In 2008, 140 of my blog posts were tagged with “Current Affairs”. This number is inflated a bit, since 2008 was the year I spent posting about 1968, which added a lot of Current Affairs posts that weren’t actually “current”. Still, that’s about three times a week that I had something to say about current affairs.
This is the 12th post of 2012 that has gotten a Current Affairs tag. About once a month, rather than thrice a week.
Where did those 128 posts go?
I can think of a couple of reasons for why my posts on politics have all but disappeared. The primary reason is that I no longer feel qualified to speak on the subject. My specialty, as it were, has always been cultural studies, which often and perhaps always includes some measure of politics, but I know more about Bruce Springsteen and Citizen Kane than I do about the high and low points of politics. I’m not any less qualified now than I was before to write about these things. But I’ve come to the realization that my contributions are almost entirely of the “my opinion is” variety, which aren’t particularly useful.
There’s another reason why I tread lightly in this area. In 2008, and in fact for the first seven years of this blog, George Bush was president. I hated him so much, I made “fucking dickhead” into a minor-league meme. Whenever I needed to fill space, I could always count on the Bushies to do something worthy of my wrath.
Now? We’re finishing a fourth year with Barack Obama as president. I find a lot to like about Obama, but much of that pleasure comes from what he does when he’s being Barack rather than Mr. President. I’ve never understood the complaints that he doesn’t seem to blend in well with “regular” folks. I don’t see that. I see a man who can switch from Leader of the Free World to Guy Having a Burger or Guy Playing Hoops without a hitch. One of my fondest memories of the first four years of Obama’s presidency is when he had Willie Mays as his guest on Air Force One.
But what about that Mr. President guy? I’m not going to say there is no difference between the two major parties. I think the Republicans have done a terrific job of defining themselves out of the center, where the two parties might come together. And while I might find Obama less able than FDR or LBJ, the two presidents who helped form my vision of the possibilities of the presidency when I was a kid, I understand that times are different, that Obama faces different hurdles than did those other presidents, and that Roosevelt and especially Johnson weren’t what you’d call perfect.
And I admit that one reason I voted for Obama in the past, and will vote for him again later today, is because I think it is massively important, in cultural terms, that we finally have a black president. I’ve voted for many African-Americans for president in the past, as well as women, Latino/as, and other minority categories I can no longer recall … I have, as my mom used to say, “wasted” my vote plenty of times. But Obama is the first one who actually had a chance to win.
So why are there only 12 posts about politics this year, compared to 140 four years ago?
Because I get no pleasure from pointing out that Obama’s record on civil liberties has been shockingly awful. I think his continuance (and at times expansion) of his predecessor’s actions in this area will prove to be the most long-lasting of his policies. I think that he is helping to make outrageous intrusions into our lives into something “normal” and acceptable. And I think that one day we’ll have a president who isn’t as likable as Barack Obama, and he’ll take the powers that Obama has solidified and do frightful things with them.
I don’t know why I enjoyed beating up on Bush, but have pulled back for the most part from beating up on Obama. I suppose it’s a combination of the above: I don’t often know what I’m talking about, there is much to like about Obama, and I don’t want to bring up old fights about third-party possibilities. (It was one thing to hear people tout the greatness of Bush. It’s much more bothersome for me on a personal basis to hear my friends tout the greatness of Obama.) I feel for a lot of Obama’s constituents (my neighbors, to pick an obvious example) in ways I never did for Bush’s (i.e. not my neighbors).
So I’m not quite doing the “holding my nose” procedure when I cast my vote for Obama. But I don’t have much enthusiasm for that vote, which is ultimately as confused as this blog post.