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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

September 08, 2009
Do It My Way

Elsewhere, in the world o'blog, I've been chatting with people about my crazy freelance clients. It amuses me, lets off a little steam, and (names have been changed to protect the stupid) does little or no harm to anyone.

In a recent chat about a client with a fixed worldview that doesn't leave room for, you know, facts, one commenter contributed his own brush with the lunatic fringe in a correspondent combining Holocaust denial with predictions of a near-future apocalypse. What wigged me out was not the Lunatic Correspondent--the crazy will always be with us--but my otherwise sane and intelligent friend's willingness to engage with this person.

I told my friend, "You have to ignore that kind of person. They get validation for their beliefs, not from facts, but from arguing. As long as they find someone who takes them seriously enough to argue with them, they think they have a piece of the truth."

This is one of the Left's big problems. We try to respect the beliefs of others and, okay, that's a good thing. Differences about life on other planets or 'living green' or supernatural deities--we respect those. Beliefs differ because people differ and what each of them needs from life differs. (We don't alter our worldview to encompass their beliefs. All that can be asked of us as rational people is that we allow others to have their beliefs. We cannot asked to share them.)

On the other hand, when we're faced with someone spouting ignorant and ill-informed bullshit, we work just as hard to "respect their position." That's not a good thing. For years I've watched in frustration as the Left announces, time and again, a desire to debate on "the issues" and then immediately abandons its position to chase after some will o'the wisp started by powerful Republicans to distract them (and the 'public') from the topic at hand.

Take today's situation. The discussion started, if I'm not mistaken, around the right of everyone to have access to health care.

This idea was incredibly popular with the voting public--it's one of the platform planks that elevated Obama to the White House.

This, as you might imagine, freaked out the Republican leadership. Hard on the heels of the disaster of Bonehead & Crookface's catastrophic eight years in office, here was a Democrat with both Ideas and massive popular support across Party lines.

They looked into the future and it was not good.

Peace, prosperity, security--these are not the things that Republicans want for the people of this country. It's better (for the Republican leadership) if these things are held just out of reach. They are the carrot with which the donkey is enticed to respond as desired.*

The next thing you know, the media is full of Republican accusations of socialism and impassioned defense of the Sanctity of American Private Industry (as symbolized by bloated and gluttonous multinational insurance corporations).

Offline, they gave their wingnut followers their instructions and the next wave of hysterical publicity came on a flood of accusations of Nazism and racism.* *

And Democrats fell for it. Again. As they always do. Instead of talking about the issues, they tried to rebut the Right's accusations. Instead of focusing on what they, and most of the population, wanted to achieve, they let themselves get bogged down in the vain attempt to refute groundless (and, really, quite stupid) allegations.

And now, instead of riding into the fall triumphantly on a wave of relief from millions of Americans no longer facing financial ruin with a diagnosis of kidney stones or homelessness after a diagnosis of cancer, we're all milling around aimlessly, some of us discussing health care reform, some of us discussing insurance company industry reform, and some of us bleating weakly that Medicare didn't make us socialists and another step down that path does not lead to Nazism and a few of us turning away in disgust from the sight of the first president in thirty years that we almost had faith in falling into the pit labeled "bipartisanship."

Republicans? Have announced that there is no way, no how, no option they will vote for when it comes to guaranteed healthcare for everyone.

Republicans? Are laughing, publicly, at the Democrats' inability or unwillingness to hear this fact.* *

Republicans? Don't do bipartisanship. I am somewhat bewildered by the inability of the White House and the Democratic leadership, to grasp this simple fact.

From the Republicans' perspective, we're just as guilty as they are of ignoring the Real World. They've said, bluntly and in so many words, that they won't play. They must be watching in glee as the Obama administration comes unglued trying to find a way to make that not true.

One of the most admirable things about Obama's campaign was the discipline. They knew their goal and they marched toward it, disregarding the naysayers and the unbelievers and the Party machines. I wish a little of that discipline had stayed with them. They had the support, before they helped muddy the waters of the debate. It's not too late, they could get the support back.

They need to stand up and say enough.

The American people, in overwhelming numbers, have told us they want guaranteed access to health care.

The Republican members of Congress are either unwilling or unable to be a part of the process of creating a plan answer this call. They have told us, in so many words, that there is no plan, no compromise we can offer that would convince them to vote to provide each and every American with access to health care.

Enough time has been wasted. President Obama's health care bill has just been delivered to Congress, and we call on its members for an early vote.






______________________

* No, I didnít see where that was going until just then, but it's reasonably accurate. When shorn of Party labels and rhetoric, most of the population supports traditionally "Democrat" positions and issues.

Democrats own the issues and positions that voters largely agree with. This is why most Republican platforms are a combination of cheap jingoism, empty patriotic slogans, and barely veiled appeals to the worst impulses of the radical wingnut portion of the party. Their real, if unstated, platform is "power for us" but that isn't much of a vote-getter. (If they have any reality-based aims beyond that one, I'm unaware of them.)

* * No, of course race doesn't have anything to do with the topic at hand. Like "state's rights" this was a thinly veiled maneuver to incite fear and hatred in the Republican Party's separatist/survivialist/white supremacist population. (And the Nazi accusations, for those who care, are designed to muddy the waters from the not-infrequent comparisons between Bush/Cheney policies and Hitler.)

Posted by AnneZook at 11:51 AM


Comments

What's really weird is that I wasn't even remotely polite. Here's a sample:

Your ignorance of the basics of historical study and documentation, not to mention causality and argumentation, does not mean that historians have not set limits, guidelines, and methods of great power to work.
...
Your ideas are worthless, your grasp of history sophomoric, and your rhetoric disengenous.

I said I was "honest" not that I was "nice."

On the whole, I agree with you, but there's a theatrical realism which both politicians and teachers have to maintain, which can become habitual.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at September 8, 2009 08:53 PM

Okay, yes, you did say, "honest."

I guess I was making assumptions based on the fact that you're nice to me. :) (And, we both know I'm a little wacko sometimes, especially when I get to ranting.)

Please expand on the "theatrical realism" idea?

Posted by: Anne at September 9, 2009 12:26 PM

There's nothing much to it: We have to pretend to be nice sometimes, when it's not deserved, to try to keep our audiences' minds open. It's easy to lose a whole classroom by disrespecting a student, even one who is patently, blazingly wrong. Politicians are very careful to present themselves as being against other politicians, but not against voters of any stripe. It's a forced moderation, that comes from the realization that our constituency isn't really under our control and that we need their collusion to get anything done.

(p.s. You've never gone that far off the rails. Ranting and unreasonable expectations of reality are one thing: this was sustained, bull-headed unreality.)

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at September 10, 2009 04:47 PM

You wait over a month to post and finally do in order to tell us Republicans are the problem?
Really?
Would that be the Republican in the White House that's keeping us from having single-payer health care?
Or maybe it's the Republicans who control the Senate?
Or maybe it's the Republicans who control the House?
Your critiques, so slow in coming, are circa 2004.
Time moved on.

Posted by: Ed at September 11, 2009 08:50 AM

Thanks, Jonathan. The theatrical realism thing is interesting. (It kind of leads me back to a years-ago rant about how politicians should stand for more than just getting elected, but whatever, and a teacher is in a very different position.)

"...unreasonable expectations of reality....

Wincing. I'd reather think of them as "unrealized" expectations, okay?

I know it make take another ten thousand years, but I like to imagine there will come a day when rational thought and behavior prevail.

Posted by: Anne at September 11, 2009 01:26 PM

Ed - Republicans still have power, because Democrats are granting them power.

If Republicans take office by a1% majority, they throw jubilant parties, prate endlessly about their "mandate," and ride roughshod over the other 49% of the country.

If Democrats were to take office by a 75% majority, they'd still be trying to reach across the aisle on everything, looking for compromises everyone could live with.

Democrats try to govern for everyone and they accomplish less than they might because of that.

Republicans assume they are everyone and do any darned thing they want.

The post seemed to be getting long and I cut it down ruthlessly. Looking at it now, I see that this idea got sort of lost on the cutting room floor.

Also? 2004 is not precisely prehistoric. I can see someone dissing me if I pretended today's Republican Party was the same one that existed in 1974, but four years ago? That's not even history. It's current events.

Posted by: Anne at September 11, 2009 01:37 PM