Patty Dineen

The view from here

Posts Tagged ‘Obama

Politics, money, the public and revolution…

Okay.  A commentator’s recent suggestion that “revolution is on the table” is, thankfully, still greeted in most parts with surprise and dismay.  Come a time that we aren’t surprised when commentators say this, then…  Anyway, it should come as no surprise that people are getting pretty fed up, feeling that the public’s voice has pretty much come unhinged from Washington.  Washington, instead,  has become ever more tightly hinged to — money.  Here is what Robert Reich writes in his book Aftershock, about the indirect, but nonetheless, potent effects of money:

No policy has been altered, no bill or vote willfully changed.  But inevitably, as the politician enters into these endless social rounds among the networks of the wealthy, his view of the world is affected.  Increasingly, the politician hears the same kinds of suggestions, the same concerns and priorities.  The wealthy do not speak in one voice, to be sure, but they share a broad common perspective.  The politician hears only indirectly and abstractly from the less comfortable members of society.  They are not at the coffees and dinners.  They do not tell him directly and repeatedly, in casual banter and through personal stories, how they view the world.  They do not speak continuously into the politician’s ear about their concerns.  The politician learns of those concerns from his pollsters, and from occasional political appearnaces back in his home district, but he is not immersed in them as he is in the culture of the comfortable.  In this way, access to the network of the wealthy does not necessarily buy a politician’s vote.  It buys his mind. (pgs 109-110)

…Perhaps the most convincing evidence that the game is rigged is the deafening silence about all this.  You would think political leaders would talk about the nation’s surging inequality and the flattening of middle-class incomes.  But as the divergence in income and wealth has grown to stunning proportions, it is rare to find even a Democratic politician who dwells on it. (pgs 113-114)

As CNBC’s Rick Santelli once famously screamed, “President Obama, are you listening to this?”

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Written by dineenp

October 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm

A man with a sign

As we were taking a family member to the airport this weekend we saw a man standing on the curb at a busy intersection where a left turn lets you head west over the Ohio River.  He was holding a sign aloft–both arms raised high above his head.  He turned and we could see that it was an “Obama for President” sign.  As we sat in traffic at a red light we watched him.  He didn’t walk around, just turned slowly from time to time, with a quietly determined expression on his face.  It reminded me of Norma Rae, standing on a table and silently holding her “Union” sign aloft.  Her message was much larger than her one-word sign.  This man on the corner, also, sent a larger message than just who he thinks should be the next president.

I saw in this man a hopeful sign; a one-man celebration of the democratic process.  In the car we talked about how impressed we were that someone had decided to invest their time and their person in this way to promote their candidate.  The man wasn’t with a group, he was by himself.  He wasn’t sitting in a chair, he was standing on the corner. 

There were other campaign signs nearby, stuck in the ground and sharing space with a lot of real estate signs (but that’s another discussion…).  In fact, there are campaign signs at nearly every corner these days.  The man’s sign was identical to the Obama signs stuck in the ground.  What was different was the message it sent.  What we learn about a candidate’s supporters tells us a lot about the candidate.  This man was serving his candidate very well.

As we passed the man we waved, smiled and prepared to give a thumbs-up.  He didn’t see us.  His expression didn’t change and his gaze was fixed at some point further off.  Either he wasn’t looking for reaction and affirmation, or he’d indeed had some and had decided to ignore all reaction as he pursued the way in which he had decided to spend his Saturday afternoon.

We said wouldn’t it be neat if there was someone at the other end of the bridge, standing and holding aloft a sign for McCain for president.  There wasn’t.  But we still felt good–felt better– about this long slog of a presidential campaign in which it’s easy to forget that if you want to make democracy just a little bit better, you can.  You don’t need permission; you don’t need a group; you just need to go out and do it.

Written by dineenp

October 27, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Ask them to name names – Does either candidate have the courage to help the public make a good choice?

The candidates have another chance tonight in Nashville, Tennessee to show that they have the courage it will take to handle the economic problems that are spinning out of control and terrifying the public.  Neither Obama nor McCain have gotten anywhere near specific enough about what they will do about this financial crisis, which could be even worse by the time one of them takes office.  As one commentator said recently, “Well, neither of them understand it.”  Fair enough, most of us don’t.  But I do know that the most important thing the new president will do is to pick the right people to tackle the problems.

At the moment I don’t see a whole lot of substantive (not in the ways that would really matter) difference between these two candidates even though they have both labored mightily to frame each other as radically different.  They aren’t. 

However, I would be very impressed if one– or ideally both– of the candidates would announce the names of the people he would tap to deal with the financial crisis– or at least the name of the treasury secretary.  Tonight the moderator–Tom Brokaw– should ask the candidates to do this.  And the candidates should give an answer.

Written by dineenp

October 7, 2008 at 2:34 pm