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O My America: Shoulda Woulda Coulda

November 3, 2014
by Lawrence Bush Obama Torah with wordsHe shoulda advocated for Medicare for All. He woulda probably ended up with nothing — Obamacare, although it has increased the profits of the private healthcare industry, just barely squeaked by, even with a Democratic majority in the House and Senate — but he coulda made a better argument about healthcare being a right, not a consumer choice, which woulda made me happy. But y’see, I have good health insurance. He shoulda put race front-and-center in American dialogue. He woulda been savaged in the media, and all the hard-fought advances his justice department has made in the race-linked fields of mass incarceration and voting rights woulda probably been derailed by the brouhaha, but he coulda at least called out the Tea Party and the gun crazies and the “You Lie!” Republicans as the (unconscious?) racists that they are, which woulda made my pulse race. He shoulda proposed a very specific Green Jobs program and barnstormed the country to get people to get their legislators to vote for it. No, wait a minute, he pretty much did that... Well, for sure, he shoulda saved all those mortgages and said boo to the banks. No woulda coulda about that. I was willing to hold my nose and accept Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers in the face of another Great Depression — but he shoulda prevented those millions of foreclosures, even if it meant camping on some front porches. Maybe he shoulda also visited Planned Parenthood Centers, too, or had Michelle go with one of their girls. Maybe he shoulda visited an Occupy encampment. Maybe he shoulda visited with Trayvon Martin’s parents. Or taken off his shirt and shouted at the cops in Ferguson, Missouri. But wait a minute again: This is the President of the United States we’re talking about. He’s not Al Sharpton. He’s not Jesse Jackson. He’s not our guy, he’s their guy. Richard Nixon... Ronald Reagan... George H.W. Bush... Barack Obama. Leaders of the Free World. TO ME, THE MOST ADMIRABLE THING Obama did in the past bunch of months was to admit that, at least temporarily, he had no idea what to do about ISIS’s rampage in Syria and Iraq. How amazing to have the president admit what is true about all the rest of those foreign policy “experts” — that they barely comprehend the culture of Sunnis vs. Shiites, of inter-tribal hatred, of both radical and moderate Islam, of post-colonialism, of religious patriarchy, onto which they’ve been dropping bombs for the past fifteen years. Of course, Obama was savaged and lampooned for admitting to uncertainty. We like our Presidents to bomb first, ask questions later. So I’ll emulate Obama by admitting that I really have no idea about what to do about the Republicans’ rampage in America. They are about to get away with it, with their government-destroying, planet-destroying schemes, and I have no idea why. How can Americans watch the GOP behead the government and then elect them to come in and be the government? I don’t know the answer(s). If you do, tell me. Here’s what I do know — or, at least, think:
  1. That we don’t have much of a democracy when geographically concentrated reactionaries in gerrymandered districts can determine the fate of the majority — in a two-party system with no controls on campaign finance.
  2. That American conservatism, the Christian variety especially, has an undercurrent of racism that is volatile. In too many corners, the conservative ethic can almost be summed up as: “Poor = black & brown = fuck ‘em, give ‘em nothing.” And the hatred for Obama is rooted in the fact that he has tried to give ‘em something, or at least talked about it.
  3. Since Obama was elected, we have relied on him to be our community organizer instead of doing it ourselves. Easy to say shoulda woulda coulda. Hard to get myself to care enough even to vote tomorrow.
  4. That the Democrats are punks. They’re running away from Obama instead of swimming together and propagandizing like crazy. They always do that, they let the polls panic them, and whenever they do, THEY LOSE.
  5. That most Americans hate the government. Progressives don’t, because once upon a time we had FDR. But the Republicans have a winning argument — GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM — until the Democrats use the government to help working-class people. Which they won’t do, because millionaire politicians of either party aren’t vitally interested in helping working-class people.
We’re in trouble. The Republicans are taking over again. Hold onto your heads. Hold onto your planet. LAST TIME I FELT THIS WAY was about seven years ago: I was nearly ready to leave America. I actually took a test online to see if I would qualify for fast-tracking to Canadian citizenship. I was not convinced that George W. Bush, that is, Dick Cheney, was not going to precipitate a national security emergency in order to extend their tenure in the White House for “a little while.” And I felt about as mainstream, as a political progressive, as a hippie at West Point. Then Barack Obama got elected. Lawrence Bush edits Jewish Currents and Jewdayo.