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Hi! This is directed to the hundred, or couple hundred, people who actually run things. I don't pretend to know who you are, whether you're some sinister Council of Illuminati or just a bunch of boring guys in impeccable suits. But you guys know who you are. I just need to pass on an important message to you, which I'll get to in a bit.

First off, congratulations. I'm told the top 1 percent now holds a full 51% of the world's wealth, and the top 80 of you alone hold as much wealth as the whole bottom half of humanity (3.5 billion people). Pretty sweet! And I want to reassure you, I'm not speaking from a place of resentment here. I'm not here to scold you, or pass moral judgement on you and your class. Seriously, I'm not. In fact, I'm trying to be the best friend you'll ever have.

I'm no one special, by the way. Just another of the proles out here in Sector Twelve. Many of my friends, by the way, are convinced that you have no regard for us at all down here in the 99% - that we might as well all be cockroaches as far as you're concerned. I have no idea whether that's true or not (you may, however, want to talk to some of your friends who have been doing their best to reinforce this view), but I certainly hope it's not - that at least a few of you might be afflicted with the curse of "empathy" or "human feeling." I'm not here to debate that. And anyway, it's irrelevant. I'm not going to appeal to your theoretical sense of empathy. I'm going to appeal to your self-interest.

But I said I had an important message to pass on to you. Sorry, almost forgot. Here it is:

You really need to help us save the world. Not only that, it is in your best interests to do so!

Poll

Will this letter ever reach anyone in the top one percent who really need to see it?

26%861 votes
7%238 votes
11%374 votes
2%89 votes
51%1656 votes

| 3219 votes | Vote | Results

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Mom and I have been watching a lot of "Andy Griffith Show" reruns on MeTV lately, because they happen to fall in the otherwise dead zone between the local news and the Wheel/Jeopardy hour. (Yes, I share the TV with an 80-year-old woman. You got a problem with that?) The other day, an oddness in my peripheral vision finally came into focus: there are no black people in Mayberry. None. Not just no African-American guest stars, but not even any black citizens wandering the streets.

At the time, I was going to post a flippant Facebook status, pondering whether cozy Mayberry had actually been one of them "sundown towns" all along. (Google it if you're unfamiliar with the term. I sincerely hope you'll be revulsed.) But then it occurred to me that this was the early '60s, and it would have been a politically daring act, maybe even a radical act, just to have employed black extras. Particularly in a show set in the (then) present-day South. And even Andy Griffith, who was politically progressive throughout his life and ran one of the most popular shows in America, obviously didn't feel comfortable rocking the boat on this issue.

Which brings us to Michael Sam, and "the kiss."

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Madison, Wisconsin's indispensible John Nichols has another great Nation piece out:

Is Paul Ryan Making Americans More Favorable Toward Socialism?

He starts off with a surprising new poll result:

A new Gallup Poll finds that socialism is now viewed positively by 39 percent of Americans, up from 36 percent in 2010. Among self-described liberals, socialism enjoyed a 62 percent positive rating, while 53 percent of Democrats and independent voters who lean Democratic gave socialism a thumb’s up.
But the really surprising news comes later, with the corresponding stats among conservatives:
In 2010, only 20 percent of conservatives viewed socialism favorably. Today, the number is 25 percent. That’s right: one-quarter of American conservatives view socialism favorably.

Among Republicans, the increase has been slightly more notable. In 2010, only 17 percent of self-identified Republicans had a positive view of socialism. Now, that number had increased to 23 percent. So if you meet four Republicans, one of them is harboring socialist sentiments.

Where is this newfound openness to socialism coming from?  Nichols argues - from the people throwing around "Socialism!" around most often, even though they mean it as a dire accusation.  To wit: Paul Ryan, Michele Bachman, John Boehner, Newt Gingrich...

I think a big part of the conservatives' problem in this area is that they're still stuck in a Cold War mentality.  Growing up in the '70s and '80s, we all knew what "Socialist" (and "Communist" - the two terms being used essentially interchangeably*) countries were like.  The Soviet Union.  Romania.  Yugoslavia.  Albania.  Gray, dour countries where you stood in line all day for toilet paper and no one was allowed to smile.  Where life was a bleak round of shortages, propaganda, and endless slave labor on massive wheat farms - only enlivened by the occasional Stalinist purge.

But nowadays, when the Apoplectic Republicans (ARs) want to summon the looming spectre of the Socialist Nightmare, all they can do is talk about dystopias like France.  Sweden.  The Netherlands.  Is it any wonder that for kids too young to remember the Cold War, they look at the quality of life in France or Sweden and say "Wow, that doesn't seem all that nightmarish to me"?

Additionally, since the Reagan era, the ARs have consistently used "socialism" to refer to ANY government action they don't like - specifically, any government action that does ANYTHING for anyone but the richest 2 percent.  Not only has crying "Wolf!" over socialism lost its power to shock, but some of the most widely popular government programs (Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance, etc.) are now routinely lumped in under the "socialist" umbrella.

Definitions aside, it's perfectly reasonable to approve of government programs that broadly help people - some would even say that's what ALL governments, of whatever stripe, are set up to do. So when the likes of Bachman and Gingrich call it all "socialism," it brings up the obvious question: If they ARE socialism, then what's wrong with that?  (It also doesn't hurt that all of this socialism-demonizing is coming from the craziest, angriest, most hateful wingnuts in politics today.  If ever there were an endorsement for socialism, it's calling it "something Paul Ryan hates.")

I think this is a hopeful sign - maybe a sign of the bigger Progressive Turn-around we seem to be ushering in these days.  Maybe this means we can rescue the idea that government can help people, or rescue the tarnished reputation of "public servants" both elected and "civil."  Maybe we CAN return to New Deal economics and not even care who calls it "socialism"!

---

*Please, let's not get into an argument over definitions.  To the GOP squawkers, "socialist" and "communist" have always been the same thing.  These days they even routinely throw in "fascist" too, even though that's technically at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Their sloppiness with words can only help us in this case, especially since they themselves usually have only the vaguest notion of what it is they're mad about.

Discuss

Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 10:14 AM PST

An Appeal To Sane Republicans

by Pope Buck I

This diary isn't really aimed at my fellow Kossacks for the most part - though I believe there are a fair number of "recovering Republicans" and "appalled Republicans" among them, so it's worth a shot.

This is aimed at all those sane Republicans who have watched for the last several years, as their party was taken over by the craziest and most hateful among them.

Dude.  You guys need to STOP getting mad at us liberals and take back your party.

Now, I admit, the radical Progressive activist in me would like nothing more than to see the Republican Party continue to double down on their "white male Christians only" strategy, and thus keep on getting marginalized for the next 30 years or so.  Frankly, the country could use the relief after 32 years of Reaganism.

But I'm also a proud Midwesterner with small-town roots, I still live in deep-red Indiana, and most of my extended family are Republicans of one stripe or another.  And while there are outright hateful people among them, they aren't ALL that way.  I'm the last person you'll find stereotyping the "backward, ignorant, racist Red States" or their inhabitants.  And in all honesty, I prefer a fair fight.

So just this once, I'm going to put partisanship aside and give you - right below the fold - some free political advice for keeping the Republican Party relevant and active.

Poll

You tell me - are there enough sane Republicans out there to take back their party?

21%11 votes
53%28 votes
11%6 votes
13%7 votes

| 52 votes | Vote | Results

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Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 09:59 PM PST

This IS Our Progressive Moment.

by Pope Buck I

I think it's time.  Time to take back the national discourse.

The signs have been coming in all night.  Tea Party crazies being decisively turned back from the Senate.  Actual progressives (!) being put up for Democratic seats - and winning!

(And, oh yeah, FOUR out of FOUR victories for marriage equality!  And pot legalized in Colorado and Washington!)

And a resounding mandate - yes, I went there!  MANDATE, baby!  MANDATE! - for the policies and philosophies of one Barack Hussein Obama.

This is our chance.

We've had 32 years of the Reagan Doctrine: tax cuts again and again for the rich, unlimited spending on defense, austerity for everyone else, and the Religious Right calling all the shots on social issues.

Along with that, there's been 32 years of the "Southern Strategy": demonizing minorities and immigrants, racial dog-whistling, and attempt after attempt to roll back the Civil Rights Movement and Great Society vistories of the '60s.

Both of those philosophies are in a shambles tonight, because The Math just doesn't work anymore.  There just aren't enough angry white males to sustain it as a recipe for victory.

Now's our chance.  The Republican Party is where the Dems were back in 1980 when Reagan pounced: divided, squabbling, unable to govern, unable to agree even amongst themselves, let alone move the country forward.  Now's OUR turn for 32 years of being the "consensus" position.

Yeah, the Repubs still hold the House.  (FOR NOW.  I don't think 2014 is going to be very kind to them.)  But we've picked up at least 2 seats in the Senate last I checked, and people are finally seriously talking filibuster reform.  

I suspect Angus King is going to be the one to make this happen - he has pointedly NOT answered the question of which party he'll caucus with, even though everyone has assumed it'll be the Dems - AND, he ran specifically on a platform of filibuster reform. You do the math.  Leverage, baby, leverage.

Demographically, it's the Democrats' game to lose.  The Republicans show every sign of learning no lessons from this election - I have no doubt their "Mitt wasn't a REAL conservative!" arguments are already being cued up, and another Purity Purge will be in the works shortly.  The dead-enders are still very much in charge over on that side of the aisle, but they just hit the point of diminishing returns.

So with all that in mind, how do we move forward?

Let us be gracious in victory.  Reach out to the moderate and reality-based Republicans.  They're still out there - and a lot of them just voted for Obama.  Show them that their new reality doesn't have to be as bad as Fox News told them it would be.  We have to ease them in gently - just as you don't wake a sleepwalker.  This election will doubtless prove to be a shocking enough reality check as it is - we don't need to traumatize them further just to gloat.

And let's move ahead.  Let's take this moment, savor it, and RUN with it.  For 32 years, to be negotiated UPWARD.

Discuss

"Why do you hate America?"

Every liberal in the country knows this question quite well.  We heard it a thousand times in the aftermath of 9/11, through the opening phases of the Iraq and Afghan wars, basically for most of Dubya's two terms in office.

It was levelled at anyone slightly to the left of, say, Dick Cheney, who dared question ANYTHING the Bush administration ever did.  The Dixie Chicks got it for a pretty innocuous comment onstage at a concert - "We're ashamed the president is from [their home state of] Texas."

You got it if you questioned the unconstitutional powers of the PATRIOT Act; if you asked why the hell we were invading Iraq at all; if you criticized ANY old thing Bush and Cheney saw fit to do - you were in danger of being hanged for treason by a righteously angry mob of Good Amurkans.

Why were you ATTACKING the PRESIDENT during a TIME OF WAR?!  Why were you HELPING our ENEMIES?!?!?!?  Why were you SPITTING ON THE TROOPS?!

(Forgive the caps and the superfluous punctuation - it just seems to go with the territory.)

It always rankled me because it equated ANY level of dissent, however polite or well-informed, with treason.  As if liberals really were (to use words Andrew Sullivan probably regrets nowadays) a fifth column, out to destroy America and institute Sharia law.

I never thought I'd be in a position to throw that charge back at a Republican.  Even though secretly, or not-so-secretly, hoping that the economy will fail, or blocking every last executive intitiative so that Obama will be a one-term President, both skirt dangerously close to "hating America," I have kept my mouth shut.

But now it looks like we're seeing the Real Deal in action.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mitt Romney.

We already know he doesn't consider the troops to be anything important. When he sees "the military," he sees defense contractors.  When he sees the troops, he sees disposable employees like the ones he loves firing so much.  Hates the troops: Check.

He's attacking the President, not just "during a time of war" (Obama's entire Presidency would qualify for that) but during an unfolding crisis when every word, every action could tip the scales one way or the other.  Not only that, it was with false accusations that betray utter misunderstanding of the whole situation, all to score cheap political points.  Attacking the POTUS in a crisis: Check.

And he made his false accusations with unbridled glee, and a smirk that manages to outdo even George W. Bush's for sheer slappability.  You have to conclude that he was HOPING for a moment like this, for something awful to happen so that Obama could be made to look bad.  And throwing out irresponsible accusations in the midst of a powder-keg situation - and unlike our criticism of Bush over the years, these were both factually wrong and irresponsible - seems to matter not at all to Mitt. Nor does the prospect of helping our enemies by giving them new reasons to attack us. Wanting America to fail: Check.

I've noticed something today, while paging through lots of pages and articles about the whole Libyan mess and Romney's astonishingly tone-deaf response to it.  I've noticed that aside from a few mouthpieces at the top of the Republican Party apparatus (Limbaugh, Preibus, Palin), no one is out there defending him.  Even the trolls that usually patrol all the comment threads, ready to insert nasty remarks about Obama at the slightest provocation, are silent in Mitt's defense.

Maybe even they finally realize that here, at last, is a GENUINE case.  Not just political gamesmanship, not just wanting to win at all costs (though it's definitely both of those things) - Mitt Romney really does ONLY want to win.  He couldn't care less if America has to be attacked, or fail, or expend the lives of troops - Mitt is just looking out for Mitt.  After years of throwing the "hate America" meme in the teeth of all us awful libtards - they're finally witnessing what "hating America" really does look like.

So at long last, sir... at long last, have you NO sense of decency?

Mitt Romney, WHY do you hate America?

Discuss

Does anybody like Mitt Romney anymore?

At this point in the campaign, the whole GOP apparatus is still pretending like crazy - pretending he can win, pretending they're behind him, pretending they can make head or tail of any of his positions on anything.  

But it seems like they're all just waiting for their cue to stop pretending.

You could see the strain at the convention, where no one much wanted to mention their own nominee.  Chris Christie made the least pretense, openly treating his own turn at the podium into an acceptance of the 2016 nomination.  (Such a classy guy.) But you could feel the strained smiles with all of them.

Certainly Mitt's fellow nominees aren't losing any sleep right now - I'll bet Gingrich, Santorum, Paul, Cain, and Bachmann are enjoying themselves watching Mitt squirm almost as much as we Kossacks are. Probably more.

Does Mitt's own campaign team like him?  Highly doubtful.  We know how Mitt treats those he considers social inferiors - let alone mere employees.  And by all accounts, Mitt has conducted the whole campaign in "decider" mode, ignoring all of the advice from his seasoned campaign team and plowing ahead with his own course at all costs. If there's anything we've learned this year, it's that Mitt doesn't take kindly to being questioned.

(Even George W. Bush, who wasn't very bright about most things, knew enough to shut up and let Rove and Cheney run the show. But Mitt, like Otto in A Fish Called Wanda, thinks he knows best all the time.)

Mitt has spent a fortune (as usual, someone else's fortune) on his campaign, and I have an irresistible picture of how his "genius ad men" talk about him when he isn't in the room.  Remember when Sterling Cooper got the jai alai account? A rich, gullible client willing to throw unlimited amounts of money into a doomed cause?  The operative mode immediately became: (1) Rack up the maximum billable hours to milk that cow dry.  (2) Do as half-assed a job as you can get away with.  And (3) Suck up to the client as much as it takes when he's there, then laugh at him whenever he leaves the room.

I think Mitt's engendered that response in a LOT of the people who've worked for him over the years.  

Between the ad men and the political operatives, there are going to be some really nasty tell-alls coming from members of Team Romney in 2013, mark my words.

The one percenters like the Koch brothers probably don't like Mitt either, but they don't have to.  When you own a dancing horse, you don't have to worry whether he likes you or not - you just have to know he'll dance on cue.

Reporters hate Mitt.  One, he treats them like servants; two, he won't give a straight answer about anything; three, he won't play the game with "accommodating" the press (remember them complaining about Romney herding them onto buses in Europe?); four, he's a dick.  They've been polite so far, but their genuine frustration is starting to bleed through.  When even Fox News is complaining about you, you know you've lost ALL of the press.

That takes care of the political machine. What about the voters?  

We knew right from the start of primary season that the fundamentalists never trusted him.  There's the Mormon thing, there were all his on-record "leftist" positions from the 1994 Kennedy race; and as always, hanging over everything like the Great London Killing Smog of 1952, there's Mitt's singular lack of personal charm.

The libertarians and hardcore Tea Partiers never liked him (see same reasons above), and stuck to Ron Paul to the bitter end.  Romney burned whatever was left of that bridge quite effectively with that big dramatic "backstabbing" at the convention.  Not to mention saying the other day that, oh yeah, he might want to keep some parts of Obamacare after all.  Which would be like Obama saying he wants Sarah Palin as his new running mate.

Will any of these voters be pissed off enough to vote for the black guy?  Not likely.  But there should be a significant number of protest votes siphoned off to Gary Johnson et al., and even more just staying home in pique on Election Day.  (Libertarians are great at pique.  Some would say it's what they do best.)

At this point you have to wonder, is Mitt trying to lose?  Limelite makes a convincing case that he is. Remember Sanjaya Malakar on the 2007 season of American Idol? He was relentlessly attacked and made fun of across the country, and his performances got so bizarre that you had to conclude he was TRYING to lose - in effect, saying "For the love of God, someone please vote me off already!"

But that's all debatable.  The point is, up to now Mitt Romney has led a charmed life.  His family's wealth and connections have made certain that he's never HAD to ingratiate himself to anyone or face criticism.  Ever.

As chairman/CEO/Grand Pooh-Bah of Bain Capital, no one could ever question or criticize him, at least not to his face.  As a Mormon bishop and God's Chosen Head of the Household, certainly his wife and family were not allowed to cross him - or even, heaven forbid, get in line ahead of him for dinner.

He even lucked into the ideal career for his particular set of non-people-skills!  Usually to succeed in the business world (let alone politics), you have to have a certain amount of social skills: persuasion, likeability, ability to work well with others.  Mitt has none of these.  But when your only real interaction with the businesses you just bought is going to be "selling off their assets for scrap," those social skills become positive liabilities.

Mitt had the cushiest job in the world, able to do the one thing he loves most (racking up obscene amounts of money) without ever having to persuade ANYBODY in the world to like him.  And yet he left this behind to enter politics, of all fields!  Politics, where everything depends on making people like you! Persuading them of your views!  Working with fellow politicians, who don't even have to "do anything you say or get fired"! Going out and interacting with people - even poor and unconnected ones! And having to pretend like you're enjoying it!

It's as though Stephen Hawking decided to abandon astronomy and higher mathematics, and instead try out as an NFL running back.

Worse, it's as though he then paid off the NFL to install him on the Patriots' offense, then keep insisting to the world how WELL he's doing at it.  Eventually, their pretended enthusiasm will wear off, and they too will join in the general feeding frenzy.

Mitt Romney assuredly does not like this strange new world he's in - a world where peons get to ask him rude questions (i.e., any questions); people question his God-given authority all the time; and worst of all, past a certain point, no one is particularly impressed that he has all the money in the world.  Not to mention, he has to keep pretending enthusiasm for the race right up until Election Day, and keep putting himself out there for MORE abuse and ridicule.

I'm torn on whether he actually still wants to win at this point.  Certainly, he wants the title a lot more than the job itself.  Some, like Limelite in the diary linked above, think he's actually trying to throw the race whether he'll consciously admit it or not, and they have a point.  Others insist that Mitt has had this sense of his own God-given INEVITABILITY as President for his whole life, and is so hard-headed that he really does still think he can win. Who can say?

Either way, I'll stake my reputation on one prediction.  The day after the election, Willard "Mitt" Romney is going to disappear from public life, and go back to his comfortable bubble to spend quality time with his money and his family, in that order.  He will never again address any public gathering that doesn't have "stockholders" or "executive board" somewhere in the title.

And except for his family and the servants, who will have to bear the brunt of Mitt's bitter rage and anger at Destiny Denied, we'll all be happier for it.  Mitt Romney most of all.

Discuss

Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 09:59 AM PDT

What if this is OUR 1980?

by Pope Buck I

The election of 1980 was a pivotal one - perhaps THE pivotal one of our times.  It marked the beginning of the Reagan era and 32 (and counting) years of "trickle-down" economics, foxes guarding the regulatory henhouses, lobbyists writing the very text of Congressional bills, the most extreme fundamentalism speaking (and legislating) on behalf of all faith... basically the whole sordid mess that reached its apex with the Bush II years, and that got us where we are today.

Right now the Republicans like to invoke 1980, because on the surface, conditions are pretty similar, with an unpopular (or at least, divisive) incumbent presiding over an economic slump.  The GOP also likes to invoke 1980 in a spirit of naive hope, because Carter was leading in the polls at this point, but Reagan was nonetheless able to come back and win.  

Which, in turn, heralded a total sea change in the country's view of government - and, as mentioned, 32 years of Republicans utterly dictating the terms of the national debate, making the very word "liberal" into something to be automatically shunned.  The GOP would love nothing more than for Romney to make a similar comeback and allow them to seal their hegemony for, at a minimum, another 32 years.

But walk with me down Crazy Idealism Lane a moment.

What if they have it backwards?  What if this is OUR 1980, and we have a chance to not only win back the White House, but to decisively recapture the national debate for the Progressives, the way Reagan did for the Right?

Follow me over the fold and hear me out.

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Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 09:47 PM PDT

A Family I'm Proud To Be A Part Of

by Pope Buck I

During the Republican convention, watching the Paulites, the Tea Partiers, and the moneyed folk running the show all going at each other: watching speaker after speaker build their speech around demonstrable lies and character assassination only to get lukewarm responses even from the floor delegates; watching Chris Christie throw Romney under the bus and declare himself the front-runner for 2016 instead; watching Ann Romney attempt (poorly) to portray herself and Mitt as people who have experienced "struggles"; watching Clint Eastwood shouting at an imaginary Obama... the list does run on, doesn't it?

Watching all that, I posted on Facebook that the Republicans came off like a brittle, dysfunctional rich family out of an Edward Albee play - homogeneous on the surface (and blindingly white) but trying mightily, and failing, to conceal their distaste/open hatred for their nominee, each other, and any Americans who don't look, believe, or act just like them. Or as one of my FB friends called it FTW: "August - Hillsborough County."

Tonight at the DNC, I got a picture of a very different family - one of those big, messy, squabbling-but-close-knit blue-collar families like on heartwarming TV dramas. We're not all alike. (I cheered tonight for African-Americans, women, Hispanics, GLBTs, veterans, and I'm only personally one of those things. And I saw everyone on the floor cheering for them too. EVERYONE.) We've had our differences in the past, and when we disagree we aren't shy about calling each other out. But in the end, we're brothers and sisters, all struggling to get through the day by being there for each other.  We know America is best when people pull together and help each other, and stand up for each other.

Those differences are especially apparent when you look at the view of America each party came up with.  To the Republicans, America is a dystopian hellhole, and it's all because "those people" (led by You-Know-Who) have taken over and are trashing the place, giving YOUR money to the undeserving, trying to make us care about people who are inherently beneath contempt.  Only "people like us" can restore order, and once they're back in power, it's every man for himself.  In proud Ayn Rand fashion, they celebrated the philosophy of "screw you, I got mine."  Anyone crushed under the wheels of the Machine in the process - well, it's their own fault they couldn't afford body armor.  At least "people like us" will be safe.

But the America portrayed tonight was STILL the Land of Opportunity - and not just for our ancestors, but for ourselves and (if we bother to put in a little care and work on their behalf) for the generations to come after us.  We're not just concerned about the 1% keeping "what's theirs," we want to pay a little of that good fortune forward.  As Michelle Obama put it, we don't slam the door behind us when we succeed - instead we help the next guy, or the next generation, to come along. We celebrate each other's successes and we mourn with each other's griefs. "If any family in this country struggles, then we cannot be fully content with our family’s own good fortune. That is not who we are."

Because we're ALL brothers and sisters, and helping each other helps all of us.  (Even those guys over there in Tampa who don't want any part of us.  We still care about them too! And no matter how much they scream and whine about us, we're still going to work for a better tomorrow for THEM, too. You're welcome.) We can squabble with each other, as brothers and sisters do, but when the crunch comes, we pull together and NOTHING can stop us.

This is why I'm proud to be a Democrat, a progressive, an unrepentant liberal. This is the family I'm proud to be a part of. This is what America is all about.

Discuss

Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 10:49 AM PDT

Clint Eastwood: Gestalt Therapist

by Pope Buck I

[Note: This is my first-ever published diary though I'm a longtime lurker -  be gentle.  At the suggestion of nailbender, I expanded this from a comment made the other night on one of the Clint Eastwood threads.]

Could Clint Eastwood's jaw-dropping performance Thursday night at the convention actually prove to be a healthy development for the people of the Republican Party?  Could it even lead to a cure for Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS)?  Hear me out here.

What Clint did onstage Thursday night was, as many others have pointed out, enlightening and instructive about what the Republicans have been going through these past four years.  He was addressing a version of Obama - again, as many of us have repeatedly been pointing out all this time - that doesn't really exist outside of the GOP's heads.  As Jon Stewart said, it was the version of Obama that only they can see!

What do we know about Imaginary Obama (IO)?  First of all, he hates America and wants to destroy it.  He was raised in an Indonesian madrassah and wants to institute Sharia law.  He's an "angry black man," a ghetto thug.  He's a political mastermind of the Chicago school, fixing elections with practiced ease.  He's a welfare queen who wants to loot the Treasury and give away "our" money to lazy black people.  And a crony capitalist funneling money to his Solyndra fat-cat buddies. He's a Muslim, a socialist, a fascist who wants to take away our guns and close our churches!  (The fact that he hasn't actually done any of this stuff so far is just proof that he's lulling us into a false sense of security.)

Now, a reasonable person not in the grips of ODS would recognize a few logical problems with this litany of evil qualities ascribed to Imaginary Obama:

(1) Most of them are mutually exclusive.  He's both a lazy welfare queen, a crude ghetto thug AND a tireless, sophisticated political operative.  He's a socialist AND a crony capitalist.  And so on.

(2) None of them even remotely resemble the real person currently residing in the White House.  A Muslim who drinks beer and brews his own?  A Muslim who sponsors GLBT marriage equality? A socialist who bailed out the auto industry and Wall Street (instead of, say, nationalizing them), a socialist whose health care plan depends on preserving private health insurance?  A gun foe who hasn't done anything about guns?  An "angry black man" famous in the real world for never getting angry?  And so on.

In short, Imaginary Obama (as opposed to the real one) has all the makings of a classic "bogeyman" figure - a fictional construct the mind creates to embody its deepest fears.  None of it has to make sense, because the bogeyman is created by the lizard brain. Logic doesn't enter into it.

Imaginary Obama represents all the Republicans' deepest, darkest fears about race, class, government, and American society as it moves forward in 2012.  He's the wave of angry black people who seek to destroy the 1950s-esque stereotype of America that the GOP clings to desperately.  He represents their worst suspicions about what a "majority-minority" America will look like - a post-revolution Rhodesia where whites are lynched, Islam is mandated for all, and the "rabble" has taken over.

So what are we to make of Imaginary Obama, and how has Clint Eastwood offered us a way for the GOP to work through its feelings about him?

For an answer, we turn to the field of Gestalt therapy.  One central exercise used in Gestalt is the "empty chair technique."  Say the patient is having issues working through his feelings about his father.  The Gestalt therapist would put an empty chair down opposite him and say "There's your father, siting right there.  What would you like to say to him?"  The therapist then encourages the patient to role-play both sides of the conversation with his father, hopefully illuminating new aspects of the relationship in a way that leads to growth and understanding.

One nice thing about this exercise is that it doesn't matter whether the "person in the chair" is real or fictional.  What matters is how the patient feels about that person, and how their relationship affects the patient's psyche.

How does this apply to a "bogeyman" figure like Imaginary Obama?  Well, a bogeyman represents uncontrolled, unexamined FEAR in its rawest form - and as such, the power of the bogeyman dissipates when it is examined and the associated fears dealt with.  If a patient were suffering continued nightmares about a bogeyman figure, the therapist might well place the bogeyman in that empty chair and have the patient ask it, "What do you want from me?  Why are you out to destroy me?"

I think Clint Eastwood has shown us a way for Republicans to work through their feelings about their bogeyman - perhaps their feelings of loss of control in a diverse country, the ongoing process of civil rights expansion since the '60s (to racial minorities, to women, to GLBTs, etc.), their need for a benevolent white male father figure to discipline and protect them... any or all of these issues might apply to each individual.  

As with any discussion involving today's GOP, there's also a huge amount of projection involved - Imaginary Obama's angry feelings about whites might mirror their own unexamined feelings about blacks, for example.  Just asking Imaginary Obama "What do you want of us?  Why are you doing this?" would be a valuable first step towards leading ODS sufferers back to reality and mental health.  For, as self-help author Marsha Sinetar put it, "The thing in us that we fear only wants our love."

Now, there's also another thing about the bogeyman - he's often invented or invoked by one or both parents as a way of frightening children into obedience.  You can make an excellent case that this bogeyman, Imaginary Obama, has been constructed quite deliberately and efficiently by the right-wing media machine in order to keep their voter base in a state of constant panic - during which the GOP also offer themselves as the "white male father figures" needed to restore order and rightness.  This brings up a whole new set of issues, because if the frightened Tea Partiers looked too closely at Imaginary Obama, they'd see who was pulling his strings.  Examining that awful, awful guy in the chair might lead them to a breakthrough about how they themselves have been manipulated by the GOP in the years since Nixon's "Southern strategy" first came along.

But that's a topic for another session - our time is all up.  But I think we've made valuable progress here today!  Please thank Dr. Eastwood for starting this whole process rolling.

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