“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Monday, January 19, 2009

The End Of An Error

This isn't really about Dubya. It really hasn't been for a long time now.

Yes, it was too bad that the whole country had to suffer for eight long years. Yes, it's too bad that some still don't understand that the planet cannot afford to be run by a self-important imbecile. And, yes, it will be important for those who ran the ship of state aground be held to account.

But this is not that time quite yet.

It is time for a sober look forward to the new opportunities that await following the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. That is not to say that there are not significant challenges. Oh, boy, are there. The incoming administration is well aware of them, but in case you've forgotten, we are engaged in two wars, at least one of which was entered upon on demonstrably false pretenses. We have a massive economic crisis at a time when the government is already bleeding red ink to the tune of trillions of formerly valuable dollars. We are running low on fossil fuels, which is none too soon since they are largely responsible for a looming climate catastrophe if we don't act quickly and boldly. We have turned the world's oldest democracy into a worldwide laughing stock for arrogantly abandoning our precious principles because 19 Islamic morons managed to fly a couple of planes into downtown Manhattan. We have turned our schools into corporate profit centers that cherry pick the best students and then claim "progress." Oh, and then there's the run-of-the-mill messes like health insurance, Palestine, ozone depletion and gang warfare.

So, what "opportunities" am I talking about? Well, curiously, the very bad situation we find ourselves in is a form of opportunity. It means that President Obama will have a great deal of running room to "try things" and figure out what works. Obama's greatest asset is his charm, which he will use to generate the support he needs for implementing some strong medicine. His first moves will be designed to demonstrate that the new sherriff in town is truly a "uniter, not a divider." He can quickly reverse the culture in the administration, restoring respect for rule of law and the value of science. His shrewd praise for his recent political opponents is not designed to embrace their ideology, but to defang them. He will borrow a few ideas, and keep a few of the best people, and that will make it tough on them to stab him in the back. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the package of economic investments that was announced last week is just the first of several big changes that will pass Congress. He'll need to demonstrate that unifying talk and bold decisions are not incompatible. He'll need public buy-in for the concept of national dialogue that leads to important decisions. It's sort of the cyberage version of a constitutional convention.

The key will be getting that kind of conversation going, because, as I said at the top, it's not about Dubya. It's about having the public engaged in a politics that is about rational, need-based problem-solving. Once that's in place, there will no longer be room for a national political party that cynically preys upon fear and replaces problem-solving with comfortable ideology. Yes, that's a truly ambitious agenda, but it's the real agenda here. We are after nothing less than the remaking of our political system into one whose primary question isn't "what do we believe", but rather, "how do we solve our problems?"