Friday, December 10, 2010

Bread And Circuses

I am going to voice some dissent concerning Bernie Sanders' long speech on the floor of the United States Senate today. It isn't a "filibuster". Rather, because of parliamentary procedures and Senate rules, he simply took his place on the floor, rattled off some statistics, gained some attention, and . . . that's about it. A whole lot of progressives are cheering him on, and I have no problem with them doing so.

I'm not.

This is a game. Sanders is having what is, in essence, a very public hissy fit. His intentions are certainly honorable. His facts and figures are accurate. All the same, this is a bone tossed to the left-wing, well, maybe not masses, but perhaps large crowds, in the wake of Pres. Obama voicing consternation that they just didn't jump up and down in support of the deal he cut with Congressional Republicans earlier in the week.

This is politics as spectacle. The real thing happened earlier in the week, and is going on in phone calls and blackberry messages among members of the various caucuses in Congress. For all that Sanders has "right", in the sense of correct facts and figures and posture toward those most in need, on his side, this is a way to placate all those folks out there who feel detached from the back room dealing.

Not a word of Sanders' speech will penetrate any "analysis". Instead, all the attention will be on the event itself. Like all else in our political life, we are being fed scraps to satisfy our sense of participation. Except, sitting and watching an hours-long speech isn't participation, it is entertainment.

Even if Sanders is right on the matter of policy; even if Sanders has facts and figures on his side; even if he is now joined by others in this special edition of C-SPAN; even for all this, I cannot and do not believe it matters one whit. Facts ceased to matter in our politics decades ago. The reality of our growing socio-economic polarization - the only one that matters, not our mostly nonsensical ideological polarization - has been ignored and will continue to be ignored. This is a distraction, a diversion, a bone tossed to those who care passionately about these matters, giving them a vicarious sense of participation without doing a single thing to change any policy, change any minds, or actually do something substantive for our growing underclass. Someone in my FB newsfeed wrote, "I stand with the poor" and that sounds marvelous.

But it's bullshit. Sitting and watching TV is sitting and watching TV. That even progressives no longer realize this tells me so much about the state of our politics.

Virtual Tin Cup

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