As others have noted, the 'ground zero mosque' hysteria, whipped up by the white-right and the corporate media, is this year's version of 'death panels' and other nonsense that sandbagged Democrats last August. What's remarkable is that the party keeps falling for it. A party so cowardly doesn't deserve to remain in "power," if you can call their recent run being in power — a minority of lockstep Republicans have managed to block most meaningful legislation. A party so stupid doesn't deserve to survive, when it could run on the rhetoric of Harry Truman or FDR or its few contemporary real Democrats (Rep. Alan Grayson, Sen. Bernie Sanders et al). But it won't. That it could fall for the same play over and over, again and again. The president has given a few good speeches, including this one in Seattle earlier this week. Unfortunately, the Obama magic has fallen into a credibility gap with an administration run by Wall Street and Clintonites.
I know all this is true. I just hate to consign our nation to more of the same right-wing governance. On and on until...what? Perhaps the Democrats must go the way of the Whigs. Yet an America that has lost its lead in college degrees — lost the ability to value education and thinking in the age of Sarah Palin and suburban arrogant-ignorance — won't embrace a progressive agenda. Will it? We may never know because the major media outlets are themselves either compromised or terrified. Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox "News" and the Wall Street Journal, is openly giving money to the Republicans as well as tilting coverage. This is just the opening salvo in corporate money that will gain even more control over our government thanks to the "conservative" Supreme Court. (Do the Democrats think it was wise, say, to have two presidential nominees in 16 years from Massachusetts?)
Yet this is neither 1994 nor even 1988, when Michael Dukakis was punked by the late Lee Atwater, the political daddy of Karl Rove. The list of differences would be long and almost all are alarming and risky. The most immediate and volatile is unemployment. America has never seen a jobs crisis like this since the Great Depression — and then we were still the world's largest creditor nation and enjoyed the most powerful industrial base. Now we have at least 16 percent real unemployment and no prospect of recouping those lost jobs. Indeed, highly profitable companies are cutting jobs, freezing wages and, in one high-profile case, demanding pay cuts. In any other time, this would be the making of social and political strife. Don't assume that flat-screen TVs and Wal-Marts will keep the peace forever.
The disconnect on jobs between average people and the elites is startling. It goes beyond corporate money in politics to the end of meritocracy, the inability of a new Harry Truman to rise, the impenetrable reign of a permanent aristocracy. The elites have jobs. They've always had jobs at high wages. They make much of their money from investments, not wages. They have benefited from deregulation, jobs offshored, industry consolidation, tax cuts. This is as true of Democrats as Republicans, although the latter is far more cruel in its policies toward working people. The former, however, will do no more than nibble around the edges of what must be done. Members of this American nobility — perpetuated now by the tax system, including the lack of inheritance taxes — can't even imagine what it's like to worry about paying the rent, or being under the boot of a venal employer.
In fact, the jobs crisis can be addressed. But it will take more than D.C. excuses. It will take extraordinary measures.
Here are a few: 1) Play China's game of stealth protectionism and "strategic industries," such as sustainable energy; this, not American "free trade," is the future. The World Trade Organization is the walking dead. 2) Break up the big consolidated industries and provide incentives for the pieces to establish, or re-establish, their headquarters in cities outside New York and other elite metros. Also, eliminate the incentives for job-killing mergers. 3) Create a major infrastructure program to rebuild regular rail service, and built high-speed rail and transit, including retrofitting suburbia for a high-cost energy future; this would include many permanent jobs, and should include re-starting American manufacturing of these products. 4) Aggressively fund education and research. 5) Tax and regulate the hell out of Wall Street gambling; encourage capital to be put to productive, jobs-creating investments. The spending aspects of these measures would be investments that would more than pay for themselves — as opposed to, say, trillions for war.
And that brings me to, 6) Stop the empire. We can't afford it. We can't fix all the troubles of the world, and by "fighin' 'em there" we are breeding millions of enemies that will cause untold damage. We're also breeding those enemies by our soft theocracy. Nothing would have done more to undercut the radicals in the Muslim world than to celebrate the Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. But that's not profitable theater for the white-right and their corporate masters. Neither, apparently, is making the serious moves to stem the collapse of the middle class before its too late.