Within minutes of starting to read “2030: the real story of what happens to America” I knew I was going to love it. In fact, I’ll go one step further. This is my favourite novel of the last 12 months. It’s just plain great.
Set in 2030, the novel tells the story of the issues faced by Americans in that year. There’s a president not only recognising that America is no longer the world’s leading nation but also finally having to confront its inability to add to its massive debt. There’s the consequences for individuals caused by inter-generational strife as a result of senior citizens living far longer than the social security net ever planned for.
It’s also funny in a wry way, exceptionally thoughtful, and full of little future nuggets.
But most importantly, it is very, very credible. Reading it, you can see a direct line from where we are today to where the novel arrives at. This is an indictment of reckless entitlement democracy at its worst.
I hesitate to call it science fiction over satire, but it is both, throwing out “what ifs” in the best speculative tradition of both genres.
I really, sincerely hope that this is not his only novel in this genre, because Brooks has a serious talent for it.
Let’s be honest: not a lot is going to happen with Obama II. It’s not a reflection on the president, but the truth is that, with the exception of immigration and maybe gay marriage, there is simply not much he can afford to do. This term will be about economic consolidation. That’s not to say that his eight years will not be regarded as historic. From first black president to healthcare to the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to General Motors and Bin Laden and coupled with reelection, barring major upsets his legacy is safe. Having said that, he might have an additional opportunity to appoint liberal judges to the Supreme Court. But the big stuff? Forget it.
But that’s ok, and here’s why: when he leaves office in 2017, gay marriage and immigration as issues will probably be settled, and the Republican Party will be heading back towards the centre. Imagine, on the other hand, if Mitt Romney had won last November, confirming every prejudice the far right had about how they spoke for the real America and that the president had just been an anomaly?
The fact that he was strongly reelected, despite a huge effort by some to paint him and his values and supporters as unAmerican, is the final piece in the Obama legacy. That his values are not those of some radical elitist, but what those of us who regard ourselves as centrists always knew. That he spoke for that great value, American decency, and we’ll take another four years of that, thank you very much.
In last year’s US presidential election, there was a clear choice on offer. Both parties offered a pretty distinct social platform, and each an economic platform that had some differences. In the UK general election in May 2015, the European question will mean that voting for one party over the other will probably have a profound difference on what sort of country Britain will be post 2017 referendum, if it happens. The point is that the results would shape daily life.
The same cannot be said of an Irish general election. In the last 36 months we have experienced life under Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour. We can also see, looking North of the border, what life under Sinn Fein would look like, and it does not look that radically different than like life down here. Sinn Fein will of course claim that a govt south of the border has greater room for action, being a sovereign state. This is true. But the reality is that Sinn Fein is moving towards a policy centre which will make it pretty much where Labour are now. Talk to people in Donegal or Kerry or Monaghan about their Sinn Fein representatives, and they will tell you that aside from waving the tricolour they no more want to frighten the horses than your average Fianna Failer. Radical socialists they are not, as their bitterly disappointed leftwing voters will discover. Life under a Sinn Fein coalition will not even be as left wing as France under Hollande.
Of course, says you, there’s always the Greens and the People’s Front of Killiney. True, but the Greens, despite their best intentions and efforts, showed just how resistant the rest of the Irish political establishment is to reform. As for Joe and the gang: Jaysus, they couldn’t even run a parliamentary group of seven people without splitting four ways. They are populist panderers, not even socialists, so don’t be holding your breath.
So just don’t vote? Surely that’s a cop out/Is this what the Men/Women of 1916 stormed a biscuit factory for, etc? Not really. I’d still vote in a referendum, and if they reform the Seanad and elect the panels I might vote in that. But even that would be purely for the sport, that I enjoy a good election count and the transfers and all the rest. But would it change much. Nah. This country, and here’s the thing, does not want change. We are actually a politically content people. The fact that a majority of our voters support FF or FG in polls confirms that. So move along, there’s nothing to see here.
Following yet another massacre of children/shoppers/churchgoers/joggers/voters/sports fans/concert-goers/hikers/gallery-visitors/night-clubbers/subway-users/apartment-dwellers/farmers/hotel guests the National Rifle Association has condemned those who suggest that reducing the number of guns available in American society might reduce the number of gun deaths and instead called for the provision of more well-armed and trained officers in schools/shopping malls/places of worship/public parks/sports-stadia/polling places/National Parks/museums and art galleries/nightclubs/public transport/dense areas of residence/rural areas/hotels as a measure to return America to the “peaceful Norman Rockwell or Frank Capra country we all grew up in, where every small town family walked peacefully and safely past a SWAT team on the way to church or cheered on their local team under the watchful eyes of police snipers”.
Note: whilst wanting to make a satirical point, I’ve had to keep postponing posting this piece because I did not want to make light of a recent gun tragedy, and so had to find a gap in between shootings to do so. Which is a point in itself, I suppose.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, has launched an attack on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie after the potential presidential rival suggested in an interview that he did believe in the concept of gravity.
Speaking to a seminar entitled God Made The Earth, So Obviously The Sun Revolves Around It, Sen. Rubio condemned Gov. Christie for supporting such “European” notions as gravity. “Governor Christie’s support of the theory of gravity is, quite frankly, offensive to many Christians like me. If the governor spent more time reading scripture he’d realise that people and objects are held fast to this planet by Jesusglue, which is all around us and was created by God. I know of many learned readers of scripture who believe that to be a teaching not ruled out by the Holy Bible, whereas, gravity, like dinosaurs and letting women get all uppity, does not get one mention in the Bible. If God had created gravity, don’t you think he would have mentioned it?
Next the governor will be saying that God didn’t put handles on bananas or put skin on oranges to reduce packaging costs for small businesses, like they say in France.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Rubio attracted controversy when he hid in the Senate toilet to avoid voting on a Tea Party bill to strip accreditation from any geologists who claimed the Earth was over 9,000 years old as alleged in the Holy Bible.
The senator had apparently been about to vote in favour of the bill until he received a phone call from the CEO of Exxon Oil telling him to “knock it off”.
In 1972 Senator George McGovern (who only passed away last month, God rest him), a decorated World War II bomber pilot, went down to a crushing and humiliating 49 state defeat to Richard Nixon. McGovern’s defeat became legendary political shorthand for what was wrong with the Democratic party, which had become insular and obsessed with the various liberal factions that dominated it. The party went on to just barely win the following election mainly by having its opponents self destruct during the Watergate scandal, and it was not until the Democratic Party returned to the centre in 1992 that the party retook the White House. Even then, it was not until 2008 that a modern Democratic candidate for president actually won over 50% of the vote, last time being LBJ in 1964. In short, the Democratic party had wandered too far from the centre.
But this is outrageous, say Republicans. Barack Obama a centrist? Nonsense! And that’s my point. Obama-Biden built an ethnically and socially diverse coalition, stretching from businesspeople to union members, from Christians to secular gay liberals, and when conservatives look at that list and announce that it is a collection of radical causes, they’re wrong. That coalition won 50.8% of the votes cast. The coalition is the American people.
Of course, there are some on the liberal side who are saying that the Republicans will never win an election again. This is nonsense. Mitt Romney won 48% of the vote, more than Bill Clinton won in 1992 and by no means a humiliating result. He nearly won. If Moderate Mitt had shown up from day one, and had not pandered to the far right, could he have won? Very possibly. But that Mitt Romney could never have won the nomination in the first place, and so could not have contested the unlosable election of 2012 with unemployment at 7.8%. That Mitt was not allowed show up, in the same way that John McCain, the maverick independent, was not allowed show up in 2008 either.
Instead, the GOP has created an infernal election-losing machine actually designed to scare away moderate voters. Look at Indiana, where six term GOP senator Richard Lugar, a measured conservative, was ousted by GOP voters and replaced with a candidate who wanted to talk about rape in a way that made moderate voters queasy. Look at tomorrow’s John McCain, Chris Christie, and watch as he’s made take positions in direct opposition to his current stances, such as on abortion where he’s a moderate pro-lifer, or gun control where he opposes the right to carry and conceal guns in public.
As if that isn’t enough, watch and see what happens with immigration. The Obama administration will almost certainly push a new version of the DREAM Act, which will act as the perfect pincher movement on the GOP. The Tea Party will be ready to brand anyone who considers compromise a traitor, and use it in the 2016 primaries. On the other hand, the smarter elements in the GOP like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush will recognise that if the party doesn’t move on immigration, it may, as it did in California, solidify Nevada, New Mexico and Florida in the blue column, and perhaps even put Arizona and long shot Texas into play.
So what’s the GOP to do? Firstly, don’t panic. The party lost by 2% nationally. This isn’t 1964, even if it still would have lost if it had won the popular vote nationally but in the wrong states. America remains a conservative centre-right country and socially conservative, religious and business minded Hispanic voters are still open to being convinced. But the party has to recognise that by neutralising its shrinking but disproportionately influential Old White Angry Guy wing. Perhaps by opening up the primary process more to independent and maybe even Democratic voters? Such a move would, for example, automatically skew the Democratic primaries to the unrepresentative left.
Secondly, the GOP needs to get over its weird hang-ups about sex and homosexuality. There are plenty of moderate voters out there who are uncomfortable about abortion, and would certainly like to see less of it. But getting wild eyed and judgemental about it (and contraception) is just embarrassing them. It’s the same with gay marriage: It seems to surprise Republicans that not every person who supports gay marriage is a New Yorker-reading liberal. Many aren’t even that comfortable with homosexuality, but just believe in minding their own business.
The GOP needs to get back to its small government/mind your own business roots.
Thirdly, the party has to get over its insurgent attitude towards the administration, as indeed does the Democratic Party towards Republicans. Both moderate conservative and liberal voters are fed up with the paralysis, and the first party to talk seriously about compromise has the potential to seize the high ground. Four years of blocking the administration makes Congress just as ineffectual as it does the White House, and feeding into the “illegitimate mandate” rubbish of some on the right is just plain loopy. Someone has got to start governing again, and Republicans have got to stop assuming that Fox News and The Washington Times is the world. It’s not treason to see what the other guy is saying, and occasionally agree with him. Ideological straitjackets, whether against Arlen Specter or Joe Lieberman are just plain nuts.
In short, many Americans are looking for a return to the days when your party lost and it was good sport, as opposed to an alien occupation. It’s time the GOP played its part.
A friend recently observed, watching Mitt Romney’s campaign, that Romney was very similar to John McCain in one significant way. Neither Romney nor McCain resembled, in the final leg of the campaign, the candidates that had made them so attractive in the beginning. Both McCain and Romney had, pre-primary, clear images as relatively moderate candidates with considerable appeal to centrist and moderate voters. If anything, watching Romney debate Ted Kennedy in his 1996 run for the US Senate, one can’t help thinking that he would have made a fine moderate Democrat. Yet the GOP primary process forced both men to recant many of their moderate beliefs, forcing them to dash clumsily for the centre in the general election.
There are plenty of us who have seen this before, where a party is hijacked by its extremist wing. We remember the British Labour Party losing four general elections in a row before it finally confronted the fact that its hard left certainties may have brought comfort to its hardliners, but those same stances alienated the vital centre ground where elections are won. The GOP needs to confront the poisonous influence of the tea party, and the reality that its obsessions are damaging not only to the future of the Republican cause, but more importantly the cause of rational bipartisan compromise upon which the sane and sensible government of the United States and her constitution are based upon.
Good evening. As you know, for the last sixty years my predecessor clones and I have headed up SPECTRE, the Special Executive Council for Terror, Revenge and Extortion. During that time, we have fought various Western governments with their concepts of democracy and the rule of law. Then in the early 1980s, a new Australian member of the Council proposed a different approach. Rather than fight governments directly, why not take them over from inside?
We started by funding candidates willing to support our agenda, who then changed the laws on campaign financing and media balance and fairness, and then set up our own news channel to beam propaganda direct to the public. We also set up special committees to target specific groups of voters who could be bent to our agenda through emotional manipulation.
To be honest, I was sceptical. I’m a bit of a traditionalist, whether it is by stealing nuclear submarines or placing menacing platforms in space, but the results speak for themselves. SPECTRE owned energy and big business interests have done very nicely since 1980, and all legally too! We actually got to write the laws ourselves! And we’re saving a fortune in not having to maintain large and costly private armies. In fact, with the rise in private security outfits after Iraq, we can just buy in hired goons as we need them, without any pesky HR costs. And it’s all tax deductible (SPECTRE ® is a Delaware registered corporation. For tax reasons).
Of course, it’s not all perfect. By the end of the Bush administration, even we were glad to see the back of them, because they were so incompetent. It’s true, we did go in for the oil, but they made such a balls of the occupation that it took ages to get any of the sodding stuff out. Truth is, if Saddam hadn’t haggled so tough on the price, we would have left him there. So when Obama got in, we weren’t that worried. Another Democrat promising the stars. Big deal.
Then he killed that actor from “Knot’s Landing” we hired to play the character of Osama bin Laden, and brought in Universal healthcare and started complaining about how campaigns were financed. Next he’ll be appointing judges who don’t think freedom of speech has a price. Can’t have that. So we’ve decided to run our own campaign. Perhaps you’ve heard of our SuperPAC? SPEcial Committee To get Republicans Elected? By the way, Mitt isn’t a member of SPECTRE, funnily enough. Nor was George W. Probably never even heard of us. That’s not how we operate. No, we prefer to put people close to them. And not who you think either: Dick Cheney isn’t a member, because I know that if I let that bastard in the door he’d be after my job in weeks. Let’s just say, our guy in the Romney administration’s name rhymes with, eh, let’s say…Baul Byan.
So, vote Romey-Ryan on Tuesday. Because evil organisations dedicated to global domination are people too.