Michael Ventura seems to have two modes: political mode and cultural mode. The former consists almost entirely of quoting newspaper articles to buttress his bland political arguments, which are by turns obvious (the U.S. government is corrupt and inept!), specious (America is going to hell!), catastrophist (ditto), and nationalist (ditto). The cultural columns usually take place at a diner somewhere south of Amarillo; depict authentic, colorfully named characters; and arrive at the shocking conclusion that, dad-gum, things have changed over these last few decades – for the worse, of course.
Last week's column [“Letters @ 3AM
,” Feb. 15] managed to combine the modes: "political" (quoting The New York Times
to present conventional wisdom as revelatory insight) and "cultural" (nostalgia for the days when people had "a hunger for the truth"). The effect is one of a lecturing old codger. What bothers Ventura about Barack Obama is that he doesn't offer a health-care plan that would cover everyone, as opposed to Hillary Clinton's superior universal-coverage plan. Unfortunately, Ventura's hunger for the truth is not so insatiable as to drive him to reveal the reality behind Clinton's plan. Yes, Clinton's plan mandates that all Americans have health care. But mandating coverage is not the same as paying for it, and Clinton doesn't say how the financially strapped uninsured are going to afford the not-insignificant premiums her plan will require. Like Clinton, Ventura sees mandates as a silver bullet for the U.S. health-care system. But the problem with the system isn't that people don't have insurance – it's that it is completely market- and profit-driven. Most Americans recognize this, which is why they favor a not-for-profit single-payer system, the kind that politicians and alt-weekly columnists pretend doesn't exist.
Maybe if Ventura were less interested in opening generation gaps and embracing his inner old fart, he'd write a more relevant column, one about Obama's and Clinton's similarities, specifically their unrivaled ability to fulfill the Democratic Party's unique structural mission: acting as the working class' sole political representative, frustrating the working class' needs and desires, and ensuring that no positive social change is possible.