Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sinking to the Right's Level

My right-wing Facebook acquaintance has posted a couple more funny links in the past few days. The more recent was "Democrats' attack ad sets new low for midterm mud", a column by David Zurawik, the TV critic for the Baltimore Sun, deploring incivility in this election season. The funny part is the writer's complaint that
The Democratic National Commitee [sic] is using the same sort of tactic and logic that Sen. Joe McCarthy used in the 1950s: Level a headline-grabbing and unsubstantiated charge, like the State Department is filled with communists, and then say it is up to the State Department and the employees so charged to prove it is not true.
He says that like it's a bad thing! Putting the burden of proof on the opponent is, of course, typical for political advertising and political "debate", but what really grabbed me was the McCarthy comparison. To the American Right, Joseph McCarthy is an unjustly maligned hero in the fight against World Communism, yet conservatives keep whining about new McCarthyisms of the Left.

"Is this not a direct appeal to fear?" Zurawik cries, rending his garments. Of course, the Republicans would never appeal to fear, and they never have. And if Obama and the Democrats succeed with this appeal to fear, then the Terrorists Have Won and the Homosexuals will marry your son and the Mohammedans will build a mosque on the Sacred Turf of Ground Zero.

I believe this is what is called "concern trolling": a partisan expresses dismay at the bad tactics of his or her opponent, offering sincere advice on how to do better and win the contest. There is one small problem with Zurawik's complaint, though: according to the New York Times article he cites, the Democrats are "outmatched in advertising sponsored by groups that do not have to disclose their donors under a Supreme Court decision issued earlier this year, Mr. Obama has suggested that the sponsors of campaign advertising have sinister motivations." That is "evidence" right there: the Republicans are relying heavily on money whose sources they don't have to disclose. Of course, Obama won election beholden to big money too, so he's in no position to cast the first stone, but neither are the Republicans.

Zurawik concludes:
And this admninistration [sic - doesn't the Sun have spellcheckers?], with this attitude toward unsubstantiated charges and standards of proof, wants to control the press and determine whether a news organization should or should not be considered legitimate.
The first commenter writes "The President of the United States simply cannot - CAN NOT - stoop to these types of tactics. It's beneath him." How dreadful: Obama is sinking to the Right's level. "If the Democrats want to engage in this type of slash-and-burn tactics let Biden or the DNC do it. Not the damned President."

Earlier my acquaintance linked to this column by Peggy Noonan, the Reagan hagiographer and speechwriter whom Roy Edroso calls the Crazy Jesus Lady. She begins by talking about the deterioration of Greece, where, according to an article in Vanity Fair (Vanity Fair!? isn't that one of those liberal-elite house organs?), "'It is simply assumed . . . that anyone who is working for the government is meant to be bribed. . . . Government officials are assumed to steal.'" Wait a minute -- that's something new? That's specifically Greek? "Thus can great nations, great cultures, disintegrate, break into little pieces that no longer cohere into a whole," Noonan intones. (I thought it was because the Greeks were, like, sodomites.) "America is not Greece and knows it's not Greece," thank goodness,

Because Americans weren't born to be accountants. It's not in our DNA! We're supposed to be building the Empire State Building. We were meant, to be romantic about it, and why not, to be a pioneer people, to push on, invent electricity, shoot the bear, bootleg the beer, write the novel, create, reform and modernize great industries. We weren't meant to be neat and tidy record keepers. We weren't meant to wear green eyeshades. We looked better in a coonskin cap!

There is, I think, a powerful rebellion against all this. It isn't a new rebellion – it was part of Goldwaterism, and Reaganism – but it's rising again.
"Write the novel"? Do pioneers in coonskin caps "write the novel"? And since great modern industries need record-keeping, who's going to keep the books if Americans weren't born to be accountants? Foreigners, I suppose. (I should have called this post "Born to Cook the Books.")
For those who wonder why so many people have come to hate, or let me change it to profoundly dislike, "the elites," especially the political elite, here is one reason: It is because they have armies of accountants to do this work for them. Those in power institute the regulations and rules and then hire people to protect them from the burdens and demands of their legislation. There is no congressman passing tax law who doesn't have staffers in his office taking care of his own financial life and who will not, when he moves down the street into the lobbying firm, have an army of accountants to protect him there.
Except that the Tea Party movement is bent on protecting the elites from the tax man. Not the Teabaggers themselves, mind you, most of whom will never see $250,000 a year, the point at which higher marginal rates kick in, but the elites who would consider themselves impoverished if their income dropped within hailing distance of $250,000 a year. The elites George W. Bush called his base, and rightly so. The corporate media elites who fund the Tea Party Tantrum.
This is part of why people dislike "the elites" and why "the elites," especially in Washington, must in turn be responsive, come awake, start to notice. People don't like it when they fear you are subtly, day by day, year by year, changing the personality and character of their nation. They think, "You are ruining our country and insulating yourselves from the ruin. We hate you." And this is understandable, yes?
And Yes I said Yes I do Yes. But Noonan's man Reagan was firmly on the side of those elites, as was George W. Bush. And these, dear readers, are further examples of what my right-wing acquaintance evidently considers "sober" conservatives.