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A Whisper in The Storm: The Final Reckoning – NYTimes.com

by gradycarter

The Final Reckoning – NYTimes.com.

“Until there is a conception of participating in a democratic society, and a conception which is real – not just words and it means that we really are participating in a democratic society, until that’s the case discussion of taxes is fiddling with technicalities, and missing the point.” – Noam Chomsky, ‘An Inconvenient Tax’ (Film)

First of all I have to admit to having added to the title of this article. I added “A Whisper in the Storm” as an homage to how much I enjoyed this article.

Before you go any further I want to encourage you to read the article below… If you don’t have too much time, or you know that you might get bored with me please skip down to Mr. Brooks, I really doubt you’ll regret it.

Believing in something, or being defined by one’s background can often be a point of comfort and belonging. Having identity and individuality can be a very fulfilling thing, but people seem to perceive their individuality as reasoning why they can’t cooperate with others. This is The United States of America’s great identity crisis.

Americans want to be individuals, but they want to do it together, until it’s inconvenient… We have common cause and purpose in this nation, and in this world. Seeking commonalities seems like the best way to coexist. But finding out who you are can be just as important to a persons sense of purpose and worth. I like to classify myself as a social libertarian – which I think is actually much more in-line with the American electorate than either party, but you’d never know it from the 24 hour news cycle or the political gamesmanship we can’t seem to escape. One of the reasons I classify myself as such (as of right now) is that I believe in liberty based on a balance of a very democratically monitored and limited republic, while aiming to not allow my brothers and sisters of this nation and this world to live a forgotten and tragic life.

I don’t agree with Noam Chomsky all of the time, but I do have great admiration for him. His quote above symbolizes part of our struggle in my mind. Bill Maher is also someone who identifies as a social libertarian, regardless of how offensive he can be (I’m particularly don’t like how he makes fun of the middle of the country as he does). This post isn’t about my political philosophy so much though. Instead of going into petty politics (which is what happens anytime you put a face/name to any ideas) I would rather talk about the importance of sticking to talking about ideas.

David Brooks has my complete political admiration in his firm moderate grasp… I know I just said we should talk about ideas and not people, but David is one of the few people who knows how to talk about ideas so clearly that it can’t be personal. He’s good at his job… Before I really knew who he was I actually had the opportunity to meet him at the No Labels national launch, and I actually didn’t recognize him until after I’d spoken with him. He was incredibly kind, even though it was kind of my job at the time to know who he was… Well, this article moves me, and inspires me. Mr. Brooks is critical, and fair about the tone of today in my opinion. He is a moderate Conservative (which seems to be a rare bread in the mainstream anymore), and his words seem to lack all of the talking points that you hear in the main stream of the politics of today. I won’t attempt to explain what he’s trying to say, there’s a reason why he is so revered, he is good at using his own words. So, I would just like to remind you that this is a conservative man who has put into exact words how I feel about this election… I only say that because being from Oklahoma, and living in Arkansas it’s not all that difficult to be accused of being radically liberal, and I don’t think that I am (sorry for making it about me…).

Please, please share this article with your friends or family who are voting angrily (regardless of ideology), or who are seemingly lost in trying to understand what is happening in our country. I hope you enjoy the read, and I’d love (as usual) to get your feedback by whatever means you’d like.

Oh, one last thing. If you are ready to start hearing some voices that want to get our nation to get passed some of our shameful bickering I urge you to check out the wonderful organization No Labels. Perhaps you’ll enjoy their “12 Ways to Make Congress Work”, especially the No Budget – No Pay portion of their proposal.

-Grady

OP-ED COLUMNIST

The Final Reckoning

By

Jan. 20, 2009, was an inspiring day. Barack Obama took the oath of office and argued that America was in a crisis caused by “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.”

It was time, he said, to end the false choices between the orthodox left and the orthodox right. He called for “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. … In the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”

Obama acknowledged that some people questioned the scale of his ambitions, the scope of his grand plans. But, he continued, “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”

In some ways, President Obama has lived up to the promise of that day. In office, he has generally behaved with integrity and in a way befitting a man with his admirable character. Sure, he has sometimes stooped to the cynical maneuver. Contemptuous of his opponents, he has given himself permission to do the nasty and negative thing. But politics is a rough business and nobody comes out unsullied.

In moral terms, he hasn’t let us down. If he’s re-elected, his administration would probably remain scandal-free. Given the history of second terms, that is no small thing.

Moreover, Obama has been a prudent leader. He’s made no rash or disastrous decisions. He’s never acted out of some impetuous passion. His policies toward, say, China, Europe and Iran have had a sense of sober balance. If re-elected, he would probably commit no major blunders, which also is no small thing.

But the scope of Obama’s vision has contracted over the years. It has contracted politically. Four years ago, Obama won over many conservatives and independents. But he’s championed mostly conventional Democratic policies and is now mostly relying on members of his own party.

It has contracted managerially. Four years ago, Obama went to the White House with a Team of Rivals — big figures with big voices. Now the circle of trust is much smaller and political.

The mood has contracted. The atmosphere of expansive hope has often given way to a mood of aggrieved annoyance. He seems cagier, more hemmed in by the perceived limitations of his office. The man who ran on hope four years ago is now running one of the most negative campaigns in history, aimed at disqualifying his opponent.

Most of all, the vision has contracted. The arguments he made in his inaugural address were profoundly true. We are in the middle of an economic transition, a bit like the 1890s, with widening inequality, a corrupt and broken political system, an unsustainable welfare state, a dangerous level of family breakdown and broken social mobility.

The financial crisis exposed foundational problems and meant that we were going to have to live with a long period of slow growth, as the history of financial crises makes clear.

If Obama had governed in a way truer to his inauguration, he would have used this winter of recuperation to address the country’s structural weaknesses. He would have said: Look, we’re not going to have booming growth soon, but we will use this period to lay the groundwork for a generation of prosperity — with plans to reform the tax code, get our long-term entitlement burdens under control, get our political system working, shift government resources from the affluent elderly to struggling young families and future growth.

When people say they wish Obama had embraced the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, they don’t mean the specific details of that proposal. They mean the largeness that Obama’s inauguration promised and the Simpson-Bowles moment afforded. They mean confronting the hard choices, instead of promising more bounty for everyone with no sacrifice ever.

But the president got sucked in by short-term things — the allure of managing the business cycle so that the economy would boom by re-election time. Instead of taking the midterm defeat as a sign he should move to the center, or confound the political categories, he seems to have hunkered down and become more political. Washington dysfunction now looks worse than ever.

Sure, House Republicans have been intransigent, but Obama could have isolated them, building a governing center-left majority with an unorthodox agenda. Instead he’s comforted the Democratic base and disappointed sympathizers who are not in it.

One final thing. No one is fair to President Obama. People grade him against tougher standards than any other politician. But his innate ability justifies that high standard. These are the standards he properly set for himself. If re-elected, he’d be free from politics. It’d be interesting to see if he returns to his earlier largeness.

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