Running on Empty

“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace, that two become a law firm, and that three or more become a congress.” — John Adams

There are two enduring images from my childhood. The first is my grandfather’s description of the end of the world as a fiery catastrophe revealed to us in the Bible. The second is the infamous Doomsday Clock that counted the minutes until nuclear annihilation. Honestly, growing up as a Black Baptist in the shadow of the Cold War, I cannot say which outcome was more frightening to me then. Yet as luck would have it, Communism collapsed, taking with it the threat of mutually-assured destruction; and the Biblical apocalypse so vividly described from the pulpit of my neighborhood church assumed its place alongside other cultural myths shelved in my mind.

Having thus fallen out of the habit of thinking about the END OF TIME (except for the Zombie Apocalypse, I desperately want a Zombie Apocalypse), I was more than a little surprised to see a return of cataclysmic visions and predictions arising from the Federal Government shutdown and unsuccessful (to date) negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.

Now I am the first to admit that I am not an expert in the intricacies of the Federal budget and the politics behind it. That said, it is perfectly clear even to an Ivy League poseur like me that people are suffering and that both the power and image of the United States are in serious jeopardy. To be sure, there is plenty of blame to go around for this deplorable situation; but the House Republicans have achieved savant status in the art of self-destruction.

As a Republican, I agree with the desire to control spending and reform entitlement programs. I can even understand the urge to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. (In my view, the effort to do so, however, was a waste of precious time and goodwill.) But I am simply stunned that the Party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan seems content to bring about fiscal ruin under the guise of “upholding principle.” Make no mistake. If our financial house collapses, the GOP will be MUD.

At the risk of summoning the ire of my fellow Republicans, I lay the blame for this calamity at the feet of one person: Speaker John Boehner. Call me Old School, but I fervently believe that if “Tip” O’Neill were still alive and Speaker of the House, there would be no “Tea Party Overlords.” (Thank you, Harry Reid, for one of the best phrases of 2013.) The Tea Party would be just another caucus of House members with a particular agenda. We would have a deal — and not one that would expire in a mere six weeks. And perhaps most importantly, the Speaker of the House and the President of the United States would appear together on camera to announce that they had reached an agreement. The American people and the world would see and understand that the Republic had emerged even stronger for having endured tough but fair negotiations.

But alas, Tip, the Gipper, and the great deal-makers of Congresses past are gone. Our nation is now being run by petulant children for whom compromise is as odious as castor oil.

The fiscal doomsday clock ticks on. Yes, there is still time to avoid, in the words of a classic R.E.M. song, “the end of the world as we know it.” But our so-called leaders should be ashamed that their endless bickering has brought us all to the brink of oblivion – again. We the People deserve better.

I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People (Don’t) Like Me!

Mitt Romney must feel as if he has truly entered the Twilight Zone, or that he is Stewart Smalley’s evil twin.  He is accomplished, intelligent, (sometimes) well-spoken, attractive, focused, determined, and very, very rich.  His opponents for the Republican nomination include a brilliant, but erratic and irascible former Speaker of the House, a conservative zealot trying to revive a derailed political career, and a libertarian maverick.  By any stretch of the conventional political imagination, Romney should be the poster child for a resounding victory against a weakened incumbent Democrat in November.  (What would the late GOP strategist Lee Atwater have done with a hand of cards like these?)  And yet…he seems unable to close the deal.  Or rather, the Republican rank and file just do not seem to be convinced that he is the man to lead them to the Promised Land of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Indeed, the latest polls of Republican voters place former Senator Rick “Sweater vest” Santorum ahead of Romney. How can this be so?  By most accounts, Romney has done just about everything right in his pursuit to become the standard-bearer for the Republican Party: he has piles of money, a disciplined organization, and a message that should resonate in hard economic times.  (And he has fabulous hair!)  To be sure, he as made some foolish statements; but to my knowledge he has neither said nor done anything that has made him unelectable.  Some say that the reason for the unease about Romney is that he is “not conservative enough.”  Others think that there may be a lingering prejudice against Mormons.  (I suspect, however, that these may be the same people who persist in believing that President Obama is a Muslim.)  Still others maintain that Romney’s capitalist success story has made it impossible for him to comprehend the plight of the struggling middle and lower classes of American society.  I do not pretend to have an answer for this baffling state of affairs.  Many people with bigger brains and even bigger paychecks are working around the clock on this one.  I have little doubt that the Romney Machine will find a way into the hearts — as well as the minds — of the GOP faithful.  The Man from Massachusetts may get a little bloody, and his perfectly pressed shirt and blue jeans may show a bit of mud from the campaign trail; but he will capture the nomination — and perhaps even the respect and devotion of his fellow Republicans. But Romney may find the 2012 Election to be the “dark, drizzly November of [his] soul.”  Why?  He just might win.  As the old adage goes, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”

Greetings from the Philadelphia Negro

Now that I have your attention, we should get a few things straight:

1.  I took the name of my blog from W.E.B. DuBois’ classic book: The Philadelphia Negro, A Social Study.  Now he was an intellectual.

2.  I am African American, a very liberal Republican (in the mold of the late Jack Kemp); and yes, I voted to elect President Barack Obama.

3. I am not a native of Philadelphia.  I am a Southerner, from North Carolina.  I have a Ph.D. in early American history (Princeton) and have been drawn to Philadelphia from the moment I read the first lines of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

4.  I am interested in literature, history, science, music, and just about everything else.  I intend to write about it all.  Do yourself a favor and do not try to find a pattern in my posts.

5.  I look forward to thinking and writing about things, and to hearing from anyone who might be interested in the same stuff.

Thanks.