Happy New Year to all of you! How did we get here?

RoseBowlStadium-BW-500
The Rose Bowl

At some point I quit being amazed at how quickly the years go by after you reach some arbitrary age. It does hit home on New Years Day how quickly another year has passed. I remember when all there was to do on January 1st was watch the boring Tournament of Roses parade in the morning while waiting for the bowl games to start.

There used to be four played on New Years Day and they were the only ones we actually cared about. The Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl were all played in the afternoon and then “the grand daddy of them all” the Rose Bowl followed the others. Now there are so many bowls, most of them named after products I don’t use or even knew existed, that I couldn’t name them all  even if my life depended on it. I’ve watched a few of these dogs this year played in nearly empty stadiums that ESPN carefully tries to avoid showing.

Enough about football. We find ourselves nearing end of the second decade of the 21st century. Chew on that for a minute. The Millennium was almost two decades ago!

I have been listening to a podcast series called The Wilderness. It is about how the Democratic Party found itself completely out of power and how it can get back to where it once was. That story is a big part of the history of the last couple of decades in America. Their story starts in 2008 but I wanted to go back to the turn of the century.

What a couple of decades it has been. Unfortunately, it begin with the mess of an election in 2000 when the Supreme Court decided to insert itself into the election in an unprecedented way with a decision that many Constitutional scholars considered to be pure horse hockey. It was so bad that even the conservatives on the court said it should never be used as a precedent.

That decision gave us President George W. Bush and the truly evil Vice President Dick Cheney for 8 years. Bush is considered by most historians to be in the running to be remembered as one of the worst presidents in history.  He will be remembered for starting a war in Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction that never existed and leaving office with the economy in the throes of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

In 2008 on the heels of a successful midterm election in 2006 the Democrats seemed poised to retake the presidency. What was unclear was just who the standard bearer would be. The favorite was Senator Hillary Clinton from New York. She was upset in a hard fought primary campaign by the young black Senator Barack Obama from Illinois.

The Republicans nominated the elder Senator from Arizona John McCain. McCain, a war hero who had been held captive and tortured by the North Vietnamese after his fighter had been shot down, had run before. He lost to George W. Bush in 2000. The Bush campaign led by dirty trickster Karl Rove employed some nasty tactics against McCain by spreading rumors right before the key South Carolina primary that McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock. Funny how benign that indiscretion seems in hindsight in 2019 when compared with the current President’s lack of morality.

McCain made a major blunder by choosing the unknown Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin to be his running mate. That move will go down in history to be filed under the chapter titled “WTF were you thinking?”. Palin became the darling of the far right wing of the Republican party but scared the crap out of many moderate and independent voters who could not imagine electing McCain, who at the time was 72 years old and had a history of skin cancer, with Palin “a heartbeat from the Oval Office”.

Barack Obama had chosen as his running mate Senator Joe Biden from Delaware. Biden made a good running mate for several reasons. He was a veteran campaigner and ling time Senator. The contrast between Biden’s acumen and intelligence provided quite a contrast with Palin’s downright ignorance about almost every facet of government.

Obama ran a tireless campaign. He was easily the best orator the Democratic Party had produced since John Kennedy. McCain continued to pay for his mistaken choice for running mate as Palin grabbed most of the headlines good and bad. Obama was able to pin the Iraq War and the terrible economy on McCain and the Republicans. He swept to an easy electoral victory by winning almost all the swing states and even some previously Republican states like North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana.

Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009 and also the first non-white resident. Almost 2 million people attended. America appeared to be headed towards a new age of enlightenment.

So what happened? How did the shit show of an election in 2016 occur and how did we end up with a racist clown in the White House?

I think some of the signs of the calamity can be traced back to the 2008 election. I will discuss that and more in the next installment.

To be continued …

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4 Responses to Happy New Year to all of you! How did we get here?

  1. rantalbott says:

    Check out Kurt Andersen. I haven’t read his book (Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire), but there are videos from his book tour, and some shorts, on YouTube.

    His theory is that there’s been a strong thread of “believing in the fantastic” in American culture from the very beginning. Some of the earliest colonists were lured here by scams that promised a life of ease and riches. For most of our history, it was largely kept in check by a harsh reality that often killed people who believed too much BS. But it did persist (he points to the patent medicine craze, which he says didn’t happen in Europe, as an example).

    He says that, just as there was an “anti-establishment” counterculture developing on the left in the 1960s, one grew on the right based in religion. And, as it’s grown, the Creationists and other science- and reality-deniers have been taking over the GOP. That’s how people like Palin, Inhofe, Broun, and eventually Trump became national figures.

    On the left, the fantasy-believers remained a fringe, while the mainstream stuck to the skepticism exemplified by the Founders. So the big political divide today is no longer “liberal vs conservative”, but “reality vs fantasy”.

    The fantastical thinking is not an unalloyed evil: having some of it is part of what inspired us to advance to greatness. But it needs to be balanced with skepticism and realism to keep it from “inspiring” us to stupidity 😉

    • Thanks for the comment. I will check out Kurt Anderson’s videos.

      I am not sure where I am headed with this series of articles. I have thought for some time that conservatism is a cult based on myths not supported by facts. There has to be a reason so many people fall for falsehoods like the Birther myths, Creationism, etc.

      My hypothesis is that belief in fantasies is an evolved trait that is leftover from the dawn of civilization when traits like a predilection for a belief in the afterlife would make it more likely that a member of the tribe would be willing to sacrifice their lives for the good of the tribe. Natural selection might have favored this “religious gene” over a “pragmatism gene”. The same conditions do not apply in the modern world but these traits are still there causing harm.

      • rantalbott says:

        I think you need to clearly define what you mean by “conservatism” before you start to analyze it. Especially because the loudest voices calling themselves “conservatives” today really aren’t. Years ago, I coined the term “neandercon” to distinguish the Dittohead/Savage Nation types who didn’t have an actual ideology, but have a “tribal” view of the world (especially the political aspect). Alas, it didn’t catch on, but there’s been a big increase in the amount of talk about tribalism since then, so I guess I had the right idea 😉

        I think that’s really what you’re talking about, rather than people like Bill Buckley, John McCain, or David Brooks. I try to avoid using “conservative” to describe the crazies, myself, because I feel like it insults honorable people who simply have a different set of priorities in life, and can be worked with to reach compromises on issues where we disagree.

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