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Progressive Change in America: Et tu, Brutus?

Andrew Sullivan in The Daily Dish:

The passions out there are somewhat mystifying to me. Here is what we are debating: should we demand that insurance companies provide policies to anyone regardless of pre-existing conditions? Should we help the working poor buy that insurance with subsidies? Are competitive exchanges for health insurance S-STROLLER-large a good or bad thing? Would a public option or a co-op help bring down healthcare costs? Does it make sense for the government to study the effectiveness of various treatments as a guide for doctors? These are all worth debating – and if you break it down into these questions, a majority would back them. Obama’s proposals were very, very well illuminated in the campaign; there’s nothing here that we weren’t told to expect; in fact, he seems over-eager to placate moderates and keep some Republicans within the healthcare reform tent.

But the vicious anger from the far right, which is to say what is currently the right, seems totally out of proportion to these reforms. Where does that come from? It comes from the same place as the tea-party protests. It’s partisan, of course – most Republicans, including Glenn Reynolds, ignored the deficit under Bush, blamed Obama for it within minutes of his election, and never refer to the impact of the recession on deficits. But it is also surely cultural – an expression of the rage some in white America feel at the new social make-up of their country. I just sat through a PJTV segment on Sarah Palin, in which the host blithely referred to the heartland as “real America.”

If that is what you really believe – that people in cities or suburbs, that minorities, that gays, that blacks and Hispanics are not part of “real America” – then of course, you are angry. You believe a fake America has taken over. You cannot understand this. So you start believing that we have a fascist/communist dictatorship, that there was some fraud allowing a non-citizen to become president, that the government is about to “take over” all healthcare provision … and on and on. And no one is left in the GOP to challenge this, to calm it down, to present practical alternatives to the obvious crushing problems the country and the private sector have in paying for increasingly costly healthcare.

To me, this is a triumph of ideology. And conservatism is now an abstract anti-government ideology, fueled by cultural, racial and sexual resentment. This is a recipe for more violence, and more marginalization.

Odd choice of words: A triumph of ideology.
An ideology, I think, triumphs when it is adopted by a sufficient percentage of the population to hold sway over objections and dissent because it correct.
Certainly winning an election cannot be sufficient – it’s easy enough for the majority of voters to be wrong. Nor can winning by strength of force offer any evidence that a particular ideology is to be preferred. There is clearly no correlation between winning a war and being morally and ethically sound.
One would hope that an ideology could “triumph”, on its merits, without suffering those who rely on patently ugly, base, disgusting, repulsive, fear-mongering, hateful, exclusive and violent means. Sadly this is not the case.

If there is to be (and a believe Mr. Sullivan is right) more violence and more marginalization, what strategy shall be adopted to respond to such tactics and events?

I see three options:

One option is to fight back. If someone hits you, beat the ever living hell out of them. If one element or another insists on taking illegal, violent actions – “I want MY America back!” – birthers, healthers, dittoheads, Malkinites, Beckists, Operation Rescue freaks, Westboro Baptist morons – then it’s on. We’ll settle it with roving mobs of cudgel wielding hooligans (THEN we’ll find out who needs socialized medicine!).
One hopes, of course, that it doesn’t come to that. When sane people realize that their threatening mob tactics shall be met in kind (and then some), they find other tactics. This, of course, presumes sanity, which may not be warranted here.

Another possibility is to do nothing. Take the high road. Let them continue to shout, disrupt, hijack, lie, cheat, bribe, mislead, distort, stomp, insult and scam the people.
Besides, the progressive faction is far too busy slitting its own wrists to unify in the face of the proper enemy. The ultra-left is calling Obama a traitor for not shuttering Gitmo, abandoning Iraq, clearing the way for married gays to run the Joint Chiefs and allocating Federal funding for abortion. The dwindling center left is hopped up in a Democratic tennis match – running back and forth between the Ultra-left and the “conservative left”, who are busy trying to prove to Liz Cheney and Michelle Bachmann that, even though they have all the power, they still want to build bridges with the people who call President Obama a nigger and a communist!

The third possibility is to continue speaking the truth. Reason with them.
Of course, this amounts to the very definition of wasting your breath. How do you debate with people who shout you down, utter the ugliest epithets imaginable, yammer about death panels, FEMA camps, Kenyan birth certificates, and insist that C02 can’t be harmful because it’s natural.
If someone says, “Water is always a good thing!” you may certain of one truth: This person has never been close to drowning or caught in a flash flood. Nor have they ever chugged five gallons.
But how do you persuade such stubborn idiocy? What do you say to someone who begins the argument with “Salt is black, water is dry and the sky is beneath our feet.”
Fuck’em. I just walk away. I can use that breath to smoke a cigarette.

I would have thought that the greatest barrier to achieving progressive reform would have been a continuation of the shallow, vicious and deplorable neocon hegemony of Bush-Cheney.
It might seem, now, like the greatest impediment is the nutbar, batshit crazy, right-wing, racist, gun nuts, birthers and assorted gasbags…

It may, ironically, be the case that the greatest obstacle to getting anything done is giving the progressives the opportunity to do it.

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3 Responses

  1. Ignorance is what’s destroying America. Ignorance tends to be stubborn, aggressive, and prone to violence.

    Ignorance is fucking everywhere and is actually being encouraged by both politicians and most corporations. A stupid public is easier to con, be the con a political one “Buy this policy” or a marketing one “Buy this product”. Both segments are now largely dependant on the stupidity of the American public.

    The ignorance is growing, and thanks to modern technology, spreading faster than an STD at a convention of sex addicts.

    What to do about it? Logic and facts don’t seem to work. Education might, but the educational system ain’t going to improve any time soon and it will take decades for the benefits to be seen. Targeted assignation of every idiot you can get your hands on might help and would be very rewarding work. But the numbers of people you’d have to kill to make an impact would keep every hitman in America working full-time for decades. Besides, it puts you in the same boat as the Dick Cheneys of the world.

    I fear it’s too late for any tactic to work other than to stick around and take over after its all been destroyed beyond repair.

  2. What I expected of Obama was not a particular agenda or political leaning. What I expected was some intelligence back with some balls.rat with some balls. The kind where he’d tell the right, or any similar moron to shut the fuck up. Not always, nor slightly, but when called upon and when appropriate.

    Considering he had the balls to run for president with a lot against him, relative newcomer, liberal, of African descent with a funny name, a win should have been unlikely. He won and didn’t get shot in the process. That’s balls. I wish he’d bring those balls to governing rather than compromising like crazy. Fuck ’em. Maybe after telling the fringes (left and right) to shut the fuck up a few times more, they’d be more willing to listen a little more rather than the other way around. I don’t know yet because he’s yet to try.

  3. You can’t debate people who use the same words as you, but who use completely different meanings for those same words. It really is like Alice in Wonderland. Basic, simple communication, therefore debate, is based upon the deployment of implicitly agreed upon meaning for the framework of language to operate at all. So I refuse to debate anyone who talks out of his or her ass. I just won’t do it, so I guess I’m left to wield that cudgel, because I can’t get away from these people; they seem to be everywhere these days.

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