Tuesday, January 22, 2013

déjà fool

For those who didn't see it, here's Obama's second inaugural address.
It reminded Chris Matthews of Lincoln's second inaugural. Of course.

NO SCORE AND FOUR YEARS AGO. I didn't watch it or any of the coverage of it. The closest I came was reading Drudge and Hotair headlines. The only one I followed was at Hotair, because it came from Redstate's Eric Erickson and was titled, "Congratulations, Mr. President, from the loyal opposition." Here's a sample:

Congratulations Mr. President on your second inaugural.
Saying that makes some of you really enraged. I said the same on twitter shortly after his official swearing in. Several of the replies were embarrassing and atrocious. Some accused the man elected by a majority of Americans of treason. Some accused him of willfully destroying the nation.
I believe the President’s policies are destructive and will harm our economy, our nation, and our sense of national self long term. I believe his policies have the effect of turning us into subjects of the government, not citizens in charge of it. Because of his expansion of the social safety net funded through class warfare, Mr. Obama’s policies will cause too many Americans’ fortunes to rise and fall with those of the government, unable to chart a course for themselves apart from government.
But I do not think the President means to do this maliciously. I do not think he is treasonous. I do not hate him. I am not outraged by it. The President has done what he set out to do. I cannot be outraged by him doing what he set out to do. I am far more outraged by the Republicans not doing what they said they would do.
We have too many outrage pimps on both sides of the aisle whipping the respective bases into a frenzy and fury against the other side. I don’t have enough time or energy to be outraged about it all. There are things to be outraged by, but not everything, and certainly not with full energy dedicated to every perceived slight and grievance.
What I am finding is that among conservatives there is too much outrage, piss, and vinegar. It makes our ideas less effective. We have become humorless, angry opponents of the President instead of happy warriors selling better ideas. We are not even selling ideas.

Conservatives, frankly, have become purveyors of outrage instead of preachers for a cause. Instead of showing how increasing government harms people, how free markets help people, and how conservative policies benefit all Americans, we scream “Benghazi” and “Fast & Furious”...

Be mad at me if you need to. Feel free to express your moral outrage and indignity at me. But then shut up and focus on convincing people not that the President of the United States duly elected by a majority of the American people is a traitor willfully trying to destroy the country, but that our policies will allow people to make the most of their lives and not be dependent on the rising and falling fortunes of Washington, D.C.

Be happy. The anger is unbecoming of the party of Lincoln and Reagan.

Be happy. Try to emulate the original "happy warrior," Abraham Lincoln. uh, sure. Think of all those daguerrotypes of Old Abe smiling.

My first thought on reading this was the adage, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Because there is a deja vu moment or two here. We went through this false, deluded collegiality display last time, too. In November 2008, I took exception to a very similar rant by Glenn Beck:

There has also been a fair amount of the schizophrenic behavior I heard on Glenn Beck's radio show yesterday, when he wound up literally screaming at a caller that if he didn't "accept Obama as our president," he was exactly like the wingnuts at the DailyKos who argued for eight years that Bush stole the presidency and had no legal right to the office. This from a guy who has consistently characterized the 2008 election as "1860, the brink of civil war."

What's going on here? Is there an issue at all? If there is, why? If not, why not? I, for example, am already on record as saying that "I refuse to accept a president who thinks our constitution is fatally flawed and who sees nothing wrong with choosing a black racist as a mentor or a murderous terrorist as a partner in a conspiracy to radicalize school children rather than teach them to read and write. " Does this make me "exactly like the wingnuts at DailyKos?"

I would say no. I don't dispute the legality of Obama's election, and I doubt most of the people who agree with my statement above would either. After he takes the oath of office, Barack Obama will be the President of the United States. I have lost none of my respect for the office, and as the current occupant of that office, he is entitled to the official respect that was always denied George W. Bush by his fanatical opponents. If I were overseas and heard him criticized by a foreigner, I would defend him because I'm an American citizen and that is part of my duty as a citizen, as I understand it.

However. As an American citizen, I also reserve the right to believe that Barack Obama is not my president. The prigs and the screamers on this point seem suddenly to be forgetting that there's more than one kind of contract in force here, and all of them involve complex and sometimes mutual responsibilities. The president has an express contract with the Constitution of the United States; he swears a solemn oath to defend and protect it.. He also has an understood contract with the the United States as a nation, that he will subordinate his own interests to the welfare of the nation as a whole, and will make whatever personal and political sacrifices may be necessary to keep it from harm. Finally, he has an implied contract with each and every citizen individually, that he will repay our respect for the office and his tenure in it by remembering that he works for us, all of us, not simply those who elected him...

...I do not believe Obama is entering into any of the three contracts in good faith. I don't believe he intends to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States, but to engineer its rewriting from the bench. I do not believe he holds the interests of the United States as a nation above the interests of various constituencies and political factions around the globe. And I do not believe there is any definition under which he would repay my acceptance and respect by being my president as much as he intends to be the president of the aggrieved and vengeful...

...My last point on this subject concerns my grave disquietude about the meaning of the conservative rush to "make nice." I think everyone who does this betrays a naivete for which there is absolutely no justification. Do they really think that being gracious is going to slow down the juggernaut of a Democrat White House and congress? Fools. We are days, if not hours, away from an all-out declaration of war by Democrats on all things conservative and Republican. Taking time out to shake the right hand of the man who will immediately stab you with the dagger in his left is more than folly. It's contemptible.

It's especially contemptible given Erickson's historical condescension to conservative internet blogs that are not focused on political activism but the reactions, thoughts, and anger of individual voices in the unorganized blogosphere. In May of last year, for example, he pronounced his own personal superiority to the hoi polloi of righty bloggers:

As I’ve grown up online, I’m one of the uncommon few who has moved on to both television and radio. I have been blessed. Along the way, I find others who are making the transition too, but still others who have been toiling away in the blogosphere for years who have refused to make the transition, or been unable to despite their hopes, and they may look at me and others like me and think we’ve sold out or decided to go along to get along. But I look at them and think what a waste of talent and energy. Some don’t want to transition, but have grown up and matured in their style and interpersonal relationships. They want to have an impact and they do. Hats off to them. But there are others who are dragging those folks down and the rest of us too.

Sadly for them and the rest of us who get invited to nice places to meet nice people off the record, as long as the rest of us keep humoring them and their antics, those invites won’t come for any of us.

He's trying hard to justify the move he made from being an opinionated nobody to a Republican political activist with an agenda, seeking power. I responded (in part) thus:

Erikson is obviously aware of the problems inherent in being a politician. Why he's fearful that "they may look at me and others like me and think we’ve sold out or decided to go along to get along." It's also clear that he has trouble comprehending the possibility that anyone would invest so much time without wanting a political career of some kind. Those who don't aspire to that are merely dabbling in ways that might improve their "interpersonal relationships."

All of which suggests to me that he is missing the greatest possible boon of the Internet and the "blogosphere," which is the role of amateur citizens who watch and listen and comment from the perspective of those outside the political circus. We don't all want to be performers in the circus. Actually, we're the most important participants in the show -- American citizens. So easy to forget...

I don't claim to speak for anyone but me, but I can assure you -- despite having blogged as long and prolifically as Erick Erickson -- that I have never once considered attending a conference or convention of like-minded bloggers (if there were any), and I can't think of anything worse than being a designated conservative in a CNN segment. Wild horses couldn't drag me there. I don't want people whose political philosophies I despise to regard me as reasonable or affable. Why? Because I despise them. I'm not an activist, conservative or otherwise. I'm an outspoken citizen, and my amateur status is the solid gold credential that underlies everything I write in my blog.

The irony. This would-be "happy warrior" is doubly accusatory and doubly unhappy. He's furious at the political establishment he worked so hard to persuade, energize, and support. And he's equally furious at the uninvited commoners who no longer believe in the counterfeit coin of being accepted as the (eagerly) loyal opposition. He's clinging to a phantom. Having given away his own native voice and spontaneity in favor of calculated political-speak, he feels betrayed by both the hacks who used him and the peanut gallery that was laughing the whole time.

Are there lessons here? I don't know. Erickson may not have achieved the power and influence he wanted, but he did achieve a certain celebrity. I've heard him as a guest on Laura Ingraham's radio show, introduced with glowing praise. That's certainly part of what he wanted. What did he give up? Not much in the terms he claims to value. Though, as he relaunches his offensive on the Obama empire, I'm reminded by his fraudulent bonhomie toward the opposition of the fact that it's years since he's had the freedom to be go-to-hell irreverent, humorous, and fearlessly prescient.

I won't dwell on my own record as a prognosticator. But I will link to several posts I put up during the time of the first inauguration. Judge for yourselves how much I got right and wrong. And whether I'd have posted them at all if I were writing as a politico rather than a pissed off average citizen.

I suggest that what I got right was how rigged the game would be, particularly in terms of the media and Obama's own political tactics and priorities. I never had to lie to myself that I was some kind of player in a game that is bruising and winner-take-all but somehow inveterately the same and (quasi) Marquis of Queensberry in that everyone who participates must accept outcomes determined by the rules of the game. Why he wants to shake hands after the inauguration before he comes out fighting again. I get that. But I'm shaking no man's hand in this brawl. I'm reverting to my Guns'N'Roses days:

November isn't the pertinent point, no matter how achingly relevant it seems.
Rather, it's the GNR song architecture. Complete verse and chorus convention,
followed by over-the-top solo-slash-coda courtesy of one top-hatted Slash.

Guess you could call this whole virtual exchange between Erickson and me a combination of "deja vous" and "deja moi." I still know who I am. Does he know who he is?

I'll tell you who he is. Him and everyone like him who wants to congratulate this administration on its second term.

I've used the NFL analogy before. It should be fresh in a lot of minds. Imagine a Super Bowl in which the sports press has picked its favorite beforehand and written nothing but puff pieces about the anointed team (which has a 7-9 regular season record but the best backstory in NFL history) and nothing but exposes and criticisms of their chosen villain team, which hails from boring flyover country. The game is played at a neutral site, but somehow ticket sales have resulted in a huge homefield advantage for guess who? As the play proceeds, it becomes clear that all the luck is going only one way. One team lines up in the neutral zone on every play and is never penalized. Their defensive secondary interferes on every pass route and is never flagged. Helmets are launched at receivers and the quarterback, players are carted off the field, and there is no yellow flag thrown. Ever. Conversely, the other team is continuously penalized for being blocked into the returner and the quarterback, and for delay of game infractions caused by play clocks that tick mysteriously fast, stadium sound levels that rise precipitously in volume when the villain team is on offense, and for instances of chaos attendant to bottles and batteries flung from the stands at villain players whose pleas to the refs are waved away. Every challenge by the anointed team is successful. Every challenge by their opposition is defeated. The announcers in the booth never acknowledge any of this, contenting themselves with lauding the play of the anointed. Whenever there is controversy on the field, as when players pick up and display thrown bottles and batteries to referees, the cameras go to the sidelines, where all the most famous celebrities in Hollywood are cheering on their winning team. Late in the game, when the outcome is still in doubt against all the odds, refs begin to throw flags for penalties no one's ever heard of -- tackling impolitely, muttering under the breath about referees, objecting to the fact that the anointed's linemen are carrying sidearms and have members of their opponents' families held hostage under the stadium. The final, potentially winning field goal splits the uprights and is called no good. Official review confirms the call. The winners win. As everyone should have known they would.

Then the Owner descends from his gold-plated box to accept the trophy and all the credit. As he should. Who (and what) else could have pulled off such a triumph of "sport"? Shammadamma.

At the conclusion of such a "game," what does the loser do? If you say, "Oh well, they kicked our ass fair and square, and we'll have to do a better job next time, and congratulations to the winners," you're not a rational, credible source. You're a fucking fool.

Congratulations, Eric Erickson. You're a fucking fool. That doesn't solve the problem the rest of us have about what to do next. It only solves the problem of who you are.

As for me, Obama is still not my president. I and more than a hundred million others are united in that conviction. Maybe you should stop telling us what to think and start listening to what we have to say.

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