Sorry I dozed off.
Emotionalism, tribalism, intolerance, lies, cruelty, and extremism surround us (and I have not been immune in this climate to their temptations either). Trump has turned the right into a foul, spit-flecked froth of racist reactionism, and he has evoked a radical response on the left that, while completely understandable, alienates me and many others more profoundly with every passing day.
And so I walk the dogs. And I meditate. And I smoke more weed in the evenings. And I browse the apps. And I find myself searching for figures outside this time and place who were in similar circumstances and yet kept their heads. You can never go wrong reading Orwell.
Given Sully’s obsession with our campus radical overlords (and the second half of his article is devoted to the martyrdom of St. Googlebro), I’ll put this in terms he an understand: smoking out, reading Orwell, and decrying the overall state of the world is how teen-agers deal with break-ups, not how adults deal with encroaching tyranny. Nothing wrong with smoking pot obviously, but it’s not a substitute for picking a side and fighting for it (instead of concern trolling it).
Since people who give a fuck about the country don’t have the luxury of spending all their time browsing apps and meditating, let’s raise some money.
Give here to the Balloon Juice fund that’s split equally among all Democratic eventual nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans:
Give here to Swing Left which is promoting grassroots progressive activity targeting over 70 Republican House districts.
It’s 2020, four years from now.
As the presidential primaries unfold, Kanye West is leading a fractured field of Democrats. The Republican front-runner is Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. Elected governor of Louisiana only a few months ago, he is promising to defy the Washington establishment by never trimming his beard. Party elders have given up all pretense of being more than spectators, and most of the candidates have given up all pretense of party loyalty. On the debate stages, and everywhere else, anything goes.
I could continue, but you get the gist. Yes, the political future I’ve described is unreal. But it is also a linear extrapolation of several trends on vivid display right now.
What possible purpose could this kind of sub-Borowtiz material serve?
Yes, our political system has gone crazy but someday it may be sane, and Jonathan Rauch will still be a pompous idiot.
Remember that fun couple of months when we were all saving the Affordable Care Act? Something jumped out at me then and I still think it is incredibly salient today. At the very beginning when we started phoning Representatives, their staffs reacted like it was a breath of air to a drowning person. This really puzzled me. This blog has a lot of readers, but not that many. At any given time I don’t think we had more than a couple hundred actively burning up the phone lines. At the beginning when I started hearing this stuff it could not have been more than a couple dozen people. These politicians represent the whole country. If you count just the Democrats at that time they represent a bit over half of it. That’s a bit under two hundred million people. Say around a hundred million old enough to pick up the phone. I know that not everyone does, but enough people still do that often enough that we never should have had the impact we did.
A piece fell into the puzzle when I listened to Keith and Rachel on MSNBC. I have to confess that I don’t enjoy loud partisan entertainment all that much, even when it’s on my side. I think I watched either of them for the first time a few months after the ACA. When Maddow went to credits, what I felt more than anything was kind of smug. I felt great about being on the right side of objective reality but I did not feel like doing much of anything.
Watch an hour of O’Reilly some time, and then check your feelings. Odds are pretty good you will be mad. If you are a liberal you will be mad at all the stupid and misleading things he said about you. If you are a conservative you will feel pretty steamed about the terrible liberals, laughing at you while they wreck everything. Either way you will want to do something. Maybe call FOX and complain about their accuracy, maybe bottle that rage up and save it for Sunday dinner when you can really stick it to that smug liberal nephew. You know what a metric shitload of conservatives do when FOX or some jackass on Clear Channel pisses them off? They call their Congressperson. I know this because Congressional phone volunteers receive what amounts to a nonstop stream of angry invective from FOX viewers and Glenn Beck fans and people who followed the very easy instructions on the all-caps mailer they just got from Tea Party Freedom Fighters Inc., a subsidiary of Koch Industries. It never ends. That is why I think the firebaggers accomplished nothing, despite outpunching this blog by a couple weight classes. A few more anti-ACA phone calls would barely register among a sea of frothy wingnuts, whereas your positive calls were literally the first supportive pro-ACA message some Reps received from the outside world. Their districts were full of liberals who really wanted to see Americans get health care, but none of them picked up the phone.
To me this disparity is one of the most crucial, underappreciated factors in Washington, DC sausagemaking. It helps explain the aggravating headwind that liberal policies always face, where progressive proposals that somehow make it to a bill inevitably get chipped down and lose support over time, whereas conservatives bills if anything pick up steam and constantly get peppered with amendments that make them worse. No matter what the polling says about how popular a policy is, elected Democrats often act like they are fighting a rear guard action against a hostile press and public because in their office it really feels that way. Every one of them gets a daily tally of where that day’s calls and (especially) letters fall on various issues.
So Kevin Drum just weighed in on the old question about whether liberals have a bigger problem with being smug being condescending. Personally, I say why not both. They’re two sides of the same thing anyway. Kevin more or less noodles at the end but that is the part that interests me.
[L]iberals and conservatives have different styles. No surprise there. The question is, do these styles work? Here, I think the answer is the same on both sides: they work on their own side, but not on the other. Outrage doesn’t persuade liberals and mockery doesn’t persuade conservatives. If you’re writing something for your own side, as I am here, most of the time, there’s no harm done. The problem is that mass media—and the internet in particular—makes it very hard to tailor our messages. Conservative outrage and liberal snark are heard by everyone, including the persuadable centrist types that we might actually want to persuade.
I certainly do not want to dismiss the persuadable moderate thing. A dumb person who is outraged at least radiates sincerity, whereas a smug smart person is practically begging for a wedgie, even when you suspect they are probably right. But at the same time the conservative outrage reflex has a much more basic kind of practical advantage. It gets you yelling at some volunteer phone intern, who dutifully makes yet another little check next to Agenda-21-golf-ban-against. Smug doesn’t really compel you to do anything. You are awesome already, even if the world does not appreciate it. I think we could all afford to meditate on that once in a while.
I just got off the phone to my Congresscritturs: Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, and Joe Kennedy. I spoke to aides at each place, thanking Senator Warren for her support for the Iran deal, and urging in the strongest possible terms that Senator Markey and Rep. Kennedy pull their fingers out and do the same.
The bad guys are hitting the airwaves, the junkets, the phones hard on this one. President Obama got this one right: the anti-deal folks include all those who screwed up the Iraq call. We shouldn’t — we must not — let the nation listen to them again.
To that end: aeons ago I did a summer’s worth of answering the phone on Capitol Hill for a congressman. I’ve asked, and what was true then is still true: phone calls make a difference to these people — and you’d be surprised how few calls it takes to register with them.
So get on the phone. Call your representatives.
Thank your peeps if they’ve already got this one right: affirmation matters a lot to them. If they are still thinking, urge them POLITELY to come out in favor of the deal. Tell them how disappointed you are, how angry, how motivated for change you have become if they tell you that they’re going to try to block the deal. (Again — do so politely, but firmly. That’s vastly more scary to them than bluster.)
In any event. Call. Call now. Get your friends to get on the horn. It matters.
*This one opens with a longer list of Fallows’ arguments for the deal in the context of an opponents view. The asymmetry of intellectual power will, I think, speak for itself.
Image: attibuted to Joseph Hauber, Unsterblichkeit – Falter, Knollenblätterpilz und Schlange,** before 1834.
**translation help, anyone?