A few last thoughts as we head into what might be a historic election.
In Arizona, the state's largest newspaper wrote an especially tortured endorsement for Gov. Jan Brewer. The "reasoning" of the Arizona Republic is that Brewer is best positioned to help the state's ailing economy (!). And that she can work with dominant Republicans in the Legislature (!). Of course the latter is true because she will go along with the Kooks. The former is insanity, for Brewer doesn't understand the first thing about economic development. If sunshine, low taxes and "light regulation" were the keys to prosperity, then Arizona would be Hong Kong. So she promises more of the same, especially failure to understand the housing boom isn't coming back. This endorsement is all about appeasing the white-right advertisers and readers in the suburbs, especially the East Valley. Brewer is an idiot, and the stories are legion (e.g., being the first governor in memory to skip out after a very brief appearance at Governor's Arts Awards dinner). A more cogent endorsement came for Terry Goddard from the Arizona Daily Star.
It's said that statewide elections are decided in Pima County. Not this time, alas. If Raul Grijalva is in trouble, then the Arizona Democratic Party is kaput. As with the nation, the red states will become redder; so much for angry Tea Partiers and theocrats voting to "throw out the bums" who caused the disaster. They are the stooges, the useful idiots, of the corporate elite pulling the strings for a "permanent Republican majority."
There's much magical thinking about how this could be a blessing in disguise for Mr. Obama, that he "can do a Clinton," as in Bill's triumphant triangulation and "winning" the government shutdown standoff. What, exactly, did Mr. Clinton win? The elimination of the old welfare system, an accomplishment that is now heaping more cruelty on millions of Americans. Deregulation of industries, costing millions of jobs. The entry of a recalcitrant China into the World Trade Organization, helping to destroy countless American industries. The repeal of Glass-Steagall, which set us up for the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression. All Republican goals. Oh, and impeachment, a wonderful show that distracted us from the likes of Osama bin Laden. I can't wait. Social Security privatization, maybe? But Mr. Obama will be deprived of even these "successes." The Republicans can learn, even if the Democrats don't. And they own a major television network and almost all talk radio.
Behind all this are some realities: The ongoing pain from the swindles and collapse left over by the Bush (and Clinton) policies, as well as the average schmuck's desire to live in a 4,000-square-foot house in the exurbs, paid for with debt he can't handle. America's dependence on foreign oil, with all its destabilizing, dangerous consequences — and, postponed a bit by the Great Recession, the even more rocky future of world peak oil. Climate change: It's happening now and the costs are growing; ahead, we face huge national security, economic and health dangers from our inaction. We can't afford our soft empire and endless wars, even as the ascendant Republicans might push Mr. Obama into a new conflict with Iran (is the ancient Persian state the graveyard of weak Democratic presidents?). We've lost our small-D democracy in a quiet coup of moneyed interests. None of this is sustainable. If only we were as afraid of these big threats as of a few thousand disorganized terrorists.
Yet no one will tell the people these hard truths, and the steps we must take to correct them. Certainly not the president. Nor, apparently, can the political system correct itself. We no longer have an American-style two party system. We have one party, the new Republicans, who are more like a European-style (and proto-fascist) entity, with Bolshevik-like ideological discipline. The other party is a dying, American-style mass political party, where its many wings are its weakness. This is unprecedented since the Civil War. The corporate control behind it, of course, has its echoes in the Gilded Age. But then America was an industrial behemoth, making its debut as the China of the 19th century, with the remnants of the frontier to work off national tensions. Now...what? "God hates fags" and cheap gadgets from China will only get you so far.
What's the road ahead? I don't know yet. But not for nothing do we have all these zombie movies and the television show The Walking Dead. On the other hand, beyond the red-red states, the nation remains closely divided. Does that portend hope or violent reaction when reality can no longer be denied?