Rant. Muse. Eat. Sleep. Recycle.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Oh, And I Don't LIke Ronnie, Either
I am neither angry nor irritated by conservatives who are blaming Obama for the nation's mess. Anyone reasonable knows this is an inherited situation.
But, I will not further abide with those who wish to make me a co-conspirator in canonizing Ronald Reagan.
Listen, people - I'm not that guy. I have nothing good to say about the man, so look elsewhere if you want to talk up Ronnie.
I think we spent the last eight years surrounded by Ronald Reagan's spirit: the lingering racism, the class warfare, the appropriation of the GOP by evangelicals, the demonization of progressive thought, anti-intellectualism, the notion that people in positions of financial power will police themselves and the air of general intolerance.
I remain flabbergasted that he is considered a good president. I was there and I wholeheartedly (and if I could borrow somebody's heart it would be doubleheartedly) disagree. I think he was terrible for America.
So, there's that.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Politics and common sense parting ways
Though I'm loathe to give that idiot a forum, I must consider the problem of Rush Limbaugh. But, at least I'll be able to focus on the abstract instead of the specifics of HOW IN THE HELL did Clear Channel decide to pay him $400 million to tear the country apart? And, why isn't anybody boycotting Clear Channel? Jeez!
Anyway, my abstract concern is the Democratic strategy to tie the GOP to Limbaugh. Intellectually, I think it's brilliant with some risks. Personally, I think it's messy and hard to support.
By messy, I mean that, at least in the short run, it gives this guy an expanded audience and puts his divisive remarks front and center. Structurally, it couldn't work any other way. After all, Clear Channel needs to protect its investment so any rebuttals by Limbaugh opponents would be "front page" news (Yes, Virginia, journalism is dead). And, since journalism is dead, you have headline writers bestowing heds like "Limbaugh Address Energizes Youth." WTF? Energize youth? Didn't the GOP just lose the youth vote in a landslide?
I would argue that what really makes the situation messy is not the guy's listeners, but his broadcast partner. They've got 400 million bones to recover. So, having Limbaugh lead the GOP is their wet dream. It's a large enough forum in which to recoup their investment.
And, here's where I see the brilliance of the Dem's strategy. Limbaugh is an entertainer, no matter his delusions of relevance. His audience is comprised of pissed off white males, with a sizeable segment of them racist (his valentine to them was his commentary on black NFL quarterbacks and Donovan McNabb). Even more than a politician, entertainers play to their base. If he attempts to pull in moderates, he will get slapped silly -- like Don Imus.
Limbaugh appealing to moderates would be tantamount to Oprah Winfrey chucking her empire to create a bass fishing show. His core would evaporate.
Imagine Limbaugh saying Hispanic immigrants are important to this nation; imagine him saying racism does exist; imagine him saying that the U.S. political and economics systems are geared to the wealthy. All of it's true, but toxic, to an audience that believes the only truly aggrieved demographic is the white male. And, here's a scary proposition: Limbaugh can't make a pan-American outreach. He can't try to get us all working together. Why? Because it goes against everything he's built his empire on. It has to be us-versus-them for him because that's his only foundation.
So, when he makes the African American man who is the elected head of the GOP apologize for calling his show what it is -- incendiary and vicious -- the Dems have painted the GOP into a corner. Republicans embrace Limbaugh and he has to embrace bigotry, class warfare and intolerance. It pays his mortgage. But, that song and dance pretty much sucked in the last election cycle.
Still, the risk lies in good people assuming desirable outcomes materialize out of thin air and hard work is optional. The risk lies in the complacency of people who think evil was overcome in that last election. They underestimate the ease of evil's task. Demolition is a heck of a lot easier than construction.
Plus, it's rarely about numbers; it's about perception. The Nazis in Germany were certainly a minority, but the perception among the German people of the era was that National Socialists were a silent, hulking majority -- listening in on every non-conforming word.
I've met many German people who survived that time. All of them, including one I've never met, the Pope, claim to have abhorred the Nazi's beliefs -- even if they were registered Nazis themselves. Judging by their tales, a dozen guys were true believers and bullied everyone else into toeing their line.
That is the risk. Limbaugh's appeal to our baser instincts could reach a critical mass with enough Americans so that opposition is cowed into silence. By digging in their heels, Republicans could tear down the Dems' hard work. Using a well-placed phrase or glowing headline, Americans could be fooled into thinking hateful beliefs are predominant again.
And, isn't it always easy to think the worst of the person next to you?