WHO LOST AMERICA: “Challenge to democracy!”


Epilogue—A challenge seemingly lost: “But here is the challenge to our democracy,” President Roosevelt said.

He said it in his second inaugural address, in January 1937. The challenge he saw was quite large:
ROOSEVELT (1/20/37): But here is the challenge to our democracy.

In this nation, I see tens of millions of its citizens—a substantial part of its whole population—who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.
Roosevelt saw a profoundly challenged nation. “But it is not in despair that I paint you that picture,” he said. “I paint it for you in hope.”

That was Roosevelt, four years along. Today, we too see a failing nation.

We don’t share that sense of hope.

As Roosevelt looked out, he saw a nation ill-clad, ill-nourished. We see a nation driven by the agents of power—a nation whose established elites can’t reason, think, analyze, feel.

As we speak, power is trying to take back the White House. They’re doing so on a playing field that is littered with the hapless elites of the mainstream press corps and the corporate pseudo-left.

Consider one game the children played last night on The One True Channel.

Obama and Romney had just traded jokes at the Al Smith Dinner. Truth to tell, Romney got bigger laughs—and he had some very good jokes.

Rachel had aired the whole darn thing! In its wake, she knew her job:

She had to serve us our comfort food! She brought out the less than insightful W. Kamau Bell. As they finished serving their poo-poo platter, we were allowed to eat this:
MADDOW (10/18/12): [Romney’s opening joke] was very, very funny.

BELL: But then he reset to Romney face.

MADDOW: Looked very stern while delivering that very funny joke.

BELL: It looks like a guy in a movie who's been stabbed and trying not to show it. The stern Romney face, why are you in so much pain? You’re killing! Enjoy the moment!


MADDOW: What’s the relationship between likability and ability to develop, deliver a joke in this kind of context?

BELL: I mean, you don’t have to be likable to be funny. A lot of comedians are horrible, horrible people. It’s about how comfortable you are in your own skin.


BELL: And I think that’s the thing with Romney. Like the jokes are professional jokes, comedians wrote them, but he still doesn`t seem to be comfortable in his skin.

MADDOW: Yes, authenticity is everything on television and in politics, and in comedy, I think. I think that awkwardness is the thing he’s got to stretch on all of these.
There! Truth to tell, Romney had killed. But Rachel and her compliant guest read us one of our favorite stories as we got into our jammies.

Candidate Romney isn’t authentic! He isn’t comfortable in his own skin!

The children had a bit more time to assemble their “thoughts” before speaking with Lawrence. This let them become even more convinced of Obama’s obvious greatness.

Here’s how their reassuring chat finished up:
LAWRENCE (10/18/12): [Obama’s] line was, “I don’t have a joke for that,” which turned out to be a great joke. That was a beautifully written joke.

JONATHAN: Right. I mean, so I mean— Whoever helped the president come up with his material deserves an A-plus. I think Romney needs to understand the difference between a roast and the Al Smith Dinner.

LAWRENCE: Normally, the candidates for president, they go outside to get professional comedy writing up on these things. But I got to say, the Obama speech writers are the most talented comic speechwriters that have ever had desks in the White House. So, I’m not sure how much they had to get from the outside.

Krystal Ball and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both for joining me tonight.

KRYSTAL: Thanks, Lawrence!
There! After we saw Romney get those big laughs, the children helped us settle down before going nighty-night.

The children are hirelings of corporate suits—and they’re bad for progressive interests. When that is the best we progressives can do, Power and Wealth simply cuff us aside with the back of their cuff-linked hand.

In the rest of our posts today and tomorrow, we’re going to show you some of the ways we’re currently losing our challenge—the challenge which serves as a successor to the one FDR described.

Roosevelt worried about food and shelter. We’ll suggest that you should worry about inanity and the lack of intellectual prowess.

We know! You don’t like to talk about that! You’d better rethink and restart!

We see four major players in the field as our nation is swept away by the corporate-fueled dumbness of its discourse:

Wealth and Power: At present, Wealth and Power are attacking Obama in a way we haven’t seen since the days of Clinton-Gore. They have established a line about Benghazi that the mainstream press corps is rushing to parrot.

As usual, the liberal world seems to have no idea that this is going on. To the extent that the liberal world knows, the liberal world is politely looking away—just as we did in the old days.

Wealth and Power are always active. Wealth and Power will get their way when liberals are so defiantly clueless—when simpering children are sent in the field to represent liberal interests.

Worthless liberal leaders: Rachel, Lawrence, Krystal and Jonathan are paid extremely good money to keep us entertained—and to serve us our comfort food. When children like these represent our interests, disaster is not far off.

Gullible liberal lambs: We liberals are unable to see that our leaders may not represent us well—in some cases, that they don’t represent us at all. We love to rail against Sean and Rush—and we think that Rachel is playing the game quite brilliantly, always on our side.

We are the clueless liberal lambs. Lambs get led to slaughters.

The unskilled mainstream press corps: Our mainstream journos just aren't very smart. To the extent that they try to do their jobs, they are routinely helpless.

“Man [sic] is the rational animal,” Aristotle said. If he could read the New York Times, he wouldn’t say that today.

We liberals rarely seem to notice the groaning lack of intellectual skill which greases our skid to perdition. But make no mistake: Power has an easy way to go with low-IQ players like these in the field. Progressives have to learn to complain about this or we’re going to lose our new challenge.

In a series of posts in the next few days, we’ll largely focus on the lack of intellectual skill within the mainstream press corps. We’ll look at their undying love for silly, inane distractions. We’ll look at their undying love for stupid-ass, low-IQ scripts.

We’ll look at the way they struggle and strain to get themselves in line with aggressive right-wing scripts. At present, they are doing so in a way we haven’t seen since the days of Clinton and Gore. Rachel hasn’t even noticed—or she knows she mustn’t tell.

Last night, we got our comfort food after Romney told some very strong jokes. Moments later, Lawrence was playing the unvarnished fool, as he so often does.

Incredibly, Lawrence adopted a Dorchester accent as he invited Tagg Romney to et a time and a place for a fist-fight.

Below, we show you the conclusion to this long pitiful segment. No, we didn’t make this up.

To watch this ridiculous conduct, click here. Power loves clowns of this type:
O’DONNELL (10/17/12): OK, Taggart, let's have a little talk, just you and me, you.

When I hear you talk about taking a swing and taking punches, why do I get the feeling that you have never actually taken a punch or thrown a punch? I didn’t have that luxury in the part of Boston that I grew up in.

But in your rich suburban Boston life, with your father filling a 100 million dollar trust fund for you, I don’t know. I just get the feeling that things were kind of different for you.

Now, I know you’ve got a lot—a lot to be pissed off at these days, starting with the name Taggart, which you have every right to be wicked pissed off at for every day of the 42 years of your life. So let me try to help you deal with all this aggression you are feeling right now. You are mad at President Obama for calling your father a liar?

Let’s get something straight. He didn’t call your father a liar. I did. The president just said that what your father said isn’t true. I have been saying all year that your father is a liar. I’ve repeatedly said that your father lies, and is trying to lie his way into the White House.

So you want to take a swing at someone for calling your old man a liar? Take a swing at me. Come on. Come on. And don’t worry, there won’t be any Secret Service involved. Just us. And I’ll make it easy for you. I’ll come to you anytime, anywhere.

Go ahead, Taggart, take your best shot.
O’Donnell has been visibly crazy for years. (For what it's worth, he's also a rather obvious anti-Mormon bigot.)

Meanwhile, just so you’ll know the Dickensian truth about this lunatic’s childhood:

O’Donnell’s father was a lawyer. According to the Los Angeles Times, the family had a summer home on Cape Cod. According to the Boston Globe, all four of his siblings became lawyers too.

O'Donnell prepped at Saint Sebastian, an all-boys Catholic secondary school nestled on 26 acres in Needham, Mass., a rich surburb. After that, four years at Harvard, a college just outside Boston!

As you perhaps begin to see, O’Donnell is a genuine nut. (He seems to think he's the star of Good Will Hunting.) But because he votes our way, we liberal lambs can’t see it! Power and Wealth adore such opponents. Such people are easy to beat.

FDR painted his picture in hope. Today, we’re much less hopeful.

FDR had to deal with hunger. Corporate-fueled posturing and manifest dumbness are much more destructive opponents.

Must be heard to be believed: Lawrence’s invitation to fight went on for almost eleven minutes. Don’t miss the Dorchester accent this world-class nut effects all through his rant.

To gaze on Power’s number-one helper, go ahead—just click here.

This man has been nuts for a very long time. In case you haven't figured it out, that’s why the corporate suits bought him.


  1. Routinely helpless! Nail on the head:P

  2. Well, once again Chicken Little Somerby proclaims the sky is falling and his evidence? What Maddow and O'Donnell said to maybe 500,000 viewers of their cable TV shows, not all of whom necessarily agreed with them.

    Yes, Bob. If it is any consolation, I too thought the efforts to determine who won the Al Smith Dinner were silly.

    And I actually turned the channel in the middle of O'Donnell's macho man rant about Tagg Romney, it was that bad. (As I noted yesterday, Tagg Romney is an adult and he's a nitwit. Move on.)

    But you know what Bob? The fate of democracy in the United States doesn't depend on the words of Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O'Donnell.

    Like Tagg saying he wanted to take a punch at the president, in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty inconsequential.

    But of course, not to you. Here you are, actually equating in importance what Maddow and O'Donnell did last night with FDR's second inaugural address, as if there words last night undid everything FDR stood for and accomplished.

    In other words, Somerby, you are being exactly as silly in exactly the same way that O'Donnell in particular was in blowing Tagg's stupid little remark out of all proportion.

    1. You have a point, Anon. However, it seems to me that Bob's running complaint goes a bit farther than the faults of MSNBC talking heads.

      Bob has complained that liberals like the flawed MSNBC folks simply because they're on the liberal side. E.g., in this post, Bob said liberals don't see that O’Donnell is a genuine nut because he votes liberal.

      In other words, liberals are more interested in winning than in promoting true liberal values.

    2. Well, David, if Somerby proclaims to know what "liberals" see and don't see, he's dead wrong.

      For example, this "liberal" (meaning me, the only "liberal" I can speak for!) really doesn't hang on to every word Maddow or O'Donnell says as if they were descending from Mt. Sinai.

      And if I were to list the top threats to U.S. democracy, I doubt I would list Krystal Ball or Jonathan Chait at all.

  3. They were "troubled" by Romney's failure to laugh at his own jokes because that's all these ridiculous clowns know how to do. Binders of women!

  4. Some are always going to say, don't talk about the failure of the visible liberal leaders -- Nobody watches that show anyway, they say, repeatedly.

    Don't talk about Maddow, O'Donnell. Don't talk about the New York Times. Don't talk about WaPo.

    Don't talk about the ineffective, enabling failure of liberals and so-called liberals!

    Talk about what I want you to talk about. Talk about FOX!

    That's what some folks say, again and again and again.

    Thanks again for ignoring those idiots, Bob.

    1. What I am saying is why pick only the low-hanging fruit and call that media criticism?

      And why, if you think they are so dumb, raise Maddow, O'Donnell to such a level of importance that you obsess daily about what they say?

      Let me help you out here:

      What Tagg Romney said was incredibly dumb. Move on.

      What Lawrence O'Donnell said about what Tagg Romney said was incredibly dumber. Move on.

      Neither one is worth five more seconds of my time.

    2. I don't see only the low-hanging fruit getting picked at this site.

      This particular piece today obviously seems anyway to be prelude/introduction to a series.

      But even that context doesn't imply that O'Donnell's stupidity must pass without comment.

    3. Come on. Do you really think Maddow's judgment of the Al Smith Dinner or O'Donnell's ridiculous reaction to Tagg Romney's silly comment is worth the bandwidth it took to condemn them?

      That is pretty low-hanging fruit.

    4. "Only" the low-hanging fruit. It was your choice of words. Now you want to pretend otherwise?

  5. Since Bob is always badly flailing for post material these days and once again resorts to the vile Maddow and O'Donnell for reverse inspiration, might I suggest a topic that might be worth discussing for our own Harvard media critic?

    How about examining the impact of the telvised debates on media coverage in general of campaigns. And extra points if he can reach beyond the last dumb thing an MSNBC host or an NYT op-edder said.

    In my observation, media coverage for the entire month of October has been absolutely consumed by the debates, and specifically by the beauty contest aspects of them to the exclusion of everything else, including discussion of serious issues.

    In other words, what the candidate says becomes far less important than how they said it. And winners and losers are judged, at least by the media savants, by how well each side spins its story.

    Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I happen to think it's not very good thing, but again that depends on how real people are watching these things and what they are taking away from them.

    And that could be something entirely different from the cable TV hosts and the op-edders stuck in their own "conventional wisdom."

    1. This grown-up boy needs a blog of his own, I'd say.

      Drop by and leave a link, 'kay?

    2. Seriously. Obviously he's very wise and thoughtful. Why constrain your contributions to trolling Bob Somerby? Stop hiding that little light of yours under a bushel, anonymous!

    3. Because writing a GOOD, thoughtful blog is hard work and very time consuming.

      Writing like Somerby does? Watch MSNBC, and bang out a knee-jerk reaction?

      Pretty easy.

    4. Pretending you think this site is created solely by watching MSNBC?

      Easy, false, and the Anonymous Idiot's trademark move.

      Keep it up, douchetroll!

    5. Right YAA of many names. All you ever add to any discussion are playground insults at those who dare point to your emperor's wardrobe, and I'm the troll.

  6. In today's times a quote from a candidate that believes the press isn't getting his 'positive vision' for the future out there.

    Mr. Romney also took his swipes at the news media. “My job is to lay out a positive vision for the future of the country, and their job is to make sure no one else finds out about it,” he said. ...

    Now that's brass...

    1. And I do make this comment in the light of Bob's post about our intellectually absent press overlords...

    2. Wasn't that one of his jokes at the Al Smith dinner? Good grief, folks.

    3. Just to be clear, I thought that was a good, funny line. In fact, I thought both guys were pretty funny last night, and as I watched, it was as refreshing as a rain shower on a hot August afternoon.

      And the Al Smith Dinner is like that every year, except in those years when whoever the cardinal is gets mad at one candidate or the other and doesn't invite either one.

      It's the one chance during the October run-up to the election when both candidates can relax, take a deep breath, and poke fun at themselves and each other.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. @anon 11:42 - I agree with you about the total event, its purpose - yes I agree Romney was funny in general.

      @Anon 11:38 - sorry for being a party pooper

      That specific quote just kind of popped out of the overall humorous context for me given a) the word 'swipe' in the quote and the subtext that it was an hoary republican script used perennially to discipline the press b) my belief that if the press did their job as TDH prescribes and c) if they were as a consequence to lay out the particulars of his vision, I am guessing he would not be so pleased by the army of Crowlys coming after him.

  7. I thought we were all agreed by now that the owners of MSNBC, Comcast and GE, will employ neither left-wing truth-tellers nor skilled left-wing polemicists -- say, the equivalent of Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly, both of whom are effective propagandists, at least when they control the mic (Limbaugh notably collapses when faced with an adversary who can't be cut-off at will). And for obvious reasons. They're after ratings, of course, but they have no desire or intention of converting the American public into liberals or leftists, in the way Fox has virtually created the Tea Party class.

    So, spending day upon day on MSNBC talking heads would seem rather a waste of time, unless the true target of the attack is corporate America and its employment policies. But it's apparently Maddow and O'Donnell themselves who get Bob's goat, not MSNBC per se. From some reason, he doesn't blame the likes of Jack Welch, as he's been known to do, repeatedly, when accounting for the miserable careers of Matthews and Russert. So these endless personal diatribes seem both gratuitous and irrelevant.

    The NYT, however, is not low-hanging fruit. But all means, have at it -- *particularly* stories which parade as news. Progress here may even be possible. For example, the Times finally has a public editor who appears to understand her job,a little.

    Of course, media will never represent views or analysis associated with the left, until the U.S. has a political party representative of those views. And, at this rate, it never will.