(By American Zen
’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)Chris Cillizza
at the WaPo
’s The Fix wrote an interesting article a few days ago, interesting in a Mayan Doomsday type of way. Appropriately, 2012, the year the world will end on the Mayan calendar, is the year of the next general election. It will be the year the Republican Party will choose yet another maniac as their standard-bearer. It doesn’t matter if it’s Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin. They’re all crazier than a shithouse rat in flames but one of them has to get the nomination to oppose President Barack Obama.
Yet there was an alarming poll result embedded in Cillizza’s article:
In a January 2009 Washington Post/ABC poll, nearly seven in ten (68 percent) self identified Republicans approved of the job Bush had done while nearly eight in ten (78 percent) had a favorable opinion of him.
And, if history is any guide, public opinion about the former President will continue to brighten the further he recedes from office. That softening is already happening as a CNN poll conducted late last month showed 43 percent of the public viewing Bush in a favorable light while 54 percent regarded him unfavorably. While not stellar, those numbers are a far cry from the dismal 34 percent favorable/62 percent unfavorable score Bush received in CNN polling at the end of July.
I called it back when Obama was still a Senator and running for the presidency. Several of us, did, in fact, because, as Cillizza himself notes, history is a good indicator of how forgetful we are of the evils of past administrations the further they recede from their moment in power. Witness the gauzy, nostalgic feelings still generated by Ronald Reagan, the man who set the ball rolling and began getting us into the unimaginable mess we’re in now.
Under Reagan, unions suffered starting with PATCO, the air traffic controller union. The deregulation orgy started, the middle class shrank to a hard, embittered kernel, government programs were slashed under future jailbird David Stockman and, with the aid of his successor George HW Bush, the deficit tripled. It was the sleaziest and most corrupt administration in history until the suspiciously improbable rise of George W. Bush, if Iran/Contra is any indication.
The triple whammy of Reagan and Bush, Jr., with the Republican Revolution of 1994 neatly sandwiched in between, dealt liberalism three blows from which is still has not recovered even with the more or less successful two term presidency of Bill Clinton and the historic election of Barack Obama.
Nowadays, Vichy Democrats hesitate and calculate the risks of even openly calling themselves progressives let alone liberals. Even Alan Grayson (D-Fl 8), one of the brightest new stars in Democratic politics, stops short of identifying himself as a liberal and outright calling for single-payer universal health care. Even firebrands like Grayson are savvy enough to know when to pick their battles.
The problem is, there are hardly any significant battles these days the Democrats are willing to wage against a shrinking GOP minority in the Congress and that especially includes health care reform. They acted more quickly to bail out Wall Street, condemn Moveon.org and defund ACORN than they ever acted in the interests of the economically-battered American people.
Pundits whom we’re taking seriously keep telling us that health care or Afghanistan or this and the other is the death knell of the Obama administration unless he makes everyone happy with his policy decisions (and, obviously, he will not). Every single issue is supposed to be a bellwether of the viability of the Obama administration, every cause a make or break one. And it’s true that the President is showing an alarming lack of fidelity to his campaign promises and health care reform, transparency in all matters and Iraq is just the beginning.
But whatever evils the Obama administration may be visiting on us with a toothy smile still pales in comparison to those inflicted on the American public by the Bush administration. While the president’s “policy reversals” are disappointing and sometimes even infuriating, it has to be acknowledged that Mr. Obama and his aides are nonetheless forced into compromising positions without the full power of a liberal Democratic party behind it.
It is up to the informed grassroots to remind the rest of our goldfish memory electorate of who exactly got us into the economic and social quagmire in which we presently find ourselves. It won’t do for the President to remind us who’s responsible for much of the quicksand but that’s not to say we cannot do the same thing.
Very recent history that ended just over 13 months ago is already being whiteboarded. We hear about this “jobless recovery” and the resurgence of Wall Street, a marginal drop in the unemployment figures and think, “Gee, maybe he wasn’t so bad, after all.” A George W. Bush billboard with the caption, “Miss me, yet?” has already appeared in Wyoming, MN.
Receding from our goldfish memories is the realization that a major American city full of African Americans still has not recovered from a shocking lack of concern from the Bush administration. Forgotten is who’s responsible for us being involved in two unwinnable wars that have cost us over a trillion dollars, who’d authorized the creation of a corporate welfare state costing tens of trillions more to no discernable advantage to the very people who’d footed the bill for that corporate welfare state. Forgiven is the man who genially presided over the steadily mounting unemployment figures that haven’t been seen since the Reagan administration.
Forgotten even more diligently is the realization that under Republican administrations, inflation, unemployment, pollution, debts and deficits inevitably skyrocket as surely as day turns to night. Liberal thought gave us the New Deal, the Great Society and the War on poverty, the civil rights movement, the Apollo program, the Peace Corp, Medicaid and Medicare, Head Start, the National Endowment for the Arts. The list goes on.
Conservative thought has given us the Contract With America, deregulation, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, corporate greed, deregulation and irresponsibility coupled with impunity and entitlement, relaxed clean air and water and work safety standards. Any mean-spirited agenda designed to weaken, cripple or outright destroy the general welfare you can be sure had its genesis in conservative “thought.”
But now, just 13 months after slithering out of the White House like the imposter he truly was, former “President” George W. Bush is now being forgiven by an alarmingly large percentage of We the People, a latter day people so used to being rear-ended that they have no relationship to or empathy for the vision of the Founding Fathers who sought to protect us from tyrants like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
And we are abusing ourselves with this whiteboarding of history. Every generation, we unwittingly make George Santayana’s words ring truer and truer: “Those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.”