I was on an airplane last night as the election was decided. As the plane landed after midnight on the East Coast, I confess that my hand was shaking as I turned on my phone for the news. I did not want to see dishonesty and divisiveness and raw political hackery rewarded. It is hard enough for anyone to actually address the problems, to move this country forward, to make the intransigent American ruling class yield even a yard of the past to the inevitable future. But going backwards last night would have been devastating. I read the returns in silent elation; a business trip had me traveling in business class and the gnashing of corporate teeth all around precluded a full-throated huzzah on my part. I abhor a gloat.
But the country is changing. And this may be the last election in which anyone but a fool tries to play — on a national level, at least — the cards of racial exclusion, of immigrant fear, of the patronization of women and hegemony over their bodies, of self-righteous discrimination against homosexuals. Some in the Republican party and among the teabagged fringe will continue to play such losing hands for some time to come; this shit worked well in its day and distracted many from addressing any of our essential national issues. But again, if they play that weak-ass game past this point, they are fools.
America is different now, more so with every election cycle. Ronald Reagan won his mandate in an America in which 89 percent of the voters were white. That number is down to 72 percent and falling. Fifty thousand new Latino citizens achieve the voting age every month. America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The America in which it was otherwise is dying, thank god, and those who relied on entitlement and division to command power will either be obliged to accept the changes, or retreat to the gated communities from which they wish to wax nostalgic and brood on political irrelevance.
You want to lead in America? Find a way to be entirely utilitarian — to address the most problems on behalf of the most possible citizens. That works. That matters. Last night, it mattered just enough to overcome the calcified political calculations of men who think that 47 percent will vote against them because they are victims, or that 53 percent are with them because the rest of us vote only from self-interest and without regard for the republic as a whole. It was a closer contest than common sense and the spirit of a truly great nation should dictate. But unless these white guys who have peddled “normal” for so long — normal as in racial majority, normal as in religious majority, normal as in sexual orientation — unless they have a hard moment of self-reflection and self-awareness, well, it will not be this close again.
Eighty years ago, the Democratic party became a national utilitarian enterprise, molding the immigrant waves of Irish and Italian and Jew into a voting bloc that stunned the political opposition and transformed American society, creating the world’s greatest economic engine in the form of a consumer class with vast discretionary income. The New Deal asserted for American progress — shaping and influencing administrations both Democratic and Republican — for three decades before running aground on the shoals of the civil rights movement, resulting racial fears and resentments, and, of course, the Southern strategy of political cynics.
Well, a new voting bloc as formidable as the New Deal coalition certainly isn’t yet complete, and the political results are still fitful. To be sure, venality has transformed the upper house of our national legislature into a paralytic failure, with a new standard of a filibuster-proof supermajority now the norm. The lower house of that legislature reflects less of any national consensus than it does the absurdity of post-census gerrymandering. Never mind Obama. If Romney had won this election, our government would be just as broken. It is the legislative branch that remains an epic systems failure.
For lost and fretful white men, unwilling to accept the terms of a new America, Congress is the last barricade against practical and inevitable change. But there, too, the demographic inevitabilities are all in play. All the gerrymandering in this world won’t make those other Americans, those different Americans, go away. And the tyranny of minority and lack of compromise that you employ to thwart progress now will likely breed an equal contempt when the demographics do indeed provide supermajorities.
Hard times are still to come for all of us. Rear guard actions will be fought at every political crossroad. But make no mistake: Change is a motherfucker when you run from it. And right now, the conservative movement in America is fleeing from dramatic change that is certain and immutable. A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of general discontent. He has been returned to office over the specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the New Jerusalem. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white man, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s the point.
This election marks a moment in which the racial and social hierarchy of America is upended forever. No longer will it mean more politically to be a white male than to be anything else. Evolve, or don’t. Swallow your resentments, or don’t. But the votes are going to be counted, more of them with each election. Arizona will soon be in play. And in a few cycles, even Texas. And those wishing to hold national office in these United States will find it increasingly useless to argue for normal, to attempt to play one minority against the next, to turn pluralities against the feared “other” of gays, or blacks, or immigrants, or, incredibly in this election cycle, our very wives and lovers and daughters, fellow citizens who demand to control their own bodies.
Regardless of what happens with his second term, Barack Obama’s great victory has already been won: We are all the other now, in some sense. Special interests? That term has no more meaning in the New America. We are all — all of us, every last American, even the whitest of white guys — special interests. And now, normal isn’t white or straight or Christian. There is no normal. That word, too, means less with every moment. And those who continue to argue for such retrograde notions as a political reality will become less germane and more ridiculous with every passing year.
Lots of waste and shouting and ignorance still to come, of course. But last night was a milestone.
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THE BEST piece I’ve read on the election. Thank you so much.
I agreee great article and well spoken, the only critique is that I am a white guy, and i didn’t condone any of the stuff you have mentioned. Obama was my choice because, right now, he is the best option in my opinion. Romney was not the way to go. I just wanted to say that targeting white guys isn’t the answer. Not all of us are or ever were like what you’ve described.
Nothing I wrote precludes such a possibility on your part or anyone else’s.
Become a minority like Elizabeth Warren claimed to be (Cherokee).
There’s enough DNA testing to do it.
That’s what I’m going to do.
I can play this game too.
Not that there’s anything wrong (with being a white guy).
There is a *lot* wrong with that. They were the cause of all the problems, and they must be made to suffer. We cannot be tolerant of their beliefs, and their beliefs must be stopped. Voting is not enough. They and their beliefs must be silenced forever. The Christians and the whites now must feel the oppression they out upon all.
Don’t troll. It doesn’t advance any of the discussion here in a serious way.
i’m being over the top… but the very fact that you felt compelled to say “Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white man, of course.”… i think that says plenty.
I apologize and would like to redirect if you’ll forgive me…
Hope and change – the whole *point* was that we had to change the US from what it was to something new and different. Right?? So give the conservatives a break with the 1776-2012 comments. I mean, they are only taking the president at his word that the country based on the Constitution needed to be changed from that path.
Being a white Christian (who doesn’t hate anyone…. even homosexuals), my much bigger concern is that there was only one country like the US was. One country that let you sink or swim of your own. That didn’t penalize you for success. Where there was self-determination, not government determination. Where congress would “make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – not “separation of church and state”. Now, we have France. Or Belgium. Or England.
Why couldn’t we leave the US as the Consitutionally-directed country when it was the only one like it? Socialists are why we can’t have nice things!!
And now, we will vote for a guy who will gladly punish achievement, where the government will determine if you have to have a camera shoved up your ass at the airport (fuck you, Bush), where we will indiscriminately blow up 7th century Muslims 10,000 miles away (fuck you, Obama), and where the old, rich white Christians are all Republicans – except for the ones that are in Hollywood… and New York… and New Jersey.
Christians have done a *horrible* disservice to themselves and Christ due to their hatred of homosexuals (i’d much prefer the government get the hell out of *all* marriage), and i guess, this is the outcome.
So i don’t really blame you, but you’re not helping yourself when the entire government (the new, acceptable religion, and college is the holy sacrament) is going to implode when you put a guy who couldn’t run a McDonalds is put in charge of the government – just to spite a Mormon. It doesn’t help any of us.
lastly – it is totally disingenuous that its taken for granted that *every single* white person who *didn’t * vote for Obama – well, that was a racist act by racists. That’s fucked up. But that’s what i’ve read all day – and that was really what drove me to my original post. Your comment that isn’t not wrong to be white was the straw.
Brother, ask yourself why I would include such a line.
It isn’t for the benefit of people who agree with me. They understand implicitly that the entire essay is celebrating the power of political inclusion. That line is there for the retrograde Fox-fed populace who would, before they got two paragraphs into the text, rush to assume that my insistence that non-white, non-male electoral cohorts are AS VALUED as white men in the current electoral demographic was somehow an attempt to denigrate white male voters, when in fact, the text simply argues electoral equality of a kind that the country is only now encountering. And if you read the comments in detail, you will see I am correct in playing some modest defense — not against liberal denigration of white male voters, but against the plethora of moronic posts about whites being discriminated against once they are no longer a majority or reparations or…
The insensitivity of certain factions of white America when it comes to other cohorts — women, blacks, Latinos, gays — and the fulminant sensitivity when it comes to their own place in the political firmament is as hilarious as it is predictable. That is why that sentence is entirely, utterly necessary. You might want to read it again and correct your judgment as to its purpose and audience.
Further, nothing in this essay assumes or argues that there aren’t many individual white voters who turned against Mr. Obama for reasons other than race. Or for that matter that Mr. Obama didn’t glean certain black votes because of racial solidarity, irrespective of the issues. Of course this is so.
But that doesn’t preclude us from looking intelligently at the systemic truth here: Mr. Romney only carried white males, and it is the contention of this essay that Republican policy positions and rhetoric have succeeded in driving every other minority and plurality in the electorate out of the GOP camp, while Democratic rhetoric and policy positions have encouraged a much larger, much more viable electoral tent. This is simply true. Unless the GOP embraces a new American electorate, one in which the fastest growing cohort is one that they have sufficiently alienated to have assured Mr. Obama this week’s victory, they are a party destined for the margins.
Republicans may learn the lesson. They may adapt. Or not. But the numbers are the numbers, and the alienation of every other electoral cohort but white males in this election speaks to an institutional intolerance by the GOP. It says nothing about individual white voters, and I said nothing about individual white voters. If you’d examine the actual text, you’ll find that you are getting mad at assumptions that are your own.
Amen to that one. I moved away from Europe 15+ years ago exactly for this reason. Being punished for success. Now this once great country happily revoted a socialist president that represents exactly the opposite that made this country so great and why so many came here from all over the world. A very sad day for America handing over the spirit, the freedom of each individual and of the country to the government, especially to someone that beside some “nice” speeches over the last four year didn’t get anything done, has no vision, and promotes the attitude ‘Oh, we have to be taken care of!’ So that vote was sort of like what we are laughing at in Greece.
I don’t get it. There is NOTHING in Barrack Obama’s actions, rhetoric or political goals which have anything to do with “punishing people for their success”. Why is it that asking people who have garnered a majority of the income of this country in spite of being a small single digit minority to pay a similar percentage of that huge, staggering income in taxes to what the rest of us pay is called “punishment”? What is it about the words “fair share” that trigger that reaction?
Nobody’s trying to limit your freedom. You are as capable of whining about your loss of entitlements now as you used to be, so why are you whining?
If Obama “didn’t get anything done”, then go talk to Boehner, who is even now doubling down on his obstructionism, as if he slept through the entire campaign.
Your attitude about those less fortunate than yourself is telling. I suggest that you re-examine your motives and re-read the post above.
When are you people going to actually look up the definition of the word “socialism?”
Medicare, Social Security….hell, the GI Bill…are these things socialism? Have they brought about an end to the Republic? We don’t have anymore millionaires…or billionaires because of all the redistribution going on?
Class warfare becomes the rallying cry of those who have no substantial, fact-based counter-argument to the idea that we have a civic duty and responsibility to take care of our own. Does this mean I am in favor of people who can work, but just won’t work, sitting around collecting Government benefits? Of course not. My wife and I work our asses off, and most of the time, at the end of the month, if we have a few bucks to shove in a savings account, we’re thrilled.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that there really are people in this country who from the time they’re born do not have a fair shot at the opportunities even I had…and I was by no means a particulary privileged child. And in the United States of America, a 1 year old child that’s born with brain cancer should have all the health coverage needed whether his or her parents have insurance or not.
I suppose I should be thrilled that it appears based on early reaction that there will be no change in attitude from the right…they will continue to demean and belittle those who are directly responsible for the President’s re-election…but i’d like to believe that people can be enlightened. Perhaps not.
To me, the most heartbreaking season of Mr. Simon’s “The Wire” was season four…if you just pay attention to the fate of Duquan Weems…what that child’s life is like when we meet him, and where he ends up in season 5….and then you think about how many kids lives inspired that story line…it’s overwhelming.
Can Barack Obama, who is a massive fan of the show incidentally, change all that? If he had a magic wand, or enough political capital, or balls, to say the kinds of things that first term Presidents can’t say, maybe some of these issues could be addressed, and I’ve gotten a little off topic, but my point is that all this nonsense about being punished for success…that everybody needs to be taken care of…that’s garbage.
However, climate change is real, women really do care whether they have control over their own bodies, and yes, occasionally, it is a good idea for supposedly free, democratic nation, led by a Government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” to help those who need it.
Group health insurance is socialism.
Think about it.
If socialism is the taint that you can’t abide, then cancel your group health insurance and pay the free-market cost of your medical expenditures out of pocket, as an individual operating under pure market conditions.
You want to band together with other Americans and obtain health insurance as a group, at a group rate, relying on actuarial tables and such to ensure that group participation allows those of us who get sick and require costly procedures don’t pay the full cost of those procedures while others remain healthy to contribute their premiums? You’re up for that and you want to scream about socialism?
Seems to me that socialism, as a concept, bears a freight, for many Americans, that is alien to its actual spirit.
Generations of us were led to associate socialism with the repressive totalitarianism of the Soviet Union, or the austere inwardness of Mao’s China. We were given to believe that socialism is an expression of evil – something that would take away our freedoms – and that we should combat it with all our might. Americans who died in the fight against socialism were heroes.
Those among us who have actually lived in modern-day socialist countries, which include all of Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, and Singapore, tend to understand that socialist government is neither undemocratic nor fundamentally brutal or repressive, and that it can offer a majority of its citizens a greater range of meaningful freedoms – a better quality of life – than can the unfettered free market.
Socialism is also not a prescription for economic failure. The world’s most prosperous, stable countries – think Switzerland, Scandinavia, and the Benelux region – are socialist. Greece and Spain, systemically corrupt, are outliers.
Perhaps one of the most useful discussions we Americans, as a society, could hold, would be an examination of what we actually mean when we say, “socialist”.
“Punished for success” is the lamest, whiniest argument I’ve heard in a while — and I’ve been hearing quite a few lame and whiny arguments during this election season. Get over yourself. Being asked to play by the same rules as the poor in this country is not punishment. I suspect that one who feels “successful” may also feel entitled to privilege in every arena in life, and it may feel like punishment when a spoiled child is denied one request after a certain period void of any rejection or denial in life. Grow up and get your thumb out of your mouth.
Punished for success = Asked to make a proportionate contribution to the republic of which they are a citizen.
Greed is greed.
The fear and loathing I have been reading from conservatives here is simply amazing. Or maybe ‘disturbing’ is a better adjective.
What the President is proposing would be something along the lines of $3 of spending cuts for each $1 of new revenue. Would that not make America, on balance, LESS socialist than it is now?
And somehow you believe that a return to the Clinton era tax rates on the wealthy would be the end of self-determination in America? I am thinking there is not one, not ONE, young aspiring entrepreneur in America that is going to take his ball and go home because the tax rates on millionaires went up a few percentage points. I seem to remember the 90’s as a time of great ingenuity in America – ya know – the Internet and the information revolution. A lot of people got rich there in case you didn’t notice. How exactly was achievement in the 90’s punished? Can you explain that to me? Were Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or even Mark Cuban toiling while chained to some heavy handed socialist government when they were making their fortunes in the 90’s?
David, you can write your ass off. I will definitely be back for more. —Rick 🙂
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“Special interests? That term has no more meaning in the New America.”
*spits coffee all over keyboard*
Have you ever been to California where the deep capture of its state Legislature by public sector unions, trial lawyers, et al is sending the state hurtling towards its own fiscal cliff and rapidly destroying democracy?
I am not saying that every group does not have political interests. I am saying that ALL OF US have quote-unquote special interests, and therefore that freighted term “special interest,” used by the GOP to long denote the alliance of the Democratic party with blacks, Latinos, women, unions, gays, et al has no meaning. What is this vaunted special interest that is so unique in the annals of political intrigue? Something that certain constituents seek and pursue through elected representatives.
If we are all soon to be pluralities, if there is no political norm, then EVERYONE is in effect a special interest, even the whitest of white guys, as I specifically said. Even libertarian flakes who want essential government function to be ignored and their basic contributions as citizens of a republic returned to them. Even they are arguing “special interests” of a kind.
That quote is about the death of a political norm, from which “special” interests can be distinguished.
Try to focus, man. Unclench from your ideology and read what is on the page in some actual context.
Fair enough, but even in context the reference to “special interests”, which, as they pertain to political discourse almost exclusively concern groups, parties, institutions or organizations and not to individuals, doesn’t seem to make much sense.
“Even libertarian flakes who want essential government function to be ignored and their basic contributions as citizens of a republic returned to them.”
There you go again with the mis-characterization. I thought you said you weren’t going to address Libertarianism again “on this string”?
You’re right. Let’s save that for another time.
I’m back on film set now and we should let the election essay and all of this wind down or reach its plausible conclusion.
Actually…I’m hoping you return from a day of shooting, and you’re flipping through the channels…and you settle on Fox News…and the remote sticks, you can’t turn the station…and there’s Hannity, railing on about how The President was re-elected because he ran one of the “dirtiest, most shameful campaign’s this country has ever seen” and his supporters just want hand-outs.
And i’m hoping this causes you to write another essay, this time focusing on the role of these talking heads in “informing” their viewers…
If you haven’t already, check out Pat Buchanan on the G. Gordon Liddy show.
The meltdown is that of the Republican id. Or at least that portion of the Republican party that wanted to believe that America was intended as a white, Christian nation.
I happened to see Mr. Buchanan on with Sean Hannity the night after the election. I hate to even admit that, but I suppose schadenfreude has something to do with my inability to look away from that mess after events such as Tuesday night…
He’s written around 237 books describing how immigration is destroying this country…and uses every opportunity to spout the same message over and over.
Maybe he can team with Donald Trump and revolt.
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Romney, like you, seemed to believe there exists “the mass of white men.” If he were right, he’d have won.
Don’t play semantic games. That’s silly.
There are a mass of white men. They are the largest American plurality after white women. And Mr. Romney got the votes of nearly two thirds of them. And incredibly, even at that margin it wasn’t enough because of how thoroughly alienated other cohorts are to the Republican message.
I’m making a basic point here, brother. And others — even Republicans — are making the same point. And all the semantic snark in the world doesn’t address that point. So try to focus on what is actually being discussed.
I agreed with just about everything up until the statement that special interests are no longer in play. Just because racial demographics are changing and public opinion on social issues is becoming less puritanical doesn’t mean that politicians are catering to special interests. The role of money in politics has only gotten worse. $1 billion each was spent by each campaign. Isn’t that a massive disgrace to democracy regardless of the increased voting power that minorities now have?
*doesn’t mean that politicians aren’t catering to special interests
I didn’t say that special interests weren’t in play. You said that.
I said we are all special interests. All of us. And so the term has less political meaning than it once did.
On a different note what’s your prediction for the federal response to marijuana legalization in colorado and washington?
Not a clue. But I want to believe that drug reform is a second-term venture for any sane politician. That Mr. Obama did not tackle it in his first term is to be expected. But now, I want to hope.
I know that people get all up in arms about the amounts of money spent on elections, but it needs to be put into perspective. For instance, Proctor and Gamble spends roughly $10 billion a year, 5 times the total spent by both campaigns combined, on advertising. So more money is spent to get us to buy toothpaste and shampoo by 1 company then is spent to help us determine who should run our country. Not saying it is good or bad, but just that it needs to be kept in perspective.
I have an issue with the vetting of these ads though. When someone can place a spot in the middle of Ohio claiming that a manufacturer is going to move jobs overseas, and people believe it to the extent that they are calling their employer to ask whether jobs are in jeopardy, that goes a bit beyond selling toothpaste.
Though, in general, I hate hate political ads anyway. I think they make people lazy. Sound bites and suggestive images replace real research. Television “journalists” cover the horse race and ignore a substantive discussion of issues. Who can blame them? that’s what attracts eyeballs. Who wants to hear an hour of television devoted to a REAL debate of economic policy. In some cases, these truths don’t really matter – a certain segment of the country will vote for whoever their party nominates. The Republicans could have nominated Marlo Stanfield, claimed he was champion of “Small business”, having employed so many himself, and 55 million people would vote for him.
Definitely, the demographic trend is not the Republicans’ friend. How can you win a group’s vote when you promise to deport loved ones of that particular group? Being anti-gay or creationist is a nonstarter in the big cities, and that’s where the population keeps growing. Demeaning people for believing in global warming when their homes are getting hit by hurricanes sounds silly to the person being demeaned (me). I see scientific evidence that’s pretty convincing, and then some asshole comes along and talks trash about what I believe, my house keeps getting hit with freak storms and who am I’m supposed to believe, the data or the asshole?
As to the economy, who really believes it was any good under Bush? Did anyone vote for Bush in 2000 based on the economy? If people always voted based on economics, they would have voted to keep Al Gore on to continue Clinton’s policies. Let’s move on to one group that really is getting creamed: young people. No jobs, and high college costs. Every year college costs go up partly because of budget cuts, so what student in their right mind would vote for some dude promising to cut the budget before raising taxes? On top of that it’s insanely hard to get healthcare if you don’t have a job, so your supposed to vote for the dude promising to get government out of healthcare, except when it comes to old farts on medicare?
What a winning strategy!
Been very impressed at my first visit to this site, thru a friend’s email… but cpl things I dont understand: one is the “maker-taker” division… we all get something from government, much as some of us decline to recognize it… if all I get is the ability to incorporate, that’s government assistance, shielding me from certain liabilities and giving me advantages in the markerplace… the second thing I dont get is Obama as socialist… were he a socialist, he would, like me, have said “medicare for all” instead of Obamacare… and did I miss his nationalizing of the banks or the auto industry? Like it or not, we are all a mix of socialists and capitalists. Always been that way… even homesteaders got dead Indians and cheap land from the government…
[…] Barack Obama‘s re-election victory, which was fueled by a growing minority vote, Simon, in an essay on his own website, declared that the political future of America was shifting, and further and further away from the […]
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[…] Barack Obama's re-election victory, which was fueled by a flourishing minority vote, Simon, in an letter upon his own website, spoken which a domestic destiny of America was shifting, as great as serve as great as serve […]
Wow a lot of people are upset with this post , just remember
But in the end, this new normal will prove itself utterly compatible with rapacious capitalism. We’ll have presidents of colour and senators who are women and lesbians and they will all continue to pander to the true powers that be. The colour of money will unite them all.
Now that’s moving forward. Yippee.
Let’s be honest here… People DO vote their self-interest more often then not… and they also vote for the more “likeable” candidate… who this time around was NOT the super rich white mormon. The federal government hasn’t had a chance to bungle the Sandy cleanup yet, the country still faces extremely difficult decisions about where to go with spending decreases AND tax increases… and we need to figure out how to have people understand the old economic model is dead and buried, and that to thrive in this world requires as much luck as preparation and skill… people like to assign grandiose meaning to things, when in actuality there have only been three 1 term presidents since WWII. It takes a tremendous decline in the affairs of this nation to not earn a 2nd term in the day of 10 term congressman and senators serving almost for life.
“There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s the point.”
That was my favorite sentence. It’s a really simple idea but it’s so hard for the national zeitgeist to just, fucking, accept already.
Humans still have a ways to go until we learn to stop fucking messing with each other.
As a middle-aged white guy in the upper 5% income bracket, I welcome the changes that have been occurring and will continue to occur. I also welcome the end of any chance that the Southern Strategy will allow a Republican to win a national election ever again.
Yet, another article denouncing those filthy “teabaggers”, blah blah….As if the last Bush was elected by the tea party (remember bipartisan No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D?). The reality is that both parties are owned by the same “moderates” that folks like you pine for. There’s not a huge difference between these last four presidents (I excused Reagan b/c you had Tip O’Neill to work with so we’ll never know). Nixon and Gerald Ford were some of the biggest progressives around, but folks like you would insist they were “conservative”. Like Reagan once said in 1976, “the heart of conservatism is libertarianism.” When the GOP veered away from Barry Goldwater (my have the times have changed) and became Dem Lite—-there was no room left for freedom.
Without responsibility, you can’t have freedom—without freedom, you have have innovation and flexibilty. The concept that a strong central control of just about everything will accomplish what most people seek (economic mobility, strong families, safety) is ludicrous. You’re quick to lambast the conservatives, but what about the progressives’ role in this nightmare? Minimum wage has killed legit jobs for the Namonds of the world (young AA male unemployment has climbed since 1950). Welfare destroyed so many families, reducing the father to being irrelevant. What about occupational licensing disenfranchising those who can’t answer irrelevant questions on the licensing exam? How about the fact that NYC’s taxi industry is a scam from the top to the bottom, catering to a few cartels in the area?
I love “The Wire”, but the fact that you still think politics is a salvation is very disappointing. Gov’t has not been the solution but the problem.
Yes, Somalia and Wajiristan are doing so well without government.
This is a republic. We are the government, and when we lose control of our government or turn away from it, we cease to be a republic. Democracy and responsive government is a messy, daily struggle that requires the commitment of a citizen collective. The battle is never entirely won, but it can be easily lost when ideologues begin to think that the responsibility for functional governance lies anywhere but with ourselves.
So much in American daily life proves that our problems are more profound and sophisticated than a catchphrase. But if you must fulminate to the point of a ridiculous, Reaganesque statement, let me offer a more coherent alternative.
Government in a democracy cannot be the problem. Bad government can be the problem, to be sure. But better government is the only rational solution. We need citizens — committed, communal, creative. We already have enough ideologues and luftmenschen. Apply elsewhere.
David, I’m uncomfortable with the racial premise of your original article and the infuriating yet all-too-common mis-characterization of the Tea Party movement but you write eloquently, intelligently and persuasively.
And then you come out with this, which does massive damage to your credibility as an astute political observer:
“Yes, Somalia and Wajiristan are doing so well without government.”
Libertarianism isn’t about no government (I think you’ll find that is called Anarchy) — it’s about limited, fiscally responsible government that interferes with personal liberty as little as possible.
I have to believe that President Obama was playing to his base with his “you didn’t build that” nonsense because he even he has to know that Libertarians are quite aware of the need for central government to provide infrastructure, man the Federal Reserve, etc, and are not arguing against it.
Don’t get me started on libertarianism. This isn’t the place. This is a long string and getting longer.
And my essay has nothing to do with libertarianism. It is about inclusion and the electorate and the GOP future.
I’ll be happy to heave heavy insult on the cowardice and vacancy of libertarianism at some other time.
Anarchy isn’t about no rules. It’s about no rulers.
Sounds utterly ineffective.
I prefer representative government and leadership.
RollTide – so what exactly are your solutions? What are the top 5 things that need to happen?
It’s easy, so very easy, to point out the flaws in something. But to have credible solutions for those flaws, that’s the key. Human beings are imperfect so of course our systems and our cultures are imperfect. Perfection is impossible. Improvement, however, is possible, and looking back at American history, we’ve had good days and bad days and it isn’t random when things get better and it isn’t random when things get worse. We’ll always have some corruption, but in the end, you can’t just point fingers.
How would you fix things? If you could change laws or repeal laws or add laws, what would you do? I’m talking specifics, not some broad ideology about “small government” that we’ve all heard a million times before. What laws need to be changed, removed and added?
Your claim that the Republican party has become “Dem Lite” speaks volumes. The GOP has, by any measure, turned hard right in this country. The current crop, represented by the Tea Baggers, makes Reagan look like a New Deal Democrat.
I think too many white people read the line “angry white man” and then get upset that they are being characterized as unreasonable even if they don’t share the viewpoints of the Republican party and they fail to see what Mr. Simon is saying. David speaks bluntly and that has a tendency to put people on the defensive.
The Republicans in their current state offer no opportunity to the minority voters that are growing in number. They cater to one voting bloc and that bloc is shrinking. Until they abandon their stance of telling these rising voter blocs that they are not welcome within their party they will have great difficulty winning the presidency. While some Republicans might feel like that’s not the message of their party, you only have to look at the poll results to see that is how they are perceived.
It doesn’t mean that the Democrats are “right” in their viewpoints but at least with them, these minority blocs have a chance to make their voices heard and to gain influence within the political system and get representation. That’s something that is not currently offered by the Republicans and to not see this means a person is denying reality.
Its not that he speaks bluntly, he speaks like a cretin, like some white trash ditch-digger. I really don’t care if he wrote War and Peace—sure the new GOP is moribund, but, the new normal will this: minorities will smoothly move into positions of power and do NOTHING to stop the ravages of carnivorous capitalism. Oh, there will be many liberals who will look panoptically at “ceos -of-color” who control everything and dream of a new , more equitable future…but theyre Pollyannas, nothing more. Liberals need to move on from identity politics, we took off to fight for the rights of gays, blacks, etc but the m/o of liberalism, why we started, work, workers…has been forgotten. The Randian right never forgot profit, not once in 30 odd years. As we’ve been making language less offensive, theyve shipped millions of jobs overseas, downsized, degraded workers, screwed the environment and the liberal establishment does nothing. Obama talks a good game but his spine is owned by Wall Street.
“…speaks like a cretin, like some white trash ditch-digger…”
Apart from your own eloquence, who else speaks in a manner that pleases you?
Can you make your points without the ad hominem? Try.
Many of these responses seem similar to the interview you did with Reason. They are claiming that your viewpoint is invalid because you have not addressed a wide variety of unrelated issues.
I have seen everything from outsourcing to the licensing of New York taxicabs to the policies of Ronald Reagan brought up in these posts. But they refuse to offer up any evidence to dispute the position that the Republicans have isolated themselves within a shrinking constituency.
So I would like to thank you for continuing to engage this topic when so many seem unwilling to stick to the point being made. Especially when some of these posts involve personal insults.
You make a point and then rather than probing that point in detail, they rush to some other point that suits their agenda. Helluva way to discuss anything intelligently. I expected better of Reason, somehow. Naive, I know.
I like to call that game Tea Party Whack-a-Mole! Once you nail one bad idea squarely into oblivion somewhere the cretins pop up with another falsehood. And thinking of that phenomenon makes me think of Minchin’s “Storm”:
I’ll keep it short. This article is incredible propaganda and wreaks of trash. Have a nice day.
Thanks for your brevity. Best,
I don’t want to be “that guy”, but it’s “reeks”, not “wreaks”. I don’t even think “wreaks” is a word. Carry on.
Yeah, I tried to be charitable. He seemed so overwrought to begin with.
“Wreak” is totally a word! It’s a verb, most often seen in the phrase “wreaking havoc.” As in the sentence “Barack Obama wreaked havoc among the fat and terrified rent-seeking parasites of the world, and their cries rang up to heaven, and God laughed his ass off at them, and I stroked my erection and sipped a delicious Coke Zero.”
But it is the wrong form to use for olfactory matters, and this fellow felt the original post “reeks of trash.” So in this case…
Beau – how is this article propaganda? Seriously, I’m curious.
Remember, propaganda is about “influencing the attitude of a community toward a specific position”. What position is that?
Also, could you please cite an example of an opinion piece that is not “propaganda”?
A brilliant, lucid post which captures the choice of the GOP at a critical point in their history. Are they to go the way of the Whigs or reform and become inclusive?
Thanks for an excellent write up!
I appreciate your valiant effort in trying to extend the discussion with those who wish to argue, but it might have been better not to allow comments at all. Your beautiful essay stands on its own merits and is crystal-clear truth to anyone with half a brain. Discussions among those who wish to argue for argument’s sake or just generally create mischief belong somewhere deeply buried in the comments section somewhere on the Fox News website.
And yet, as Mr. Obama noted the other night, real democracy is messy.
Except for this: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/08/18/1121685/-Fox-News-disabled-their-online-comments-section-in-May-Why
While shutting down their comments section keeps their website from being flooded with the vitriolic, racist ranting of their target audience, it also gives the impression that Fox News will brook no dissent whatsoever.
[…] to describe him as as a TV producer and writer since he won a MacArthur Genius award), David Simon heralds America’s new […]
David, as a white male, I feel amazing reading this. The present and coming changes will be amazing for our society. As a twice Obama voter, I feel even more heartened than I did in 2008. This “change” seems more palpable. Thanks for putting your thoughts to word. Really felt the emotion stirring inside me. Thanks!
David, Like you I was raised in Maryland and still live there. I have never been prouder to be a Maryland resident then now ,two days after the voters in my state reaffirmed both the DreamAct, allowing undocumented children of taxpaying parents to attend our universities at in-state tuition rates, and legislation allowing gay marriage. I may pay a higher tax rate than most of America, but that is insignificant to me compared to the fact that i live in a state that is leading America into the 21st century rather than attempting to drag it back into the 19th century. Hopefully we will continue on the course of inclusivity rather exclusivity.
I feel the same. Voted absentee from New Orleans, but made sure that I did mostly because of the ballot questions.
Elated about gay marriage as well. Sad to see gambling expand.
This post reminded me that tea partiers in Texas are attempting to get rid of the Dream Act, or the Texas version of the act, which obviously would not increase the appeal of the Republican party to the ever-growing Hispanic population there.
Only in America can you fail at ever fascet of your job, refuse to lay out a plan for KEEPING your job and just talk shit about your opponent.. and still win.
I suppose that is how one would view recent events if one were sitting high atop what Jon Stewart calls Bullshit Mountain.
Is that you Hannity?
Where have you been Larry? I am so proud of America for seeing that the Republican candidate lied, and lied, and lied. He should have stayed himself and not dipped to the conservative right wing. Abortion WILL NEVER go away. And the gay population will not go away either and it is high time that they are given equal rights! This is a new world and we will move FORWARD!! I support my President whole heartedly!
Only in America can you brazenly critique people with falsehoods while using incorrect spelling and grammar.
[…] Obama, pronounced the concept of “normal” dead and hailed the dawn of a new America. Read the whole piece in its entirety, but here are some choice excerpts: …[T]his may be the last election in which anyone but a […]
[…] Progress Posted November 8, 2012 The Wire and Treme creator David Simon has a tremendous post up about President Obama’s reelection that is also a back-door explanation for why Simon’s own […]
[…] via David Simon | Barack Obama And The Death Of Normal. […]
[…] “This election marks a moment in which the racial and social hierarchy of America is upended f… […]
[…] New Realities Posted at 3:00 on November 8, 2012 by Andrew Sullivan David Simon heralds them: This election marks a moment in which the racial and social hierarchy of America is […]
I think a good metaphor would be an only child gaining a sibling… it used to be all about you (white male Christians). Slowly, we’ve seen this stop being the case. First, for individuals. Any INDIVIDUAL in America could/can achieve anything, but there were/are still major inequalities when you look at a social group as a whole. Now, it’s about trying to bring equality to entire populations. Very difficult. This is when numbers games come into play. Do African Americans on average make as much as Caucasians do for the same jobs, women vs. men, gay vs. straight, etc. etc. etc. to your hearts content.
And, yes, it’s true. Sometimes when a new child enters a family, the first child becomes neglected, and I can understand that some people feel like, “oh, so now I don’t count?” But a proper transition means you DO count, just as much as anyone else counts. And I don’t see anyone with any real political power who is trying to do anything but that. It’s not about pushing down white people or the previous majority, it’s that there no longer is a majority.
Or, to put it another way, the only child here isn’t being replaced with another only child. The kid’s getting a sibling. The horizons expand. And you can pout about it and stamp your feet, but eventually I think you’ll come to love your sibling and be glad they’re there and that you’re not all on your own and that the family has grown. Because the family is growing…
Also, I think it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of these emotions have been played out before, such as during the era of Reconstruction after the Civil War, and with the immigrant explosion of the early 20th century.
Those damn Irish, they took our jobs!! The Godfather Part II people, seriously. It’s good. Watch it. Not entirely unlike The Wire, and I assume most people here are fans (or at least interested) in The Wire.
I almost went and started posting links to Nativist and Know Nothing propaganda. This is pretty much word for word what folks were saying about Irish immigrants in the mid-19th century.
How’d that turn out again?
Is this the same David Simon that wrote “The Wire”?
The Baltimore of “The Wire” was a preview of “Age of Obama” leadership before Obama was in the picture: a multi-racial coalition in which the demographic balance had already tipped toward plurality. Yet the *same problems* were still perpetuated regardless of the color of those in power.
So now the whole US is Baltimore. Obama is our Tommy Carcetti. Yeah, they’re nice guys, but they’re ultimately powerless to change the situation. Is Obama going to end the War on Drugs? Is Obama going to end brutal immigration policies? What about poverty? Education reform? Imperial wars? These questions are almost irrelevant because we know that he *can’t* change any of these things under the current system. In the era of Super PACs, Obama’s loyalties to continuing the system as is are as strong as ever.
It’s the same system, just with shifting demographics. Can’t we admit that capitalism is the problem? If liberals do nothing to change our ideas of what is possible then we will all be McNultys, Lesters, and Omars trapped in Baltimore.
Thanks for enlightening me about The Wire. I had other ideas about what I had written and filmed but I feel much better now, girded as I am with your elucidation of my work. Feel free to write back at some future points if you have an idea about what I should write next and what it should represent within the context of your preconfigured political beliefs.
We got off on the wrong foot. My provocation wasn’t mean to be a personal dig.
I am curious why so many liberals feel so attached to Obama, even though they know that he won’t change the problems that they pose.
I don’t think there are as many people convinced that he won’t solve problems.
However, speaking only for myself, it’s nice to see a President finally try. There’s a lot the President isn’t doing. The man still calls what happened to New Orleans a “natural disaster”…though I suppose you could call the people responsible for the levee’s natural disasters…but regardless…for me, I like that he has tried to make life a little better for a whole lot of people who don’t even register on the GOP radar.
I am not wholly satisfied by Mr. Obama and I am not wholly disappointed. I could go issue by issue and delineate but this isn’t the string for it.
And Mr. Obama is certainly tethered — beyond his control — to an intransigent Congress that is truly a broken and inert institution in our political life.
I do believe that at worst, Americans have voted for things not getting worse faster. And at best, if the House of Representatives takes a moment to contemplate that political compromise is the essential lubricant for any functional democracy, some better result may be achieved over the next two years. And perhaps, if they spend that time making a spectacle of themselves in their intransigence, the American people will stay on point and the last two years of Mr. Obama’s tenure will be marked by a Democratic Congress.
His first two years saw half-loaf attempts at public-option health care and Wall Street reform, along with a successful rescue of the auto industry and an emergency resuscitation of the financial sector which collapsed in a manner that had nothing to do with the current administration’s performance. More might have been achieved had forty Republican senators and Joe Lieberman not set a new standard for political involvement — that of a 60-vote supermajority.
But again, whatever Mr. Obama fails to achieve is likely something that his opponent had no intention of attempting. Every election is not a competition between a candidate and the Platonic ideal of a leader. It is between two actual choices.
If the extreme right wing of the party reacts to Tuesday’s outcome the way the usual talking heads have reacted, then the likelihood of the Democrats taking the House during midterms is likely. Mitch McConnell has basically already stated as much, in terms of how he views the election and its meaning. That’s one dope I wouldn’t mind seeing get caught up in one type of scandal or another and getting escorted to the unemployment line….or, a prestigious new show on Fox News.
Likewise, you should feel free to address a relevant critique of your opinion that points out that you out to know better than to write this kind of slavish nonsense in light of what has transpired under Obama’s leadership in the past 4 years. But if you’re content to stop at snarkily condescending dismissiveness, I’m sure most of the brain-dead dolts who admire you and your witless political insights will probably not hold it against you.
I believe I’ve been addressing critiques of my opinion for half the damn day. More than most bloggers would endure. I could probably do with a little more dismissiveness, if you think about it. I’ve actually been pretty sincere about engaging and keeping the discussion going, no?
[…] Barack Obama and the Death of Normal: David Simon, creator of The Wire, weighs in on the election. […]
I think you are reading an awful lot into a reasonably close election result.
Point is, they won’t be close in the future if the GOP can’t figure out a way to appeal to anyone other white men.
True, I do generally vote republican and was hard pressed this election and last election to drum up much enthusiasm for the candidates. But, if we’re going to talk about the GOP having to reevaluate their stance, I agree, but I also think the Dems should to. This lack of any middle ground with either party is absurd. Their grasping at every tiny thing anyone says and then twisting it to mean something else shows both to be desperate and just makes me hang my head and wish we had a system that promoted valid third party candidates.
Democracy is messy and elaborate, and compromise is the necessary lubricant at all points.
But frankly, I see the Dems and Mr. Obama throwing more on the negotiating table than the Republican leadership in Congress. At key points,
you will remember, they actually abandoned agreed-upon middle-ground compromises in favor of extremity. If they can’t find a plausible middle now, then you have to hope for voters to make an additional statement two years from now. By then, the economy will have suffered real damage from the continued budget impasse and the uncertainty that Wall Street loathes.
Neal, have you ever heard of free speech, and that crazy thing called the America’s Constitution?
How can a guy who facies himself the champion of the American working class, particularly the black American working class, celebrate a tidal wave of unskilled immigrants who have, over the past four decades, decimated the quality of life for blue-collar Americans?
Don’t get me wrong. Automation and outsourcing have hurt as well, probably more, but there was nothing whatever that could have been done to stop either (and the benefits of both, worldwide, greatly outweigh the costs). But the supply of unskilled American labor has quintupled since the 65 Immigration Act while the population as a whole has only doubled.
Immigration isn’t the only reason why wages for unskilled work stopped growing around 1970 and started their steady decline, why unemployment among those who lack any college is 50% higher than the national average and why most unskilled workers can no longer afford the sort of life they could have in the 1960s. But it’s a really big one.
And no, this is not temporary. The new Americans are not going to follow in the footsteps of their 19th century predecessors and, over the generations, become as skilled and productive as Americans who were here for generations before them. Every test of IQ has shown that post 65 immigrants who come in on anything but an H1-B visa have an IQ around 90, ten points lower than than the American norm. (Want to guess the percentage of fourth-generation unskilled immigrants in California who graduate a four-year college? 5 percent. That’s for people whose grandparents were born here.)
They will always be an anchor on the country as a whole, forcing the government to confiscate the hard-earned money of more productive citizens because they cannot create enough value to pay for their own housing and medical care; diverting most school resources to the extremely difficult task of getting their kids to pass the most basic of hurdles; hurting productivity in every American company forced to discriminate against more talented applicants from races that don’t get legal favoritism.
But, frankly, productive and bright people will always do fine in America. The real victims, the ones whose lives will be wrecked more and more, will be the less genetically gifted Americans whose families were here before 1965. Because the downward spiral only continues for them.
Within the next fifteen years automation will take away the two biggest jobs they have left: driver/trucker and cashier. And, as the aging of the country (and the necessity of paying all those retirement benefits) further erodes the ability of productive workers to support anti-poverty programs, their quality of life keeps going down. Do you really think a comprehensive Medicaid will be possible when 30% of the country is receiving it and another 30% is receiving Medicare?
Time to celebrate, indeed.
I don’t agree with your characterization of what has devalued the black community economically. And I see no either-or between people seeking a better life as immigrants or among those trapped in innercity America. I see the forces arrayed against both as consistent and connected.
But that’s a bigger topic than the one at hand, sorry. And I am quite ready to address a critique elsewhere entirely.
But too much on this thread already, don’t you agree?
“Every test of IQ has shown that post 65 immigrants who come in on anything but an H1-B visa have an IQ around 90, ten points lower than than the American norm.”
This has got to be the most racist thing I’ve ever read. You must listen to 10 hours of talk radio a day to believe such garbage.
But eventually, they will be voting Republican. So at least the GOP has that going for them.
Sorry. I know. I couldn’t help myself. Apologies to all the Republicans.
Just trying to bring one of the many wayward strains back to the original topic.
Seriously, IQ scores? Are you honestly inferring that post 65′ immigrants are inherently genetically inferior to the waves of immigrants before them? Do you really think that given several generations of integration they wont be just like any other group of Americans?
Sounds very much like 19th century style scientific racism. But, then again, maybe you’re a big fan of ‘The Bell Curve’.
Nobel Peace Price for Mark Zuckerburg and the social media?
Are pluralities and coalitions a direct result to the increasing popularity of social media, online connectvity, and increased awareness of critical issues? Do they appeal to and enhance our empathetic natures?Thoughts?
[…] we got the first taste of what a really multicultural America will be like at the polls. See also David Simon of The Wire and Treme on this: “A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling […]
Thank you so much for writing / articulating this. I have friends visiting from Australia and they asked me what I believed this election meant for the country. I offered a rambling, stream of conscious explanation to them before stumbling upon this and then suggesting, “You know what? David Simon said it best. Here you go.”
Again, thank you. As far as I am concerned, this essay will likely be found in future anthologies about the cultural shifts that will have occurred in 21st Century America.
[…] You can find Simon’s essay Barack Obama and the Death of Normal here. […]
[…] Christ, this snowstorm was rough [FiPS] How did the mayor’s Super PAC do? [Runnin' Scared] David Simon has some thoughts on the election [The Audacity of Despair] Another reason to hate Sandy? It made you fat [New York Times] ? […]
So are you saying that as a “white male”, I must conform to the new normal or be trampled and cast aside in the wake??
Do what you want. But if you belong to a political party that is doing its absolute best to alienate every other cohort but white males — to marginalize their interests, to suppress their vote, to reduce the scope of their civil liberties and personal rights — then you will need to get used to losing more and more elections. That is what I have said, in sum.
I don’t know why I said it other than that I believe it happens to be true.
Conform? You can do what you want, personally.
If you want to operate a national political party and you want to advocate policies that alienate the affections of every voting cohort other than white males, you can do that too. But in the coming years, you’re also going to have to get used to losing more elections.
That’s all I’m saying.
I might have to join this “one size” fits all party operating today that you speak of. Is this Dem, Rep or Lib, so that I can start my indoctrination process immediately. I do so want to be part of the utopian society you speak about!!
Don’t know about utopias.
I just want to live in a republic that best represents its citizens. Getting there, bit by bit.
You do mean ALL citizens, equally right? No matter the content of those views, both similar and different, regardless of race, creed or color? Is that what you are referring to as the “new normal”?
Brother, what part of the essay eluded you?
“There’s nothing wrong with anyone being anything.”
Right, I did read that and agree with you. So Barack Obama and the Dem party’s views, stances and policies do represent all things to all people of this Republic that can make them equal in all ways and all things w/o barriers, right? And the only thing in their way are the Reps, Libs and any other opposing views and or policies that do not conform to them. in other words a utopian society with all minds thinking exactly the same way with a Gov. that can pass laws and rules (or not) that meets all needs and ideas to all individuals. There will be no more ruling class to exploit others, except those ideals to keep us all thinking the same.
At best, we can say that Mr. Obama pulled more votes and therefore more support, and we can also say that this support for his views and those of his party came from cohorts in the electorate that are growing at a much more rapid rate than the electoral cohorts that supported the GOP. This is what we can say. This is what I have said.
At worst, we can say that more Americans pushed the lever for Mr. Obama because they thought things might not get worse faster if they did. And again, the Americans that did so represent cohorts that are increasing in terms of the percentage of the American electorate.
I agree with Mr. Obama, but even if I supported Mr. Romney, the core argument of this essay still stands. The Republicans, unless they become more inclusive in their political stances and arguments, are on a train to nowhere, demographically.
How many different ways can I say it? Let’s pray for this to be the last, shall we?
ok thanks, just trying to get a good understanding of your own views. Door slam, accepted.
Sorry if that was curt. I didn’t mean to be. I just feel as I keep saying the same things over and over.
Yes, I prefer Mr. Obama to Mr. Romney. Yes, I am more left-leaning than not, albeit I go issue to issue without much interest in ideology.
But none of that matters to the core argument of the essay. It would all still stand if I thought Mr. Obama was a hump and Mr. Romney was the next Lincoln. This is about a political party that is no longer operating a big tent, and will need to do so if it is to remain relevant.