Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Defender of Democracy

I had an interesting series of comments I was going to make today on Jay Z and finally undertake some social commentary that I initially suggested would become part of this blog. But then Tom Friedman struck again, threw me off track completely and forced me to respond to his never-ending hypocrisy.

In today's column entitled, "Our Democracy is At Stake", Friedman sums up his view that President Obama is "defending the health of our democracy" by resisting "the radical Tea Party minority". He goes on to describe how this group has created systemic advantages that has given it power, so much so that it threatens the very essence of majority rule. This cannot be the actual intellectual argument of one of the most powerful figures in American journalism, can it? Surely, even sitting in the offices of the Grey Lady in midtown or riding the Acela to dip into the capital, he is aware that the Tea Party is not a functioning third party movement with titular heads and a grass roots bureaucracy that works local precincts and gerrymanders districts in state legislatures?

Tom, this is an organic movement that doesn't "hate" government (much to the chagrin of Reed and Pelosi who want to believe that with every fiber in whatever organ actually pumps blood throughout their body), but does want to see the size of government reduced in a substantial way. It wants to see a major overhaul in the process that generates revenue for the government and it wants to see powers that over time have been assumed by recklessly growing government restored to state control and oversight. Finally, it loathes the accumulation of debts and deficits which has taken place under Republican and Democratic Administrations and wants to see a proactive plan which reasonably reduces spending and deficits over time. All of that will result in a real sense of economic progress and growth, will unleash a torrent of investment by private equity, repatriate equity that has been transferred overseas, and create millions of new jobs. I have no clue whether people who refer to themselves as Tea Party proponents would agree with this description, but that's how I see it.

Does any of this sound radical, anarchic, violent or a point of view embraced by people with bombs strapped to their chests? Of course, you know it does not, so what are Tom and Barack so afraid of?

This is the second time in my life time that I can recall an organic movement like this developing.The first was the movement to oppose the Vietnam War. This anti war movement had a similar relationship to the Democratic Party that the Tea Party now has with Republicans. In the case of each, it was understandable that internal factions would develop, that the establishment felt threatened and challenged, and unique voices arose within each which attracted people active in those movements. During the Vietnam War era, the establishment voices were Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Sam Rayburn, even Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. The anti war voices were Gene McCarthy, George McGovern and, somewhat reluctantly, Robert Kennedy. Many of you might be completely unfamiliar with these people today. In the Tea Party era, the establishment figures are Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Boehner. And the Tea Party voices are Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and, somewhat reluctantly, Marco Rubio.

During the Vietnam War era, nobody called these anti war factions a danger to democracy or bomb throwers (unless they were ACTUAL bomb throwers like the Weather Underground or SDS). Nobody refused to negotiate with them. Nobody claimed the Democratic Party had been forced into radical positions because a fringe minority had begun exercising its constitutional rights. Nobody espoused the notion that President Johnson should hold firm because he was "defending the health of our democracy."

Tom Friedman should know better because he was present during this period. He defends Obama and Obamacare in an intellectually dishonest way and he intentionally mischaracterizes the Tea Party because it is the only way he can make such a ludicrous argument. He doesn't address what I have addressed because he knows millennials know little of this recent history and they fundamentally share his worldview. A President who passes a sweeping new entitlement solely on the support of a single political party, who issues waivers to the law extralegally, who exempts the very class of people who imposed this on the American public is hardly the right man to be called upon to defend the health of our democracy.

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