Having heard the President’s call for civil discourse in Tucson, I rouse myself from blogging torpor to propose an explanation of why the entire back-and-forth over our impolitic politics is both endless and pointless. It advances no coherent point because it fails to draw any commonsense distinction between hatred and anger.
Essentially, hatred is a causal factor, while anger is a response to some stimulus. They often coexist, of course, but they are nonetheless distinct in ways that are important to politics.
Some of the worst laws ever enacted in this fine nation were those that based law on hatred by codifying racial prejudice through the legal imposition of segregation onto the ordinary business of everyday life. C. Vann Woodward has argued that these Jim Crow laws may not have simply reflected a universal racist sentiment, but rather imposed a harsh regime upon a post-war society that, in at least some locations, manifested a degree of ease in racial relations that was noticeably greater to contemporary observers than what could be found in New England. Was it that famous Southern veneer of civility that dampened opposition to the sweeping new laws that established the pernicious system of state-mandated racial inequality? If so, then there is nothing good to be said about that sort of civility. Had he been a citizen of Alabama in those times, Barry Goldwater might readily have denounced “moderation” and extolled “extremism in the defense of liberty.” Those times called for righteous anger, not quiet concern.
Of course, there was surpassing anger in response to the push for desegregation in the 1960s, which could in no way be considered righteous. Since anger is a response and not a cause, it is neither inherently good nor inherently bad in political life. Conversely, it would be absurd to say that the compromises at the national level that allowed the Democrats to rule as the party of both Theodore Bilbo and Henry Wallace were inherently good simply because no heated rhetoric was involved.
The connection of all this to the Tea Party of today is immediate. Are Tea Partiers angry? Speaking as a sympathizer to that movement, I say yes, indeed they are—and why not? The last Congress had neither the time nor the inclination to read the law through which it heedlessly initiated the restructuring of the entire health-care sector, yet it remained too busy to pass an actual budget. Utterly transparent falsifications and accounting tricks were deployed in order to make the preposterous claim that the amount of health care delivered to Americans in the aggregate could be increased while reducing the federal deficit. Anyone who believes himself to be an advocate of sensible—let alone limited—government and is not outraged by the spectacle of the 111th Congress is simply not paying any attention at all. And if a person who holds such views—which are not based on hatred, but on wholly reasonable tenets of sound policy and the just aims of a free society—is angry, that anger does not make him a “hater.”
Rep. James Clyburn, long-serving Democrat from South Carolina and a veteran of the civil-rights movement, looks at the Tea Party’s rallies and sees images of Orangeburg reflected back. His perception is perhaps understandable, but it is a view taken through a glass, darkly. The Tea Party’s purpose is not to oppress Rep. Clyburn, but to oppose him. He chides Sarah Palin for failing to comprehend what he believes to be so clear, all the while remaining oblivious to his own blind spot as he gazes upon her.
Now it is not my claim that none of the anger in today’s politics is motivated by hatred. In fact, it is depressingly easy to find truly hateful speech all over the internet, although in many cases it is not entirely clear how to distinguish between hatred and mental imbalance. (As I write these words my thoughts are filling with images from sites operated by such people as Markos Moulitsas, Andrew Sullivan, and the anonymous minions of the Democratic Underground.) As for why I think that hatred is disproportionately an attribute of the left, another post will be required, for this one has already exceeded the limits of readability.
Television irrlevancy Bill Maher aspires to viewership by threatening to make available a long series of video clips of long-ago appearances made by Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell on his generally unwatchable show. The prospect of startling revelations in the manner of O’Donnell’s admission to “dabbling into witchcraft” and her views on self-pleasure seems to have thrown many otherwise sensible people, as well as Karl Rove, into seizures of despondency. It is my great pleasure to set aright the deep thinkers of the dextrosphere, as well as Karl Rove, thereby allowing them to refocus their brainpower on the electability of Sarah Palin.
When a candidate for public office claims to possess a firm grasp of the Social Good that is to be delivered by means of government intervention in my life and in the lives of others, then we are all well-advised to delve deeply into this person’s character and habits of thought. The case of our current, surpassingly incompetent President suffices as both a case in point and a cautionary tale. But a candidate who proposes to reduce the range of government control over our lives requires far less vetting.
If Christine O’Donnell can help repeal the epic disaster that is DemoCare, if she can help stop the completely unsustainable growth in federal-government spending that the current administration and Congress have undertaken, if she can help thwart the appointment of federal judges and Supreme Court justices who look to the laws of the rest of the world for guidance in social planning, then no one who shares these goals need be bothered in the least by her personal predilections.
The singular advantage of limited government and maximum personal choice is that we do not need to be governed by persons of great intellectual heft. The delusion of the socialists, from the Fabians to the Maoists, has always been that a ruling cadre of superior insight free from Madisonian limitations can outperform a disorganized rabble of ordinary people making choices within a governing framework that severely limits their ability to rule each other. The “calculation error” made by socialists of every stripe is the cornerstone of their entire intellectual and policy edifice, which accounts for its general shakiness. Christine O’Donnell would undoubtedly make a poor commissar; it is our good fortune that this is not yet a position that is available to her or to anyone else.
I am not arguing that O’Donnell should be supported out of loyalty to “the team,” as has been argued elsewhere. If she turns out not to be a credible proponent of rolling back the Democrats’ assault on the economy and the health-care system, then I see no reason to support her. But if she is credible on that score, then I see no relevance to her personal beliefs, whether they involve onanism or satanism or–as in the case of Rudy Giuliani–fealty to the New York Yankees. What is going to be decided by the voters of Delaware is not who they’re going to hang out with on weekends, it’s who’s going to cast a series of pivotal votes on their behalf on matters of overriding historical importance.
I have more confidence in the voters of Delaware to recognize this than I have in the pundits to do likewise.
Today’s other arresting photo of Obama
The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect.
What memory was it that this photographic madeleine summoned?
Sean Hackbarth had similar memories of other Democrats stirred by Obama a couple of years ago. This one is hard to top:
Q. How foolish does the President look in this already-legendary photo?
Republicans are in the midst of an insurrection. Democrats are not. This vast gulf between the situations of the two parties — not some grand revolt against “the establishment” or “incumbents” — explains the year’s primary results, including Tuesday’s jarring outcomes in Florida and Alaska. (emphasis added)
Merriam-Webster‘s dictionary offers these meanings of the word jarring:
1. a. to make a harsh or discordant sound
b. to have a harshly disagreeable or disconcerting effect
c. to be out of harmony
2. a. to affect disagreeably
b. to make unstable or loose
Here is a brief resume of Joe Miller, whose victory over Senator Porkbarrel Legacy causes such apparent distress to Mr. Dionne:
honors graduate, US Military Academy; J.D., Yale Law School; M.S. in Economics, University of Alaska; recipient of Bronze Star (which is awarded for “heroic or meritorious achievement or service”); former U.S. Magistrate Judge and currently in private law practice.
Among the words that might have occurred to Mr. Dionne instead of jarring to characterize the electoral victory of such a man over an incumbent U.S. Senator in a primary election are: amazing, astonishing, astounding, blindsiding, dumbfounding, eye-opening, flabbergasting, startling, stunning, or surprising. In fact, he’d have found every single one of them in an online thesaurus, to which he would have turned if he had the slightest commitment to basic journalistic decency and the ability to detect his own latent biases. Clearly, he lacks one or both of those most desirable traits in someone so insistent on being the voice of sweet reason in the Mask-Slipping Media.
If he’s not more careful, people might start suspecting that, to E. J. Dionne, the mainstream of American opinion is the middle ground among his fellow writers at the Post.
His party is increasingly worried about losing its majority in the House of Representatives. Incumbent Democrats in several states are essentially trying to redefine themselves as Republicans. (Pennsylvania Democrat Jason Altmire’s new ad boasts of his willingness to “stand up to the President..and Nancy Pelosi.”) There is open speculation that President Obama won’t even seek a second term of office. Is hope now too audacious? In a word, no.
While mounting evidence indicates that the American presidency and Barack Obama do not constitute a good match, there is a similar job for which Mr. Obama appears to be ideally suited: the Presidency of Ireland. Consider these essential features of the job, as described on Wikipedia:
- The Constitution of Ireland provides for a parliamentary system of government, under which the role of the head of state is largely a ceremonial one. Most of the functions of the President may only be carried out in accordance with the strict instructions of the Constitution, or the binding ‘advice’ of the Government.
In other words, he wouldn’t be responsible for proposing any specific new laws or for the administration of existing laws–an arrangement with which he has amply demonstrated his complete satisfaction.
- The President, on the advice of the Government, has “the right of pardon and the power to commute or remit punishment”.
This, plus periodic cash payments, should enable him to induce Rod Blagojevich to keep quiet.
- The presidency is open to all citizens of the state who are at least 35.
No more pesky demands for a birth certificate, because Irish citizenship can be applied for after five years of residence.
- The President of Ireland has no vice president.
The advantages of this feature are readily apparent.
- The president’s residence resembles the White House, so the whole family will feel at home immediately:
- The president has certain specific discretionary powers, and it is considered grossly inappropriate for the president to be contacted by the leaders of any political parties in an effort to influence a decision made using the discretionary powers.
No need for those annoying meetings with the members of the opposition party-or one’s own party, for that matter. Of course this means…more time for golf! Which leads us to the final, critical point.
- Ireland has some truly great golf courses. And it only takes an hour to fly from Dublin to Edinburgh, the gateway to St. Andrews.
This is clearly the right job for Mr. Obama, and he should be able to win election to this position with ease. For one thing, he’s already got what a former Irish President has long yearned for.