Saturday, September 1, 2012

RIP, My Sense of Moral Outrage

If you read my blog or follow me on Twitter (what? you aren't following me on Twitter - start, right away: @scarylawyerguy) you know I'm passionate about politics.  I write about politics, I watch shows about politics, I read books about politics. Basically, politics is like air to me. However, I think it might be time to crimp the oxygen tank because the post-truth politics of 2012 make me too angry. Post-truth politics is a fancy name for the "truthiness" meme created by Stephen Colbert where each side is entitled not just to its own opinions, but its own facts. It is aided and abetted by a mainstream media that falls back on tropes that assign equal blame to both sides for political shortcomings in an effort to be even handed and outsources its "fact checking" to third parties instead of by the journalists doing the reporting.  

My sense of moral outrage was gravely wounded in 2000 when the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling in Bush v. Gore. It wasn't enough that the vote was so close, or that Sandra Day O'Connor had been overheard on election night bemoaning the fact that it appeared Gore would win, because she would have to stay on the bench to deny him the right to replace her, it was that the majority (1) didn't have the courage to put its individual names on the opinion (it was issued per curium); (2) explicitly spelled out the fact that the case was to carry no precedential value (unheard of); and (3) perverted the 14th Amendment, which had been passed in the wake of the Civil War to expand equal protection, and was, over decades, applied to the states and used to address civil rights in the 1960s, by claiming, perversely, that the equal protection of laws somehow mandated that votes not be counted. 

As a lawyer, that was a lot to take. For the highest court in the land to issue a ruling that put the political before the legal, was akin to the five member majority soiling the Constitution.  Of course, I was not prepared for what would come - cherry picking intelligence to manipulate the country into Iraq, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card talking about rolling a war out like a marketing campaign, warrantless wiretapping, telecommunications companies turning over records to the NSA, and on and on, but if that court ruling showed anything, it is that when people are not called on their bullshit, they will keep pushing it until they are. 

President Obama's election in 2008 seemed to be that moment - a broad rejection of Bush's term in office, which was capped by an historic economic meltdown that simply underscored his failure as President.  What we did not know then, but do now, is that Republicans were lying in wait to do everything they could to ensure his (and, not incidentally, the country's) failure. Lockstep opposition to anything and everything Obama proposed drained away much of the vaunted "hope and change" he ran on, the complexity of the issues facing the country left little time for politics and Obama and his team spun their wheels seeking middle ground where none was to be had. 

In 2012, a President who passed a health care bill originally championed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, signed massive tax cuts (including an extension of the estate tax cut and broad cuts for the wealthy), directed the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, raised the budgets of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, agreed to freeze the salaries of federal employees, reduced spending in the federal budget, and presided over a 40% increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average is being portrayed as some sort of wild eyed socialist presiding over an America in sharp decline.  

Some of this is garden variety political rhetoric, but Republicans have made an affirmative decision that facts no longer matter in politics, that, as a Romney advisor put it, "we're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers." In other words, we will lie with impunity because we do not care about the truth, we will rely on journalists to fall back on the false equivalency that 'both sides do it' and the house organ that is the right wing media (Fox News, N.Y. Post, an entire slice of the Internet, etc.) to act as our message amplifier, no matter how bogus our statements. In the unlikely event Republicans do get called out on their lies, as Paul Ryan was for statements he made during his acceptance speech, the GOP can rest assured people like Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett (CNN) will acknowledge the lies but spin the reaction of the crowd, because, after all, that is far more important than factual accuracy by someone who may be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. 

In a year when voting has morphed from a right to privilege, where elected officials utter dangerous comments about rape and pregnancy, Republicans can stage a convention that mocks its lack of diversity by rolling out Latino and African-American leaders, and a quarter billionaire can blow a racial dog whistle to every Tea Party crackpot, right wing nut job and Obama hater in the country while attempting to portray himself as a champion of the middle class, my moral outrage finally gave out. If Romney wins (and I do not think he will) we will get to jump in the way back machine to before the Great Society, before the New Deal, when the social safety net was whatever states offered and whatever charities supported. The consolidation of wealth at the top will become even greater and ours will be a society that would not have looked out of place in pre-revolutionary France.  Hope y'all like cake ….


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.