The Biggest Damn Fool Mistake

Posted on 10.14.08 9:26PM under The Everglades Room

We’ve been through this so many times, watching rational, lucid Democrats “win” debates against slogan-spouting, wedge-driving Republicans desperate to hold Nixon’s unnatural coalition together for one more election. Four more years to pick over the carcass of the Republic, steal what’s left of the commons and move the proceeds offshore, perhaps to a nice ranch in Paraguay that sits astride a huge aquifer near a secret military base.

After all, one must expect to pay for water and protection in the New World Order. Those of you useless eaters who can’t afford the buy-in, please go die, so the world’s natural resource problems can be solved, m’kay?

It isn’t surprising that John McCain, whose handlers haven’t yet been visited by the ghost of Lee Atwater, keeps on lying about how “That One” wants to raise your taxes, my friends. Nor is it surprising that McCain offers tax cuts for the ultra-rich and a three-card monte game on healthcare. “Here’s your $5000 credit against a $12,000 health insurance policy, paid for by cuts in Medicare,” he says. “You can’t compare it to the $10 billion a month we spend on killing Iraqis for the oil pimps, because we don’t pay for that at all. Your grandchildren do. Remember that little tax-rebate bribe you got for acquiescence in the Iraq war, my friends? Didn’t that work out swell?”

The second debate of ought-eight again showed that the Replicans (mere replicas of those they admire), still (and probably always will) rely on accusing Democrats of profligacy as “tax and spend” liberals. Many Americans don’t remember that this tactic was in use when the top marginal tax rate was 91% under Eisenhower, three times what it is now. Sadly, many don’t remember a time when it was thought patriotic to pay taxes in furtherance of the common good, in an era when greed was not glorified, but regarded as one of the seven deadly sins.

Wait a minute, you say. People know the “tax and spend” kabuki dance is as pointless as it is perennial. After Clinton, they understand that Democrats can balance the budget, and they’ve figured out that “tax and spend” is better than “borrow and spend.” After all, the theory that cutting taxes for the rich caused any prosperous period of the last forty years is not beyond dispute, especially as a new feudal era comes into view as a result of protecting inherited wealth.

(Note to myself: Ask somebody really smart why conservatives’ conviction about man’s fundamentally evil nature doesn’t alone undermine their faith in an idealized capitalist paradise. It’s indisputable that unregulation of financial markets stimulates fraud. It’s clear that corrupt, crony capitalism led us to this ruin. In their dotage, the Friedman-Strauss Gang will no doubt argue that market fundamentalism wasn’t a crackpot religion, and that everything would have worked out fine if only we’d gotten to a doctrinally purer system before the whole damned thing blew up. Isn’t that what Marxists used to say about Soviet Communism?)

Okay, then. If the rules really have changed and the paradigm really has shifted, why didn’t Obama just come out and say something like: “Look around you. Look at the people near you, wherever you’re watching this debate. You probably won’t see anyone from the 400 families that made 670 billion dollars over the last eight years. You probably won’t see any of the very few who benefited from this massive transfer of wealth, this fire sale of our national treasure, this perversion of our very soul in service of myths that greed is good, government is bad, and wealth trickles down, not up.”

Why are people like Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich the only high office-holders who can cut this thing down to the bone? Why is it that Replicans can practice class warfare but most Democrats are afraid to even talk about it?

I’m not naive. I graduated from high school weeks after they shot RFK and Dr. King. I’ve been waiting on the world to change for a long time, and I know Obama has to get elected before he can do any good. I also know he’s regarded as a safe choice by the powers that be, including some who’ve been waging war on the New Deal since 1933. Otherwise, his candidacy would have been drowned in the bathtub (like Edwards’ and Kucinich’s were). But I’m not scraping off my “Got Hope?” bumper sticker just yet. Here’s why.

Maybe, just maybe, after saying enough of the right (not left) things, Barack Obama will become our forty-fourth President (a pretty famous number, BTW, worn by the likes of Reggie Jackson and Jerry West). If his margin of victory is big enough (possible) and our situation is dire enough (certain), and he has courage enough (one hopes), maybe Obama will embrace the progressive policies that he’s smart enough to know are necessary. In so doing, he would undoubtedly disappoint our shadowy puppet masters. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

It’s not without precedent. At no time or place in American history were individual liberties taken more seriously than in Chief Justice Earl Warren’s Supreme Court. When Eisenhower appointed the Republican Governor of California in 1953, he had no idea that a Warren Court would desegregate the schools and aggressively protect individual rights. Years later, Eisenhower famously declared that Warren’s appointment was “the biggest damn fool mistake I ever made.” He similarly regretted his appointment of Justice Brennan, for which the people, if not the power elite, remain grateful.

As this race turns for home, the Replicans will do anything to keep voters too dazed and afraid to put two and two together. They’re gonna bury us with a blizzard of agit-prop so thick we’ll wonder where the sky went. They’re gonna push all our buttons at once, so we’re filled with more fear than an old Iron Butterfly song title. We’ve got to hold on. No matter what. And vote. No matter what. Someday, maybe those who thought they owned Obama will reminisce about how he double-crossed them, over chai lattes and steamed milk from green-powered espresso machines, in a nation more peaceful, lawful and just.

 *  *  *

Alan H. Rolnick has practiced law in Miami for twenty years, appearing in high-profile civil and not so civil cases, after putting himself through a music career by working at the New York Times. His first novel, Landmark Status, received ecstatic reviews without resort to the scandalous pictures in his publicist’s safe. He provides trenchant social commentary without warning, and is Executive Producer of the independent film Canvas. To learn more, visit his website or email

As posted on October 9, 2008, at Smirking Chimp

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