Kellia’s World – Recommended Reading

Challenging the assumptions we live by — Because I want to.

Posts Tagged ‘Principled Progressive’

Political limbo: when lame duck meets reluctant transition

Posted by kelliasworld on January 5, 2009

Ah, this is the winter of our political discontent, caught in the limbo between the ending of an 8 year presidency and the inauguration of another which could last for another 8. There is a terrible disconnect between the continuity of our national problems, both domestic and the foreign, and the possible or probable alteration of the policies by means of which we have dealt (or failed to deal) with those problems. The retiring or lame duck administration is reluctant to undertake any policies (except perhaps for matters like presidential pardons or the alteration of administrative environmental regulations) that may be abandoned as soon as the incoming administration takes over. For their part, the administration-to-be is unlikely to propose policy changes before they have taken the reins of power by means of which they can hopefully secure adoption of those proposals. As Barack Obama said in refusing to comment on the current Israeli assault on Gaza: “there’s only one President at a time.” I would argue, to contrary, that in this as every political transition period in U.S. history there is NO President, no one with the power and the motive to assume definitive leadership in dealing with our problems, both domestic and foreign.

This political limbo is of course most acutely expressed in the area of foreign policy, in which there seems to be a conventional understanding that, in such matters, the United States must stand united in support of a singular version of U.S. foreign policy. If a U.S. leader like Jesse Jackson or (more currently) Cynthia McKinney makes a public foray into a version du jour of the endless conflict in the Middle East, that act will be treated as a violation of that understanding of public unanimity despite differences in viewpoint or intention of different persons and parties. The Gaza situation demonstrates the deadly effect of the transition limbo: an effect of which, I have no doubt, Israeli leaders were quite aware and of which they were quite prepared to take advantage, based on the timing of an invasion that could have come almost anytime since Gaza exercised its sovereign right to choose a government controlled by Hamas three years ago. The Bush administration, engaged in the proverbial “rush for the bus” in which sports teams out of title contention at the end of the season play out their schedule with minimal interest or involvement, is hardly likely to interrupt its bogus victory lap in the Middle East by getting involved in anything beyond moral sputterings about how this stuff has got to stop.

Well, that’s the lame duck part of the limbo; the reluctant transition is a little harder to explain. Obama, his chosen cabinet and staff and most of his supporters seem to be continuing their agenda of muting any criticism or even positive suggestion for the new administration on the apparent assumption that, like “nothing was the same” (supposedly but wrongly believed) after 9/11/01, nothing will be the same after 1/20/09 as morning comes (again) to America and we get a “fresh start” on our problems,. both domestic and foreign.

Where domestic policy is concerned, there is actually little pretense that the economic “crisis” into which we have entered will be much different before and after 1/20, and Obama

has made it abundantly clear that he will not act on a chaste “one President at a time” assumption as his administration has moved forward with bailout and economic stimulus in recognition, perhaps, of the fact that there will be only a cosmetic change as the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration are replaced by the Clinton-era Chicago school economists of the Obama one.

In foreign policy the Obama administration could and urgently should take the same kind of activist role that they have adopted in the area of domestic economic policy. True, Obama cannot and perhaps should not advocate specific U.S. military actions like (what needs to be done) the denial to Israel of the military hardware used in the assault on Gaza. But he definitely could and should articulate a principle of foreign policy with regard to the Middle East that looks like something more than the “lopsided” support of Israel which some Arab leaders are accusing Condoleezza Rice of displaying. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict can never be settled by acknowledging an unquestioning right of Israel to commit whatever acts it chooses against what it deems as existential threats by Palestinians. Yet this is exactly what Bush and Obama, Rice and Hillary Clinton, almost with one voice, have pronounced as the sole basis of U.S. Middle East “policy.”

Please don’t tell me that it will be “soon enough” after Obama takes office for him to articulate and practice a less lop-sided “doctrine.” In its dealing with Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel has perfected the fine art of creating “facts on the ground” (i.e, settlers located in Arab land) with which governments will have to deal after the fact. As Obama will “inherit” the consequences of ongoing foreign policy decisions (or non-decisions) of the Bush administration (remember how JFK “inherited” the already-planned Bay of Pigs operation from Eisenhower?), he has every motive and civic responsibility to begin to exercise leadership in articulating a post-imperialist policy that will embrace conflict resolution not only in the Middle East but wherever the tentacles of U.S. imperialism are spread. People throughout the Arab world, many of whom were treated by Al Jazeera with juxtaposed images of the “pecs and abs” displayed by Obama at his Hawaiian vacation idyll with images of Gaza under siege and attack are looking exactly for that leadership. The Americans who elected him to the presidency should expect no less.

Jerry D. Rose – Editor, The Sun State Activist

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Jerry D. Rose: Off on the wrong track?

Posted by kelliasworld on October 26, 2008

[This Op-Ed, which originally appeared in The Sun, a newspaper published in Gainesville, FL, is reprinted here by permission of the author. You will see other articles by Mr. Rose in Kelliasworld from time to time. You are invited to visit his sites: The Sunshine State Activist, which contains many articles of interest to people outside of Florida, and his blog Principled Progressive].

Published: Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 24, 2008 at 3:04 p.m.

Public opinion polls are showing that only about 10 percent of people are saying that the U.S. is going in the “right direction,” most saying we are on the “wrong track.”

Cagle Cartoons

This mood of pessimism about the country’s future is widely cited as a reason that Barack Obama has forged his way to a seemingly commanding lead in the presidential preference polls.

The thinking is that people usually vote for an opposition party when they are dissatisfied with conditions under the incumbent one.

Such analysis no doubt contains a grain of truth that should be acknowledged.

But when I cast my ballot for president on the November ballot in Florida, I am faced with a choice of not two but (count them) 13 choices.

Each of the 11 alternates represents a more or less different “track” if I don’t care for the one furnished by either of the two major parties’ nominees.

How will I and other Florida voters choose a “track” when faced with a full set of options? Will we accept the box placed around our choices by our media and our peers, making a choice between the two tracks represented by the Republican and Democratic candidates?

Perhaps we will, but suppose we find nothing in the track records of either the McCain or Obama tickets that would impel us to get on either of their trains?

What if we feel that, no matter which track is taken, the destination will be the same: a cliff just outside town that the train will go over whenever we reach the point of an international conflagration or (in case we miss this cliff) an abyss of economic collapse on a train with engineers in the payroll of the Wall Street combine that drives the engine of our national economy?

Suppose we want something different; like progressive taxation, a fair tax, a reduction in government size, a socialist rather than a capitalist society, a world at peace rather than in incessant war, etc.

We will find congenial “tracks” in our list of 11 or whatever alternatives to our two corporacratic parties and some of us will choose one of those tracks, feeling that while that track may not get us to our preferred destination, it at least will not run us over one of those aforementioned cliffs toward which the D Train and the R Train are headed.

If our peers, parties, pundits and presidential debate organizers have their ways and get us all back on the Obama track, we’ll all be duly making our “lesser of evil” choices. The Obama lead in the polls might then hold up when the only poll that counts is conducted in November.

If too many of us stray off the track, we might indeed “spoil” the election for a Democratic Party that has in fact spoiled itself through its failure to select candidates who are genuine alternatives to the Republican ones.

If that happens, we track-strayers will of course face the full wrath of those who will blame us for the train wreck of the country in the coming McCain administration.

But maybe, just maybe, the Democrats will come to the realization that, if they want the unquestioning support of the American people, they need to put the party back on a track that represents the values of their paying (voting) customers, not those of their corporate paymasters

Jerry D. Rose is a retired sociology professor living in Gainesville. He operates The Sun State Activist and Principled Progressive, Web sites which present news and views from a progressive point of view.

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