The theme of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign this year is “Forward, Not Back,” and last week at the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party showed their dedication to this message by sounding virtually identical to the GOP under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
While the talking heads and assorted party pundits were busy celebrating the “diversity” of the convention, which is admittedly a beautiful thing to witness in contrast to the GOP’s gathering of misguided, angry, and nearly all-white people, the DNC suffers from the same problem that will eventually lead to the decline and fall of the GOP within the decade. They are, to put it mildly, speaking nostalgically about an age that never existed, while ignoring some of the very real problems that are causing this country to lag behind the rest of the world.
If the much-ballyhooed speech of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is any indication of where the Democrats want to go in the next decade, then it is plain for all to see, as Bill Maher once said, that the Democratic Party has moved to the right. Castro began by stating he was “of a generation born as the Cold War receded [and] shaped by the tragedy of 9/11,” which made me think he was at least 10 years younger than me, when in fact he is almost a year older. This is a central problem with Democrats. They are completely disconnected from their own history, not to mention the nation’s.
Perhaps I am just weird, but my memories of the ’80s did not start with the fall of the Berlin Wall. I went to bed many nights as a child terrified of nuclear war. I was not born as the Cold War receded. I was a teenager at that point. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, did not shape me, and it should not have shaped anyone who was already into his or her 20s. Young Democrats who say this sort of thing either have no knowledge of their party before Clinton and therefore do not understand that the “liberalism” and “progressive” nature they are so proud of is nothing more than a kinder, gentler form of Reaganism or they’re lying.
The oft-repeated Democratic Party talking point that America is a land of opportunity has that familiar ring of old-school conservatism to it. And while the ability of Americans to pull themselves up by their bootstraps is something to be proud of, this kind of talk fails to move me to teary-eyed patriotism since it completely ignores the fact that a lot of people don’t even have boots and, even if everyone did, not everybody can become a mayor. We have a limited equality of opportunities in this country that is limited even more by the impossible mathematics of the equality of outcomes.
While Mayor Castro and the DNC in general are rightly expressing that there is nothing wrong with balancing American exceptionalism with a strong sense of community involvement and a need to work together on larger problems, they actually ignore many of the problems. The DNC platform this year does not address the fact that the median wage in this country is stuck at the 1970 level, while GDP, productivity, and prices have all soared. Paying lip service to only raising taxes on the rich and letting the middle-class have more take-home pay ignores that taking home an extra $50 a month only reminds you how deep in the hole you are. Make of it what you will, but the Democratic Party Platform for 2012 mentions “wages” once and “inequality” twice.
When Fish and Wildlife Department assistant director Thomas Strickland talked about a factory worker at Jeep who was happy to have a 60-hour-a-week job, the collected Democrats, those supposed lazy socialists, cheered wildly. For every two people who work a 60-hour week, a third person is out of work. If America actually reexamined the needs of modern societies and embraced a shorter workweek, we could end unemployment altogether. However, neither party is willing to do this.
Unemployment in this country is good for business and proof of that comes in the historical stock prices of companies that announce downsizing and layoffs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at 13,000, a figure higher than at any time in the last decade. Taxes are at historic lows. Unemployment is still a problem in the country that neither party is tackling, because the people who are in charge of those parties are directly beholden to the corporate interests who are benefitting directly from the system, as it currently exists.
To those who believe that the DNC is either a bastion of socialism or the best hope for liberal progress, I can only shake my head and say that you should all read up on the history of this nation before 1980.