Saturday, June 18, 2005

Tyranny Of The Minority

[part 2 of Bush Family Values]

Matt Taibbi, who in a sane universe would have the high profile of Bobo or George Will, is also right. He's right about the nature of the religious fanatics that we in the reality-based world are up against, and he's right about how they keep winning because we mistakenly assume that they will eventually grow out of their delusions -- when the truth is, the more empirical reality they encounter that is at odds with their view of the universe, the more they get their backs up about every single issue.

What organized political resistance fundamentalists do encounter comes in the form of groups that oppose their political objectives, not Christianity itself. Even pro-choice groups like NARAL, which come into direct and often violent contact with Christians, restrict themselves to agitation for abortion rights, and leave the issue of their opponents' religion alone. In general, there is almost no public figure, anywhere, who has ever suggested publicly that fundamentalist Christianity, as a thing-in-itself, should be opposed. The strongest suggestion most critics will make is to say that it should be contained, and indeed that seems to be the best-case strategy of progressives: that the God-fearing set can be boxed in, kept from being a nuisance and from meddling in areas where they don't belong, just long enough for them to eventually die out of natural causes.

This is a mistake, and it is the same mistake people have made for centuries: underestimating the American zeal for superstition, for boobism, for living the intellectual lives of farm animals. A large statistical majority of Americans would rather live their whole lives in perpetual fear of the devil than listen to ten minutes of common sense. When you consider where these people live intellectually, the idea that the Democratic Party can somehow succeed in Middle America by making small tactical changes, by waving a few more flags, seems absurd. You either believe in the devil or you don't; and if you don't, you're never going to fool these people. The Republicans, for all their seeming "confusion," understand this now better than ever. Their seemingly open attempts in recent months to radicalize and embolden their evangelical base may have had a temporary desultory effect with regard to their poll numbers.

But this current crew of Republican strategists has always understood American thinking better than the Tom Junods of the world. They know that most political trends are fleeting. Liberalism vanished at the first sign of trouble; pacifism disappeared one generation after Vietnam; even fiscal conservatism is easily forgotten. The one thing that never disappears in this country is stupidity, and if you court it, you'll always have votes down the line. Especially when it lives on unopposed.

Exactly right on the money. The art of branding permeates every aspect of our lives, and indeed the choices we make, whether at the supermarket or the voting booth. The Republicans have branded themselves very effectively in particular with the reactionary evangelical crowd. The Democrats have had a hard time branding themselves with any particularly reliable demographic, partly because they naïvely think that better ideas should automatically win elections, partly because they just haven't mastered the technique of selling themselves nearly as effectively and dynamically as the Republicans.

We (Democrats and independents; really anyone who just wants to see a semblance of balance return to our system of government) need to stop soaking ourselves in this What's Wrong With Kansas? navel-gazing bullshit, and just deal with some hard facts. Hard Fact #1 is that a majority of Americans, despite the amazing informational resources at their fingertips, just don't care all that much about the minutiae of policy unless it directly affects them. Hard Fact #2 is that the kabuki theater of Faux News and the rest of the cable screamers is what makes them care -- indeed, it makes them care far too much about things that have absolutely no bearing on their lives.

Hard Fact #3 is that the Democrats had better get with the program or start preparing for obsolescence. In purely cynical, pragmatic terms, they have been handed several issues to bludgeon Bush mercilessly with, and sow divisiveness between the last few honest Republicans and the partisan maniacs holding the reins. They don't have to indulge in opportunistic treasonous bullshit; they really don't even need to touch on what a huge clusterfuck Iraq is rapidly devolving into, thanks to the monumental ineptitude of the brain surgeons that planned that fiasco (or forgot to, more accurately).

No, they can point at the massive unpopularity of Bush's Social Security scam; the consistent pattern of meddling and nagging Americans about their personal decisions and bedroom proclivities; the incredible profligacy they display with taxpayers' money; their absolute, unwavering commitment to keeping and increasing the massive social and economic inequities.

We Americans have some serious decisions to make about what kind of country we want to live in. We can have the freedom to run our own lives as we see fit, so long as it doesn't interfere with the rights of our fellow citizens, or we can cede that freedom to a subset who have a Special Book that entitles them to lecture the rest of us on how to live our lives. We can keep pissing away scarce resources like spoiled, self-indulgent children, or we can grow the hell up and face reality, and realize that like it or not, the world is increasingly interconnected and interdependent, and that God is not going to indefinitely miracle more fossil fuels down from on high so that we can refill our Hummers in perpetuity.

Thomas Paine or Gladys Kravitz; David Hume or Dick Cheney. That's our decision, folks, and that's the narrative that the Democratic Party needs to make its own, and hammer it home at every possible opportunity. Become the party of adults running their own lives, cognizant of the rest of the world around us. Become the party of your mind not being for rent to any god or government (gratuitous Rush reference).

Quit listening to co-opted cocksuckers like Joe Biden and go with your gut. You know you're right; we know you're right. More importantly, they know you're right, and that's what scares the shit out of them. It petrifies them that the curtain could be pulled; it mortifies them that all could be revealed. The later the better; why do you think one of Bush's first acts in early 2001 was to issue an executive order sealing presidential records?

The evangelicals are beyond reach, and frankly, I wouldn't want to be on their side anyway. Any party they're in, I'm out just on principle, until they learn to control their bullshit and realize that this is not a theocracy. But the so-called NASCAR dads are very reachable -- they just want to "know" that their side has balls. They made the wrong choice, of course, picking a party of draft-dodgers over a party of veterans, but that's a tribute to the power of narrative, the effectiveness of branding.

Do it now, Democrats. Hit fast, hit hard, and don't look back. Remember Harry Truman's admonition that, given the choice between a fake Republican and a real one, people will usually choose the real one. You don't need their message; indeed, you don't want their message. It's nothing but a series of divisive lies and logical contradictions, wrapped up in superstitious mumbo-jumbo. The hell with that.

Nope. Steal the medium, steal the tactics and the techniques, and the message will write itself. There are more of us than there are of them; the poll numbers prove that every week. We have to start acting like it, taking the battle to any and every corner that would abrogate our civil liberties and harass decent people. No battle is too small; all politics is local. Harass Fred Phelps' inbred clan of assholes, and make an example of what we think of traitorous dickheads who picket high schools and funerals. Repeat every chance you get that any religious wingnut who praises 9/11 in the name of their warped view of "God" is a traitor to both his country and his God.

Stop being afraid of these people. They have been walking on air the whole time; soon as you point it out, they will fall like Wile E. Coyote running past the edge of the proverbial cliff, treading air just so long as he doesn't look down.

It's time to make them look.


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