Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale

Dispatches from Dixie: San Antonio, TX


A couple weeks ago, after watching yet another speech from President Obama on the Bush tax cuts, a liberal friend on Facebook wryly remarked: “4 years later and Obama finally realizes he’s the president. *golf clap*”

You know it’s bad when even college-educated twenty-somethings in the Northeast are trading some hope and change for a healthy dose of cynicism.

The Romney camp has found religion in chiding Obama for running from—rather than on—his lackluster record. If my liberal friend is any indication, the message might resonate with millions of voters who wonder why Obama basically ignored policies he now claims are crucial to economic recovery. I hate beating a dead horse (almost as much as Democrats hate passing a budget or taking responsibility for anything), but how did we go from a president many (mostly on the left) assumed to be an idiot to one who assumes most of us can’t remember the day before yesterday?

Now, our allegedly eloquent demagogue-in-chief is on the stump claiming “somebody else” built everything that we foolishly thought could be credited to the ingenuity of American entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors. Curiously enough, the president eased us into that novel bit of insight by noting, in professorial tones, that “there are a lot of smart people out there.” They presumably just don’t do anything valuable.

I assume “somebody else” wrote that speech.

Ever out of touch, Mitt Romney was quick to respond:

“[Obama] describes people we care deeply about, who make a difference in our lives…we value schoolteachers, firefighters, people who build roads. You really couldn’t have a business if you didn’t have those things. But, you know, we pay for those things. The taxpayers pay for government…We appreciate the work that they do and the sacrifices that are done by people who work in government, but they did not build this business.”

Clearly, Romney just can’t understand what it’s like out in real America. Just look at him smugly trying to take credit from our hardworking citizens to make a cheap political point. Oh, wait…

What intrigues me about this whole episode is how well it hearkens back to 08’s infamous “guns and religion” remark that reminded Middle America just how little many of our friends on the Academic Left think of people supposedly less enlightened than them. So I’ll let arch-Democrat Hillary Clinton say what many of us are thinking:

“[Americans] don’t need a president who looks down on them. They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families.”

What these two incidents have in common is how remarkably little has changed in four years. Back then, Senator Obama was running an aggressive campaign-of-personality built on selling himself as an inspirational nigh-Messiah and America’s problems as the result of profound Republican mismanagement that he was powerless to stop. Now, President Obama is running an aggressively negative campaign-of-I-didn’t-build-that-bad-economy-somebody-else-made-that-happen. He has progressed from selling himself as merely inspirational to claiming the mantle of “Only Grownup In The Room.” America’s problems are still the result of dastardly Republican mismanagement that Obama was obviously powerless to stop.

Because we all know that presidents with big majorities in Congress are powerless to do things or even push for necessary reforms. It’s not like the 111th Congress, with its Democratic supermajority, was the most active legislative session since the Great Society. And clearly nobody was blaming George W. Bush for the abysmal economy on his watch just because he was in office and had modest Republican majorities at some point.

That would be crazy talk.


Author: Rek

A gay Southern conservative with a fondness for God, guns, and gridiron. I'm a veritable pocket full of sunshine.

4 thoughts on “Dispatches from Dixie: San Antonio, TX

  1. Rek — I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. It’s been refreshing to hear the conservative side, and avoid “echo chamber” problems. In fact, I’d really appreciate a recommendation for some conservative bloggers, or Tweeters who regularly post links, who I should follow.

    I sincerely hope you don’t mind a little critical feedback. This post in particular bothered me, because I care a lot about issues of media fairness and how television can ruin the opportunity for a meaningful debate in the public sphere — the sort of stuff, you might say, that Jon Stewart talks about a lot and that the Rally to Restore Sanity was all about. So I begin:

    In this post, you’re repeating FOX News faux outrage that comes from taking Obama’s remarks out of context. He was trying to repeat Elizabeth Warren’s message from her viral video about how businesses rely on government investments in roads, safety, etc. to function. Obama meant to say something to the effect of “you didn’t build that without help” or, as his very next paragraph from the “you didn’t build that” speech reads:

    “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.”

    Obama and Romney and you and I and everybody agrees that businesses succeed because of individual initiative, hard work, and the infrastructure of roads and police and etc. etc. that society pays for, among other factors.

    For the record, I really liked your last post about liberalism and conservatism in young America (though I think it’s perhaps a little bit of a stretch to say that liberalism prizes justice far more than things such as advancement in societal standard of living… communism is the philosophy that truly puts justice above all else) before you turned it into a justification for why rich people should pay far less in effective income taxes than everyone else in America. Revenue increases do help pay down the deficit — how can you call all those billions of dollars nothing more than a gimmick? And, where’s your sense of moral outrage about how the super rich have gamed the tax code — in a way that doesn’t help the economy? Where’s the admission that the Obama plan wants to return tax brackets to their status in the nineties — hardly a radical proposal, even if you disagree?

    Frankly much of your blogging revolves around the assertion that your liberal friends can’t have a serious conversation about Obama’s strengths and weaknesses, or our country’s problems. My response is twofold: nix the ad hominem, and try me.

    Respectfully your liberal horsefly,


    • Hi Hamp,

      Thanks for reading the blog; I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I always appreciate some good feedback. I’ll try to stay brief:

      Obama and Warren’s comments about roads and the like are the height of silliness precisely because they are arguing in an echo chamber. Republicans aren’t calling for the abandonment of infrastructure, the abolition of taxes, or anything of the sort. You’ll note the candidates–e.g. Ron Paul and Rick Perry–that called for the elimination of education funding and the like didn’t go anywhere in the primaries. So on the one hand, Obama and Warren are arguing with strawmen in a cynical ploy to paint conservatives as anarchic narcissists. On the other, insofar as they’re wrong about Republican proposals, nothing of value follows from their asinine lectures in civic responsibility. We could fund everything they’re talking about (and then some) with less than 20% of the current budget. But they won’t tell you that.

      I’m not in the camp calling for revenue neutral or negative tax reform. I think some revenue is helpful. But to be clear, the Buffet Rule Bill would raise less than $3 billion per year. It’s peanuts. Hence, the link I included about how it amounted to nothing more than idle symbolism. The fact that you think it a serious proposal speaks ill of your choice of media. Likewise, none of the Democrats’ plans for raising revenue–including ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich–would offset more than a fraction of the deficit. There’s also the fact, as even Bill Clinton noted, that raising taxes during a weak economy will actually stifle growth, especially if spending is not substantially cut.

      At the end of the day, we need serious cuts–largely to entitlements–and the Democrats are shying away from this with the aid of compelling but vacuous smoke bombs. So to wrap up, my assertions about seriousness stand precisely because most Democratic proposals–what few they’ve even offered–are actually not serious.

      As for suggested reading, I don’t think I can post links here, but I’ll give you some names that should come up easily in search:

      WSJ (of course)
      National Review
      Heritage Blog
      R Street Institute

      On Twitter:
      JoeNBC (his posts aren’t all that interesting, but I really like his wallpaper)

      Keep the comments, my friend!


  2. Taking my time to reply… just tweeted an interesting link at you.

    Thanks for the recommendations by the way! Excited to give them a look.

    My main problem with what you’re saying is that it lacks nuance. You’re trying to portray Obama as a madman hell-bent on taxing and spending the country into oblivion, so therefore, you’re really just trying to echo the Republican party’s narrative. Since so much of your criticism is of people who blindly follow the Democratic narrative, I find it annoying that you aren’t giving Obama credit for things that presumably you’d be in favor of, such as the good faith negotiations with Boehner that would have given far more spending reductions in exchange for raising taxes on the wealthy — a negotiation which was derailed not by Obama but by Boehner’s inability to control the extremism of the Tea Party. This episode would have done a lot of deficit reduction, and it really happened — yet you’re making it sound like Obama’s only efforts to reduce the deficit at any point in his presidency was proposing the Buffet Rule.

    Regarding the issue of the “you didn’t build that” stuff, I don’t think you’re taking the Ryan budget seriously. You just very dismissively said the Democrats are trying to paint Republicans as anarchists. Have you seen what the Ryan budget proposes? It wants to cut a huge category of discretionary spending that includes military spending to less than what total military spending is now. The cuts to entitlements are ridiculous and indeed would not make them “entitlements,” as in, something one is sure to receive and entitled to, but rather something a little more sinister. Most areas of the federal budget would have to be cut 40% or more. On top of all that, the Ryan plan cuts taxes for the wealthy. I mean, it’s a totally insane document. I will grant that it starts a conversation, and that entitlements need to be reformed, but let’s have none of this self-righteousness about how Paul Ryan is oh-so-serious and oh-so-number-crunchy. Maybe you were exaggerating with the use of the word “anarchy” but dude, the Ryan plan is a very radical document. So I find it very, very hard to believe that Obama, Warren, etc. are not doing their best to counter a disturbing theory that is growing in popularity: namely, that government spending can be drastically cut without drastic problems occurring.

    How serious are you about the belief that raising taxes on “the 1%” would hurt the economy? I mean, I just don’t see any historical evidence for that Reaganomics nonsense. You have to concede that if, hypothetically, it were not true that restoring tax levels to Clinton-era percentages would drastically hurt job creation, then doing so would be the very, very easiest and most obvious first step in drawing down the deficit. So again, if you take the Democrats to be believing in good faith that their small revenue increases on the rich are not dangerous to the economy, then the revenue increases are a natural, logical, fair, and obvious way of tackling a problem that the Republicans raised: the deficit.

    And I’m not going to let you off the hook with the Ryan plan’s proposal to cut deficits by cutting taxes for the super rich. That’s just plan stupid, like saying negative one plus one equals negative two.

    For the record, I do believe that entitlements need to be reformed for the long term. My political analysis is that only the Democrats could do it, just like only a Democrat could reform welfare, and only Nixon could go to China.

    If you want to hold our country’s politicians’ feet to the fire regarding fixing entitlements, then I say more power to you! And I agree. We should fix the long-term solvency of entitlements. And while I’m at it, fine — Obama could lead more on stuff like budgets.

    However, I think you should in good faith acknowledge the nearly unprecedented level of extremism and obstructionism in Congress spurred by the Tea Party and conservative Republicans. They have been very open about the fact that their number one priority was always to defeat Obama in 2012, so they have done their best to prevent him from having a record of bipartisan achievement to run on. If you can’t acknowledge that, then the wool, sir, has been pulled over your eyes; the Kool-aid is in your tummy, and it is your choice of media that may be at fault.

  3. Romney is saying the right thing at the right time to the right people. I don’t think he has substance. Whether Obama has enough to fight him off though, I don’t know.

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