Inspection- Hulk Smash v. Status Quo
I think it started during the Johnson/Goldwater campaign, and I am absolutely willing to admit it was the Democratic side who started it on a national level with the little girl, the bomb and fear mongering. But there must be a caveat here: I wasn’t as politically cognizant during the 60 Kennedy/Nixon campaigns.
Previous to that was such a different time we know less than we should about those campaigns. History teachers rarely cover the fact that Eisenhower ran on a peace platform and why he did that compared to more current Republican campaigns, or why Franklin went from the far more conservative Democrat that he had been as governor to the far more liberal president he became. Then we have how we went from less than pro-corporate Roosevelt to Clinton and Obama who were all about “free” trade and enabling corporate power.
Call it Comparative Political History, American or World.
Frankly I think teachers should go to such depths, but maybe the reasons I never had a teacher, or professor, who headed that direction is the controversy it would cause, and more important: loss of a job. Probably the closest to this I ever had was a 9th grade teacher who lasted barely a year. Too many people demand the status quo: offend as few as possible. Damn tough in this society.
I fear today we have reached a political position as a nation now where we have one party pretty much pushing the status quo, with very minor advances heralded as major accomplishments, and the other party basically behaving like that clichéd TV character: “Hulk SMASH!”
If you have a radical agenda: at least as compared to the status quo, “Hulk SMASH!” is a cynical, deceptive, yet clever, tactic. You smash things as they are: like the post office. Make them pay in advance for benefits to be paid to workers not even born yet. Then when the predictable happens you blame the other side, and go back to smashing while offering solutions that make things worse. Don’t bother rinsing. Just repeat. A classic, current, example of this is claiming the “next president” should appoint the justice to replace Scalia, then turn around and say if the democrat is elected she won’t be able to appoint one either.
This is a “the means justifies the goal” philosophy. Sometimes it’s a politic form of terrorism.
Democratic leaders, on the other hand, seem to have settled for what they eventually decided not to settle for when I grew up: the status quo. Before anyone points to Obamacare as “big” change, let me remind them that improving health care has been the goal of Democrats since at least Roosevelt. The goal kept being watered down to where there isn’t even a public option: just corporate care. We got, not Obamacare, but Romneycare; the same type of insurance company-based health care that screwed up health care to begin with. Well, screwed it up even more than it already was.
Maybe the new wave started by Bernie of supporters running for office will change all this and, if that happens, I look forward to that. Bernie wants to take his revolution beyond the 2016 campaign. A President Hillary may dampen that some, or not, but a President Trump will go beyond “dampen.” We have Trump and his surrogates making statements like one who insisted Trump should rule more as an authoritarian. People who think congress, or anyone, might successfully stand in his way are historically short sighted. Before Bush II torture was pretty universally viewed as unacceptable.
”Oh, but Ken! That was after 9/11.”
My response to that would be…
“So, you REALLY think such a politically convenient event couldn’t happen again?”
Another response to all this I find worse than useless is, “Well, if the dems lose they’ll learn this time.”
Please tell me how many times this has worked historically? Pretty much never. If pols learn anything it’s either to ignore an “autopsy,” or pretend to have paid attention just to get elected, then do whatever the hell they want. The reason: it’s a duopoly, a two part system.
Still the movement I voted for during Tennessee’s primary: the one started by Bernie movement, is our great hope Maybe, eventually, we can successfully counter, “Hulk SMASH!” Roosevelt became a threat during one such Hulk SMASH! era that was almost punctuated by the military coup stopped by Smedley Butler. I suspect President Hillary might have a similar, or worse, challenge. Not because she’s any Roosevelt, but because “Hulk SMASH!” has become so much of their pervasive strategy, not just when it comes to anyone with the name Clinton: with anyone who isn’t one of them. “Obama” sure did have his share of, “Hulk SMASH!” And I see little evidence it won’t get even worse, as it has been over the years… unless they lose far more than the presidency. The chance to un-gerrymander all that’s been butchered, is a ways off, for sure.
The idea that one person; yes, even Bernie, would have changed everything without being blocked is, again, historically naïve’. Real change will take time. And in a two party system the most a third party can usually do is hand power to those would really shouldn’t even be dog catchers. I do think one way to help change that dynamic is to empower third parties to have more influence election time with something like run off voting. That way neither “Hulk SMASH!” or status quo will be as viable. Making it so other views are more influential would cut back on both. A Stein, or a Johnson, may never win, but they’d have enough pull to affect real change. Both major parties would have to consider their stances too to rank high enough to win this time, and the next. Ignoring them would be less of an option.
In the meantime, is there any new pill coming onto the market that might increase and sharpen voter’s memories? We really need that. Sometimes I swear even the public’s short term memory has been decreasing down to less than a day.
Let’s just hope something happens to divert us from this path. Because when it comes to just SMASH! vs. quo politics, SMASH! will most likely win eventually because, to quote that movie source for intellectual thought: Spaceballs…
”Evil will always triumph because good is dumb.”
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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