Another bad jobs report the morning right after President Obama’s triumphant speech. He couldn’t know yesterday about the dismal job report. Or, if he did have advanced knowledge, it did not make any difference. His declarations bear little systematic relationship to reality. The President was triumphant about what he is going to do next. Why not? He received the Nobel Peace Prize to reward his future achievements after all. His speech last night contained striking numbers pulled out of thin air, completely imaginary achievements, and taking credit for saying “yes” to the obvious (attacking Bin Laden in his lair). The speech was also very well delivered. It was more coherent than anything the Republicans gave at their convention (with the possible exception of Condoleeza Rice’s rousing patriotic speech). Republicans want to fix things. That gives you laundry lists. Barack Obama has a leftist, “no more injustice,” Third Worlder, “government-will- fix-it” vision. It was developed over the sixty years since World War Two by the international Left. Of course, it’s coherent.
It looks like this race is going to be between well-spoken histrionics backed by gut-feeling, on the one hand, and rationality and facts, on the other hand. Bad forebodings for me after brief conversations with three people in their late twenties.
One, a guy I have know since he was in elementary school, is an artist, a painter who actually paints, paints a lot. He sells some of his work but it’s not enough to support him. He lives off little. He has a small disability pension from the federal government. He is one of the able disabled, you might say. I can’t say more because I like him. His mother is your straightforward State of California bureaucrat. She works for a state agency I would abolish after one minute of serious thought and analysis if I had a chance. His father works in the real world but, like many others, he seems to be having a tough time right now.
One evening, I am buying the artist a beer and I ask him casually who he is going to vote for. Obama, of course, he replies. Why? I ask him. His reply has two parts. First, the government does not do much anyway. Obama has done fine with the minimal job of leading it. Second, he says, he looked at Romney and he couldn’t possibly vote “for someone like” him. In an instant, I see Romney with my young friend’s eyes: He wears a suit even when he does not wear a suit. When he actually wears a suit, he also wears a tie. The tie is not even elegantly tied. It’s a matter of style. My artist friend need not go further. He can’t vote for someone pokey, uncool. Romney is pokey; Obama isn’t.
There is an attractive young woman I know only a little. She lives in a smaller town in Northern California. I like her beyond her attractiveness. (I often have strong preferences in people. These things are mysterious. If I were not so sturdily anchored in rationality, I would believe this woman and I we were something to each other in a previous life. Maybe I am just fantasizing, of course. I am just trying to tell you that I am far from hostile to her.) She is a struggling student who works at mediocre jobs to support herself, I think. I have reasons to believe she has moral courage and independence of mind. (She wouldn’t even know how I know.)
My beautiful acquaintance posts on her Facebook, “Obama all the way.” I ask her why. She sends me a private message saying two clear things. First, Obama is pro-woman, Second she likes what he has done so far. First answer makes perverse sense: The rumor of a Republican “war on women” works for some. The Republican rigid anti-abortion platform does not help. Who is going to explain that party platforms are not binding? Who is going to explain that abortion is a state issue, that a US president’s position on the issue does not matter? Who is going to explain that Republican rank-and file differ little from the majority of Americans on abortion, that they believe what President Clinton said best: Abortion should be rare, legal and safe.
As for her second answer, I ask her what Obama has accomplished that she likes. She gives not answer, not even the obvious: health care reform. She is not embarrassed by her lack of response, I am guessing. Her non-answer resembles my artist friend’s answer: President Obama has done well enough at whatever he has done; no need to go into detail.
She has sent me a private message because, I am guessing, she would rather not her friends were aware that she even knows someone like me. Talking to me is a kind of slumming. Is there any other interpretation? Am I missing something?
Finally, I have the briefest of exchanges with the young woman who checks my membership at the gym. The truth is that I ambush her. She is curious about why I am sitting at her counter taking long notes (for this blog, actually). I explain briefly then I ask her abruptly: Who are you going to vote for? She volunteers that she is ignorant of politics but that she feels she has no moral right not to vote. Then she says she will vote for Obama. Why? Because of his “family values” she replies. I am guessing she refers to the attractive picture of Obama with his pretty wife and daughters on television much of the time. (I am just guessing. I can’t know for sure.) She admits readily she knows nothing about Romney’s family values. Of course, she did begin by asserting that she was ignorant.
I am underwhelmed by the experience of communicating with these three Obamists. There is so much to do and, at the same time, it’s so little. It’s only a little that nobody, but nobody seems to be doing. Here is what I would do if I had a chance. I would tell them this:
8%+ unemployment (and probably underestimated) is very high. Unemployment impoverishes everyone, not just the unemployed themselves.
2% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) economic growth rate is miserable for America . (In France, it would be an occasion for celebration; another story, obviously.) The dollar someone does not earn today is lost forever. That dollar will not have children, ever.
When unemployment is high and economic growth slow, women are among the first to suffer. Poverty is anti-women.
Both unemployment and low economic growth ( GDP growth ) respond to specific government policies. Any government that does not do what needs to be done is deeply stupid or criminal. (One does not exclude the other.)
The nation is obligated to support increasing large numbers of older people. It does not have the money to do so. Something has to be done.
Current high unemployment and low economic growth are pulling back this country to the level of much poorer countries and possibly toward economic disaster of Greek magnitude. (Explain Greek disaster.) There is no guarantee anywhere that the US cannot become a Third World country. It could even happen in a short time, in less than the lifetime of my younger friends. A high national debt will do that (explain national debt). Unfulfilled Social Security and Medicare obligations impose and even worse burden on the next generations, on people who are now I their late twenties, precisely
That would take an hour or so. Then, if I had another hour with them, I would try to explain what a corporation is. That would be a challenge. Every time I say in front of young people that I own parts of several oil companies and of several large pharmaceutical corporations they dismiss my words. That’s because I don’t seem rich. The “rich “ own corporations. (Would I make this up?)
My Obama-friends friends don’t know that the guy who made the best speech at the convention urging them to trust Obama again was himself impeached for lying under oath. If they have heard of it, they think it’s only a rumor.
As a teacher, I feel terrible, guilty by omission.
I wish I could vote for my neighbor, Clint Eastwood. He speaks more clearly than anyone in politics today. He does it with a great economy of words. As he said, Obama is a hoax.
Nine days later. The reader who said in a comment that “reproductive rights” (abortion rights) are being eroded state by state did not respond to my challenge to give instances, or an instance. I don’t read much into this absence. People are busy. They have lives.
I do read something however in the lack of any other response to my simple challenge except one. Dr Terry, my most faithful liberal critic, also a professor well versed in empirical research, referred us to a something in the Huffington Post. The quality of this response speaks for itself.
The original commentator illustrated a general phenomenon: The overwhelmingly liberal media makes noises about this or that form of oppression from conservatives. The noises are so persistent that regular people end up believing that they correspond to something in the real world. People are too busy to check much of anything. They rely on media which they think wrongly to be objective. This is a source of sadness for me and of frustration. I do what I can but it’s not even a drop in the bucket. I wonder what it would take to cause the main liberal media to lose their undeserved credibility. I wonder what will happen that might remedy the fact that schools don’t train students to be critical. It would have to begin in the fourth grade or so. Instead children, and later adult students, are trained into mindless conformity.