The Same Lame Blame Game

The Same Lame Blame GameThe Oddity of Political Postering:

I was sent a link to another blog where the writer essentially blames President Obama for everything wrong in the world today.  As my students know, these types of “blame” and “accusation” approaches have been quite common throughout the history of elections in the United States.  The communication systems of today, however, make it appear that the style has become more prevalent.  Whether they have or not probably makes little difference in the long run because our access to competing pieces is far easier today than in the past.

Typically, this style of electioneering writing can fall into a wide array of categories.  One is obvious.  The writer is either sincerely opinionated and the writing is an extension of that ideology.  Another is within the idea of blurring specifics by enclosing everything within an emotional wrapper.  Simply stated,  the writer attempts to inflame passion through a variety of techniques.  Sometimes this technique is to promote favoritism to the position, but sometimes we have a reverse psychology as the writer is actually attempting to tilt the scales of ideology in the opposite direction.  A visualization I often use in classes is to imagine a counter balance scale.  It appears that the electioneering of the writer is loading box after box to shift the balance in their direction.  The amount of boxes they load is impressive.  You wonder if you have any chance of balancing the scale, let alone having the weight shift the balance toward your direction.  It might be frustration or annoyance at the spectacle of the number of boxes placed on the opposite side, or it might simply be an inner belief that you have to at least put something on the scale to support your position.  Regardless of your reason, when you put the first piece on your side of the scale, however, it crashes with a thud as if all the weight is on your side.  How can that be, you wonder, but upon closer inspection of the scattered debris, you discover that all of the boxes loaded on the opposite side contained feathers, hot air, or absolutely nothing.

What my students would need to argue:

Was there intent to tilt opinions in the direction argued by the writer, or was it all an illusion to assure that any type of solid information would tilt the scale in the opposite direction of all the boxes?

Why Waste My Time with more info?  Well it is what I research.

Normally, I would not give a second thought to a piece such as the one I just read, but something stood out to me in the comment section.  This first comment seems like a challenge put forth to someone who challenged portions of the blog article.

The Blog Snippet 1:

Jolene says:

September 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Without using the following words Romney, Bush, hate, racism, black, white, fair share, redistribute, even playing field, rich or poor try defending this President and his policies…..God, doesn’t it ever occur to you folks that some of us can just plainly see that Obama is doing a horrific job as President. Tell me how the country or world is better 4 years later….and I will not accept it “could have been worse”…that is just lame. Remember he wanted this job. This president promised to unify us, make peace with the world, lower unemployment, make us energy independent….how is he doing with all of this?? That is why we are not voting for him….we HATE THE JOB he is doing!!!

OK a review:

Political ideologies aside, that type of comment can be seen on a seemingly infinite number of sites.  Some remarks blast the President such as this one while others blast the challenger.  Whether one agrees or disagrees, these types of statements have always existed.   This reply, however, from Guest caught my attention:

The Blog Snippets 2 and 3:

Guest says:

September 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm

What is the JOB of the President? Despite whatever promises an individual makes in seeking that office, what powers does that individual have and where are they listed? What portions of the Constitution of the United States gives the holder of the office the authority to “unify us, make peace with the world, lower unemployment, make us energy independent?” Aren’t those powers given to the people and not to one individual? Placing blame on this or any President is easy. Congress has the power to pass laws, but is Congress an arm of the President or the representatives of those who voted them into office?

I’m guessing there must be a word limitation based on the next time stamp from Guest who continued with a second post:

Guest says:

September 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Whether this President or any past or future is indeed “a revolutionary whose cause is to bring America to its knees…and he is succeeding,” or whether one agrees or not should not matter because belief in this success is a reflection of American citizens. “No other president could get away with calling Americans lazy, derisive, divisive, unimaginative, unambitious, and that you didn’t build your fortune, big or small. President Joke conditions you to feel incompetent and shameful.” Do you really believe the President has the power or authority to make any American citizen feel incompetent, shameful, lazy, etc.? The President is a person and not God. I am thankful that the President does not have the powers to solve the problems mentioned in this forum because those are responsibilities of the American people, not of government.

Some analysis:

The quotes in the second comment are from the actual blog article.  In the Constitution, as most people will agree, the specific powers granted to the Executive Branch are limited.  Many of the actions taken by every US President have fallen under the implied interpretations of the Constitutions or by precedents established.  Many of these precedents date back to the administration of George Washington.  While it is not required reading in as many history graduate coures today because more recent studies are often used, I have always found John C. Miller’s The Federalist Era (1960) compelling reading.  (You can read a nice tribute to Professor Miller following his death in 1991 from the Office of the President of Stanford University at this link:  Miller illustrates how many of the images we associate with the Office of President were not thought out and debated, but were simply the mannerisms of George Washington, the individual.  In reference to the blog, for me the remarks from “Guest” imply a “Conservative,” in the popular definition, ideology in that power is bestowed upon the people and not upon government.

What baffled me briefly were some responses to “Guest” by the author of the blog.  Looking at the final response first:

The Blog Snippet 4:

Kim says:

September 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm

You know what? I have no idea what the hell you are talking about, at first I thought you were scolding the president for appealing to morons, but then I thought you were one, but then I thought you are arguing with Obama, and not me. What the hell are you talking about?

OK, Did I Miss Something?

Personally, I found “Guest” to be quite clear in addressing the request of Jolene by offering a suggestion that instead of relying upon someone else to fix the problem, perhaps you should take responsibility.  Whether one agrees with “Guest” does not matter in this case because feelings of responsibility and blame may differ depending upon one’s political ideology.  I found the response, but more interesting the tone, the opposite of what I would expect.  Kim on her blog describes herself as a “Conservative Christian writer.”  Shouldn’t someone labeling themselves in that manner be in agreement with “Guest” instead of degrading and then questioning?

Just minutes earlier, the blog author had posted two responses to “Guest”:

The Blog Snippets 5 and 6:

Kim says:

September 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm

You should read Ameritopia, it’s just now out in paperback, around 10 bucks, you need an education.

Kim says:

September 19, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Thank you for making my point, by the way, he doesn’t have those powers, but that’s how he got elected.

My thoughts at this point:

While Mark Levin’s books are generally regarded to be weighted toward one end of the political scale, and I have read criticisms of President Obama attributed to him, I fail to get the want and necessity of an authoritarian or totalitarian President from his writings.

Within the course of 5 minutes, the blog author’s comments left me completely dumbfounded.  I still had no plans to contribute to anything this nonsensical, however, until reading this additional reply to “Guest.”

The Blog Snippet 7:

Todd says:

September 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm

No, the President has none of these powers. This one just usurped them. I suspect you are unaware that we are in a post Constitutional Republic.

On a hot mike Obama was overheard assuring the departing Russian President he will have the “flexibility” required to deal with missile defense issues after the 2012 election. That is treasonous.

The American people can’t solve a thing as long as this President uses government to crush their liberty.

Hope this helps but I doubt it will.

Even though I know better…

On that comment, I could not resist temptation so LABLouisianaboy submitted the following in response to Todd.

“If you believe the President has usurped these powers, why haven’t all of his plans been placed into action?  If he does have these powers, there would be no arguments from either Democrats or Republicans that the House would not cooperate or the Senate refused to cooperate respectively  depending on the side of the aisle one sits?  As for stating treasonous, the House has a Republican majority and the Constitutional authority to bring charges of impeachment.  As for crushing liberties, what liberties have been crushed?  You are free to criticize the President on this blog, but are you not free to hire an employee, patronize a business, and so on? Even with legislation of prior administrations such as the Patriot Act, Americans today enjoy more liberties and freedoms than previous generations here and people have many opportunities here which do not exist elsewhere.”  I am not clear as to your post Constitutional Republic reference, but while the powers of each branch of the Federal government have transitioned since the Constitutional Period, there have been no radical adjustments to those powers in recent administrations.

Would you please provide some examples of what powers or I guess more importantly the President was able to usurp these powers?  Would you please clarify the liberties that President Obama has used government to crush?  I would propose that the current government has done very little in terms of legislation, but I am not aware that President Obama has established detention camps for American citizens.  Would you agree that more arguments are made against President Obama on issues such as more lenient immigration policies and treatments of illegal immigrants than on his stripping liberties of American citizens or anyone within our 50 states?”

The Aftermath:

I kept the site window open after submitting that comment, and read some online articles in a few Louisiana newspapers and looked over the SEC football schedule for the upcoming weekend.  After I closed the multiple windows and returned to the blog page, I found that I received a pop up stating that my comment was not accepted by the administrator.   No real shock to me since my intent was merely to see if my questions might be answered with either boxes of feathers and hot air or with something of substance to spur the desire for some additional study.

Why waste my time with this and then actually write about it?

It is indicative of something that troubles me as a history professor and as an individual concerned about education in general.  Too much emphasis is placed on either false perceptions, taking snippets from an address, or not placing things into context.  Real issues and exchanges of ideas are ignored or discredited.  From the standpoint of a history teacher, I’ll confidently state that to understand anything you will need multiple sources from multiple perspectives to see the big picture and details.  Personally, the more I learn about anything in my professional “area of expertise,” I honestly gain a better recognition of how little I actually know.  At least I quickly reached the stage in my career when I understood a message I heard from many of my professors and mentors.  It is true that teaching survey level courses are more difficult than upper level courses because you have to place stricter limits on what you cover and create generalizations about what is generally accepted versus emphasizing the multitudes of events which contradict that generalization.

As I have written before, extremism on either side of the political spectrum scares me.  With probably few exceptions (and I can’t think of any) every candidate has both strengths and positives.  This Presidential election, however, seems to be more about media rhetoric than anything else.  I’ll quote from George Will what I believe is an eloquent factual statement:

George WILL:  The great superstition of American politics concerns presidential power. And during a presidential year, that reaches an apogee and it becomes national narcissism. Everything that happens anywhere in the world we caused or we could cure with a tweak of presidential rhetoric. Jay Carney participated in this when he said the riots in the Middle East are not about U.S. policy, they’re about a video. Actually, they’re about neither. If the video hadn’t been the pretext, another one would have been found. There are sectarian tribal civil wars raging across the region that we neither understand nor can measurably mitigate.

Source for George Will quote:

My Thoughts:

Most Americans are impacted more from local elections, state elections, Congressional elections, and Presidential elections in that order.  Yes, there is more prestige in being elected President of the United States than to a Parish or County level office, but except under extraordinary circumstances, you will have better access to the person living in your hometown and not at the White House.

As someone who has worked with Members of Congress and at every level of state and local government, I can point to one fact about US elections which I first heard when I was 17 and helping Parish workers move voting machines into my school lunchroom (the local voting precinct).  Elections are the simplest and most rational processes with winners and losers, but with that simplicity you must remember one element:  men and women are not rational people.   As a student of elections and political history, once upon a time (but still with exceptions to the general rule) there were 2 political seasons.  The first was election season where you did everything to build up your position and tear down the position of your opponents.  A second season, however, followed.  In that second season, you and others put aside your personal and ideolgical differences to work together to put something into action that benefitted the most people in the most effective manner possible.

Today, I think we have forgotten to close the first season and start the second.  Sadly, the first just continues.

To close finally:

LABLouisianaBoy encourages you to vote and to be an informed voter.  Consult multiple sources to formulate your opinion on which candidate you prefer.  Also, I will always argue to vote for the individual in a particular election and not simply vote a party line in all races.  Some disagree with that opinion, but at least we are free to make that choice.

Note:  Screen names other than “Guest” were changed to not promote or defame the particular blogger, but the comments were copied and pasted and accurate at the time of this posting.  If LABLouisianaBoy’s comment appears and receives a response, I will update this posting.