Here at UR, we don’t take a lot of interest in elections. Washington is what it is. Does Thai whorehouse gonorrhea respond to penicillin? Washington has spent the last 75 years making itself immune to politics. It would be disrespectful to suggest that it hasn’t had some success in the matter. That said, you might get lucky. Or you might get a strain that eats the penicillin.
Most Americans do not read UR. They do believe in their caring, fatherly government. It no doubt strikes them as curious that, after eight years of Bush von Cheney, they voted for hope and change, and got… their balls stroked? Which could be one of these strange Potomac coincidences. But as the Lightworker’s administration began to hit its stride, they also found themselves with indefinite military detention and a return to the war on encryption.
The last rings a bell. When was the last time Washington tried to ban encryption? Oh, that’s right—the Clinton administration. Isn’t that peculiar? If any American was asked which is the party of national security, and which the party of civil liberties, he would have no trouble identifying the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. So why is it that, concerned about his civil liberties, he elects Democrats—and gets his underwear invaded?
The NPR progressive and the Rupert Murdoch neoconservative, neither of whom is anywhere near in touch with historical reality, are both in equal parts mystified and reassured by this development. Actually, it’s not at all complex or surprising, and can be explained easily in an unusually short UR post.
The progressive wonders what he has to do, next time, to elect a real progressive. If Barack Obama isn’t one, who is? Who can we trust? He blew all the right dog whistles. Sam Webb even called him “a friend.” So why all the hippie punching? Why are our fascist stormtroopers still terrorizing the innocent peasants of Afghanistan? Etc., etc.?
But deep inside, he is reassured. It has simply become clear that the corporate fascist conspiracy is larger and more dangerous than he knew. The Reich-wing is so powerful that it can corrupt even a mighty Lightworker. The world—harder to change than we knew. Meanwhile, the silver lining in this cloud: the lies of Fox News are definitively falsified. Our President is no socialist. Would a socialist be grabbing our dicks for national security?
The conservative is not surprised at all. He knows exactly what a socialist is: a Nazi. Nazis, as we all know, say “your papers, please.” Is it surprising that B.H. Obama would want to touch your junk? Not when he’s a socialist. “Ein volk, ein Fuhrer, ein junk.”
Where is the truth? Is Obama a socialist, or isn’t he? On the one hand, we observe that if the young Barack Obama has no socialist past, he has no past at all. It would simply be impossible to find an American politician more thoroughly bred in the New Left tradition. Does Obama have progressive associations? Does he have any associations which aren’t progressive? And indeed, this is how he was marketed: as a man without a past, an immaculate conception, sprung like Athena from the head of NPR. There is nothing new in any of this. If you haven’t heard a progressive deny that there is any such thing as progressivism, you’ve never talked to one.
But at the same time, we may ask: was Brezhnev a socialist? Comrade Brezhnev, since you ask, was a lifelong member of the 20th century’s most prominent and powerful revolutionary socialist party, whose bold international leadership he obtained. On the other hand he was a crotchety old white man, whose business cards said “Dictator,” who wanted to ban blue jeans and rock music, who wanted those damned kids to get off his lawn. In the end, what was the difference between Comrade Brezhnev and the old Boer securocrats of Pretoria? Neither of them was cool. Neither had any compunctions about genital searches.
Passion and casuistry seem naturally incompatible, but in Gladstone they were most curiously combined.
The perfect leftist is the fanatical hypocrite. While his beliefs correspond precisely to his own advantage, he believes in them furiously just the same. His opportunism does not even slightly detract from his sincerity, which is palpable and enormous. Indeed, if the situation changes and so do his interests, his mind will change as well. And change sincerely.
Alas, this character is easier to describe than find. In the day of Gladstone, liberalism was young and crazy and full of juice. Today? The movement exudes the overwhelming odor of fatigue. It remains both fanatical and hypocritical—but not in one person. Its fanatics, who could be broadly described as the amateur left, are devoid of any tactical cunning. And its hypocrites, who despite Robert Gibbs constitute the professional left, are as passionless as an eggplant.
They try to care. They moan, they gasp, they writhe. But their eyes are dead, whore eyes. Now that we’ve seen it in the White House, we’d know it anywhere. You have to be an awfully blind fanatic not to see what you’re looking at. Can the amateur left, the audience, the chumps who buy the magazines, find a professional leftist who actually cares about his ideals? They’ll need a much brighter lantern than it took to find B.H. Obama.
In 2010, there is nothing fresh about the revolution industry. The idealistic professional leftist is the exact counterpart of the romantic porn star—a human impossibility. A porn star is a prostitute. It’s simply impossible for a prostitute to feel, or even simulate, normal sexual passion. If any ordinary, amateur leftist were somehow transported into the White House, “enhanced patdowns” and Afghan wars would end tomorrow. But once a pro, always a pro. And who gets elected, but a pro?
As the professional knows, it’s all about power. Indeed he is entirely consumed by power. And once Obama—or rather, the Obama machine, an animal with one head and a hundred bodies—gets into the Oval Office, this is by no means an end to political desire. If he can be elected again, he needs votes. If he can’t be, he still needs popularity, because popularity is power. Doubtless, inside, he justifies this by some narrative of the greater good. Doubtless the porn star, too, thinks there is something somehow romantic about her career. We all have illusions.
Once our professional leftist is in the White House, his strategy is absolutely clear. Why should he pander to the left? He can count on the left. He has no worries to his left. He cannot win the right, probably not. But you never know. And there is still a large vote block in the center. It’s absolutely amazing how many white proles still vote for the Democrats.
Moreover, the Presidency is not at all without power, and power creates responsibility—even in the most cynical. Presented with a daily intelligence brief from the military-industrial complex, even the most idealistic Honolulu stoner will start to take it seriously. If an underwear bomber blows up a plane because nobody touched his junk, and that’s the President’s fault, the President will feel bad. It won’t help his polls, either.
Of course, airport strip-searches will alarm the amateur left. These people vote, too—they are about 20% of the electorate, and more with every inane state-college degree. But who are they going to vote for? Republicans? Moreover, being leftists, they take their cues from the professional left, a vast industry devoted to telling them what to fear and why.
But the professional left, being inherently opportunistic (or as they might put it, “pragmatic”) is simply not going to fire the fear machine up against a leftist President. The professional left does not consist of people who are concerned about securing civil liberties—or any other altruistic good. The professional left consists of people who are concerned about securing power. To that end, they will complain about anything, if a Republican is in the White House.
And this is why insane, hilarious violations of liberty, like fondling your balls or telling you what algorithms you can compute, are much more likely to emerge from a Democratic administration. It’s not that the election changes the staff at TSA or FBI, except for a thin veneer of political appointees. American democracy has long since given up on the dangerous notion that voters can be trusted to replace their government through the electoral process. TSA is TSA, FBI is FBI; they think what they think; they want to feel you up and pwn your computer.
Thus, in every administration, the agencies are the same agencies and will agitate for the same policies. An agency like TSA is reactive; its goal is not to prevent terrorist attacks, but to prevent terrorist attacks for which it can be blamed; if a terrorist puts a bomb in his shoe, TSA will make you take your shoes off; lacking Richard Reid, TSA would never think of it first. And the same, of course, goes for crotch bombs. Similarly, if you ask FBI if unbreakable encryption should be illegal, of course they will tell you: it should be illegal. Whoever is in the White House.
What the political veneer can do, however, is stop things. The White House cannot make an agency anything it is not, or make it do anything it doesn’t want to do. It does not have personnel, budgetary, or even policy control over the “executive branch.” But it has a veto.
Thus, when some basically fascist proposal rises to the political layer in the Bush administration, some politically aware person says: we can’t fondle or inspect every traveler’s balls. We can’t force every computer user to send us their encryption keys. Why not? Because first of all it’s wrong— a Republican is not a fascist. And second, because everyone who reads The New Yorker is already convinced that Hitler is in the building. Should we send them a Christmas card and tell them they’re right? And thus it was that, after the brief adrenaline rage of late 2001, the fascist Bush regime spent the next 7 years walking back everything dodgy it did in those months.
With a professional leftist in the White House, this layer of calculated compunction simply does not exist. Indeed, it may even be replaced by a layer of temptation—the professional is tempted to (a) win votes and (b) cover his trail, both of which hippie-punching may achieve. Besides, he doesn’t want a bomb to go off, which could be absolutely horrible for his polls. He doesn’t want to lose a war—ditto. And thus he becomes a convert to the virtues of the national security state. BHO was a member of the New Party; LBJ was a director of FDR’s National Youth Administration. Both came around to the fierce moral urgency of bombing furriners.
Moreover, a Rethuglican in the White House will actually believe in security. Therefore, he may actually take some steps calculated to produce, not the impression of security, but actual security. For instance, instead of feeling everyone’s balls, he may bomb Yemen—or at least, cut their funding. An unlikely consequence, which if it happens could only happen as a result of mere human common sense. The professional leftist, who hasn’t been human since the age of 13, is obsessed with security theater but not terribly interested in security. As his thumb glides down your crack, he lifts your credit card and sends more money to Yemen.
Thus, we observe a rare case in which it actually matters who you vote for. If you are concerned that your civil liberties might be violated (except for the assault on encryption, which is outrageous and will never succeed, none of this stuff bothers me personally all that much), it’s essential to vote for the candidate with the least regard for civil liberties, i.e., the Republican. That bottle marked Penicillin might as well say Gonorrhea Chow. Similarly, it’s not at all a coincidence that the most successful right-wing policies of our time—such as welfare reform—have been enacted under Democratic administrations.
So who should you vote for? You shouldn’t vote, of course. Whatever you think you’re doing when you vote, you’re just endorsing the whole insane system. If you must vote, however, please vote for Democrats. I endorsed Obama in 2008; I have no regrets at all. The system will go to hell in a handbasket that much faster. The sooner we get to hell, the less preheated the ovens.
And since there is no extant American governing tradition besides progressivism, to reject progressivism is to reject Washington. How can anyone reject progressivism, when it is apparently out of power or even genuinely so? We need progressives in the Presidency, now and forever, while both movement and office exist. As for our balls, they’ll just have to toughen up.