I’ve been reading articles and polls on President Obama’s rating bump since Bin Laden was killed. He’s gotten a ten point increase in his approval rating as a result of the killing, putting him at around a 56% approval. Most of that bump comes from republicans and independents, which isn’t surprising since most democrats have largely stuck with Obama all along.
I thought a ten point bump was oddly low, even though most pundits expected that he would get “as much as a ten point bump in approval”. Why do I find it odd?
Because I looked at Bush’s approval ratings. Prior to 9/11, Bush’s approval was hovering in the low to mid 50s. On September 12, 2001, his approval rating shot up to nearly 90%. In hindsight, this is fairly shocking since Bush was largely absent that day. He was busy flying from Florida, to Louisiana, to fucking Nebraska. This, after dicking around at an elementary school for a full twenty minutes after the initial attack. America needed a daddy that day, and our president wasn’t there. Rudy Guiliani was going to have to fill that role until Bush could get his shit together at 8:35 that night. But Americans were too shocked to notice all of that so when he finally decided to be a fucking leader, we were happy he was there. We were like kids with absent, deadbeat dads; grateful that he showed up, and happy to forgive the abandonment of the years between appearances. And we showed our gratitude with a 90% approval rating.
Fast forward to nearly ten years later to Obama. He finally avenges 9/11 by killing the mastermind behind the events of that day, and we only approve of him to the tune of 56%. What the fuck? Why did the guy that was merely in office at the time do so much better than the guy who did something about it did? It doesn’t make sense. We’re America. We fucking love it when the belief in our God given superiority is on validated. We shot Bin Laden in the head, and gave Pakistan a heartfelt “fuck you” by not telling them that we were going to do it. It really doesn’t get much more badass than that.
So what’s the problem? Is Obama just the shittiest president we’ve ever seen? Hardly! Regular readers of this blog know that I’m no cheerleader for Obama, and I’m definitely not an apologist for him either. I don’t think that this comparatively lackluster approval has much to do with Obama, anymore than I thought the Bush 9/11 bump had to do with Bush. I believe this is all about Americans realizing that our government isn’t working for us anymore.
When Bush took office, we had just come off eight years of relative comfort and prosperity. Granted, it was all built on a house of cards, but we felt prosperous. We felt so prosperous that we had the luxury of talking about a presidential blow job for two years. Americans like to bathe themselves in utterly irrelevant bullshit, only when important things aren’t happening. Bullshit is fun when you don’t really have a care in the world. Trump’s disappearance from the news this week is proof of that. We were inundated with birther and afterbirther bullshit, until Bin Laden was killed. Something important happened, and we stopped caring about the bullshit (for a while, anyway). Bush benefited greatly from the prosperous America that he inherited.
But during the course of Bush’s eight years in office, that illusion of prosperity melted away. In the past ten years, the bottom 60% of workers in America have received a 1% salary increase while the cost of gas, milk, and health insurance have doubled. And that 1% increase is achieved by working longer hours. Being American is just getting fucking harder, and everyone knows it. Americans are getting angrier every day. We saw it in the town halls during the health reform debate. We’re seeing it in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana in regard to collective bargaining rights. We’re again seeing it all across the country in town halls, where Americans are professing their adamance about keeping medicare in tact and instead, insisting that we raise taxes on the rich.
Something palpable is in the air in America. Americans might not exactly know why they’re getting screwed, or exactly how they’re getting screwed, but they’re not confused about the fact that they’re getting screwed.
In my opinion, this is a really good thing. It’s the start of something. The sunny optimist wants to believe that this is the start of taking our government back (sorry to use the teabagger matra, but I have to). The shitty and dysfunctional government that we have didn’t happen to us, it happened because of us. It happened through decades of ignorance and apathy on the part of the American people. When we don’t pay attention to what the government is doing, they get to rob us blind. And they do it with our tacit permission. And when Americans start noticing that things are shitty, our politicians misdirect our anger toward gays, immigrants, the elderly, international terrorist bogeymen, or the other party. They do this successfully, because we’re not paying close attention.
I want to believe that we’re in the early stages of paying attention. If my sunny optimistic vision for America comes to pass, it will require traveling a long long road. We’re at the first step of this road; deeply rooted discontentment.
This blog is largely about the next step in getting where we need to go. We need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that our political party are the good guys, and the other party are the bad guys. As a party loyalist, you are most susceptible to misdirection. You will always be rewarded for your blind loyalty with fewer opportunities to succeed in America. The George W Bushes will not keep you safe, and your loyalty to them will always be rewarded by redistributing your wages to the likes of Haliburton. The Barack Obamas will not give you healthcare at a reasonable cost. They will always divert trillions of your dollars to pharmaceutical and insurance companies by making shady backroom deals. Your blind loyalty will make you cheer them while they do it. You’ll get so swept up in team loyalty, that you will accept the notion that this was the best they could do, despite the fact that your own lying eyes never saw so much as one fiery speech supporting the public option that you really wanted. Your party loyalty is crippling your ability to see the actual solution to America’s problems.
Which brings me to the next step. Our elections shouldn’t be about candidates or parties. Our focus should be on changing the system. We’re never going to get good government if we don’t get the money out of the system. We need to be focusing on getting publicly financed campaigns for every seat in every state in the country. We need to organize to get ballot measures on the books in every state. Most people don’t realize that we have this option in America. Our congressmen aren’t the only people that can pass laws. We have that power too. All we need to do is get organized and collect signatures to put a measure on the ballot in every state. We need to be talking about publicly financed elections all the time. We need to get the word out. Everything else is just a bullshit distraction designed to confuse you about the definition of who “us” against “them” are. It’s not about “us” democrats versus “them” republicans (or vice versa). It’s about “us” earners versus “them” corporations.
We will never get good representation as long as that representation is dependent on money that comes from interests that are contrary to your own. I don’t care which party you identify with because this holds true for both sides. Republicans have held onto their loyalty for thirty years despite the fact that their party has done exactly nothing for them during that period. Democrats are happy for the occasional crumb they’re thrown once every decade or so, pretending like this loyalty won’t land them in the same boat republicans have been cruising in for decades.
Stop kidding yourselves. There’s something in the air in America. As politically active and aware people, don’t waste this opportunity by talking about party bullshit. Talk to your friends and family about what the real issue is; the corporate takeover of our government. We need to spread the word and channel this anger toward meaningful reform of our whole system.