With 63% of Americans envisioning an apocalyptic future in which wages drop, homes devalue, costs soar and government becomes irrelevant, a new film considers what happens when the angry masses take to the streets. I’m talking about “Before the Planet of the Apes,” James Franco’s latest flick.
I found myself sympathizing with the beleaguered apes, genetically engineered to want more of the American dream but suppressed and betrayed by the corporate fat cats, until finally an outraged ape mob busts loose and seizes the streets of San Francisco. If the intent was to conjure a metaphor, it failed right there: so far, the middle class in this country remains a silent, if not somnolescent, majority.
On the other hand, the nation is deep into a depressing era of Paleolithic Politics.
Neanderthals still walk the earth, as proven by Texas Governor Rick Perry – so retrograde in his views, so far removed from the consensus view of what America stands for, that the comparison might actually be an insult to the Neanderthals. According to a review of his “thinking” in the New York Times, Perry believes that old people should work till they die or live in abject poverty: he considers Social Security a disease and a fraud. Global warming? Fiction…. (just like that crazy theory that a big asteroid killed off his buddies, the Dinosaurs, and led to the Ice Age). Gays? Don’t get the Texas tough guy started. Presumably they’d be in for the same treatment Perry alluded to when, speaking of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, he said, “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”
Who will shine the fierce light of five thousand years of knowledge, humanity and grace upon such as he?
Not, unfortunately, the Cave Man. As Drew Westen explained in the single most perceptive assessment of our President I have read, Obama doesn’t grasp “bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time.” There seems to be no line in the sand that Obama will not at once retreat from, whether it is being forced to wait an extra day to address Congress, or any of a dozen key campaign pledges that inspired so many millions to vote for him. Last week, he caved on protections against ozone pollution developed by his own administration that were meant to safeguard our kids’ health. Before that, he caved to lobbyists and approved a $7 billion intercontinental tar sand pipeline – a bailout for the energy industry that is guaranteed to become a taxpayer boondoggle. Remember when Mr. Obama said he would only support a budget bill that eliminated gratuitous tax cuts for the super-wealthy? Or allow consumers to select a non-profit health care plan rather than force people to buy a private plan from insurance companies at an unregulated price? Law professor Elizabeth Warren, one of the few people in this country capable of protecting consumers against greed-driven banks and credit card companies, was the obvious choice to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – it was her idea to create it – until Wall Street vetoed her appointment by Obama.
Asked to respond to Perry’s intemperate comments, the President issued this gentle rejoinder: “You know, Mr. Perry just got in the presidential race and I think that everybody who runs for president probably takes them a little bit of time before they start realizing that this isn't like running for governor or running for senator or running for Congress, and you've got to be a little more careful about what you say. But I'll cut him some slack. He's only been at it a few days now.”
When he ran for President, Obama promised to bring a bipartisan spirit to D.C. This is one pledge he certainly kept. But the Republican opposition in Congress wanted none of it; their goal is to deny Obama any claim of success on any issue. They are after the Presidency in 2012.
This isn't some college debate. This is a fight over the future of our country. Obama is in it. He needs to fight back.