10.3.08

No "Master of the Senate" Says Times of Obama

If you catch Barack at his relaxed moments – away from superdelegates, CNN cameras, and Ohio laborers – you'll find the man will discuss his feelings toward the Senate. Take his latest appearance on The Daily Show; that Delphic beacon of ironic truth that rises above the fog of misinformation roused by the Visigoth hordes of cable newscasters:

Stewart: Can a Senator [bring the country together]? So often now it's the governors. Is there something about – because the Senate – it's very hard to run on your record in the Senate because the Senate is so paralyzed and nuanced.

Obama: Well, it's paralyzed and it's designed for you to take bad votes, right… You know, with Senators you end up having to actually vote on stuff that has no relevance whatsoever, but can be used later on to attack you.

The NYT article, "Obama in Senate: Star Power, Minor Role," published March 9, 2008, as part of their "The Long Run" series portrays an Obama who is "frustrated by his lack of influence" and viewed within The Chamber as "naïve" and a "dilettante" by some Senate elders.

Kate Zernike and Jeff Zeleny, the writers of that NYT article, focus on the establishment's story line for their article – that of a freshman Senator, 99th in seniority, who confronts the Senate's "glacial pace" and jumps ship for high-office on a wave of popularity rather than become an obedient lubricant for the gears of The Chamber.

Whose party-line are Zernike and Zeleny towing for this article? Perhaps Bill "I-Can't-Believe-I'm-A-Hillary-Hawk" Keller's? Whoever it is, they betray their antiquated mode of political thought. The truth is Obama is neither a dilettante, nor is he naïve. The truth is the Senate and the House are malfunctioning bodies.

What are the great legislative accomplishments of the past eight years? They are those drops of poison that tipped George Bush's Sword of Patriotism which was thrust through the gut of liberty by an obliging and distracted Congress: FISA, The Authorization of the Use of Military Force, the Military Commissions Act, the Patriot Act… oh, and No Child Left Behind.

James Madison, in a speech for the Constitutional Convention, wrote, “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power… [men are] liable to err… from fickleness and passion and the major interest might under sudden impulses be tempted to commit injustice on the minority.”

Could Madison have imagined that abuses on both counts, with consent of the people to the abuses of power, would render neutered the House and Senate? That the mandate he imagined for the Senate, “first to protect the people against their rulers; secondly to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led,” could be simulatenously felled?

The histories that conspired to bring us to these times – an epoch which deserves an-etched-in-marble title consisting of Benjamin Franklin’s best aphorism, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” – are diverse and complex. But Barack Obama has found a way to synthesize them when he wrote in The Audacity of Hope, “I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the baby-boom generation – tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago – played out on the national stage.”

That psychodrama is now winding down, but not without a fight. The average age in the Senate is sixty and these aging legislators have fought their battle royale over the past eight years and brought the people of the United States careening along as both unwitting spectators and minor accomplices.

This election will decide whether the American people are ready to say “enough,” to the baby boomers with, finally, a profound youth vote for Obama, or whether Hillary Clinton or John McCain (products that are the opposite side of the same coin) can wrest one final bout for their side of the 1960’s ideological divide – a battle rendered irrelevant as good and evil in that debate devolved into a single entity under Bush’s patriotic gaze.

The only chance for a new debate is to elect an intellect that was not sharpened by the now-rusted sabres of the sixties. It is a shame The New York Times does not seem ready to take that step.

1 comment:

PollWatcher said...

This is a well-written post. Relevantly, there is a growing consensus in the media, and among experts, that Obama is not a Boomer, nor an Xer, but instead is a member of Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, the heretofore lost generation between the Boomers and Xers).

Just in the last month or so, several top media outlets, including The New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, and NBC, have all made the argument that Obama is specifically part of Generation Jones. I also heard a panel of generations experts recently on a national radio show discussing this specific issue, and four of the five experts concluded that Obama is, in fact, a GenerationJoneser…that his bio and political worldview closely match the GenJones archetype (the one dissenting expert argues that Obama is a Boomer).