat-your-knees seat.

We encounter a major glitch when it comes to the issue of public health. Since Walker, Flotsam and Co. could never accede to federally imposed inoculations, thus posing a threat to the rest of us, we need to consider a relocation plan. I’ve scoured the map and come up with an equitable proposal.

I would wager that one of the Pacific atoll nations about to be submerged beneath rising waters as a result of climate change might be willing to sell their property or even swap with lands currently owned by this Star Wars bar of bigots and Flat Earthers whose McMansions are built on safe ground in the United States. The real beauty of this plan is that since the anti-government gang doesn’t believe in global warming, they might actually go for such a venture.

I’ve merely scratched the surface here, but I think you get my point. Spreading upheavals across the globe are posing one vision of society—democratic, inclusive, economically just. Yet the people who cling tenaciously to a Lord of Flies notion of society where it’s each man for himself—and I do mean man—should practice what they preach. Leave the rest of us alone!

Sherry Wolf—Public Speaker, Writer and Activist—is author of  Sexuality and Socialism, associate editor of the ISR and writes for socialistworker.org. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.