The New Moderate Shuts the Door on 2010
It’s that time of year, friends. Time for reflection, time for resolutions, time for The New Moderate to wonder what on earth the previous 365 days were all about.
First, I’m hard-pressed to believe that we’re already bidding farewell to the year 2010. When I was a kid, 2010 was the Jetsons’ world; we were supposed to be living in domed cities, whizzing around in our airborne cars, rocketing to Mars and back on a regular basis.
Instead, we’ve merely become extensions of our earthbound electronic gadgets. We depend on those gadgets to help us make sense of our bewildering world. But I suspect that the information we gather from our gadgets only makes our world seem more bewildering. (It does for me, anyway.)
Our gadgets also make us less inclined to read Don Quixote or Moby-Dick from cover to cover, at least in their original paper incarnations. Sometimes I sense that the dusty tomes lining my shelves are casting a reproachful eye on me as I click away at my chip-infested machinery.
But what about 2010 and its lessons? Most of the surviving news publications will focus on the individual events that shaped the year: the Gulf oil spill, the controversy over the Arizona immigrant law, the healthcare debates, the infamous “Ground Zero Mosque” and the rise of House Speaker John Boehner. I’m more interested in the issues that lurk behind the stories.
The Tea Party. Conservatives went on a holy rampage in 2010 — and these weren’t your father’s (or William F. Buckley’s) conservatives. Here was an impassioned grassroots movement, populated by small-town middle class Main Streeters shaking their collective fists at the government and the liberal elite. That much I can understand. Strange, though, that they never thought of shaking their fists at the conservative elite — the corporate and Wall Street plutocrats who have done everything in their power to wreck the fortunes and the future of the American middle class.
Instead, the plutocrats, aided and abetted by populist pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, managed to convince the Tea Partiers that their interests were more or less identical. All those investment bankers and hedge fund managers must be chuckling at the naivete of middle-class idealists who embrace minimal government, unregulated capitalism and tax breaks for the rich. Instead of rioting on Wall Street, they spend their time accusing Obama of socialist propensities. Useful idiots.
On top of their confused ideology, the Tea Partiers made life impossible for moderates during the 2010 campaign. Anyone who didn’t get with the program was virtually accused of treason and run out of the Republican party.
And yet, for all the noise they made, the Tea Party didn’t sweep the fall elections. Yes, the Republicans gained ground, as expected. But too many Tea Party candidates exposed themselves as extremists and/or fools in front of a national audience. Their blunders can only set the stage for a moderate resurgence in 2012.
WikiLeaks. All right, we’re looking at one of the sizzling news stories of 2010, but I’m less interested in the fortunes of its pathologically self-righteous founder than I am in the sub-story: whether willy-nilly leaking of secret government documents is an act of heroism in the spirit of Robin Hood, or something darker and more sinister.
The New Moderate is all in favor of transparency in most public arenas, but war and dipl0macy aren’t among them. Imagine if a World War II incarnation of WikiLeaks had blown the cover of the Allies’ planned D-Day invasion. You can see the problem.
Even more unsettling is the fact that a single loose-cannon organization — an organization run and staffed by wet-behind-the-ears technogeeks — has assumed the authority to spill the secrets of nations with impunity. Yes, we have a right to know if governments have been acting treacherously, against the interests of their people (or our people)– but who decides the definition of treachery during wartime? Julian Assange? Your neighbor two houses down the street?
WikiLeaks is a collection of arrogant juvenile spies and anarchists masquerading as selfless crusaders. They’re the diplomatic equivalent of cyberpunks, attacking their targets for the sheer exhilaration of stealing power from the powerful.
The illegal immigrant question. It just won’t go away. More important than whether individual states have the right to protect their borders (I believe they do if the federal government won’t) is the issue of what happens to a nation transformed by the mass incursion of squatters from a single ethnic group. This hasn’t happened in America since the English invited themselves to settle on native Indian lands back in 1607 (and we all know what became of the Indians’ pristine domain).
The waves of immigrants that thronged these shores during the late 19th and early 20th centuries came to us from a multitude of nations. And almost without exception, they obligingly adopted the English language and American ways. They began to think of themselves — proudly and unreservedly — as Americans, and they quietly entered the mainstream of American life.
I don’t see the same pattern governing the new immigrants. They’re settling here on the sly, enjoying public benefits without contributing to the public till — and we’ve reciprocated by enshrining Spanish as our unofficial second language. Meanwhile, the government has done nothing to stop the influx of illegals, and the left has been adamant about welcoming them with open arms.
Do our undocumented Latino immigrants personally identify with the United States? Are they eager to assimilate, to learn English, to pledge allegiance to our flag? Or are they essentially pushing the boundaries of Latin America northward to the Canadian border?
What happens when the U.S. becomes the newest Latin American republic? Will we be a two-tier society of haves and have-nots? (We’re already well on our way without the help of illegal Hispanic immigrants.) Will we lose our stature among nations? Will soccer finally become our national game? Stay tuned, friends; this story is far from over.
Obama’s ups and downs. Not since Jimmy Carter has so intelligent a president been subjected to such pervasive public doubts about his leadership ability. Here was a man who galvanized a weary republic during his campaign — and proceeded to underwhelm it as soon as he assumed the presidency.
The fault isn’t entirely his, of course: Obama inherited a bundle of ongoing crises, foreign and domestic, that even FDR would have struggled to solve. But Obama’s leadership did falter; he couldn’t or wouldn’t sell his agenda persuasively, he cozied up to all the wrong people, he weathered unfair personal attacks from the rabid far-right fringe, and he appeared to recoil from the vulgar give and take of American politics. His trademark gusto was fading; he was being Jimmified.
Suddenly, this past month, Obama seemed to regain his mojo. Maybe his party’s “shellacking” in the recent elections roused him to action. At any rate, he showed himself capable of political savvy, bipartisan bargaining and — even more important — the ability to get results. Given the obstructionist nature of the Republican opposition during his administration, this was no small feat.
Obama ended his most difficult year on a triumphant note. I wish I could say the same for the rest of us.