If I weren't lazy, this would be two separate posts. But it's Sunday night and I don't particularly feel like taking the time to tease my thoughts apart, so I'll just offer up a kind of a post ratatouille, all mixed up, sauteed, and baked together. Feel free to enjoy this with a glass of wine, or maybe a couple of fingers of whiskey.
Well, if Joy Reid wrote the must-read post-mortem on the election with respect to Alex Sink and Florida, then my friend Kevin Murphy of Ghost in the Machine has written the perfect -- to the letter -- analysis of the results nation-wide. As with Joy's post, there's no doing Kevin justice in pulling out chunks of the post. You just have to go read it. Read it, think about it -- and then you'll know why I consider Ghost in the Machine the political "blogfather" of the Spencerian.
Once you're done with that and you've gulped down your whiskey, I want you to click over to Nicholas Kristoff at the New York Times: Our Banana Republic.
In my reporting, I regularly travel to banana republics notorious for their inequality. In some of these plutocracies, the richest 1 percent of the population gobbles up 20 percent of the national pie.
But guess what? You no longer need to travel to distant and dangerous countries to observe such rapacious inequality. We now have it right here at home — and in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, it may get worse.
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.
That’s the backdrop for one of the first big postelection fights in Washington — how far to extend the Bush tax cuts to the most affluent 2 percent of Americans. Both parties agree on extending tax cuts on the first $250,000 of incomes, even for billionaires. Republicans would also cut taxes above that.
I am still wondering how no one in the Democratic leadership has figured this out. More on this in a minute.
Now that you've just bypassed the whiskey buzz and gone straight to the headache, read Michael Kinsley in Politico. He's writing about American exceptionalism -- this idea that America is basically perfect and can do no wrong and that the voters have an inherent "wisdom" -- and I am starting to put a picture togethere, here.
The notion that America and Americans are special, among all the peoples of the earth, is sometimes called “American exceptionalism.” Because of our long history of democracy and freedom, or because we have a special mission to spread these values (or at least to remain a shining example of them), or because of our wealth, or because of our military strength, our nuclear arsenal, our wide-open spaces, our pragmatism, our idealism, or just because, the rules don’t apply to us. There are man-made rules like, “You can’t start a war without the permission of the United Nations Security Council.” We’ve gotten away with quite a bit of bending or breaking of that kind of rule. This may have given us the impression that we could ignore the other kind of rules —the ones that are imposed by reality and therefore are self-enforcing. These are rules such as, “You can’t have good ice cream without fat” or “You can’t borrow increasing amounts of money indefinitely and never pay it back, because people will eventually stop lending it to you.” No country is special enough to escape these rules.
Okay, now you've just hit the room-spinning phase, but before you barf your Jack Daniels all over your HP keyboard, read a couple more things for me. And try some Sprite and maybe a cracker.
First, go to the Florida Progressive Coalition and see what Kenneth has to say about the movement to fire the head of the Florida Democratic Party Karen Thurman.
I know -- it seems like I told you this backwards, but trust me, it's okay. Now go to Saint Petersblog and read what Peter says about firing Thurman (or actually, the five reasons the FDP needs a new chair... now).
Peter has set up the Fire Karen Thurman site here, and I will admit to you I signed the petition. And yet, I agree and understand what Kenneth has said.
So why did I sign? Because yes, Karen Thurman has done a great job at a number of things. But this last election was an egregious loss, and someone must be held accountable. I got mad at Peter the other day for calling out campaign operatives, consultants, and staffers here locally, and I stand by my post. But I do believe in accountability, and accountability starts at the top.
It may not have been Ms. Thurman's decision to make the campaign mistakes Alex Sink made that Joy points out so well, but Alex Sink was held accountable by the voters. As was just about every other Democrat in the state.
And as Susan points out in the comments on Kenneth's post, the real top to hold accountable, here, is President Obama. I want to disagree with her, but it's hard to find fault with the direction she's going -- which supports, almost entirely, what Kevin said in his post.
Fire Karen Thurman? Not fire her? I leave the choice up to you (if there is, in fact, much of a choice, as Kenneth points out with respect to the process). I don't think she'll get fired, and I don't think my name on a petition will get her fired, but maybe it will demonstrate to someone paying attention that I'm disappointed.
And what, by the way, does all of this have to do with American exceptionalism?
In 2008, I interpreted Obama's message as this: I will employ a governing strategy that tells the American people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. Not to anger Susan to no end, but I feel fairly comfortable that we got that government.
"American exceptionalism" sounds a little fancy for my blood -- I've always said we're a lottery society (and if I had to hear Marco Rubio abuse this concept one more time, I was going to lose my stuff). Everyone knows they're not rich, but everyone thinks they can be. It was no small feat for Obama to co-opt the word "Hope," because it was really the language of the right, deployed upon the masses.
Hey, don't let those liberals raise taxes.
But Democrats only want to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans -- those who make over $250,000 a year.
Just like a liberal -- tell you you'll never make that much money.
Of course, the people pitching this stuff are rich as hell. Doesn't matter. The base loves it -- and loves them for it. Remember what I said yesterday about the cult of personality with the GOP.
I don't play the lottery, but even I believe enough that I may be rich some day. Sure, why not? My novel will get published, optioned into a movie, I'll be a literary superstar. I'll start a communications business that takes off. I'll open a successful chain of French restaurants that specialize in vegetable-based sides and expensive whiskies.
At the end of the day, American exceptionalism is silly, but the American imagination is quite a thing to behold. Republicans -- and now tea bagger party creeps -- have figured out how to capture it... and manipulate it.
The picture we're painting for ourselves post-election is a bleak one -- more bleak than I imagined it might be. But now that we've gotten it all out of our system at the polls, I don't wonder if we're not on the brink of some real change. If it's a war of imagination between a liberal ideology and a conservative one, then I'm still betting on the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He just needs to start the narrative. What will it be?
Please, don't keep us wonderin', Mr. President.