“Republicans made me a Democrat” – my mother said the other nite. She was alluding to the blatant and unprecedented obstruction tactics the GOP is using, at great expense to our country, to stop anything Obama is in favor of. Routine government actions (raising the debt ceiling), proposals that have always enjoyed bipartisan support (works bills) and common sense ideas are all being stopped, with the express, stated purpose of not supporting anything Obama wants to get done. Even proposals originally created by GOP rank-and-file are now rejected by their very own.
The goal isn’t to actually stop progress – that is the consequence. The goal is to delegitimize Obama’s presidency. That is exactly why Obama made a strategic mistake last week. During an interview, he was paraphrasing his Republican friends who privately tell him, in effect, “yes, we agree with you, but we’re afraid of what the Tea Party or Rush Limbaugh will say.”
In that statement, he gave the far right exactly what they want…knowing that they are bugging Obama. That they are in his head. Sure, he was stating a fact. And he was paraphrasing people in the GOP, but in making that statement, he elevated their legitimacy from inert, though foul, hot air to actually being part of the political discourse.
What Obama should have said instead is “I know there are level-headed leaders in the GOP who agree with me. A voice on the radio can say whatever irresponsible, inaccurate thing they want. But, elected officials have a sworn responsibility to govern…and serve their constituents.” In one swoop, he could have challenged the remaining sane voices in the GOP and dismissed the bile that comes from the far right’s profiteers.
It is important in order to appropriately cast extremist, for-profit voices as the shameless hucksters they are. More important now than ever before. Because these hucksters have always been out there. What is new is that these extreme voices now speak for actual voters…enough of them, in enough districts, that they have a voice in our government.
What is really happening is far more serious than overcoming the megaphone of extremist rhetoric. It is a battle for the soul of America itself. Rational adults may not want to admit it, but the extremist voices are now elected officials, ‘representing’ the views of their constituents…howsoever misguided they may be.
You and I, and most people I know, live in a forward-looking America full of promise and potential, faced with new challenges, to be solved with new innovations. But millions of Americans live life looking in the rear view mirror to a time of blissful ignorance, devoid of the responsibility that comes with opportunity. Getting to these voters, changing their heart and minds, I fear, is impossible. As I…and so many others…have written about, most of the misguided live in self-insulating echo chambers that only harden when you approach them with logic, because logic itself has been demonized by their ‘sages’ – the very people Obama mentioned in his interview.
The only way to beat back the corrosive forces of retreat and division is, as Obama in another speech said, “by being FOR something.” By being FOR America.
The most ardent climate change denier will jump at a well paying job in a solar factory. The most fervent denier of Obamacare will jump at its benefits when they have a pre-existing condition, and they need insurance. The forces of retreat are mired in self-contradiction, the best weapon against which isn’t persuasion, its self-interest.
Does this mean we let those fighting against progress reap in its rewards…yes. That is being “For” America! So, let’s keep doing what we’re doing. Inventing and creating and voting. Let’s not argue with the inconvincible, let’s just offer them a better gig…they’ll come over soon enough.