By Peter Z. Scheer
I suspect that when my life is over I will have had two opportunities to vote in a presidential election for a black man, and I intend to take both of them.
That’s not to say that we’re done progressing, but I don’t think in 1960 my Polish-American grandmother realized Jack Kennedy was going to be the last Catholic she saw in the White House and I’m not taking anything for granted.
In 30 years I think we will look back and marvel at how strange it was that a country with this many bigots, both closeted and overt, once elected a man with a Muslim name to fight two wars in that part of the world.
By that time, global warming will have turned New York’s subway system into an underwater attraction. New Yorkers will pay their rent with bundled mortgages or, as is common today, plasma.
I’ve been daydreaming a lot lately. It’s how I’m coping with the red-faced circus clowns who have come to replace everyone in our political process, from Ron Paul to the commenters on websites.
People don’t seem to speak or argue anymore. They just rage. And no one uses complete sentences. “President Obama extended the Bush tax cuts!” That’s actually a fragment. The full sentence is: “President Obama extended the Bush tax cuts as part of a deal to keep unemployment benefits and food stamps going through Christmas, thus keeping millions of poor people alive!” What an asshole.
You can tell that Obama secretly hates poor people because of his national health insurance plan, which forces everyone to buy insurance. Actually, that’s another fragment. It forces everyone who can afford to buy insurance, and declines, to buy insurance. It gives insurance to millions of previously uncovered poor people and it subsidizes the rest. Those of us who already have insurance may pay a little more, but we get nifty new regulations on the health care industry.
I should admit here that I have a bias. I had brain surgery. It involved a dozen doctors, half as many MRIs and a few bills that resembled the defense budget. I didn’t have to pay for most of that because my insurance company wasn’t allowed to drop me and my pre-existing condition. They still can’t. Unless Mitt Romney gets himself elected, I suppose.
Obamacare is such a giveaway to the insurance companies that mine had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for my brain surgery. It will make it up off some healthy young thing’s premiums. What’s left of my brain and I are fine with that.
Another confession: My brain medication makes me irritable. That makes it especially difficult for me not to mouth off every time I think about the president’s hawkish tendencies, from his expanded use of drones to his escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Yes, he told us many times as a candidate in 2008 that he intended to refocus the military on Afghanistan and hunt down and kill terrorists (real and imagined) across the globe, but at the time I thought he was just trying to trick the moderate Republicans who were also volunteering in the campaign.
I was thinking about Obama’s drone policy while watching an episode of Oliver Stone’s astonishing “Untold History of the United States.” According to the filmmaker and his acclaimed historians, Adolf Hitler himself admitted that he would have been beaten back had the Western powers shown just a little more backbone earlier on. There were a half-dozen opportunities for the United States, Britain and France to contain the Nazi state and save as many as 70 million people. President Franklin Roosevelt wanted desperately to oblige, but more than 90 percent of the American public was against the idea. So he did nothing. What an asshole.
I bring this up because a large majority of Americans supports the use of drone strikes, and I suspect that has something to do with Obama using them. This doesn’t excuse such immoral and illegal behavior, but my point is, even FDR fucked up when the polls got to him.
Presidents are strange creatures. I think Chris Hedges is right when he says “those who hunger for power are psychopathic bastards.” I wouldn’t want the job. Imagine presiding over an empire in decline, with a trillion-dollar-a-year war machine, an economy built on funny money and an oligarchy climbing up your ass. Then throw in a do-nothing, obstructionist Congress populated by opportunists, sadists and goofballs.
Why the hell does Jill Stein, running on the Green Party ticket, want to be president? She must know she can’t win. Otherwise, she’s crazy to desire a piece of that action. I wonder if she ever wakes up in a cold sweat, having had a nightmare that she won and has to go to work with John Boehner in the morning.
My friend Alex is in Youngstown, Ohio, trying to get people who literally can’t afford front doors on their houses to vote for Obama. Alex has lived in all sorts of hellholes while campaigning for Obama, both in 2008 and this time around. His specialty in the previous election was registering African-American voters in communities long abandoned by all levels of government. Alex is a Jew from the Pacific Palisades, so it’s a bit of a mystery how this came to be. Regardless, he was good at it and it’s thanks to him as much as anybody that the first time any of us got to vote in a general election for a black candidate for president, the black man won.
Alex worked for the labor movement between the Obama campaigns, and he told me why the unions stood by the president even after the demise of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill no one has ever heard of that might have ultimately restored the power of the middle class in America. Unions, he explained, spend most of their leverage with employers fighting over health care. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, businesses that employ more than 50 workers will have to provide health care or pay a $2,000 per worker penalty. So here’s another fragment: Obama failed the unions. Full sentence: Obama failed the unions, except that he got them health care and freed up their resources to focus on more important issues, like growing again.
In the year 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader, because I was 19, Al Gore’s gay marriage position was offensive, and Ralph promised a new age of political idealism. He got less than 3 percent of the vote and I got four years of George W. Bush. After that I voted for John Kerry, and I didn’t give a shit what position he took on gay marriage. Four years later, it seemed like we would never emerge from the darkness, and then we got a black president with a Muslim name and the first thing he did was sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Power seekers are psychos, and Obama has sins to answer for, but how crazy do you have to be to let another George W. Bush happen? I think some of us prefer misery, so long as the villains are obvious.
On the left we talk a lot about the lesser of evils. But health care is not evil. Fair pay, two women on the Supreme Court, a FEMA that functions and food for the hungry—these things are not evil. They’re progress.
My friend Eric spent two years surviving on Obama’s unemployment checks, student loans and his own ingenuity. Now he’s a taxpayer. That’s not evil. That’s an America that works.
I may have a hole in my head, but on Tuesday I’m going to take that second opportunity to vote for America’s first black president. And on Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday, I’m going to do my best to keep him honest.
White House/Pete Souza
President Obama comforts a victim of superstorm Sandy while surveying the damage in New Jersey.