My wife has hidden my posts on her Facebook feed.
My constant blogging, linking, and commenting on all things political has driven her to this. We’ve had several discussions recently about my “obsessive compulsion” with politics. She doesn’t think I am quite balanced in my life, and claims that others among our friends have also blocked me from their feed for similar reasons. I’ve also been asked, by her and others, if I am capable of conversing on any other topic. What I would call intensity and focus, even passion, is being interpreted by my wife and others as almost a derangement.
I don’t think I would be quite like this in normal times. My wife claims that it’s been ever since the razor-close election of 2000. I certainly was glued to the radio and the news during those eventful months, but I think I returned to normal after Bush was inaugurated. I suspect that my nature is such that I would follow politics and events closely in any time in which I lived, but I also think that if I was the age I am now in, say, the 1920s, it would be different. How so?
Consider this: Barack Obama was quoted as desiring to be a “transformative figure”, the way Ronald Reagan had been, and the way Bill Clinton had not. He is serious about his campaign slogan of “Change.” Many people scoff at the cries of “socialism!” that have been raised during the Tea Parties and on radio and Fox News. Perhaps Obama is not a socialist, per se, but he does seem intent on drastically expanding the size and role of government in the United States. Government is now more involved in everything from mortgage lending to student loans, from health insurance to the auto industry, from banking and finance to the very carbon dioxide we exhale. And the Democrats aren’t done yet. They still want to pass Cap and Trade legislation, that would extend government’s reach into all aspects of energy production and usage, and what part of our lives doesn’t somehow involve energy?
Taken as individual issues, perhaps one can dismiss alarmism. But consider the big picture. Every aspect of life is being increasingly touched by government. Therefore, everything has become political.
Many of my friends have expressed relief that the “healthcare debate is over.” What they don’t seem to understand is that once such a basic part of life as the health care a person gets enters the political realm, the debate is never over. There will be a never-ending battle in the public sphere over who is getting enough coverage, and who is not, and where more funding is needed. And then the debates over how to cut the inevitable costly spending, and what “unhealthy behaviors” (such as tanning) that we need to tax or regulate, etc. etc. ad infinitum.
This has never been true in our history. A person of my temperament in former times may have been energized at election time, or about war, slavery, Prohibition, labor law or the threat of communism, but never have there been so many issues, that could potentially touch a citizen so close to home, that were being debated and legislated on.
And the Internet plays some part in this. The political junkie of the past was limited to his newspaper, or the radio and TV more recently, and did not have the access to diverse and practically infinite sources of information. Trying to keep abreast of all the things that are happening is a huge challenge in itself, and it is no wonder that so many people get overwhelmed and simply check out.
In times like these, with so much at stake, a person of my inclination, who loves his country, and is politically aware, cannot help but be a little bit deranged. I’ve been close to despair at times, and considered checking out of the whole mess, but I couldn’t do that. This is who I am–a patriot and a public citizen, driven to be involved in whatever small way that I can. Block me from your feed, if you must, or call me a nutter, if that’s what you think. But if I seem like a madman running around, trying to put out brush fires, it is because the Democrats keep setting so many, and in such proximity to what matters to me.
Erick Erickson has a great post at RedState on the kerfuffle of recent days over “rightwing violence.” The whole thing is worth reading. First Erickson makes it clear that, if any of these reports are accurate, then the violence must be condemned and that such behavior is uncivilized. He goes on to point out that Rush Limbaugh gets nasty hate mail every day, that there are plenty of documented examples of left-wing violence, and that some of the claims of nasty behavior have been debunked, such as the Carnahan Coffin and the “N-word” being yelled at Congressman Lewis.
But this is the key bit:
There are a great many Americans who truly believe the Democrats shredded the constitution on Sunday night. Made more galling, the Democrats were pretty upfront that they were pushing it through before congressmen could go home and face their angry constituents which every poll showed were opposed to this legislation. And only after the vote did the media really start talking about the taxes, the flexible spending account cuts, the pre-existing conditions loophole for kids, etc. — i.e. the bad stuff in the bill.I’ve said for weeks I was a bit fearful of what would happen as a result. I sincerely pray we are not on the cusp of some group of angry and now unhinged mob lashing out at congressmen for a vote in the Congress. But something seems to be brewing and I frankly don’t think the Democrats should at all be surprised. They were and they knew they were playing with fire to advance legislation many Americans see as the undoing of the American Experiment. Some of those Americans will now conclude that, like with the founders, if King George will not listen, King George must be fought.
There is real, legitimate anger out there, and the Democrats invited it. They pushed through legislation that was deeply unpopular, which had not been adequately explained or covered by the media (and would have been even more unpopular if it had), and which is going to affect the lives of every single American. When in American history has there been anything of the sort? Acting surprised at the vigor of the response is just that–acting–and those who do so are now cynically trying to portray angry citizens as deranged and dangerous. It is a further insult to their constituents.
An objection was raised to my calling the Obamacare legislation “unconstitutional”. The statement was made that the Supreme Court decides constitutionality.
This is part of the failure of the education system in this country. While it is technically true, in a legal sense, that the Supreme Court is the arbiter of Constitution through the process of judicial review that has evolved, the Constitution is ultimately the social compact amongst all the citizens of this nation, and each free citizen stands as a watchguard over it. I don’t delegate my right to think about laws or constitutionality to the Supreme Court.
The coffin was used in a prayer service for the elderly who will suffer under Obamacare and for the unborn who will be slaughtered under this plan. The protesters prayed for their loss of freedom thanks to this nationalized democratic plan. The St. Louis tea party patriots also prayed for Russ Carnahan and democrats who were voting at that time to nationalize the health care industry.
The Politico made the accusation that the coffin was placed (and left) near Carnahan’s home. It wasn’t. The protesters were never on his lawn. They said some prayers at his house and then took the coffin with them when they left. It’s currently sitting in a garage.
Well, it took the Politico about 12 hours but they finally updated their hit piece.
No scary death threats. No insinuation of violence. A peaceful protest.
This week’s talking point is the sudden danger of new right-wing violence, and the inflammatory push-back against health care. I’m sorry, but all this concern is a day late and a dollar short. The subtext is really one of class — right-wing radio talk-show hosts, Glenn Beck idiots, and crass tea-party yokels are foaming at the mouth and dangerous to progressives. In contrast, write a book in which you muse about killing George Bush, and its Knopf imprint proves it is merely sophisticated literary speculation; do a docudrama about killing George Bush, and it will win a Toronto film prize for its artistic value rather than shock from the liberal community about over-the-top discourse.
When 3,000 were murdered in Manhattan, and Michael Moore suggested Bin Laden had wrongly targeted a blue state, I don’t think that repulsive remark prevented liberal politicians from attending his anti-Bush film premiere. Yes, let us have a tough debate over the role of government and the individual, but spare us the melodrama, the bottled piety, and the wounded-fawn hurt.
Like it or not, between 2001 and 2008, the “progressive” community redefined what is acceptable and not acceptable in political and public discourse about their elected officials. Slurs like “Nazi” and “fascist” and “I hate” were no longer the old street-theater derangement of the 1960s, but were elevated to high-society novels, films, political journalism, and vein-bulging outbursts of our elites. If one were to take the word “Bush” and replace it with “Obama” in the work of a Nicholson Baker, or director Gabriel Range, or Garrison Keillor or Jonathan Chait, or in the rhetoic of a Gore or Moore, we would be presently in a national crisis, witnessing summits on the epidemic of “hate speech.”
So here we are with the age-old problem that once one destroys decorum for the sake of short-term expediency, it is very hard to restore it in any credible fashion on grounds of principle when the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. A modest suggestion: If the liberal community wishes to be more credible in its concern about contemporary extremist anti-administration rhetoric, then they might try the following: “Please, let us avoid extremism and do not fall into the same trap as Baker, Chait, Keillor, Gore, Moore, or Range when they either expressed open hatred toward their president, or speculated about the assassination of their president, or compared their president to a fascist. We must disown such extremism, past and present.”
Now my wife will say that “they did it first” is schoolyard tactics, not an excuse, and unbecoming. I agree with her, and don’t think that novels about assassinating Obama are going to forward the cause, and would, indeed, set it back significantly. Don’t fall into that trap of such behavior, no matter how (rightfully) angry you are at the pricks in Washington.
No, unfortunately, the playing field is not level for conservatives, and we have to deal with that fact. We have to be gentlemanly, play by the rules, and be the grownups in the debate. It’s not easy, and the temptation to fight back with similar tactics is strong.
At the least, as Hanson does in the quote above, we can recoognize that the Left is disingenuous and dishonest when they make their shrill cries of outrage, not allow ourselves to be distracted by it, and carry on.
So writes Ann Althouse, in an excellent blog post that hits just the right notes on this issue of violent dissent to Obamacare:
Clearly, those who are angry about the bill should limit themselves to speech and apply pressure to others in their movement not to cross the line into any kind of violence or damage to property. Any incident of that kind will be greatly magnified in the press and used to undermine the movement.
However, Ann, like myself, suspects that these reports are being used for political advantage:
Anyone could commit an act of vandalism (including dirty tricksters on the Democrat’s side). Is the press following up about what, exactly, happened? Or are they complacently passing [these stories] on to be used to propagate the violence meme?
We should all be vigilant about the way the Democrats and their friends in the press are leveraging these stories for political purposes, exaggerating and failing to check facts. We should closely monitor the journalism, the rhetoric, and the leaps of logic. Hare’s remark “If this doesn’t get under control” has a chilling generality to it. Dissent and protest should not “get under control.” It should be free.
Inspired by a Facebook meme, I thought this would be a nice change from my usual political griping:
Yes, really. Along with the works of Greece, this is the foundational document of Western Civilization. It is a timeless source of wisdom, poetry, and meaning.
The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
Something I read on my way out of the Mormon Church. Helped me redefine what God meant to me.
The Big Book of AA, and associated literature
A vital text to coping with my disease, and in discovering a new way of living after Mormonism.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
We cannot build a heaven on earth and retain our humanity. What defines us as human beings are our flaws, our struggles, and our search for meaning in the midst of suffering.
The Federalist Papers by Madison, Hamilton and Jay
The definitive text on understanding the US Constitution, and therefore the definitive text on American politics.
The Road to Serfdom by Hayek
The conservative/libertarian’s catechism.
A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren
One of many books I’ve read that encourage the discipline of the Christian life, but without a dogmatic opposition to other forms of belief.
A New Birth of Freedom by Harry Jaffa
An exploration of the philosophical undercurrents of the American Civil War, and the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. The stakes for human freedom were truly high in the Civil War; Lincoln grasped this, and victory for the Union was essential for the cause of freedom to persevere.
Living Buddha, Living Christ
That which connects people of differing faiths is greater than that which divides us, and each of us can learn from and appreciate different traditions. That said, we best connect with other traditions when we delve deeply into living our own, for there we discover the transcendence that is at the root of them all.
The Beginning of Wisdom by Leon Kass
Taught me to approach scripture, not as literal truth or as worn-out mythology, but as wisdom literature that transcends time and has meanings to convey to all humanity. Helped me to learn to think mythically, that is, to comprehend the story, as archetype and as Truth, while not necessarily as literal, journalistic-style reportage. See also Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces.
A liberal friend, alarmed by the cases of vandalism and the rumors of threats against Congresscritters, posed this question: “Since when has democracy meant that you get your way no matter what, no matter who is in office?” I thought this required some explanation.
The point of a Constitution is that a social compact is made whereby it is understood that certain things are outside the purview of who wins elections. If, hypothetically, Republicans won the large majorities in Congress that the Democrats now have, and the Presidency, would they then be justified in instituting (hypothetically, cause I don’t believe this would happen) a state religion? No, because the Constitution has set that out of bounds. It is not something the majority can impose on the minority.
In the case of Obamacare, the People–and not just a minority, but an actual majority–made it clear to their representatives that they saw this action as being out of bounds, as a radical change that was outside the purview of what Congress was authorized to do in the Constitution. So, yes, there is a feeling of the social compact having been broken, of a revolutionary spirit–and not a revolution of the People, but a revolution imposed upon them from above.
All that said, I do not condone violence, and indeed think such acts are self-defeating.
Update: Instapundit recalls a variety of incidents of violence or vandalism against Republican targets, and notes the different media coverage of “the righteous indignation of oppressed lefties, rather than the dangerous violence of nasty righties.”
Roger Simon has similar thoughts in an open letter to Congressman Hoyer: “It is small wonder that our people are angry. It would be amazing if it were otherwise. You have reaped a whirlwind by subverting a democracy. Now you must deal with it.”
Between March 10th and 14th, the Pew Research Center asked 1,500 adults to tell it: “What one word best describes your impression of Congress these days? Just the first word that comes to mind?” The responses:
Dysfunctional, corrupt, self-serving, self-centered, selfish, self-absorbed, inept, confused, incompetent, ineffective, lazy, bad, suck(s), poor, crook(s), crooked, disappointing, gridlock, deadlock, idiots, idiotic, slow, mess, messed up, messy, lousy, terrible, disorganized, unorganized, divided, good, stupid, children, childish, child-like, dissatisfied, do nothing, failing, failure, inadequate, greedy, joke, jokers, not good, partisan, socialist, useless, worthless, bull(expletive), chaos, clowns, frustrating, frustrated, horrible, inefficient, liberal, liars, money-hungry.
As amusing and gratifying this is on the one hand, it is also dangerous and indicative of a serious disconnect between the people and their representatives. This needs attention on two fronts: the people themselves in the organization need replaced, and systemic reforms are needed: breaking up gerrymandered safe seats, and perhaps expanding the number of representatives so that they are more accessible to the people.
Kevin D. has a nice word cloud image of the results.
Iraq is now considered a safer bet than Argentina, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Dubai — and is nearly on par with the State of California, according to Bloomberg statistics on credit default swaps, which are considered a raw indicator of default risk.
“Compared to California, I’d rather bet on Iraq,’’ Daher said. “Iraq is a country where there are still bombs going off and people getting murdered, but they are less indebted than the United States. California is likely to have more demands on its resources, and there is no miracle where California is going to have more revenue coming out of the sky. Iraq has prospects for tremendously higher revenues, if they can manage to get their act halfway together, which they seem to be doing.’’