Please help me make sense of this. After writing a few dozen posts about the need for the citizens of America to become more active, it looks like success at last! Should I be happy?
The good news: more citizen involvement! Excerpts from these appear at the end of this post.
- “Remember when protest was patriotic?“, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, op-ed in the Washington Examiner, 8 August 2009
- “‘You Are Terrifying Us’“, Peggy Noonan, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 8 August 2009
The bad news: we’re often ignorant — or indulge in willful self-deception — about so many aspects of our government. As seen in this question:
Surely the oddest thing about the town hall protests is the number of elderly screaming at the top of their lungs about euthanasia, eugenics–by far the largest contingent. These folks have single-payer health care paid for by the government, and have had it for decades. It’s called Medicare. Yet somehow, they vehemently want to deny it to everyone under 65. What’s up with that?
— From Andrew Sullivan’s blog
In other pockets of the state, the reaction to Democratic proposals has been strong, too. At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.”
“I had to politely explain that, ‘Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,’ ” Inglis recalled. “But he wasn’t having any of it.”
— Washington Post
And I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, I don’t want government-run health care, I don’t want socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare. (Laughter.) And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that’s what Medicare is, is it’s a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with.
— (TPM transcript– President Obama speaking at an AARP “town hall” meeting about health care, 28 July 2009)
Of course, citizen ignorance is a feature (not a bug) of our system — cultivated our ruling elites. See economist Arthur Laffer work spreading propaganda.
LAFFER: I mean, if you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait until you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government.
— Quote from CNN’s Newsroom, 4 August 2009, source ThinkProgress
For more on this, see “The Medicare-Isn’t-Government Meme“, Timothy Noah, Slate, 5 August 2009. Key excerpt:
The big lie that Medicare isn’t, nor ever should be, financed and regulated by the government, is a nice illustration of Slate founder Michael Kinsley’s hypothesis, articulated in his 1995 book Big Babies, that infantile denial lies at the heart of much contemporary political disaffection. The American people, Kinsley wrote, “make flagrantly incompatible demands—cut my taxes, preserve my benefits, balance the budget—then explode in self-righteous outrage when the politicians fail to deliver.”
We will be back on track when we see middle-class Americans demanding that their taxes be raised and benefits cut to balance the budget (over a full economic cycle, of course). When we see people laugh at politicos promising free benefits from the government.
(1) “Remember when protest was patriotic?“, Glenn Harlan Reynolds, op-ed in the Washington Examiner, 8 August 2009 — Excerpt:
“Protest is patriotic!” “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism!”
These battle-cries were heard often, in a simpler America of long ago — that is, before last November. Back then, protests — even if they were organized by the usual leftist apparatchik-groups like ANSWER or ACORN — were seen – at least in the media – as proof of popular discontent.
When handfuls of Code Pink ladies disrupted congressional hearings or speeches by Bush administration officials, it was taken as evidence that the administration’s policies were unpopular, and that the thinking parts of the populace were rising up in true democratic fashion.
Even disruptive tactics aimed at blocking President Bush’s Social Security reform program were merely seen as evidence of boisterous high spirits and robust, wide-open debate.
… This was just good, boisterous politics: “Robust, wide-open debate.” But when it happens to Democrats, it’s something different: A threat to democracy, a sign of incipient fascism, and an opportunity to set up a (possibly illegal) White House “snitch line” where people are encouraged to report “fishy” statements to the authorities.
… As someone who’s been following the Tea Party campaign since the beginning, it seems to me to be the most genuine outbreak of grassroots popular involvement in my lifetime. People have been turning out, in the tens of thousands at times, because they feel that Obama pulled a bait-and-switch and is moving the country much farther to the left than he promised during the campaign.
More significantly, most of these people are turning out to protest for the first time in their lives, and they’re planning for future political involvement in years to come. Perhaps that’s what’s got the critics worried.
It’s true, of course, that conservative and libertarian organizations — ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions to FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity — are getting involved and providing advice and support, just as numerous lefty groups have always done with left-leaning movements.
But, as I noted in an April 15 column in The Wall Street Journal, those groups were playing catch-up to a movement that was already rolling on its own.
The truth is that for my adult lifetime, “protest” has been a kind of Kabuki engaged in by organized groups on the Left with help from the press — as in the recent bus tour of AIG executives that was organized and paid for by an ACORN affiliate and in which the protesters were heavily outnumbered by the media, who nonetheless generally treated it as an “authentic” expression of populist discontent.
(2) “‘You Are Terrifying Us’“, Peggy Noonan, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 8 August 2009
In his first five months in office, Mr. Obama had racked up big wins—the stimulus, children’s health insurance, House approval of cap-and-trade. But he stayed too long at the hot table. All the Democrats in Washington did. They overinterpreted the meaning of the 2008 election, and didn’t fully take into account how the great recession changed the national mood and atmosphere.
And so the shock on the faces of Congressmen who’ve faced the grillings back home. And really, their shock is the first thing you see in the videos. They had no idea how people were feeling. Their 2008 win left them thinking an election that had been shaped by anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and pro-change feeling was really a mandate without context; they thought that in the middle of a historic recession featuring horrific deficits, they could assume support for the invention of a huge new entitlement carrying huge new costs.
The passions of the protesters, on the other hand, are not a surprise.
… What has been most unsettling is not the congressmen’s surprise but a hard new tone that emerged this week. The leftosphere and the liberal commentariat charged that the town-hall meetings weren’t authentic, the crowds were ginned up by insurance companies, lobbyists and the Republican National Committee. But you can’t get people to leave their homes and go to a meeting with a congressman (of all people) unless they are engaged to the point of passion. And what tends to agitate people most is the idea of loss—loss of money hard earned, loss of autonomy, loss of the few things that work in a great sweeping away of those that don’t.
People are not automatons. They show up only if they care.
What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in. And the Democratic response has been stunningly crude and aggressive. It has been to attack. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, accused the people at the meetings of “carrying swastikas and symbols like that.” (Apparently one protester held a hand-lettered sign with a “no” slash over a swastika.) But they are not Nazis, they’re Americans. Some of them looked like they’d actually spent some time fighting Nazis.
Then came the Democratic Party charge that the people at the meetings were suspiciously well-dressed, in jackets and ties from Brooks Brothers. They must be Republican rent-a-mobs. Sen. Barbara Boxer said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that people are “storming these town-hall meetings,” that they were “well dressed,” that “this is all organized,” “all planned,” to “hurt our president.” Here she was projecting. For normal people, it’s not all about Barack Obama.
The Democratic National Committee chimed in with an incendiary Web video whose script reads, “The right wing extremist Republican base is back.” DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse issued a statement that said the Republicans “are inciting angry mobs of . . . right wing extremists” who are “not reflective of where the American people are.”
But most damagingly to political civility, and even our political tradition, was the new White House email address to which citizens are asked to report instances of “disinformation” in the health-care debate: If you receive an email or see something on the Web about health-care reform that seems “fishy,” you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The White House said it was merely trying to fight “intentionally misleading” information.
… All of this is unnecessarily and unhelpfully divisive and provocative. They are mocking and menacing concerned citizens. This only makes a hot situation hotter.
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To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp interest these days:
Posts on the FM site about America’s broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA loop):
- What do blogs do for America?, 26 February 2008
- The housing crisis allows America to look in the mirror. What do we see?, 8 March 2009
- The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
- The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
- We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009
- The decay of our government, visible for all to see, 3 June 2009
- A great, brief analysis of problem with America’s society – a model to follow when looking at other problems, 4 June 2009
- Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009