Obama Pardons Manning: Shit Just Got Real

Hold on to your knicker bottoms, the Dems are done playing nice.

Emma Lindsay
Jan 18, 2017 · 8 min read

Get yourself some popcorn, the next 4 years are gunna be a spectacle.

Like em or loath em, one thing that has differentiated the Democrats from the Republicans in recent years is Democrat willingness to “reach over party lines” and “negotiate” with Republicans. Republicans haven’t really done that. I don’t mean this as an insult to the Republicans. Au contraire: I think the Democrats have been pussies and liars.

This seemed to really hit full steam with Bill Clinton, who championed and signed into law several traditionally Republican causes (often ones that the Republicans had written up themselves.) Notably he:

  • Got NAFTA through congress and signed it into law (opening up world trade and, probably, losing many US jobs.)
  • Passed the Violent Crime act that exacerbated the problem of racist imprisonment and resulted in the “largest increases in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history” (according to Michelle Alexander of The New Jim Crow.)
  • Cut welfare in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 96
  • Repealed Glass-Steagall which probably led to the banking crash and Wall Street bailout in the late 2000s

Before Clinton, this is all shit the Republicans had been trying to pass but couldn’t pass. But, Clinton could pass it, because he was able to get a few Dems on board with partisan tribalism, and then the Republicans continued to vote for these changes. Because he did all this as a Democrat, he was able to push through far more conservative changes than your average ‘publican could have. Had any Republican tried to get these through congress, they would have needed to make far more concessions to the Democrats.

What’s even nastier than all this, however, is Clinton spoke with the language of progress. He said “blacks are right to think something is terribly wrong … when there are more African American men in our correction system than in our colleges…” (from Listen Liberal) while at the same time passing some of the most racist and oppressive prison laws ever.

Conservatives have picked up on this aspect of Democratism — that Democrats will claim to be doing one thing while secretly doing another. Democrats will also frequently slander their opponents as “stupid” without understanding their legitimate complaints. Liberal Silicon Valley — seen by many as a potential bastion of “enlightenment” in a “regressive” Trumpian era — has created one of the whitest and most male dominated industries in recent history. While waxing poetically of their commitment to equality, they refuse to hire women, they refuse to promote them, and they definitely refuse to fund companies with female founders. Ditto for under-reprsented racial minorities (usually, blacks and latinos) and it may even be true for over-represented minorities (south and east Asians) who have trouble breaking into the higher ranks. I am highly familiar with the hypocrisy of liberals because I have lived through it for decades.

If you look at what conservatives attack about liberals, it’s often their word policing. This comment from utopiabuster on The Blaze basically concisely sums up conservative thought on the matter: “The left’s agenda is to criminalize speech and thought. Especially if it’s from a conservative or republican,” and utopiabuster isn’t wrong. If you say something sexist in a Silicon Valley office, you will be fired. If you found an all male company, refuse to hire women, and/or underpay your female employees, as long as you say the right things, no one cares! Liberals suffer from a long history of judging people on what they say instead of what they do.

If you want to know where anger against liberals comes from, look at the places they have broken their promises. And, one of the biggest reasons liberals break their promises is that they make too many concessions to the conservatives. Clinton practically was a conservative, and Obama was unable to strongly oppose the conservatives.

In Obama’s defense, he really kind of couldn’t have been too partisan because he faced stiff oppositions from Republicans in congress. The one highly partisan piece of legislation he did pass was Obamacare, which received no Republican votes, but everything else he passed had at at least some Republican support. However, many of Obama’s bipartisan agreements aren’t talked about much, because they’re messy.

For instance, in 2010, Obama traded the Republicans and extended Bush’s tax cuts for 2 years if they’d agree to an extension for long term unemployment insurance. (The tax cut extension ultimately ended in 2012.) He also got bipartisan support for The Sequester to reduce the deficit by 2.5 trillian dollars through spending cuts and tax increases, but tax increases and spending cuts are super unpopular so no one talks about The Sequester much. Ultimately, Obama often gave the Republicans a bunch of shit so he could get other shit done.

And, you know, maybe that was necessary, and maybe in another time it would have been great. Unfortunately, the country was already pulled so far right by the Clinton presidency that we needed someone to undo the damage Clinton had done, and Obama didn’t do that. Maybe he couldn’t do that, and maybe he laid some groundwork we can’t see yet which will ultimately allow some of the damage to be corrected, but for now it seems like too little too late.

Strangely though, we may have someone who can claw it back. This may sound totally insane, but Trump could be to the Republicans what Clinton was to the Democrats. It is a bizarre thought that, ultimately, Trump could be the balancing factor our country needs, but he is saying some traditionally liberal things.

President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of “insurance for everybody,” while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid.

Trump vows ‘insurance for everybody’ in Obamacare replacement plan, The Washington Post

So… he’s claiming support of universal health care. He’s taken, basically, the same line as Bernie Sanders on NAFTA and TPP (trade deals that promoted globalization.) He’s supporting paid maternity leave (and, all the liberals can think to do is insult it because it doesn’t include men.) He wants to spend a lot of money on infrastructure projects a la Roosevelt. There’s a lot of liberal in that Republican, possibly because he used to be a Democrat.

I mean… maybe I’m too much the optimist. I’m worried about the environment, I’m worried about the registry of Muslims, I’m worried about “the wall”, and I’m worried about the race bating. On the other hand, I’ll bet he can’t implement policies nearly as damaging as Clinton did because he’ll face high opposition and scrutiny on these issues. The Dems will dig in and fight to the bitter end.

That’s where the Democrats look like they’re at now, willing to fight and with nothing left to lose. And, I think that’s what I’ve really taken away from Obama’s pardon of Manning. Chelsea Manning was a controversial figure, one that many liberals champion, but one many conservatives view as a traitor. (Though, some libertarian leaning conservatives also supported her release.) Had Hillary won the election, I’ll bet Obama would have played it cooler. I’ll bet he would have done everything he could to ease her transition, and wouldn’t have poked the hive with such a controversial pardon. But now? Fuck it.

The Democrats are angry (as evidenced by all the protests) and I do think they have reason to be. I think the Republicans have refused to play by the rules on many occasions. It was absolutely Obama’s right to appoint a supreme court justice, and the Republicans stole it. The Republicans have gerrymandered the shit out of the country which will make their hold of congress fairly difficult to break. They have also implemented wide scale voter suppression, and done nasty things like reduced the power of the governor in North Carolina when a Democrat came into office.

What we are seeing, by many Republicans, is essentially a suppression of the will of the people. The reason this is particularly nasty, is that when a party gets voted out, it needs to change its policies to win back voters. The Republican party is not being forced to tailor its policies to its constituents because it is using these other mechanisms to stay in power. This is what is turning the US into an oligarchy.

And, the Dems are super pissed about all this. A lot of their vitriol has been focused on Trump, but I still think Trump’s a wild card. I’m willing to judge him on what he does rather than what he says but I’m going to feel like a real, fucking idiot if we end up with internment camps. I’m going to feel especially bad if I end up in one.

But we do know that many of the Republicans have been hella nasty, and I think the Democrats are done making nice. I think they’re done compromising, and they’re done reaching “across the aisle.” For all their compromising gestures, the Republicans have returned none of them. I think the Dems are going to pull out every dirty trick in the book. “When they go low, we go high” didn’t work so now it’s a race to the bottom.

And frankly, I think this is a shame.

I think this is a shame because, insane though the Republicans are, the Democrats did some real wrongs to the country. They present themselves as the “only reasonable choice” but if they really were the only reasonable choice, they’d be in power. If they were really the only reasonable choice, they wouldn’t have presided over historic income inequality. If they were really the only reasonable choice, they wouldn’t have pushed through the largest expansion to the prison system in modern history.

We are living in a world where there is no reasonable choice and so we have elected the unreasonable.

So, what next?

I think it could have been saved. I think the US could have been saved if people were willing to own up to their mistakes, if we had less partisanship, if we had taken income inequality more seriously 8 years ago. But we don’t live in that world. We live in a world of violent, angry people who seem to want to hurt their enemy more than they want to help their country. We live in a world where the only people who can get anything done are crossover politicians, because people identify with parties more than they understand the policies they’re voting on. We live in a country where it seems like people have given up on making the old way work, and they’re willing to torch the traditions of the past.

So, I guess now, we watch it burn and see what arises from the ashes.

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