12 February 2008

American Historical Perspective (formerly, Responding To Your Comments)

We felt left out of the good dialogue erupting in the comments section here at OL&L. Frankly, we can't keep up with everything everyone writes, but we did want to respond to a couple of things.

Side note: glad to see our three "contrarians" ringing in, as usual, in a contrary way (MJM, JW, BT--thanks). Lest anyone think otherwise, we appreciate what they add to the discussion here. They keep us honest and keep us from devolving into an echo chamber--you know, like the DailyKos and Huffington Post folks.

Justin, we didn't give up on Bush. Why, just a couple of weeks ago we wrote this: State of the Union (this is what happens when you don't check OL&L every day). To summarize: on balance, we think he's done more good than bad.

Regarding this loss of purpose and American division about which you speak, we ask you this: did you only become politically aware during the Bush presidency? Do you truly believe this nation was united until GWB was elected President? Do you really think the world loved us until he was elected President (subquestion: do you seriously care what the world thinks of us?)? (maybe we should have said until we went to war in Iraq)

(Segue into addressing the entire readership)

People who think that things are horrible now, that the US sucks right now, that world opinion of the US is at an all-time low, etc., etc., do not have a sufficient knowledge of American history. They forget or never knew how bad things were during WWI, the Great Depression, WWII (it wasn't always as popular as it is now), the 1960's (1968 in particular), Vietnam, the stagflation of the 1970's, Nixon, Carter, the Cold War.... we could go on.

In our opinion, these people are engaging in too much national narcissism and navel gazing.

If you think America has reached rock bottom, wake up and familiarize yourself with American history. Or, we don't know, maybe compare our history to pretty much any other country in the world. The point is, you need a little (just a little) perspective.

On balance, things have never been better than they are right now. We have our warts, But more countries are freer, more countries abide by the rule of law, more people live longer, more people are healthier, more people have more money, more people are educated--than at any time in the history of the world. Sure, bad things still happen. Duh. But don't buy into the doom-and-gloom of, well, anyone.

If you start from that premise, you will vote for a candidate who, we fear, does little more than inspire and persuade--one whose idealism (like yours) will get knocked in the head by reality. Republicans have never "been in love" with our candidates (including Reagan, well, at least not until he was dead) the way liberal progressives are. Maybe it's because we're not as idealistic and more realistic than Democrats. We don't know.

We focus more on their experience, the substance of their principles, and their voting record, because these things are tangible. We can look and see how candidate X voted and examine his record. We can analyze candidate Y's policy proposals and see how they match our priorities. We can review candidate Z's management of a state or other entity and see whether or not he was successful. All of this we do because we care less about their personality, less about their eloquence, less about their charisma than Democrats seem to. This is why insults about Bush's poor communication skills never bothered us. We don't take insults to our favored candidates personally. Democrats poked fun because it bothers them if their candidates can't speak well. Congrats, Democrats. In Barack Obama, you've got your good speakin' man.

And yes, we know a President won't be able to follow through on all his campaign promises and proposals. And we know that many of the things he says are only meant to curry favor with this or that special interest group. We don't care. Seriously, we could not care less. We know this is the game he has to play to get elected. Part of it (in the case of McCain/Feingold) is our candidates own fault. But by looking at what he has done and comparing that to what he says, we make the best guess we possibly can about the candidate's core principles. Hopefully they match ours.

At least, this way we don't get bitter and jaded when they don't live up to our unrealistic expectations.

We repeat: nostalgic notions of how America was supposed to have been are inaccurate. And no candidate, however inspiring, will ever unify and make a utopia out of America.

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echo chamber aka dmz said...

I agree.

Uptown Girl said...

Interestingly enough I was talking with my dad about a similar topic earlier this week. He was reminiscing about a time in his childhood when they would practice nuclear bomb drills and hide underneath their desks. Fearing that Russia was going to bomb the U.S. shows us a time where our country felt unsafe. It's not a new idea to have fears of attack, or fears of our country "hitting rock bottom." Our world will not be turned upside down based on a few years of of one man's (or heaven help us, woman's) presidency. America is a great country based great people and we will make it through rough times just like we always have.

Justin said...

Jake, this has nothing to do with America hitting rock bottom. No one is saying that America sucks. We're saying this last administration sucked, and so we're advocating a change. Yes, that same change that has helped right the course during the previous time periods you referenced. The gloom and doom will only come if America fails to change her course, and I have faith she will not fail. Why do you think Americans kicked the Republicans out of the legislature and chose a "liberal" Republican nominee? (Your man Romney's words, not mine.) It's because we are steering away from your and Bush's extreme brand of politics. That's what you call America "righting" herself.

Anonymous said...

You are such Bushies.

George W did more good than bad? What a ringing endorsement. That idiot swiftboated this country and we will pay for it for years to come.

All the wars you mentioned had lead President Clinton and A REPUBLICAN CONGRESS to push for a more isolationist policy. I could show you HOURS of C-SPAN coverage showing republican congressmen urging to stay out of the "world's problems," thats a fact Jacks. We actually decreased the military because the Cold War was over and we had learned the lesson too many times before. Then your boy GW decides he can make some scratch for his buddies and we reverse course. AND the republicans flip-flop their platform and want to spend TRILLIONS of dollars on a war in Iraq while we are already fighting another war??? Are you serious? Here is a tip for y'all next time you want to start a war, do it when we have the cash to spend and do it when you can afford to put the proper armor on the boys you are coaxing out of my home town. The conservative heartland of this country.

Our country is not failing us, the executive is...But why do I really think him a complete failure? Because I care about our economy. Thats what keeps people here, and keeps food on our plates. Do you think he had an effect/affect on the market? Do you think the cash we were forced to print for Iraq helped you at the end of the day? For 2 Trillion dollars, do you think we could have built a great homeland security/border/whatever you guys want?

I can think of better ways to spend that money. One word: lockbox

MJ said...
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Matt said...

...steering away from your and Bush's extreme brand of politics

Casting someone as extreme in order to justify one's position is a classic device used by people everywhere. This is particularly effective if used together with the Guilt by Association Fallacy aka Bad Company Fallacy. See the following:


It goes something like this: If everyone hates Bush and we can dismiss his presidency as extremist and a failure, and Jake likes and defends Bush, then Jake must be an extremist idiot war lover. This is a very enticing argument, and easy to make since Jake has defended some of President Bush's policies. But to do so would be fallacious (love that word). The truth is that he has been critical of the President on plenty of things, and has simply appealed to history's authority on the matter.

The funny thing about this is that I'll probably take it in the eye and will be summarily dismissed for defending my brother, even though I use no fallacy. Let's hear it!

danny dlx said...

I do find it very interesting whenever the politics of the Clinton administration are called into question it is always referred to as "the Clinton administration with a Republican Congress." However when the Clinton administration had any positives the Republican backed Congress is dropped. On a similar note, the Bush Administration is portrayed as a rogue administration that does as they want when they want. Where are the checks and balances? Did we do away with Congress? No the Democratic backed Congress has had just as much say in this administration as W. BTW- I'm pretty happy America is not seen positively in much of the world, we are different from the rest of the world and with that distinction brings enmity.

Justin said...
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