The independently minded political animal always wrestles with times of transition, and the changeover from the Bush to Obama regimes has been worse than most. During the Dubya years it was easy to identify the enemy and to hate him with a blinding passion. Sweet Jesus, George II and his sidekick, The Dick Cheney, played their roles with less nuance than the bad guy in Rambo 12: Return of Ming the Merciless (directed by Roland Emmerich), making it easy to identify with the loyal opposition just on principle.
But it’s important to remember that the enemy of my enemy isn’t necessarily my friend. They might just be fighting over which one gets to eat my tender bits.
Bush has been gone awhile now, and it’s become disturbingly evident that this Barack fella ain’t much to look at with the lights on, either. Widespread indignation over the Busheviks fueled a prObama fervor that was frankly a lot more about Bush and anything remotely connected to him (like his hugbuddy John McCain) than it was about a cold-eyed appraisal of the man we were voting for, and we now find ourselves crawling inch-by-inch through a minefield strewn with cognitive dissonance. “That sold-out corporatist son of a bitch,” we begin. Pause. Shuffle. Mumble under breath, “…that I voted for.”
Mon semblable, mon frere – I feel your pain. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, my natural tendency is to oppose whomever is in power at the moment, and the process of shifting my spite every few years from one party to another is never pleasant, because it’s in those moments that it’s most clear how doomed I really am. And if these transitional moments, where that small measure of hope gives way to despair, are so difficult for people who think as deeply about politics as I do, imagine the insensate bafflement that must torment the mass of the citizenry, which has always been encouraged to approach the machinations of political life with nothing but raw emotion.
Tea parties. Coffee parties. People who devoted eight years of unquestioning support to the thugs who gave us the Patriot Act and FISA and conspired with AT&T on patently unconstitutional wiretapping all of a sudden dressing up like Revolutionary War battle reenactment asshats (I guess those would be “asstricorns”) and raging against governmental oppression. Crowds that had nothing to say as the kleptocracy looted the economy for the better part of a decade now foaming at the mouth over the current administration’s mishandling of the economic crisis, as if they played no role whatsoever in helping create it. Flying airplanes into IRS offices. Carrying assault rifles to political rallies. A hallucinatory longing for the utopian kumbayah of “bipartisanship.” (Is “kumbaypartisanship” a word? If not, it ought to be.)
Well, raw emotion and a healthy dose of ignorance, is more like it. But you take my point. This is not the golden age of reason that Jefferson might perhaps have dreamed of as he pondered what this brave experiment in self-governance for rich white men might look like.
We can look at people who say things like “Republicrat” and “they’re all the same” and feel some sympathy, especially when we read a righteous screed like my colleague Lex’s flamethrower on the morally corrupt Sen. Kyl (R-Health Insurance Industry). The truth is that neither party has done a very good job of serving the interests of those who elected them, instead focusing their efforts on the interests of those who paid for their campaigns, and that ought to enrage us. The problem is that these kinds of statements can reflect a dangerous false equivalence, because they’re not all alike. Not precisely. A bank robber and a mass murderer are both criminals. Neither should be wandering the streets. Still, it’s difficult to argue that their crimes are more or less the same just because both met a minimum standard of “broke the law.” I jaywalk all the time but I’m not Charles Manson.
Nonetheless, I spent eight years drilling the hell out of the Bushies. And you haven’t heard me waxing eloquent about the glories of the Obamites, either, have you? (Or should I refer to this as the Emmanuel White House, much as I used to talk about the Rove administration?) Both groups have done an appalling job and when all is said and done both will have left the nation worse than they found it, and far worse off than it needed to be.
So, I hate them all – how am I not in the “they’re all alike” camp? This was the question put to me the other night by a drinking acquaintance as we enjoyed a nice bourbon stout down the street at my favorite steak house/brew pub. He’s a proud member of the radical hang-’em-all party and was having a hard time understanding how I wasn’t just like him.
So here’s how I explained it.
Imagine that Washington is the OK Corral. There’s a gunfight going on and I’m in the middle of it. The progressive Democrats are right there with me. They share many (if not all) of my views on what we’re fighting about and I can trust them. Sadly, they’re not the most effective of allies. There are a few tough nuts in the bunch, but most are useless in a fight. Either they’re weak-willed, or they’re bad shots, or they’re fervently in favor of running up a white flag so they can negotiate away what little position they have. Right now, they’re behind me all the way. Operative words: behind me.
Over to the right there are the Blue Dogs and some other assorted moderate Democrats (to the extent that anybody to the right of Nixon can be called a moderate, anyway). Now, they came up here to the corral with me. They fought with me in that bar fight the other night. They say they have my back. But they’re actually related to the people we’re fighting against on their momma’s side. They shoot, but they never seem to hit any bad guys. And, often enough that I’m starting to suspect that they’re doing it on purpose, they’ll “miss” really badly and nearly hit me. I have to be honest – I’m not sure I quite trust them.
Then, on the other side of the corral you have the Republicans. And those motherfuckers are trying to kill me. And you. And our families. And our friends. And anything they don’t kill, they want to loot, rape and/or sell into slavery.
Me? I don’t exactly know what it would mean to “win” the fight. Mainly I just hope I get out of here alive.
That’s how I see the gunfight at the DC Corral. The liberals are useless, but at least their hearts are in the right place. The Blue Dogs aren’t shooting at me at the moment, but I’m keeping an eye on them. The GOP, though, they’re slinging so much ammo my direction that I’m afraid I might catch lead poisoning just from breathing the air.
See the distinction?
So yes, Obama is a problem. Rahm is a problem. Harry Reid is about as helpful as a kickstand on a garbage scow. But enough with the false equivalence, okay? There are varying degrees of suck, and where the American political system is concerned, there’s probably still some value in distinguishing between “bad” and “worst.”
For an idealist like me, anyway.