Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Choice Not An Echo (UPDATE)

While many, including me, have been focusing on the lack of serious difference between the Democrats and Republicans on niggling details like actual fiscal policy and the general approach toward large financial institutions, the Republican Party has decided, through its convention, to make clear there are real, stark differences between the two parties and their approach to governance.  The difference is summed up with perfection by Charlie Pierce:
It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie because it was an entire evening based on rejecting — publicly and dishonestly, and without caring that the facts of your own biographies give the lie to the words you're saying — the idea of a general political commonwealth as expressed through the national government, which has been the great engine behind the expansion of the country's size, the country's wealth, and, yes, the country's freedom.
Whether it's "celebrating" the lie about "We Built This" in a building funded by taxpayers, or having speaker after speaker extol the virtues of self-reliance after listing all sorts of public funding from being in military families to receiving money from the GI Bill to attending public colleges to spending their adult lives as public officials, there is, as Pierce says so eloquently, not a falsehood the Republican Party won't present in order to further their dream of stripping away the final, tattered remnants of the ties that bind us together as a people.  As they insist we race to the bottom of the heap of once-glorious nations, we should remember this is not a new thing.

I remember the moment that, perhaps more than any other, changed my thinking about politics.  In the summer of 1984, I had just finished my freshman year of college.  I spent the better part of that summer doing a crash course in reading up on all sorts of things.  One of the big publishing hits from that balmy year of Ronald Reagan and Duran Duran was Helen Caldicott's Missile Envy.  One evening, I had the great good fortune to catch her in the hot seat on CNN's old show, Crossfire.  This was back in the day when "the Left" was represented by Tom Braden, whose lasting contribution to American culture was Eight Is Enough.  I remember very vividly the moment Dr. Caldicott was talking about a sit down she had with Pres. Reagan, talking about matters surrounding the nuclear arms race.  She said, quite baldly, that everything Pres. Reagan said to her, from the overall strategic balance of nuclear forces that might result from "The Nuclear Freeze" to tactical control over field nuclear weapons (yes, the US designed artillery shells that were fission based; nice idea, that), was all factually inaccurate.

I sat stunned.  Really?  The President of the United States was factually wrong about, well, everything?  Over many ensuing years, I was a huge supporter of efforts to correct the public record whenever someone made an obvious boner.  When I discovered Media Matters for America, I became a fan.  One of the benefits of Internet communication is the proliferation of fact-correction of statements and claims politicians make.

I've given up on the idea that, presented with the facts of the matter, folks will say to themselves, "Wow!  These people are lying to me!", change their minds, and act accordingly.  The reason the Republican strategy of mendacity is so successful is simple: It works.  The folks in Tampa Bay don't care they are being fed false information.  The Republican Party doesn't care that it is not telling the truth to the American people.

No amount of "correcting the record" is going to get folks to switch their votes.  "Speaking truth to power," one of the stupidest phrases I can imagine - it was Noam Chomsky who crystallized my thinking on this when he said, "The powerful already know the truth.  It's the people who need to hear it." - is both useless and irrelevant.

We the people are being offered a very real choice this year.  The Republican Party, in its official capacity at its quadrennial national meeting, has made sure of that.  All any of us can do, and that isn't much, is not only point out the unreality of so much of their vision of and for America, but offer the alternative, so eloquently expressed by Pierce and more haltingly by myself, that we as a nation are far better than this blinkered, small, and ultimately false view.

UPDATE:  There are last nerves that get plucked, the final limits of patience that are exceeded, the final willingness to keep a discussion on a level that is somewhat civil.

This post demonstrates, however, some at least of the opponents of Pres. Obama should not be allowed in public.  The accompanying image, I think, says it all:
I'm through playing nice.

Virtual Tin Cup

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