Friday, July 08, 2011

Dead Center, Ctd.


Mistah Kurtz' Friday Fart Cloud of Conventional Beltway Wisdom:
Nasty partisan rhetoric on both sides...

After months of savaging each other...

...while feeding red-meat rhetoric to their
ideological bases, President Obama and
the GOP reluctantly embraced the politics
of adulthood behind the scenes


Republicans have loudly proclaimed
they won’t budge on
even minor tax increases...

And while Obama’s party has
spent months accusing the GOP
of trying to gut Medicare...

Politicians have always postured in public...

...as both sides dithered

...even grizzled veterans grew disgusted.

Americans,
beaten down
by a painful recession,
are hungering for leaders
who can rise above
the media frenzies...

a common-sense road to recovery...

Even as each party
stubbornly stuck
to its talking points...

Bill Clinton
and
Newt Gingrich


a bipartisan group of senators
struck a symbolic compromise

Cantor has embraced the
narrow escape hatch in Norquist’s pledge...


...it doesn’t reduce the deficit by a dime,
but
it could give Obama political cover
for the Medicare cuts that his
liberal allies...
are already denouncing.

Obama was “chomping at the bit”
to punch back...

-- two grownups
quietly seeking
common ground.

The Virginian’s [Cantor's]
bold,
on-message approach...

This from the late Steve Gilliard in 2005, nicely summed up and dispensed with the cartoonishly dishonest world view of ubervillager Howard "Howie" Alan Kurtz:

Outlaw journalism and the blogs
...

When Howard Kurtz whines about "fairness", someone needs to tell him the truth. "Mistah Kurtz, we are not fair. We are honest." Bush uses fairness like a Samurai uses a katana, to slice and dice and win. Fairness will no more stop Bush than a bazooka could stop a Tiger tank (couldn't come close). It is honesty which will stop him. People have to tell the truth. Kurtz and his fellows are people to be derided and mocked, not argued with. To accord him respect and seriousness, in the job most journalists disdain like cops hate internal affairs, is to give him power that his peers would never. The next time he whines about fairness, laugh in his face, wave a shrunken head in front of him, show him a picture of King Leopold. Do anything you want to show him the contempt you hold him in. But his words are meaningless to the people who matter, our readers.

[Hunter] Thompson understood the danger of objective journalism, which was a creature of the post-war period, Roosevelt would have laughed at the concept, battered by Father Coughlin and the Chicago Tribune, which is that the dishonest and the disingenious can have their way with the honest and decent. He called for subjective journalism long ago and our temporary experiment of objective journalism is ending, because it only serves the status quo, which is not most of us.

Six years ago, Gilly was characteristically upbeat about the future of the outlaw press (bloggers) and the fight against the Pig People on the Right and the Zombie Villager Media that keeps them alive:
...
It's odd to think of the outsider Thompson having won the day about what we call journalism, but blogging allows for a world of outlaw journalists, working cheap and fast ans supporting each other in ways he couldn't imagine. It's not a bad legacy.

Six years later, Digby is less sanguine and more harshly realistic about the shape of the fight we have on our hands:
...
Not that I disagree about how this has unfolded. I've been calling this debt negotiation a kabuki dance since Cantor first spilled the beans in January. But I'd say that Boehner, Cantor and Obama are about to get a big, sloppy wet kiss from the Village for doing it.

After all these years of blogging I think I'm back at the beginning: nothing can change as long as the Village media exists.

I agree. And as frustrated and just plain fucking sad as I sometimes get over how deeply broken our political system has become, I also believe that system is (and mostly always has been) a pretty fair representation of the American cultural brain-map: one to which we should pay very close attention if we want anything to change in any deep and structural way.

We begin with Our Heroes: that small percentage of politically OCD liberals (Go Team!) that history shown, again and again, are usually right about most things, and often get very, very angry when our rightness is not acknowledged and acted upon exactly as we would like 100% of the time by our elected officials.

From The Nation:
...
What does this mean for liberals? Well, they can complain and attack Obama—they’ve already begun—but criticism from the left has yet to budge the president, and it’s doubtful that this time will be any different. Demonstrations sound great, but they don’t actually carry a high chance for success; if your only option for changing the political calculations of a president is protest, then you’re probably too late to the game. Likewise, a primary campaign against Obama sounds like it might work, but outside of activist circles, there is little appetite for a challenge. The Democratic establishment is satisfied with President Obama, and will work to ensure his reelection.

Indeed, given the importance of presidential elections, Obama will be able to count on organization and support from every member of the Democratic coalition. Moreover, if a deal comes through, it will probably help him with independents, who support modest reductions in entitlement spending.
...
This group favors reason, compassion and fact-based answers, which is why we are routinely shouted down by another small group of the narcissistic sociopath Conservatives who, history shows, are usually horribly, horribly wrong about most things but are simply too emotionally and intellectually cowardly and incompetent to face up to it.

This second group are the People of the Lie, who will pay no-kidding Real Money to virtually anyone who will put on a suit, stand in front of a camera or microphone and reassure them that they are not, in fact, emotionally and intellectually retarded narcissistic sociopaths, but "patriots" who love "Murrica" way, way, waaay more that those faggy, smarty pants America-hating liberals.

If the narcissistic sociopath Conservative group had no money and did not vote, no one in their right minds would pay attention to them. But since they have both economic and electoral clout, they get great big pandering dollops of ersatz love and icky-sweet flattery from Fox News, Hate Radio, the GOP and a variety of American neofascist groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Horrors
COC
and the Koch brothers.

There is a third group -- also small -- called Centrists (who are often deliberately and misleadingly conflated with a Beltway-manufactured category called "Independents" who are, of course, anything but Independent --
...
It’s true that independents are a diverse group. But that’s mostly because the large majority of independents are independents in name only. Research by political scientists on the American electorate has consistently found that the large majority of self-identified independents are “closet partisans” who think and vote much like other partisans. Independent Democrats and independent Republicans have little in common. Moreover, independents with no party preference have a lower rate of turnout than those who lean toward a party and typically make up less than 10% of the electorate. Finally, independents don’t necessarily determine the outcomes of presidential elections; in fact, in all three closely contested presidential elections since 1972, the candidate backed by most independent voters lost.
...
-- but does give our teevee sock puppets one more blob of completely wrong eyewash they can yammer confidently about as they grease up the Centrists for one more round of fuck-‘em-over.)

Centrists are characterized by not really giving a shit who is actually right or wrong about anything; they just want the political voices in their head to Shut Up.

Centrists have been trained like circus seals to automatically favor the everybody-compromise=and-split-the-difference "solution" to any problem -- real or manufactured -- because Centrists are basically lazy and chickenshit and not very bright.

You can spend an entire afternoon explaining that to a Centrist that their "solutions" always favor the extreme Right, because the Right figured out decades ago that, to get everything they wanted, all they needed to do was make their demands 20 times louder and crazier than the last time they went to the well. Then -- knowing that lazy, chickenshit Centrists will always reflexively demand that "both sides need to give stuff up" -- the Left (whose positions usually come pre-compromised) will eventually find itself once again forced to throw even more of society’s weakest and most vulnerable members under the bus to appease the lazy, chickenshit Centrists, while the Right reluctantly "compromises" downward to get 10 times what they wanted in the first place.

I call it the "Half Magic Trick" (from me in 2005) --
...
There was a book I loved when I was a little driftglass called, “Half Magic” by Edgar Eager, about a talisman that granted the user exactly half of what they asked for. Wish to be ten times stronger that Lancelot, you’ll get five. Wish for a million in cash, you get 500K. In the Mainstream Media, the Right Wing of the Republican Party found their Half Magic Charm. And each time you met them halfway, they moved the goalposts another twenty yards again...and you jogged right on along behind them, ten yards at a time.

The “compromise” between the truth and a lie...is a lie. The “compromise” between science and superstition...is superstition. Now, would you care to guess what the compromise between tolerance and bigotry is? Between knowledge and ignorance? Between Ann Coulter and Paul Krugman?
...
-- and if you rinse and repeat it for 40 years you will have a a pretty good thumbnail history of modern American politics.

(For the sake of brevity we will ignore the majority group – that heaving mass of dumb that I believe Harlan Ellison once referred to as the Great Wad, who never pay the slightest attention to any of this at all, preferring instead to lumber through this old world as blissfully ignorant of what they have in store for them any cow on the stun line at the slaughterhouse.)

So, having wasted your afternoon carefully explaining all of this to your Centrist friend in a reasonable, compassionate and fact-based way, your Centrist friend will respond that, of course you would think such a thing, being a Liberal and all, and that they really want to get "both sides" of the story before making up their mind.

They will then wander away to listen to Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly explain why you are stupid and crazy and hate America.

This exercise will reinforce your Centrist friend's already-gargantuan counterfeit sense of moral superiority -- that they are above all of this "petty partisan bickering" -- after which they will take a nice relaxing soak in the eminent Seriousness and Reasonableness of David Gregory or David Brooks of Mistah Kurtz, never noticing that they just proved your reasonable, compassionate and fact-based point to ten significant digits.

Because, as I may have mentioned, they are lazy and chickenshit and not very bright.

To win and hold national power long enough the repair our crippled system, a political party must build a majority-making coalition out of two of these three groups: vain wishes about imaginary third parties that will never be or some magic combination of facts and "messaging" language that will make large numbers of previously oblivious Americans Suddenly!Wake!Up! will not make it otherwise.

To alter the trajectory of our accelerating plunge into right wing corporate feudal pesthole-ism, the behavioral DNA of one of these two groups -- the Conservatives or Centrists --
must be dramatically altered.

In 10-15 years, the glacial inevitability of mortality and demography will have reduced the Right to a regional party of cranky, old White Guys, but right now the Right is a suicide cult who have thrown in their lot with monsters and burned every bridge back the the Real World. And behind many of them are literally centuries of dug-in, ignorant bigoted rage that has been handed down -- generation to generation -- like family heirlooms.

So not so much with the "changing their wicked ways" with them.

Dead loss. Write 'em off.

Now, as to the Centrists...

As the Left represents the best hope for the restoration of a more perfect American union, the brain caste of the Center represents the powerful dead-enders of a dying American Empire -- a weak and gutless group of cynics and hacks with no fixed beliefs about anything, who have demonstrated repeatedly that they can be stampeded this way and that by the proper application of pressure.

Centrist leaders have a lot of fun jawboning about Murrica, but in fact have no use for democracy or the Middle Class or, really, any part of America outside of imperial enclaves of New York, LA and Washington D.C. Centrist leaders do not especially fear the nutjob Right, but rather as an invaluable source of leverage in the "both sides to it" scam that keeps them large and in charge, and as a vital insurance policy against the Left ever gaining power in exactly the same way the Vice Presidencies of the gargoyle-ish Dick Cheney and imbecilic Dan Quayle were insurance policies against anyone taking potshots at Bush the Younger or Bush the Elder.

Instead, like all members of an decadent imperial court, Centrist leaders fear only the loss of face, the loss of status and the loss of income.

As powerful as they are (and they are; they're the Agents of our particular Matrix, guarding all the doors and holding all the keys) consider the fact that as batshit nuts as a shoutycrackers Teabagger in full wingnut rut may be, he or she is also usually willing to get right in your face to do their shrieking, whereas you might have noticed that members of the Centrist Brain Caste virtually never leave their protective bubble (a small example here from 2010 of what happened when Centrist Field Marshal David Brooks was caught in the open.)

The demands and privileges of their protective teevee Vader suits has made them soft and weak and vulnerable when caught out nekkid in ways that the Cult Right simple are not.

Just in case you were wondering why I spend so many hours and pixels making this point and sharpening the argument from every angle I can think of :-)

6 comments:

jim said...

Explicitly calling out evil scumbags on their war crimes & monkey-business = NASTY PARTISAN RHETORIC.

Equating anti-war & anti-poverty activists with suicide-bombers = AN INTERESTING VIEWPOINT.

Roket said...

I can haz Howie Doody Clown Puppet plz?

muluous said...

"Just in case you were wondering why I spend so many hours and pixels making this point and sharpening the argument from every angle I can think of :-)"

Well, I'm still wondering. (As much as we all love your writing, you do tend to repeat yourself some...)

But this post seemed to be making a couple new points:

1: In order to win, the left needs either the right or the center to vote with them.

2: but the the right is hopeless and invulnerable, whereas the center (albeit banal, amoral and repugnant) may respond to certain kinds of pressure.

This led me to expect that you must be going to the obvious conclusion: that the left needs to apply the right kind of pressure to the centrists, and that you were going to suggest a political stragegy: what kind of pressure that was and how to apply it.

That was precisely when the article ended... Strategis interruptus. No satisfaction.

What gives?

Audrey said...

Interesting viewpoints. Our political system is terrible. Makes us a gigantic laughing stock.

Ormond Otvos said...

Enjoying your endless verbal graffiti, driftglass. It expresses your disgust, no doubt grounded in idealism, at the mud crawling we humans do, compared with what we could do, were we not human.

Do you understand humans from a cognitive science view as well? And do you find hope in genetic engineering to perhaps slightly modify the aggressive and competitive tendencies, a la ancient Chinese Confucianism?

Just askin'...

Loveandlight said...

I recall you read that recent Rolling Stone interview of a group of mainstream pundits, and Matt Taibbi was allowed to crash the party. Matt T. basically told it like it was about the Tea Party, and David Gergen got all pearl-clutchy and accused him of being elitist. Now let's say that instead of the Tea Party, the movement in question was a populist movement from the far left, and our party-crasher was Bob Dornan. You could imagine what Dornan would have to say about a nationwide movement of firebrand progressives, and you know it wouldn't be kind or tolerant at all. And do you think there would be any pearl-clutching on David Gergen's part in this hypothetical scenario? I think we all know the answer to that question, right?