The New State Of The Union: Is the Cup Half-Empty or Half-Full?
WILL KICKING BUTT IN THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES BE A STEP FORWARD OR TWO STEPS BACK?
Preface: After thirty-six installments, He Said He Said went off the grid for several months. It's fair to say that during that time, Jim Murray and I pondered whether to carry on with this popular series, indeed, whether to do so made any sense. Eventually, we decided simply to do what we do, namely, write the piece and let you decide. So, feel free to join the conversation.
JIM: I have to admit that I have been living in a state of high anxiety for the past couple of years, and it’s all the fault of America. Many of us Canadians with ties to that country, no matter how flimsy, have felt the same, wondering how a country that advertises itself as the greatest democracy in the world could suffer such a colossal brain fart and elect probably the least qualified person ever to run for the job as their president.
I was actually in this anxious state for about a year before, following the campaigning and being pretty much astonished on a daily basis by the vitriol, not so thinly veiled racism, misogyny and hate that spewed from this man’s pie hole.
It was a topic of such intense discussion, and up here in the GWN (Great White North), political biases didn’t even enter into it. Because while we do have fairly distinct Liberal and Conservative leanings, we were all agreed that no one had ever seen anything like this before.
Most of our discussions centered on the idea that while perhaps there was something definitely askew in American politics and that this was being caused by the GOP. And this was so patently obvious that the main challenge we had for each other was in trying to understand just how this could have happened. Especially after 8 years of responsible government, half decent diplomacy and a slow but steady recovery from one of the worst financial debacles in US history.
And so I flip it over to you, oh mighty and exalted Boat Boy…how the hell did this happen? How did America end up in this pickle? And does the newly elected Democratic majority in Congress signify anything more than sound and fury in the true Shakespearian sense?
PHIL: How did we end up in such a pickle? Well, Jimbo, when you and I first got together to do this series, we agreed to always tell it as we see it, no soft-pedaling, no sugar-coating, and no smell of bull chips. So, here is the plain, unvarnished answer to your question:
The United States — “America”, as you and others are fond of calling the nation immediately south of the 49th parallel — has received, if not what it deserves, at least what it asked for.
As I repeatedly told my wife during the run-up to the November 2016 U.S. Presidential election — much to the consternation of her overly-rational, overly-polite Canadian political psyche — think greed and unenlightened self-interest. Think absence of social conscience. Think closet conservatism. All seasoned with a healthy sprinkling of racism, ethnicism, and plain freakin’ stupidity.
In 2016, the liberal political pundits completely underestimated the cunning of the Trump campaign. Yet, the elements were all there to be seen clearly, provided only you didn’t look through the rose-colored (or rose-coloured) glasses of the liberal press, which continually mistook disingenuous narcissism and megalomania for a lack of political cunning. And too few if any passed the word that Trump was more than a court jester, that he was, in fact, the most pernicious and dangerous would-be leader to come onto the U.S. political landscape in the history of the Nation.
Moreover, the predominantly-liberal national press failed miserably to explain that, with the very life of the Nation at stake, there was no room for hoity-toity political principles; there was only room for winning. Which involved first and foremost defeating Trump and his cadre of aspiring fascists.
The Clinton-haters and the frustrated Bernie Sanders supporters who refused to vote the Democratic ticket, not to mention the chicken-shit centrist Republicans who feared reprisals if they failed to kill the Pretender to the throne, all joined forces de facto to drive the wagon, in a fit of self-centered conceit, over the cliff.
Then, there is, of course, what I call the “Closet Reactionary Right” members of which masquerade as socially-conscious and caring, church- and synagogue-going people but who, in the privacy of the voting booth, give vent to all their fears of the brown hordes from south of the Mexican border, their stubborn refusal to muster an iota of care for their less fortunate fellow citizens for whom a tax cut of even a few hundred dollars would make an enormous difference, and their lazy refusal to even try to understand the huge boost in quality of life that universal health care brings to a population.
Of them, I ask, “So, how’s it workin’ out for ya these days?” And to you, Jim-bob, I say, we’re in a pickle because, in the inimitable words of Pogo at the shores of Lake Okefenokee, “We have met the enemy and he is… us.”
JIM: In your email, you suggested that you might be a bit rusty with the hardcore stuff. Well, you should know, what you just said shines like the chrome bumper on a Stutz Bearcat.
How it’s working out for us up here in the Great White North is that there is a breed of conservative politician up here that has started to fancy themselves Trump-Lites.
This is probably more a testament to the power of the US news media and the deleterious effect of the “Trump 24/7” syndrome that these media have fallen prey to. It’s all about bums in Barca Loungers sucking up the outrageousness and stupidity of it all. And making big media money off pharmaceuticals with lists of side effects a mile long.
Fortunately, we have a sane and humane Federal government (Liberal) and I really do not envy them the fight against the stupidity that they have before them as the right-wing moves farther to the right. In fact, I’m very much a part of the resistance movement up here.
There are a lot of activists in the US who are terribly disappointed that the Republicans were not completely wiped out, so they could go away, lick their wounds, and be able to distance themselves from the Supreme Leader, and somehow come back stronger and maybe a little bit less Koolaid drunk.
But there you go. A lot of us up here were really praying for more as well. Hopefully, there can be a number of checks and balances as well as some sort of protection for the Mueller investigation. Because the Supreme Leader seems to be really dedicated to quashing it. Right to the point where he has actually fired the Keebler Elf.
The other big concern we have is your deficit. It’s astronomically high and will eventually cause this current bubble to burst through a combination of gross fiscal irresponsibility and greed. This, in turn, will affect countries all around the world who have trade relationships with the US. Including my Great White North.
The issues we are dealing with up here pale in comparison to what you guys have on your plates right now. But the trend is really disturbing.
It feels like the rich are trying to suck in as much money as they can at the expense of the planet and all the people who aren’t rich, all with total disregard of the famous adage…“You can’t take it with you.”
I will leave you will a John Mellancamp lyric;
“Ain’t that America for you and me
Ain’t that America, it’s something to see
Ain’t that America, land of the free
Little pink houses for you and me”
PHIL: As I see it, Jim-san, it isn’t “the rich” as a group who are at the center of the movement to rid U.S. society of every vestige of decency and care for our fellow men. In my business as a consultant in the large-yacht industry, I’ve met a large number of seriously wealthy people. And truth be told, most of them were pretty kind and decent folk.
If anything, the most common social failing among the wealthy is a blurred or distorted gut-level understanding of what it takes to live comfortably in this world when your income is such that you have to consider what something, anything costs. And when someone has more wealth than he or she can conceivably ever dissipate, that person inevitably develops an insensitivity to the plight of the financial lower and middle classes.
That is not to say that being wealthy precludes one from being sympathetic or even empathetic to the plight of the poor (working or otherwise) or even to the plight (if we may call it that) of the middle class in modern western society. However, it much like sympathizing with someone who has shingles. You can kinda feel for them, but unless you’ve experienced your own case of the disease, you can’t really understand what they’re going through.
Of course, there are also plenty of wealthy people who have honed greed to a fine edge and are only too happy to cut the throats of the disadvantaged with it. And it is not to overstate the case to say that the United States’ current POTUS represents a messiah to those acolytes of greed and self-interest.
Not since the darkest days of “Tricky Dick” and his cohort, Spiro “Bagman” Agnew has the Nation seen this level disingenuity and deception in the Whitehouse, where the devotion to the “Big Lie” is almost religious in its fervor, and the motto above the door reads “Cast ye enough Bull Chips against these hallowed walls and surely some of them will stick…. “
Which is why, Jim-Jim, I personally see this recent election result as a 100% win, for it breaks the stranglehold that the dark side has been exerting on U.S. politics since the 2016 Presidential election. We can only hope (and work to see) that it will be followed by a similar Big Step Forward in 2020.
JIM: Just to button things up. There is a pretty serious authoritarian movement going on in the world today. But for a lot of different reasons. Some moral and some political. But the US is, and really always has been, about the almighty dollar and the somewhat naïve belief in ‘trickle down’ economics. This was part of Trump’s platform in addition to a radical change in immigration policy that would supposedly keep all those foreigners from stealing American jobs.
But he also had the advantage of riding an economic upcurve that started in 2009 and was happy to take credit for most of it. Of course, he only takes credit. Never blame. But it has been recently reported that there is a chronic shortage of both skilled and unskilled workers in America (to the tune of about 7 million good jobs), and the simple fact is that without healthy immigration, this shortage will grow.
But I agree, that the flipping of the Congress will help keep the Maniac-In-Chief in check, and should give everyone, outside of the super-greedy, some real optimism about the future.
— Phil Friedman and Jim Murray
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.
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