Der amerikanische Autor und Edgar-Gewinner Thomas Adcock hat in den vergangenen Wochen exklusiv für CULTurMAG in einer wöchentlichen Kolumne den US-Wahlkampf begleitet. Nun ist die Entscheidung gefallen, Präsident Obama wird eine zweite Amtszeit das Land regieren. In der letzten Folge seines “Campaign Diarys” zieht Thomas Adcock eine erste Billanz des Wahlkampfs und des Ausgangs der Wahl.
REJECTED by American voters last week (from left to right): the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush; homophobia; the stupidity of Sarah Palin; anti-science boobs; the proto-fascist Tea Party; the fetus obsessed; right-wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh; Karl Rove and his ilk; Mitt Romney, prince of plutocracy; the venomous philosophy of Ayn Rand, execrable novelist.
I was in sad agreement with Jakob Augstein, until those final two lines of his commentary for Spiegel Online—a harsh analysis of the political situation in my country on the eve of last week’s federal elections.
“[W]e simply no longer understand America,” he wrote on Monday, November 5th. “Looking at the country from Germany and Europe…we see [the] political system is in the hands of big business and its lobbyists. …[A] perverse mix of irresponsibility, greed, and religious zealotry dominate public opinion.”
So far, I thought, this was a lamentably true statement of the American Zeitgeist. Valid criticism from a prominent European publisher and journalist, to be seriously taken by the likes of me. After all, Mr. Augstein’s family pedigree, scholarly achievement, and professional rank are considerably more distinguished than my own.
But with all due respect to the learned Mr. Augstein, the bitter end of his disquisition was at insulting odds with the evidence of Tuesday, November 6th:
“…It could be that [U.S.] citizens wouldn’t be able to stop it, no matter how hard they tried. But they aren’t even trying.”
And who am I to take exception to the erudite Jakob Augstein?
I am one among tens of millions of American voters who, upon an exceptional day for a flawed system scorned in his pre-election diatribe—“America Has Already Lost Tuesday’s Election,” an ill-chosen title—who showed up at my voting station, to do what is something of a tradition here: we turned on a dime, as colloquialism has it.
We voters set the U.S. society on a new and positive course—finally, after the profoundly destructive and depressive administration of President George W. Bush. I predict that this refreshing new course will soon reassure well-meaning citizens of Europe who are rightfully nervous about proto-fascist elements within the American culture and political establishment. At such time, Mr. Augstein might even disagree with some of his precipitate words:
Europe is mistaken if it views the election as a choice between the forces of good and evil. And it certainly doesn’t amount to a potential change in political direction, as some newspapers on the Continent would have us believe. Indeed, the fanatics that Mitt Romney depends on have jettisoned everything that distinguishes the West: science and logic, reason and moderation, even simple decency. They hate homosexuals, the weak, and the state. They oppress women and persecute immigrants. Their moralizing about abortion doesn’t even spare the victims of rape. They are the Taliban of the West.
But in fact, Good and Evil were at top of the American ballot—in the persons of President Barack Obama and his challenger, Willard Mitt Romney. In fact, we rëelected a good man, as so affirmed by international opinion, including that of the Nobel Committee.
Last week, Mr. Obama was awarded a popular mandate necessary to anchor and advance the agenda begun in his historically progressive and visionary first term in office. He worked for passage of righteous new laws to ensure judicious national policies, including such measures as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that guarantees wage and salary equity for women; so-called “Obamacare,” a universal health insurance program that puts the U.S. in the company of civilized countries, at long last; repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military; ending a criminal war in Iraq instigated by his predecessor, Mr. Bush, and setting a firm deadline for withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan; adoption of the “Dream Act,” an executive order granting legal status to young immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents; toppling the brutal dictatorships of Moammar Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt; and seeing to the departure of Usama bin Laden from the terra firma of Earth.
Mr. Romney, a prince of the plutocracy, was literally sent packing last week. As winter approaches in Massachusetts, the former governor of the state he once led—whose citizens gave Mr. Romney thirty-seven percent of their votes against sixty-one for the incumbent—is shuttering his townhouse in suburban Boston. His principal domicile shall soon be a California beachfront home in the wealthy La Jolla district of sunny San Diego. An unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean might soothe his savage breast. Of course, he will maintain ownership of his seven-bedroom ski chalet in Park City, Utah; a “cabin” in a gated community along the Michigan shoreline of Lake Huron; and the New Hampshire “summer lake house” valued at $10 million (€7.9 million).
Four years ago, Mr. Romney bought his one-storey sanctuary by the sea for $12 million (€9.5 million)—cash on the barrelhead. Earlier this year, he commenced bulldozing the La Jolla house and replacing it with a two-storey mansion that will quadruple living quarters, and install an underground parking garage with four commodious spaces and a special elevator to ferry vehicles up and down from street level. The neighbors are aghast, but thus far defenseless against the minor fortune Mr. Romney paid lawyers for services rendered in securing building permits from reluctant municipal authorities.
Among the new neighbors in La Jolla are six gay couples. They and other householders occupy an enclave of handsome estates, though none have garages the likes of Mr. Romney’s. The gay men are variously married or, in the view of Republicans likely to refer to them as “Sodomites,” living in sinful shame. As the Republican Party candidate for the U.S. presidency, Mr. Romney called for amending the federal Constitution in order to outlaw gay marriage.
Currently, Mr. Romney ownsfour American-made vehicles: a spiffy Ford Mustang roadster, a Chevrolet pickup truck, and two Cadillacs (one sedan, the other a gasoline-guzzling S.U.V. monstrosity). When any these transports approach El Palacio Romney from the single, one-way street that serves La Jolla, they must pass by the home of Michael Duddy and James Geiger. The couple has festooned an Italian stone pine tree in their yard with a gay pride flag.
‘One might say, the church has been defeated’
President Obama’s hard-fought legislative initiatives were accomplished in spite of calcified opposition by Republican members of the Congress and their jeering accomplices—a caucus of know-nothing thugs, bigots, and misogynists of a supposedly grassroots movement called the Tea Party, financed by grandees of laissez-faire capitalism as a means of distracting commoners whilst they fleece the national exchequer. This “Taliban of the West,” the most accurate description ever applied to shameless American yahoos, suffered deep losses in last week’s down ballot races—in both the electoral and philosophical arenas. Of interest to Mr. Augstein, I presume, are these few results of our trying to right a leaky ship of state:
• Latino Americans constitute seventeen percent of the U.S. population, according to the Census of 2010; fifty thousand now reach voting age—per month. Of this enormous bloc, crudely disrespected by Republicans, more than seventy-five percent voted for the Democratic Party incumbent, Mr. Obama, according to a post-election survey by Latino Decisions, a research company based in Washington, D.C.
• African Americans, at fourteen percent of the population, voted for Mr. Obama this year by a ratio of ninety-three percent, according to the Gallup polling firm.
• In urban barrios where blacks and Latinos are predominant, the Republican governors of three states vital to anyone’s hope of winning the White House—Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida—instituted voter suppression strategies, which were challenged in the courts by Democratic Party lawyers and adjudged unconstitutional. No matter, the governors found lesser means of discouraging likely Democratic partisans—young adults and women, as well as blacks and Latinos.
Extremely long lines at voting locations were the consequence. Outdoor waits of two hours were common; many voters stood on line for seven and eight hours. The elderly and infirm were comforted by folding chairs, in many cases loaned to them by others on the line. To the surprise of Republicans, very few left those lines. They created camaraderie with frequent choruses of patriotic song, and lusty chants of “LET-US-VOTE!” Mr. Obama prevailed in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
• Due to a landmark bad decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2010 matter of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310, corporations in the 2012 election cycle were permitted, for the first time, to spend unlimited amounts of secret money in advertising support for Republicans—the party of the high court’s majority. This became the linchpin of America’s $6 billion (€4.7 billion) election year, by far the nation’s most expensive. Washington’s nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics totaled corporate spending at $631.4 million (€496.7 million). Approximately half that amount was collected and administered by Karl Rove, the porcine political operative from Texas, affectionately nicknamed “Turd Blossom” by former President George W. Bush. Election day saw defeats for all beneficiaries of Turd Blossom’s calculated largess.
• Grotesquely wealthy individuals—Sheldon G. Adelson of Las Vegas, for example—lavished multiple millions of dollars on Republican campaigns. The subject of investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly bribing Chinese politicians to help smooth operations of his casino empire in Macau, Mr. Adelson invested a cool $100 million (€78.7 million) in Mr. Romney’s failed candidacy. His match in hefty personal loss was Linda E. McMahon, a Republican impresario of “professional” wrestling, whereby steroid-sated musclemen and musclewomen engage in choreographed combat to entertain the lower castes of sports fans.
Ms. McMahon, too, squandered a combined hundred million greenbacks in two attempts at winning a U.S. Senate seat from Connecticut, the more recent of which occurring last week, at which time she garnered forty-five percent of the state vote to Democrat Chris Murphy’s fifty-three percent.
• A considerable number of anti-abortionists, right-wing Christian zealots, and vagina-phobic Republicans were briskly voted out of state and federal office last week. The most bellicose of the lot were ousted Congressmen Allen West of Florida, Joe Walsh of Illinois, and Todd Akin of Missouri—along with Richard Mourdock of Indiana, the state treasurer who mounted a hugely unsuccessful Tea Party-backed campaign for the U.S. Senate. The defeats prompted Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to remark, via Twitter, “We are witnessing a fundamental moral realignment of the country.”
• Despite more than thirty state-level plebiscites in the recent past to ban same-sex marriage, a solid plurality of voters in Maine, Minnesota, and Maryland approved gay and lesbian weddings as a matter of civil right. The victories prompted Pope Benedict XVI to double down on the official Catholic definition of homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered” and heterosexual marriage as a sanctified contract for the central purpose of procreation.
A front-page article in Saturday’s edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily newspaper, reacted to the horrors in America by declaring church responsibility to “present itself as the lone critic of modernity, the only check [on] the breakup of the anthropological structures on which human society was founded.” The screed acknowledged, however, “One might say the church, at least on this front, has been defeated.”
• November 6th was a bad day for the flat-Earth crowd, though a very good one for Americans respectful of science. In rëelecting Mr. Obama, we endorsed an outlook expressed upon his assuming office in January 2009—a view opposite that of Republican Tea Party acolytes.
“Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my administration on a wide range of issues,” the new president declared, “including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.”
• Rush Limbaugh, the obese right-wing radio blatherer and de facto chairman of the Republican National Committee, routinely characterizes women as “feminazis.” A former Oxycondin addict who claims sobriety of late, the boorish broadcaster is particularly piggish on the subject of women in the political context.
“Our first lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue,” he said of Michelle Obama. With reference to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mr. Limbaugh said, “She sounds like a screeching ex-wife.” And when Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke advocated birth control coverage in a congressional committee hearing on Obamacare, he branded her a “prostitute” and a “slut.”
Mr. Limbaugh and his woman-hating acolytes—“ditto-heads,” as they proudly call themselves—suffered mightily last week. Two hundred and one “feminazis” were elected to the Congress, and Mr. Obama captured the women’s vote by a margin of eighteen percent.
• The cardinal tenets of the George W. Bush regime were tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, at the expense of working- and middle-class Americans; imagined casus belli, to produce windfall revenues for war profiteers such as Halliburton, the corporation headed by snarling Dick Cheney before becoming Mr. Bush’s vice president; and allowing criminals the run of Wall Street. All such notions—articles of faith for Republicans—were rejected last week by we the people.
Three days after the election, on Friday last, President Obama pledged to veto any budget proposal from the Congress that did not include higher taxes for millionaires and billionaires. Shortly after 2009 election, Mr. Obama’s Justice Department brought suit against Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) for criminal violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, securing a court-administered settlement of $579 million (€455.5 million) as restitution for KBR bribes paid to Nigerian oil ministry officials during the years of invading and occupying Iraq.
“Mitt Romney wasn’t the only loser in the presidential election,” reported Money Watch magazine last week. “Wall Street’s banks and investment firms raised a lot of money for the Republican nominee to no avail”.
Likewise, campaign funds invested on behalf of Wall Street’s all-time favorite Republican senator, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, proved unprofitable in the face of Mr. Brown’s dramatically successful challenger—the Harvard University economist Elizabeth Warren, nemesis of the banking industry and a possible Democratic nominee for president in 2016.
In President Obama, who uses terms such as “fat cat bankers,” Ms. Warren has an important ally for her well-known intention to strengthen the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, informally known as the Dodd-Frank bill—adopted in 2010 with virtually no Republican support.
• Apart from a Republican primary season in the early months of the year, when buffoonery was in full bloom during the media-dubbed “clown parade” of contenders for the honor of challenging Mr. Obama, abortion ceased to be a viable campaign issue, designed to fortify pious men and demonize wayward women.
Mr. Romney promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who would make abortions illegal again; a worrisome, albeit flaccid fulmination, possibly because opinion polls seldom flagged in predicting his defeat.
So, too, did religious gibber fade, becoming a shockless issue in the public forum. The usual wackjobs seemed to sense little punch in calling Mr. Romney, a high-ranking member of the Mormon faith, the “cultist” they believe him to be. Thus did pulpitizing come to merciful end, Amen.
• Stupidity, the mother’s milk of Sarah Palin’s campaign as the Republican vice presidential nominee of 2008, was unfashionable this year. In vogue was intelligence and proper articulation, rarely known in politicians since the time of John F. Kennedy. Only one of the two candidates consistently transmitted such qualities, and he took the prize.
Ms. Palin, meanwhile, slunk from the scene, save for her curiouser and curiouser appearances on Fox TV News. She was a no-show at the Republican National Convention last August in Florida, as was the man who stupidly chose her to be his running mate—Senator John McCain of Arizona.
• March 5th of this year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the death of a wicked witch by the name Ayn Rand, who birthed a “philosophy” she named Objectivism. In his weekly column for The Guardian newspaper of London, the British author-activist Geroge Monbiot observed of the late Ms. Rand’s doctrine:
It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power.
The best known of Ms. Rand’s fantastically dull novels is “Atlas Shrugged,” published in 1957 and republished ever since for reasons that pass my understanding. It is required reading for anyone seeking employment as a Washington aide to Mr. Romney’s running mate, the rather juvenile Congressman Paul Ryan, a middle-aged man who combs his glistening black hair forward and flips it upward at the front, à la the popular “Skippy” style for fellow beanie-wearing Caucasian lads during my early youth in the 1950s. (It would appear, too, that Mr. Ryan coats his locks each day with Crisco.)
The ludicrous plot of “Shrugged” foretells the Romney-Ryan worldview, that which was persistently suggested by their campaign rhetoric and backstage oh-so-jolly wisecracks demeaning poor people, read “takers,” dependent on public assistance, versus “job creators,” read the rich and powerful.
The plot, in a nutshell:
America is crippled by government regulation, eventually forcing a cultural struggle between heroic millionaires and worthless spongers. The millionaires, collectively portrayed as the Greek god Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their noblesse oblige, resulting in a national economic collapse. Unregulated capitalism and the virtue of selfishness save the day, in the personage of one brave plutocrat—a wealthy businessman named John Galt, read Mitt Romney.
As I write, Congressman Crisco is at work plotting his own presidential run for 2016, as a true-believing disciple of Ayn Rand. As Ms. Palin might ask, “How’s that gonna work out fer yuh?”
• On Saturday, Congressman John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives who enjoys martinis at Hinder’s sports bar in Tipp City, a community in his southern Ohio district, held a post-election conference call with his Republican confrères. According to an article in Sunday’s New York Times, the gist of what he said was, “[T]he party lost, badly…[and now must] avoid the nasty showdowns that marked so much of the past two years.”
This is Washingtonspeak for what a southern Ohioan would say: “Mind your goddamn manners, for the love of Christ.”
As an introduction to the weekly campaign diary I have been pleased to keep at this fine site, I composed an essay titled “The American Spirit of Optimism: Rx for Lousy Times”.
The essay outlined the remarkable record of American sanguinity that has helped my country survive regrets of our national conduct. To name but a few: slavery, child labor, abusive of women and immigrants of generations past, overtly racist laws.
To be sure, there are regrets today that are unacknowledged, awaiting atonement when we push to do the right. Indeed, we are “a country of total capitalism,” as Jakob Augstein points out, this being a social crime in and of itself, for it well might destroy our democracy.
We remain a violent nation—with the possible exception of czarist Russia, perhaps the most violent in history: massacres of our citizenry by gun-crazed brooders occur with unpardonable regularity; repeatedly, we war on nations that present us with no existential threat; our proportion of impoverished citizens in need of decent education and housing and medical attention increasingly resembles the Third World model; we are the world’s biggest prison; we manufacture most of the world’s pornography; we engage too often in mass frivolities, taken much too seriously; our spoken English make us sound, like, dumb. And so on and on.
But—we remain an optimistic people, which is not to be confused with naïveté. The naïve man does not consider the burden of his own culture’s shortcomings before criticizing that of another man’s.
No one, not even Mr. Augstein, may fault Americans for failing to try, over time—for participating in what our Constitution defines as civic duty: to “form a more perfect union.”
An impossible task, save for optimists who consider time to be an allegation.
Copyright © 2012 by Thomas Adcock
THOMAS ADCOCK is a novelist and journalist based in New York City. Winner of the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, given by Mystery Writers of America, his books and articles have been published worldwide. Writing as Tom Dey, he is currently completing a new novel titled “Lovers & Corpses.” Mehr zu Thomas Adcock hier und hier.