Slander as Political Fashion

Boy, am I growing weary of the political environment. What George W Bush did for for international relations with his “with us or against us” rhetoric, Barack Obama is doing to the political climate within the country with his treatment of political dissent. Of course, nations actually do operate in an environment of mutual belligerence, which is forever flaring up as actual warfare in some corner or another, whereas nations are supposed to operate, internally, with a civility stemming from civitas, but why split hairs?

Perhaps it’s unfair to blame Obama for the whole mess, but then again, it’s not. He’s the unquestioned leader of the ruling left wing in this country, with the power and ability to set the tone, and he sits back and watches the fissure. Whether that’s because of incompetence, or because he senses political advantage in it, I’ll let the reader judge – we’ll assume he doesn’t enjoy it for its own sake. He may pose as someone seeking unity (show me a politician that doesn’t!), but in the real world, he uses and approves actions and tactics that reveal a very different kind of leader.

So, we have Rep. Joe Wilson being censured by the House for blurting out “You lie!” during an Obama campaign speech before the joint Houses. Can we call it that? Maybe an infomercial? No, he didn’t pay for it. I think “policy address” is the official term – I’m not sure – but whatever it’s called, it was nothing but a powerful man using the bully pulpit available to him to advance his agenda. Nothing wrong with that, but why is it being treated as if it were some kind of sacred religious service?

It’s kind of creepy, really, the way the setting is being portrayed in the public propaganda narrative. I will admit that, for a few seconds, I felt like I was watching British Parliament instead of the U.S. Congress, but the “sacred” halls of American power were built for the rough and tumble of modern liberal politics, not for the circumspect adulation of Divinely appointed royalty that the whole liberal enterprise set out to overthrow. And, like many, I don’t remember a previous occupant of the Pennsylvania Avenue throne whom the public propaganda narrative depicted as deserving of such circumspect adulation. Creepy, I tell you…

But I think what bothers me the most about the whole affair is that Wilson is being accused of introducing incivility into the proceedings. What a load of crap. Undoubtedly, Wilson was absolutely fuming over just having been called a liar in front of both Houses of Congress, on national TV, by the President. Obama set the tone from his pulpit, and Wilson fired back in defiance from the cheap seats. It had been only perhaps 15 seconds before Wilson’s outburst that Obama had accused opponents of his, who included “prominent politicians” (and while speaking to the joint Congress, it’s pretty tough to misconstrue that reference), of lying about the implications of his proposed end-of-life panels of experts: “It is a lie, plain and simple” he stated baldly. Even I was dumbfounded at the time that he would say such a thing, and I’m not even a radio or cable talk show host, nor a prominent politician.

So we see yet again that we reap what we sow. But who is even talking about Obama’s incivility, his tactics of divisiveness and marginalization, or his responsibility for setting the tone of discourse at the level of personal insult? Incredibly, Teflon Barak just accepts Wilson’s apology, and sits back while Wilson gets savaged by Obama’s supporters, even to the point of being slandered as a racist for his outburst. Incredible.

At least there’s people like Scott Harrington over at the Wall Street Journal uncovering the dishonesty of Obama’s characterization of the examples he uses in his demonization of the insurance carriers. All that really seems to matter here to the President is that people’s contempt for, and distrust of, the insurance companies is fed and enforced. President “Hope, Not Fear” is willing to fudge the facts in order to scare people into thinking they need to buy his socialist snake oil to protect them from the ogres of the business world. Disgusting. Disgraceful. And depressing.

Meanwhile, the left wing picks up this theme of the “racist” calumny, which has been, at a minimum, simmering in the pot since the election cycle, and which has ever since been pulled out, time and again, to smear Obama’s opponents, and they bring it to an absolute boil. It’s not just effete TV celebrities and fatuous journalists slinging the slander now, but high-level political leadership among the left wing, including former president Carter, Rep. Steve Cohen, Rep. Hank Johnson, and undoubtedly many more I could find if I wanted to waste my time Googling for the info.

Suddenly, the air is ablaze with insinuations that opposition to Obama’s policies involves “elements of racism.” The verbal trick here is to morph the idea that racists are opposed to Obama into the idea that people who are opposed to Obama are racists. The trick is made all the more clever by feigning subtlety by referring to “elements.” If racists are opposed to Obama, them some of the opposition to Obama is racially motivated, therefore opposition to Obama is at least partially racially motivated. Hence, the implication is clear: If you are opposed to Obama, you are part of the partially racist opposition, and therefore you are (at least) partially racist. Not that opposition to his agenda has anything to do with his person anyway, but there I go splitting hairs again, and getting off-narrative.

This is shameful, of course – and sinful – to be slandering people with the “racist” label as a means of trying to advance a political agenda. This is so regardless of how corrupt the political agenda is: even a noble cause is irreparably defiled by ignoble tactics. But aren’t such tactics the very warp and woof of progressive political argumentation? It angers me – as it is angering an increasing number of people – to be called a racist for being a political dissenter (as I snicker at the thought of what these same snide and cynical folks would have had to say about my support for Alan Keyes’ presidential bid in 2000), but in a sense, it’s just the typical fare that is served up for dissenters from the orthodoxy of progressivism. There’s just an assumption at work that if you reject the progressive orthodoxy, you have bad motives.

It’s not because you think the programs are bad, it’s not because you think you have a better idea, it’s not even because you’re mistaken, it’s because of your bad motives. Hence, if you oppose so-called liberal (socialist, really) policies concerning the welfare of the poor, it’s obviously because you hate the poor. It’s not possible that you think those policies will actually be bad for the poor, you just hate the poor. Case closed. “Hate” is a very important word in the lexicon of the left – it explains just about all dissent. How clever.

But this “racism” game is going to run aground before long. There are too many people seeing through the facile “solutions” of the left – and especially of the salesman-in-chief. That means there are increasing numbers of people who are going to be uneasy – if not outright offended – by the mean-spiritedness of the chimerical “racism” slander, and they’re going to push back.

Suddenly, Nancy Pelosi is fretting about the right wing stirring up a frenzy of violent opposition (shades of “right wing terror threats” in the form of returning Iraq veterans!), but she couldn’t be more wrong. People get violent when they’re angry, and the Rush Limbaughs of the world don’t get people angry (except liberals, that is). What gets people angry – angry enough to fight – is being insulted, having their character and integrity questioned.

Whatever anger is out there on the right is not there because of political activism or talk-radio manipulation, it’s there because these are good people, who are good neighbors, who love their country, and who are fed up with being told they are “haters” of one stripe or another simply because they retain some semblance of conservative moral and/or fiscal values. Nancy Pelosi is too much the stooge of her ideology to see that, but I think Barack Obama is politically astute enough to recognize it. When the violence comes, it won’t come from the right, from those folks “clinging to their guns and religion” who place so much importance on law and right public order, and I think Obama knows that too. What I don’t know is whether or not he thinks he can survive politically without ratcheting down the “hate” speech. I suspect that will depend on what happens over the next few months with his health insurance takeover plan. We shall see.