Everything Burns: The Joker Theory and How The Dark Knight Explains The Tea Party

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Thinking about the current government shutdown, I’m reminded of something I told my cousin 2 years ago in the middle of that debt ceiling crisis-the Tea Party is like The Joker in The Dark Knight and this scene is probably what it looks like when “moderate” Republicans talk to their Tea Party counterparts:

It resonated with him quite well that we talked several times over the next couple of days about it and the debt crisis.

As we have both a shutdown and another debt crisis on the way, I figured I’d explain this theory to the big World Wide Web:

At the beginning of The Dark Knight, the mob is in trouble. Where once they ran Gotham, Batman is squeezing them out. Low level criminals are too scared to break the law. Drug suppliers aren’t available in Gotham. The various criminal organizations have had to cartel their efforts and are at the mercy of foreign money launderers. Worst of all, the government and the people of Gotham have begun to stand up to the mobsters who they once feared.

Enter The Joker. Before Batman began his (caped) crusade, he was just a psychotic small-time thief who ripped off fellow criminals. Now, he has a proposition for the mob: he will kill Batman for half of their money. With all of them facing jail time, the mob agrees. Soon, The Joker begins a reign of terror. He starts killing judges and police chiefs. Then (as shown in the above clip) he turns on the mob. Soon the whole city is in a state of chaos.

I saw parallels between this and the Tea Party. For decades, the moderate wing of the Republican Party has been withering away. From Reagan to Gingrich to Bush 43, the Republican Establishment has been concerned about gaining and exploiting power through what ever means necessary. However, their policies, from the Iraq War to tax cuts to deregulating Wall Street have been disasters. People began to turn on their ideas and, in 2008, Republicans were in tatters. They had come off of 2 election cycles where the Democrats had exceeded expectations and where Barack Obama had done better than any Presidential candidate in 20 years. Things were not looking good.

Even with these losses, Republicans and their business allies were not interested in compromise. They decided they were going to oppose Obama’s agenda tooth and nail. The hope was by preventing him from passing anything the American people would turn on the President and he would loose reelection. Things would go back to the way they were. However, Republicans were not very popular. They needed a new group.

Enter the Tea Party. For decades, there has always been an element on the right that has opposed the rights of workers, women, minorities, and gays and for businesses to have no restrictions on making a profit and the police and churches having more control over our daily lives. The genius of the Republican establishment has been to keep them at arms length while using them as the ground troops of the conservative movement. With the election of Obama, the barriers they had erected in the past were torn down. Republicans embraced this fringe with money and support.

At first, it appeared to pay off. Town Halls of Democratic officials were interrupted by right-wing protestors. When Ted Kennedy died, Republican Scott Brown got elected in blue-state Massachusetts, putting Obamacare’s passage in peril. In the fall of 2010, Republicans retook the House. With a weak economy and high unemployment, it looked like Republicans were going to go back to the days of 2003.

However, the Republicans now had a beast they couldn’t control. As Rachel Maddow pointed out, as early as 2010, Tea Partiers were calling for a shut down just to shut down the government. Their idea was government is so terrible, anything to take it down was okay. They downplay the effects of laying off thousands of government employees and even of the United States defaulting on its debt. Liberals know that transitioning from a bad system (like private health care) to a better one (like public health care) takes time and patience and requires compromises that ensure people don’t have a rough ride to a better place. Tea Parties don’t really care about making a smooth transition to their libertarian utopia. If the world burns, they’ll watch with joy.

Last year proved the Republican embrace of the Tea Party was a failure. Barack Obama pushed through a far-reaching agenda not seen since the Great Society. In political terms, it failed to stop Obama’s reelection and get control of the Senate out of the Democrat’s hands. If it wasn’t for gerrymandering, Democrats might control the House as well. Despite their failures, the Tea Party is even stronger. The Republican leadership lives in fear of loosing their jobs to more radical members of their party. Pleas by several business interests to moderate have been ignored. The Tea Party appears to be determined to take down the federal government, just because they can.

Now, The Dark Knight comparison isn’t perfect. First of all, the main theme of the movie-whether The Batman is a good influence on Gotham or inspires madness-isn’t applicable. Barack Obama isn’t the Caped Crusader. He’s the democratically elected leader of the United States, not a masked vigilante living a double life. I suppose you could compare him to Harvey Dent. However, I’m certain he’d wouldn’t become a vigilante if things get rough and he suffers a major personal tragedy.

However, the is also one parallel that sadly doesn’t exist. In The Dark Knight, after Harvey’s tragedy, the mob tells Commissioner Gordon where The Joker is. It was reported today there are many in the business community, while scared of the effects of the shutdown or a debt default, still hope the Tea Party can pull off suspending Obamacare and getting tax and entitlement cuts.

We can only hope someone care get through to the Tea Party and explain Why this is So Serious…

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Nope-it’s still about guns

I’ll make this quick-

Maybe it’s just me but it seems the pro-gun lobby has really been hitting the mental health angle a lot recently. I keep hearing “the real thing we need to stop shootings is to fix our mental health system.”

I’m all in favor of fixing it but this is not that hard to understand-

People with powerful guns kill a lot more people than people without powerful guns.

If Adam Landza had gone into Sandy Hook with a knife, or a hunting riffle or even with a gun with just 10 rounds, would there have been the same amount of casualties? Sure, let’s fix our mental health system. However, if you want to reduce gun violence, there is no other way than to reduce access to powerful guns…

Conservatives: Anti-Growth

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If there is one thing we always hear it’s conservatives are pro-growth.  It’s in the Club for Growth’s web page title.  It’s used by Rep. Paul Ryan and also used to describe his programs.  Rising star in the GOP Senator Ted Cruz recently spoke as to how pro-growth policies can bring Latinos into the party.  Pro-growth has become an accepted buzz word for conservatives.

The usual response for liberals is to point to their more successful growth record.  While Republicans long for the 1950s because of social issues, Democrats long for that same period for its high tax rates and union density.  What is often missed, however, is like so many Republican buzz words, “pro-growth conservative” is just another hallow slogan.

Many people have this fantasy about the New Deal coming about because Democrats took advantage of a crisis.  At the beginning of Obama’s first term, his then Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel said “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”  However, what is missing from this is the facts.  Most of the New Deal reforms we most remember (Social Security, the Wagner Act) came about in 1935-1936.  By that point, unemployment had begun to fall dramatically.  Many of the famous pushes for unionization came from firms like GM or US Steel, places that paid more than the average American worker received.  As times were getting better, people began to look beyond their immediate needs and ask about things like retirement and treatment at the workplace.

The Great Society represented the period of greatest liberal achievement in American history.  It also was occurring at a period of great economic growth.  By the end of the decade, workers received more than 50% of what they were receiving before.  With the pie getting bigger, people didn’t object to others demanding a bigger slice of it.  People could focus on issues like full citizenship for African Americans and eliminating poverty.  The more prosperous people, the merrier.

By the 1970s, however, the economy began to slow down and people began to fight for what was theirs.  This is when we saw the break between working class whites and the left.  The politics of division-black against white, educated vs unskilled, union against non-union-has been based on the idea you’re going to receive less not more and you have to fight to keep what’s yours.

Republicans have probably taken it too far with the “makers not takers” rhetoric.  Blaming 30-nearly 50% of the country is too large a group to not piss off enough voters to swing elections.  However, when you look at how Obamacare was portrayed-taking away health services from deserving Medicare recipients and people who work to those undeserving unemployed folks-to the stimulus-giving cushy payouts to deadbeat public sector employees at the expense of job creators-to plans to help underwater homeowners-remember, they shouldn’t have gotten a mortgage!-you see the common rhetoric-things are getting worse, so you have to hold to what’s yours.

The thing is, this isn’t anything new with conservative though.  At the beginning of the Great Depression, conservative economist Joseph Schumpeter stated:

“A depression is healthy! Like a good ice-cold douche!” If depressions did not exist, Schumpeter thought, we would have to invent them. They were “the respiration of the economic mechanism.”

If “pro-growth,” were just another empty, focus-group tested slogan, it might not matter.  However, as we continue to go from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis, we must remember it really is in the conservatives best interest to tank the economy.  They may not realize this-and some may not believe this-but if there is greater growth, people will begin to demand to have a greater part in it.  So long as people are fending for themselves in the present, they will not look toward a better future.

Everything Is Political

Now that the Obama campaign is done, I’ve been thinking about spending some more time writing, especially now that I’m also job hunting.  I’ve been debating about what my first post should be about at this blog.  I am passionate about about a great many topics-transportation, labor rights, the role of government, taxes, conservatism, race in America, movies, music, allied airborne operations in the Netherlands during World War II (hence the title of this blog).  However, something about today’s tragic shooting has struck a nerve.

I have seen a few people saying “let’s talk about politics later” or “let’s make it about the victims and not about lawmakers.”  Too often I hear this remark about a great many things.  I have been known to kill conversations when I’d explain to people what my job was.  “Organizer, what do you organize?”  “Ah, politics…”  Then people would talk about how both sides are wrong and how they didn’t care much for politics.

The thing is everything is political.  The right has understood this for years.  Before the 1970s, the way religious conservatives protested what politicians did was by not voting.  Now, they show up in such huge numbers and dominate the debate so much every politician has to end their speech with “God Bless America!”  On issue after issue, from taxes to crime to war to “family values,” conservatives learned being in your face and getting people to think about these things is far more effective than being polite and nice about it.

If you want to know why I’m passionate about politics, it’s because of days like today.  Was the shooter thinking about American gun control laws?  Probably not.  However, these laws affected those who lost their lives today.  Here is an issue where the vast majority of Americans support sensible policies but politicians are too afraid of those in the minority because they will be more likely to vote.

So, next time someone says “can we not talk about politics?” just remember-everything is political…