Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The Death of Outrage, Phase III
It's a lefty window display and photograph, but that's part of the point.
LOOK HERE FIRST! (NSFW). I'm going to react here to three conservative bloggers I respect but disagree with. Patrick Ruffini makes a good faith effort to respond reasonably to Ross Douthat's argument that conservatives should stop attacking their own "elitists" and work for a stronger conservative coalition instead, one that might actually have a chance of winning. Jim Treacher writes today to suggest that those of us who feel the presidential race is over are simply falling prey to what the Dems want us to believe. He thinks a 24-hour "timeout" will restore our optimism. And Rick Moran of Rightwingnuthouse.com takes time out of his dedicated pro-McCain blogging to remind us all that if Obama is elected, he is our (i.e., Moran's) President, no matter how he got there, and we shouldn't succumb to the temptation to act like KosKids or the crazies at Democratic Underground..
I understand all their points and the rationales behind them. I'm not disagreeing with their arguments as far as they go, but I think they're all missing the elephant in the living room. And it's that elephant which has so many red-state conservatives in a state of mounting -- and justifiable -- rage and despair. The elephant explains why we won't be overlooking the behavior of the elitists even in the final stages of a presidential election, why we know the race really is already over, and why we won't be tamely falling in line behind "our President" when he takes office in January.
Back in 1999, William Bennett wrote a book called "The Death of Outrage." It was a moral commentary on the successful defense of Bill Clinton by liberals during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Liberals peddled -- and Americans bought -- the notion that the scandal was only about sex and should therefore be overlooked because "everybody lies about sex" and sex is a personal and private matter. Of course, the charges for which Clinton was investigated weren't about sex per se. They were about perjury, obstruction of justice, and related felonies associated with the coverup of the affair and the use of presidential influence to move her and other witnesses out of the line of fire.
The upshot was that Clinton was acquitted in the Senate and in the eyes of the American people, though he was subsequently disbarred -- not for sex, but for lying under oath. The media mythology since then has persuaded many, if not most, Americans that Clinton was unfairly persecuted for private peccadilloes that shouldn't have anything to do with his fitness for high office. As a culture, we learned that it's possible, even necessary, to compartmentalize immoral behavior. As long as a politician is popular in his pursuit of policy priorities affecting the American people, his status as a good or bad man by our own lights is irrelevant. Any personal outrage we might feel about his private conduct is more a reflection of our own intolerance and prejudice than of any failing in the officeholder. That was Phase I.
Phase II followed almost immediately. It's the converse of Phase I. If we disapprove the polices and positions of a politician and regard them as, in some sense, immoral according to our own ideology, then absolutely everything about that politician is fair game for attack, including private and personal matters that would be exempt from rebuke in a politician whose politics we approved. That's how it came to pass that George W. Bush, his wife, daughters, extended family, and all members of his administration and party were acceptably in the eyes of the public subjected to almost inconceivably vile, vicious, and pornographic libel from brand new institutions like Moveon.org that were founded for the express purpose of mounting such assaults. As Phase II intensified, two additional effects surfaced. The MSM learned, much to its delight, that any prohibition which once existed against a clearly political double standard was also gone. Republicans could be pilloried, judged -- in advance of trial or any legal proceeding -- guilty of, yes, sexual misconduct that would never be -- and had never been -- career ending for Democrats, and there would be no public outrage.
So far, at least two Republicans have been destroyed and reduced to lewd punchlines for ultimately unproven allegations of homosexuality while Barney Frank continues to hold office and MSM respect despite having dalliances which involved obviously illegal conduct -- one with a page who ran a prostitution ring from Frank's house and the other a Fannie Mae executive who was as involved with subprime mortgage shenanigans as he was with Barney Frank. Phase II embodied the elegant simplicity of dividing the world in two. Democrats who committed lascivious private acts were protected by the natural right of privacy all well intentioned people share. Republicans were not protected because any such acts made them hyopcrites. The final flowering of Phase II was the MSM discovery that they, too, could trade in rumors, abusive characterizations, and an unabashedly obvious double standard without receiving any real rebuke from anyone. Hence the MSM-orchestrated gang rape of Sarah Palin that's been ongoing since her nomination.
In the current election cycle, we have advanced to Phase III, which is the direct opposite of Phase I. If a politician with whom we agree has a reputable private life, then it's acceptable and even necessary to overlook all and every evidence that he is profoundly, politically and/or morally corrupt. Obama looks nice, he sounds reasonable, he presents himself as a selfless idealist, and his family is handsome and untainted by scandal. Therefore, it is appropriate to give him a complete pass on his two decade-long alliance with black-nationalist racists posing as religious leaders, his ties to organized crime figures in Chicago, his associations with avowed marxists and anti-American revolutionaries for whom he funnelled funds to other dubious organizations during the only part of his career that can be said to involve action of any sort, his incredibly suspect fundraising practices as a presidential candidate, his McCarthyite alacrity for demonizing all opponents and critics as racists, AND his tacit acceptance of the -- dare I say the word? -- outrageous leftist abuse of Sarah Palin's motherhood, her womanhood, and basic human dignity (even including her private parts) since the Republican Convention
Worse than all this, the MSM are blatant activists in all three phases of the "death of outrage." Even ten years ago, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews would have been run out of their profession for the appalling misconduct they have committed during the past two years. Polls indicate that a majority of the public is aware that the MSM is heavily biased toward Obama and against the Republicans. Yet they have been taught to feel no outrage, at least not sufficient outrage to declare that they will not vote for a party which thinks it's acceptable to make jokes about a mother's vagina and her Down Syndrome baby.
And what, pray tell, is the response of the most highly educated and "refined" of the Republican intelligentsia? Do they notice that their party's campaign has been savaged by the very lowest sort of political and personal vitriol imaginable? Do they twig at the idiocy of the charge that McCain is running a negative campaign while Obama hides behind the skirts of his Hollywood Furies? Does some aspect of their highbrow heritage as "gentlemen" kick in to make them stand up and say "enough is enough"? No. Like the snobs they are, they believe a victim of rape should be hidden away, her face blurred, her appearances in public terminated, her very name forgotten. No. Like the old-school feminists they pretend to oppose, they feel the deepest possible shame at even being associated with her. No.
NO. Rather, they're offended that anyone might hold any personal malice against them. They're not apostates. They're just contemptible scum.
And to the extent that John McCain doesn't see what is happening, can't bring himself to call Obama on his despicable passivity about what has been done to McCain's own running mate, he doesn't deserve to win. Regardless of his biography, he has become scum too. That's why there's despair in the ranks of conservatives. One thing we really do have a right to share with our party's presidential candidate is outrage about things that are absolutely wrong. But he's not outraged. He's just a crabby maverick whose moral compass swirled away in a DC toilet some number of years ago.
The rebuttal of all three blogs referenced above is the same. Outrage. Our party, our country, and our values are being hijacked by a system so corrupt that most of its leading lights belong in prison, or failing that, publicly horsewhipped.
We're not the ones who changed the rules. We're the ones who remember the rules. We're not the ones who made this a cultural war to the death. Make peace with the DC fops, Patrick, if it will make you feel more hopeful. Pretend for a single sunset and sunrise that the political dialogue in your country hasn't fallen into the deepest part of the gutter, Jim. Do your very noble best, Rick, to support your new gangster president when he takes office.
But don't count on all of us appreciating the calm reasonableness of your logic. We don't. And we won't.
If it's war they want, it's war they'll get. And that's not unreasonable. It's civilized. All you out there who know something about being ladies and gentlemen will understand what I mean. The rest of you? The hell with you.
UPDATE. More vague, inarticulate, even incoherent snobbery about Palin. If I didn't know better, I'd be tempted to jump to the conclusion that all women are nuts. Except that Mrs. IP isn't, and Laura Ingraham clearly isn't. But why do so many otherwise intelligent women fall into a black hole of self-destructive self-contradiction as soon as Sarah Palin is mentioned? My theory: She's a one-woman litmus test. If there's any weakness at all in your female self-confidence about your own bravery, independence, competence, ambition, motherhood, beauty, sexual attractiveness, or personal morality, you hate her. Is the great impediment to female advancement in politics in this country really traceable to women's infinite capacity to hate, envy, and despise one another? You tell me. If it is, no woman will ever be elected to the presidency in this nation. That bitch? Over my dead body.