I forced myself not to get excited about Obama and overall I was successful. I can honestly say that the only thing that excited me about the 2008 Presidential Election was not ending up with the worst possible outcome. If that isn't the fundamental problem with our politics – maybe our society overall – then I don't know what is. After eight years of trying, eight years of accumulating debts both financial and social that I won't live to see paid, this is the reward: a couple years of Eisenhower Republicanism before the great herds of deranged rubes that make up our electorate inevitably decide that Bad had enough of a go at it and it's time to give Worse another shot.
Matt Taibbi's Obama-broke-my-heart piece has been getting a lot of press lately, and nothing about it is shocking except that he got his hopes up in the first place. What did anyone really expect? We've changed. We've changed on a very basic level. Across the mainstream of the political spectrum we've utterly rejected two ideas – that government can be anything other than evil/incompetent and that there can be any collective solution to anything – in a process that began in the 1960s and came to fruition with the "New Democrat" Clinton era. What the Great Depression and Second World War taught Americans has long since been forgotten. Now we have more problems than we can count and there are only three solutions (which are ideally implemented in unison) in response to all of them:
1. Privatize it. There is not a single thing the government can do – from fighting a war to creating a last-resort insurance option – that can't be done better by a consortium of gigantic private interests with their eternal guiding light of the profit motive. Any and every attempt to "reform" anything turns into regulatory capture writ large, a theater of the absurd of inmates not only running the prison but getting the contract to build it and letting themselves out before filling it with the rest of us.
2. Cut my taxes. Pay for the tax cuts by eliminating every aspect of government that doesn't benefit me directly.
3. Blame substantial problems caused by 1 and 2 on government. Repeat.
Part of me did think that this financial crisis would be a little bit of a bottom, a wake-up call. You'd think that having every state in the union – even conservative Meccas like Texas – desperately filling budgetary gaps and reductions in services with free Congressional bailout cash would get a few folks thinking, hmm, absent the largesse of the Federal government we would be irrevocably fucked. The truth is that we have a long way to go. The 1930s have officially been forgotten, or in some circles conveniently re-imagined with pap that ranges from the highbrow money supply erotica of Milton Friedman to the credential-free, Washington Times op-ed caliber wankery of hacks like Amity Shlaes. Insert pithy reminder about forgetting and being condemned to repeat.
So take a good look at the status quo, people. This is as good as it gets. This is the "prize." These are the dizzying heights we can reach through years of blood, sweat, dollars, tears, and pieces of our sanity we can never get back. We can get the guy who gives us less of what we don't want. And the only way it will ever change is to get ourselves to a point as a society at which we look back fondly at 2009 and remember how good the economy was. Americans are great at turning expectantly to the government for a handout when they fail; I guess we just haven't failed spectacularly enough yet.