Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sound and Fury; Signifying Nothing

The cable news and other main stream media outlets are and will continue to be filled with hosannas praising the supposedly uplifting inaugural speech by Hopey. I listened to the whole thing live, against my will, and I was not particularly impressed by it all. It was filled with much of what Hopey has said throughout the campaign: "America is great, moral and just and so all that is done in its name is thus"; "There are real challenges but if we all come together (with me) government and the private sector can fix it all"; and "Divisiveness, or any dissent, is dangerous and so cannot be tolerated". As despicable as most of the right wingers and others of that general leaning are who shout about Hopey's "socialism", the contention that this leader worship of him is dangerous is more than sound. This danger can be seen in recent memory with George W. Bush, when he had his highest popularity after 9/11 he was able to achieve the worst and most long lasting disasters of his presidency: the war in Iraq and the secret prison network.

More to the point of this post, Hopey's paeans about the greatness of America were both hollow and false. Hollow in the sense that he didn't describe how past and future challenges were and will be solved other than by some vague American greatness or through "uniting for a common purpose" (the lack of dissent idea again). False in the most obvious sense that his claims about how problems were overcome were either plainly wrong or misleading. His whole approach follows the same model that nearly all mainstream political thinkers ascribe to: Capitalism is generally alright except when it doesn't lead to the consequences "our democracy" wants and then it needs to be put back in line by the the even hand of government (even while there may be a few people in government who are disreputable, as an institution it's quite moral). Leaving aside what one thinks about capitalism for a moment, this faith in government to be the steady hand in steering the nation to a brighter tomorrow can be seen whether one is a Leftist or Right-Winger or anywhere in between if they think about it carefully and look at the government practices historically.

One can find scandals of graft and corruption in governments from local municipalities up to the White House, even going back a few years. But what's even worse, one can find that the "legal" practices of governments in relation to the rich and powerful, those connected to politicians anyway, are almost always mutually beneficial. Minimum wages, for example, long touted as the example of democracy triumphing over the "greed" of capitalism to ensure the downtrodden will earn a wage that they can live on. However, they also have the effect of making the cost to employers rise so that competition with existing employers is more limited and the decrease in potential employers further reduces opportunities for the unemployed to find work. In short, Hopey is offering more of the same sentimental, meaningless American (Government, in particular) Exceptionalism that has been offered over and over again, but with more palatable rhetoric than Bush could muster. One can only hope that his honeymoon will be short and there won't be another event which he can use to rally support like his predecessor did.

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