Sunday, November 16, 2008
Post Election Wrap-up: Who is Uncle Sam?
Well, first, and foremost - I have to congratulate President-Elect Barack "Barry" Obama. Honestly I never understood why his campaign didn't choose to refer to him as "Barry" as often as they could in their press relations. I mean, it is what most people close to him call him, you know - kind of like how William Clinton is known by friends as Bill?
I mean, I obviously it was to make a point - the name of the President of the United States (POTUS) should not have any significance towards the quality of the holder of that position. It was a Democratic party position, reaffirming the true belief that many campaigns past (both R & D) have done - that anyone can be president.
For instance, Eisenhower is an unusual "American" last name. Of course, there are 10s of millions of US citizens with similar surnames, that is - directly German. There, however, has always been an historic political aversion to Teutonic presidents. This comes out of a traditional reverence to the founders, of English lineage, and thus a kind of presumed aristocratic excellence among the descendants of true Anglo-Saxons. It is of course, blatant racism - of the worst kind - because Uncle Sam, the icon of a fearless, fair, progressive, representational and constitutional Republic, a one time idealist of the Enlightenment, becomes imbued with a specific set of phenotypes.
Uncle Sam is white - but not because he is a white man, but because he is a bust. Nero is white. Nero was of course, olive-skinned and probably fairly dark, hairy as well, but in marble he is white. A bust of Moses, indeed as swarthy as God makes them, is white. The busts of Ethiopian Patriarchs are white, and I hardly think I need to tell you the general color of their skin.
But when you make Uncle Sam a WASP, you destroy any glory the symbol holds, because it is no longer a set of ideals, it is a set of phenotypes mere mortal humans acquire from their parents, whom they did not chose.
So back to the Eisenhower campaign. He had being a Texan in his favor, for sure. He also had a no small part in the winning of WWII. But on the issues, he had little going for him. His platform largely mirrored Adlai Stevenson's, which was a continuation of the New Deal, except with a little more commie hatin'. Adlai was exceedingly eloquent, charming, drew massive crowds to his speeches, and a media darling to the liberal rags.
The media today paints this campaign, if they talk about it at all, as basically, "Eisenhower was fucking fantastic and Stevenson was kind of boring and stuffy."
The media of the time was less kind to Stevenson, who used terms like "intellectual" (as a pejorative *sigh*), "pointy-headed," and called his speeches "purple prose." This was largely manufactured conservative yellow-journalism, the Fox News of its day; however Stevenson surely did not orate well enough for most Americans to care since he lost the election with 44.3% to Eisenhower's 55.2%.
Eisenhower's campaign was largely a reaction against Truman's failure in Korea as a sign of weakness against the threat of growing Communism in the world. But Ike, somehow he got the nickname Ike and used it (unlike Obama), wasn't openly belligerent, he didn't ever intone, in his campaign, that he would start wars or give communist nations causus belli to begin hostilities with America or its allies. He turned the new deal socialist ideal into outdoing them, the Godless Communists, proving to the world at large that Soviet Communism was not as good as The American Way. It was a far different flavor of anti-communism than the McCarthyism prevalent within the Republican party at the time; which was in turn using the moniker of anti-communism to effectively silence radical leftists, with a lot of rather reckless collateral damage left in its wake.
No, Eisenhower was the first turn anti-communism into a truly non-partisan issue. The problem wasn't some with some alternative theory of the value of wealth and the meaning of capital; it was with how it was being twisted to allow authoritarian dictatorships control over nations. And well, hell, everybody hates authoritarian dictatorships, right?
Stevenson's campaign was largely directed against the still looming specter of the failure of Hoover and the success of Roosevelt, attempting to ride on the coattails of the party's recent history. But it didn't work. Because Eisenhower was a progressive (a progressive Republican?!?) at heart, and the public knew he was not going suddenly collapse the established welfare state.
Seems like a pretty dry campaign huh? Not the kind that would deliver a landslide in either direction. With Adlai having no truly new ideas on progress, and Eisenhower alienating his pinko-hating Republican base (although secretly courting them). Well, turns out the election wasn't about communism.
The election was about who is American. There was no question of Adlai's "Americanism," he was as blue-blooded Uncle Sam aristocracy as any candidate. But Eisenhower was different. He was the Wesley Clark of his day - Highly-experienced Well-decorated General, wary of war, a fiend of the space-age and new technology.
This was decidedly German. The Nazis fanaticism, when not racist, was technological. Engineering, architecture, research and development were endlessly promoted and funded under the Third Reich. Of course, the SA and SS cleared out all of the Jewish intellectuals and most of the gentiles as well, so their brain-trust was extremely feeble.
So, there was still the lingering collective ideal of American meritocracy vs. National socialism; with good cause. Patton, was of course, decidedly too Nazi to hold public office (regardless that he was crazy and had already died in Germany in '45). Was this Eisenhower too much like Patton? Too much like our previous and still hated enemy?
The answer was a resounding no, and it was a refinement, of sorts, of what America was against. That is, it was not socialist policies we were against, it was the Soviet state and her allies! America changed fundamentally with Eisenhower. In short, we got technocratic. The OSA was formalized into the CIA, the FBI was beefed up. Interstate highways were built, infrastructure was improved, rocketry was being perfected; the ideal of social progress through science was affirmed by America with the election of Ike Eisenhower.
His name be damned, America loves ray-guns and spaceships and computers and systems and methods and processes! If England invented endless bureaucracy, then we perfected it! (and it creates a lot of jobs, too!)
Now, this current election seems flipped - Obama is the eloquent intellectual populist, McCain is the military man who's platform is almost the same as his competitors, but he has that techno-fiend look in his eye. Surely McCain should have won?
But McCain was fighting a battle that his party already won, the points were moot. And his running mate didn't match his suit. Palin's ultra-conservative ideals largely turned off America. She was meant to be a symbol of folksy can-d0 elbowgrease, but when unwrapped we found her success gilded by corporate interests, her true personality one of lazy sheepishness and disinterest in the world at large, suspicious of science, fanatically religious, against all abortions and even contraception, tinged with corruption. We Americans praise merits and abilities, no matter how nefarious they are - but Palin produced none. Thus we had doubt in McCain's decision making ability, or if not that, we recognized his disengeniousness.
So back to weird names. Barack H. Obama is an Afro-Arabic name. Now, currently America has a beef with terrorism, and radical militiant islamists are the most prolific groups that engage in it currently. They tend to come from Arab nations, and these jihadists have Arab names. This Senator Obama has a similar name! And now the racism and fear cuts much deeper than if the name had just happened to be overtly German. Is Obama too much like these modern day Hashshashins? No, of course not, that is just silly. Buuuut.... he is African-American, kind of. He embraces black culture, attends a black church (recently distanced from), and so on... regardless of his genetic makeup, he is "a black guy."
What race meant in the campaign wasn't examined because it was hardly ever brought up. We didn't want the media to bring it up. Every pundit said this was a bout the issues, polls said race mattered very little. America chose the law professor over the space cowboy because of this --- this, I think, is the mandate America delivered on election day:
"His name be damned, we don't decide elections based on race. Therefore we are electing the pointy-headed speech-maker, who happens to be of mixed race, over the space cowboy this time to prove it!
ps - Obama, you'd better be a JFK-style space cowboy by innauguration, m'kay?"
Yes, we solemny vowed again that Uncle Sam is a platonic bust of American idealism, and not a White Man. Yet America is not suddenly and magically post-racial, we've simply affirmed that race, that someone's name, is of no consequence towards their eligibility for the position of the President of the United States of America. And thus, in spirit, for any elected position in the nation.
Yet we did it, largely, by basing our decision on who to vote for on their name and race. An ugly, racial catch-22 indeed. Or if that cross is too much to bear, just blame Palin.