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Chris Durang: Don’t Throw Out the Bums if You’re Voting in Worse Bums

By Huffington Post
October 29, 2010

Don’t leave a house where the bathtub is overflowing, and then go drive your car into a lake. Don’t leave a forest fire that’s taking a while to get under control, and instead go jump in a volcano. Don’t give up on your alcoholic spouse who’s struggling in rehab, and instead go to a hotel room with Charlie Sheen.

I understand the frustration in the country. I think almost everyone feels it.

But part of being a conscious person is you try to figure out why you’re upset, and you do your best to analyze what the actual problems are, and what solutions exist.

There’s an “I’m mad as hell I’m not going to take it anymore” feeling that’s running through all of us, though liberals are just depressed, while tea party folk and Republicans are in a state of fury.

Yet the people in a fury are poised to vote back people who are peddling the same old/same old that gave us the lengthy Bush journey into hideous deficits, over borrowing, and the job losses.

The Republicans and tea partiers are all offering: tax cuts, tax cuts! Because we all saw how Bush’s tax cuts made for more jobs, right? No, wrong.

The job loss happened in the last years of Bush, because of:

1) the cumulative strain of two wars with borrowed money from China and

2) because of corporations getting tax benefits for moving American jobs to foreign countries (partially because they don’t like to pay for health care for their workers, or pay minimum wage) and

3) because Wall Street changed from an entity that invested in actual businesses, and became instead a bizarre gambling casino, where the money made was never anything real, it was Ivy League graduates creating derivatives and credit default swaps and “chopping up debt” and putting it into investments that no one knew they were even in and where the regulators claimed they were first rate investments when they were actually garbage..

These policies are what “mad as hell” people are about to vote back in.

The Republicans and tea partiers want to get rid of regulation! It was the lack of regulation that allowed all these nutty and inexplicable financial “instruments” to explode and almost cause another Depression.

People are furious with the bank bailout. Sure, me too. I’m also angry about the enormous bonuses given to CEO’s who allowed their companies to fail in a spectacular way. The whole thing stinks.

But — I don’t know any sensible person or anyone with knowledge of finance who feels it would have been right to just let all the banks fail.

And sprinkle in that some of the tea party candidates are really extreme.

I guess I’m trying to talk to independents here (if any are reading), but just going on the “I’m mad as hell” impulse should not lead you to voting in candidates who want to outlaw all abortion, including rape and incest. Do you want your daughter forced to keep a baby caused by rape, so she can, as Sharon Angle running in Arizona says, “make lemonade out of lemons”?

Angle thinks unemployment insurance means people are lazy. She wants to privatize social security so that that money can participate and be at risk with all the derivatives and gambling apparatus still happening on Wall Street. (She used to talk about privatization, but now doesn’t bring it up.)

Or then there’s Stephen Broden, the black candidate running for Congress in Texas’ 30th congressional district, who says violent overthrow of the government “is on the table” if the election doesn’t go in the direction he and his tea party supporters feel it should. Yikes. And can you imagine Fox News if a Democratic black candidate suggested armed insurrection?

(And Mr. Broden is a pastor. Wow. Jesus must be so proud, Jesus loved violence as we all know. “Kill for Jesus” was what he actually said on the cross. It was the liberal media who claimed he said “Forgive them, father.”)

Shall we indeed become like the Shiites and Sunnis killing each other in that country we “saved” called Iraq (and where they still don’t have electricity most of the day; how is that possible?)? Shall we indeed kill each other when we don’t agree?

Oh, yes, that’s also been suggested by that toxic Sharon Angle, who early on said if tea party sorts didn’t get their way by ballot, they should consider “second amendment rights.” And second amendment is where you’re told you have a right to have a gun. (Though the constitution says for forming a militia, but the supposedly strict constructionist Supreme Court said it wasn’t just for a militia, it was for everybody individually, all the time, guns, guns, guns.)

These calls to arms are not solving problems. It says basically there is no compromise, you don’t have the right to your own opinion. We must kill those who disagree with us. Gee, dandy. Thanks,Sharon, thanks, Stephen. What wonderful citizens you are. Let’s have a Civil War again.

Most of the anger is about not having jobs. Understandable, it’s awful.

But how do you actually create jobs? You really think tax cuts for the rich are the answer? We had that for about the last 6 years of the Bush presidency, and it didn’t create jobs, did it? Well that’s what you’re voting back in. (The stimulus was not a failure, it just didn’t fix it all. It helped. Doing nothing would have been much worse.)

Obviously people who only watch Fox News are lost to any of these arguments. And tea partiers seem lost to them as well.

But again, the independents who voted for change with Obama — I understand he hasn’t solved it all in 18 months. But you think that’s logical to assume he could have? (I was guilty of thinking he could have fixed more, and should have been bolder…but the Republicans’ intransigence and the group of Obama haters have made functioning in Washington even harder than usual.)

You think the “tax cuts for billionaires” folks and the “no regulations, the market takes care of it all” snake salesmen are the right next step to take? Are you kidding?

You’re not kidding, you’re just angry. (Sounds like that Irving Berlin lyric, “you’re not sick , you’re jut in love.” But updated.)

I mentioned the phrase “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” which is from the movie “Network,” brilliantly written by Paddy Chayefsky..

That movie was made in 1976, and I remember agreeing with the sentiment. I don’t know quite why was I angry in 1976, though looking back I think it was maybe when we were starting to digest the tumultuous social changes represented by the protests against the Vietnam war from 1966 to the early 70s.

For those of us against the Vietnam war, we felt our government could not be trusted to choose when to go to war, when it was actually a necessity, or when it was just a wrong-headed hypothesis (if South Vietnam “falls,” then all countries around it will become communist and then we will be killed in our beds).

Plus suddenly Congress no longer declared war, which is how it is in the constitution. (Oh, you mighty Republican strict constructionists out there, ignoring that part of the constitution never seems to bother you.) We were at war in Vietnam because the President engineered it, not the Congress. Same with Bush and Iraq. Oh, tea partiers, is that okay with you? You don’t like that part of the constitution? (Quick, somebody tell Christine O’Donnell where in the constitution that is. She’s adorable, she should have a sitcom, she just should not be running for office.)

However war-disliking liberals were not the only ones feeling anger as they saw the movie “Network” back then..

There was the anger of all the traditional people who were furious at the antiwar people — like Bob Hope, who nobly entertained the troops in all the wars, and who would go on TV and say things like “when your country says it’s time to go to war, you do not question, you support your country and go.” (That’s not an exact quote, but he said that thought various times on talk shows during my college years.)

And plus the protestors had long hair, and seemed promiscuous and the musical “Hair” was just a nightmare for the “tradition” people. It was only in 1965 that The Sound of Music was the top grossing movie. What the heck happened that suddenly the popular movies a few years later were The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde?

Anyway that traditional group was also “mad as hell.”

I guess my point is that all the people who identified with that phrase “I’m mad as hell” back then were angry in general, and angry about change (like now); but the solutions were not clear. Both sides we were just angry.

And significantly the character Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) who says these words is actually having a breakdown.

He’s the anchor on the evening news, and he announces during his broadcast that he intends to commit suicide the following week. Then he doesn’t but instead unleashes his call that everyone should go to their windows and scream out: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” And in the film many listening around the country do exactly that.

It’s an extremely satisfying moment — sitting in the movie theatre we all felt this undefined but genuine sense of anger — at something, at the changes in the country, at life in general. The movie tapped into something true about people and their frustrations, even back in 1976.

But the movie has a darker meaning as well: Howard Beale becomes wildly popular, because he speaks for people who are angry but don’t know why. And Beale has no real suggestions for anyone, he’s just a messed up guy who riles people up who want to vent their anger. (Glenn Beck, anyone?)

But the corporate people behind the network news are using Howard Beale, they’re using that anger he triggers to make money.

And weirdly that’s also what’s happening with the anger in our country right now. It’s being fanned and supported by oil companies who want to keep us hooked on oil, by Wall Street people who don’t want regulation but want things as usual… the anger is being used and manipulated by enormous corporations who are killing the middle class.

And the middle class is voting for these people; their anger is being played with, and they’re being urged to support candidates who will make things worse for them.

Come on, independents. Be mad, I understand, I’m mad too. But don’t vote for the people who are going to put us on track to do THE EXACT SAME THING AGAIN. With some weird Tea Party extras.

Don’t spite your nose to save your face.

From The Huffington Post