E Pluribus Unum

Last week we lamented the disappearance of E Pluribus Unum, that which has long kept this country in one piece.

But ideas, theories, realities don’t just disappear and leave nothing behind. We find now in its place “American Exceptionalism.”

Without being too brutal about it, this term “American Exceptionalism” has come to mean many things to different people. It means I’m as good as you are; I know as much as you do; my ideas are more valuable; my truth is truthier than yours. It means we can lie and get away with it. We can insult without having to apologize. We can go all out to get the material things we convince ourselves we deserve no matter over whose body we step.

It means that federal government is now taking a clear second position to states rights. It means that states no longer feel they must abide by federal law and custom. It means that a state may decide the federal government simply has no place within its borders. Or simply that federal law is not applicable in that state, period.

Witness the sunshine state, Florida, engaged in a voter-purge and repellent. The federal Justice Department has told them to cease and desist purging their voters’ lists of suspected noncitizens, because on inspection, the county electoral boards cannot find evidence that matches the grand scheme whereby thousands of Floridians no longer deserve to be treated as citizens and will no longer be able to vote in a general election.

Florida’s response. ‘We respectfully disagree with your findings, and demand that you reply to us by June 11th….”

In effect, Florida has told the federal government to keep out, to shut its trap, to realize that its legal beagles are as assiduous and talented as the fed’s, and that the fed not only knows nothing about what goes on inFlorida but shouldn’t.

Voting rights are by law assured within the boundaries of the United States. Clearly Florida feels it no longer wants to be part of the United States.

In the bigger picture, states have every power left to them unsecured by the US Constitution.

But times have changed so much in the past two hundred twenty-five years that no founding father or group thereof could have possibly imagined the battles over public education, public health, public safety.

Soon enough states will undoubtedly be able to declare war upon each other over water rights, over clean air trade-offs, over sending its national guardsmen into conflicts unapproved by that state.

So what do we have in the US of A today?   

We have a national election on the horizon that is being run by “exceptional Americans” who are subject to no law, no reason, no discipline, no idea of what a nation can and should do for its citizens.

These “exceptional Americans” seem to believe that they are so much better than the ordinary run of the mill man or woman in the street that each of us should get on his or her knees and thank the Lord we have such wise and far-sighted leaders, whether or not what they do is beneficial to anyone within our boundaries.

This, in a nutshell, seems to be the attitude of President Obama.

Combine his “exceptionalism” with former president Clinton’s warning about Obama not being re-elected, and we find that fear rules the field.

President Obama is slated to be a one-term president unless he can get his act together and recollect where he started and who he was, fast.

The traditional method of returning to political reality is to have a cabinet shake-up, or at least a thorough housecleaning of aides, assistants, advisers, counselors.

An example. The other morning we had breakfast with California friends, steadfast and unyielding Republicans. Even they were astonished and critical that the president couldn’t get out of his bubble to helicopter for ten minutes into Wisconsin last weekend to assist the recall vote there against Governor Scott Walker. It may not have helped the Democrats in their quest, but it sure as hell would have shown other Democrats around the country that the president wasn’t timid, wasn’t afraid of offending some middle-of-the-road voter in November. It would have shown us all that Obama is not a captive of his inner circle, not immobilized by midnight terrors of somehow loosing what he considers critical maybe votes in the fall.

His advisors steered him wrong, if in fact they were asked at all for their advice.

We are in the midst of a publishing season that purports to tell each and every one of us the failings of the president, his insecurities, his strengths, his endless dithering as he makes decisions both large and small.

To some of us these pictures become increasingly accurate.

What on the other side do we have but even more exceptional Americans?

When George W. Bush was elected in 2000, we calmed ourself by repeating over and over again that all would be well, that George had the benefit of his father’s cabinet and advisors, that they wouldn’t steer him into any scrape he and they (and we) couldn’t later solve. We were wrong. George H.W.’s team lead us right into debt, into war on two fronts, into what has clearly turned out to be a Depression rather than a temporary recession. In fairness, we want to mention the two terms of President Clinton which were, if nothing else, more fiscally responsible than the Republicans who came before or after him.

So now, facing the prospect of Mitt Romney as president, can we drag out the old reassurances of yore just because he too will be able to call upon the men and women of George H.W.’s administration, not to mention the newer capitol hill staff of the younger George, and therefore be unable on his own to do us any real harm?

We’re sorry. Once fooled is sufficient.

And what does Team Romney project? The same ideologues birthed in the government of young George, the same marriage of the minds with our Defense department, the same oft-repeated phrases that the US is the greatest, the best, the strongest, the surest. Those heartening words, folks, no longer keep the wolves from our doors.

And the very fact that the wolves are creatures largely of our own making, who roam woodlands and hills devouring and consuming every financial and societal source of sustinence to make their own lives longer, richer, better doesn’t make us feel good, either.

We do have a sudden alternative to the coming disaster of Romney: Jeb Bush, who this week admitted that maybe after all 2012 should have been his year. Is this enough to get him drafted in Tampa? We don’t think so, since for the past few years he has been hesitant about taking positions favored by the Tea Party on the right or positions favored by more moderate Republicans on the party’s left.

Worse, wouldn’t we once more have to console ourselves with the idea that his advisors would come to us well-seasoned from other

Republican administrations, and isn’t it the former Republican administrations that got us into our own particular kind of bankruptcy?

So what are we left with? One man who prefers that others do the heavy lifting: he seems incapable of proposing and following through. He still seems to believe that he can work with an intransigent Congress. He is the only Democrat left in the country who believes this. He has had his moments of decision and come from them triumphant. But not, alas, where and when they are needed most. Here, in the US of A. He still prefers to have an idea and then shove it at Congress to make it work. And as the Right is fond of proclaiming, he cannot marshall his forces to provide the country with a budget that might not solve all of our problems overnight, but which might, in the long term, lead us to solutions.

On the other hand, we have a man who will not answer critical questions without qualifying every sentence. We have a man who believes his experience in business entitles him to lead the country.

We have man who seems to believe in the fiscal policies that got so many of us bankrupt, repossessed, jobless. We have a man who cannot constitutionally understand the role of women in our national discourse.

We have a man afraid of telling us where he differs from his compatriots on any number of topics, including immigration, abortion, unions, taxes and tax codes, social security, healthcare, Medicaid and medicare, the entire social safety net that for so many years has proven not only valuable to millions but life-saving. A man who is perfectly willing to call another’s hair-raising budget proposals “marvelous” and thinking that he himself has made the same proposals and need say nothing more.

Happily, this is June, not October. Any number of wondrous events can take place. Changes may still be in the air.

Here then we do have to get on our knees to pray.

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