Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Trolling for trolls?

Crossposted from Daily Kos 9/9/08

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.”
HL Mencken

There’s been a lot of back and forth lately about allegedly nay-saying trolls posting diaries, which makes me wonder: Is anyone out there in blogville who is feeling more than a little antsy, whose sense of deja vu has their spider sense tingling, who can see Dukakis, Gore and Kerry clanking their chains like Marley’s ghost, and who has the temrerity to take their Cassandra-like angst public going to be automatically branded as a troll?

Regrettably the answer to that appears to be yes, and as a Democrat who’s been voting since ‘68, frankly I resent it. It’s one thing to have an honest difference of opinion with a fellow blogger, even to the point of a snarky reply, but to suggest that anyone who would deviate from the, dare I say it, party line is somehow in bed with the enemy makes us look and sound like, well, them.

So yes I’m worried. I’ve been through too many post-coital convention swoons only to wake up and find my wallet gone. Mike and Al and John were great dates, until we took ‘em home to meet the folks. And now, God help us, we’re bringing a really exotic specimen to the front door. All that’s left is to have “Society’s Child” as background music.

So yes, people, I worry that our fractious nation still believes in the quick fix. Like it or not, impulsive as McCain may have been, Palin is an inspired choice. It has enabled the bad guys to frame the agenda, once again sending the old and slow straight talk freight to a siding so the flashy streamliner can pass on through. That’s not troll-ish, that’s a fact.

The question is what can we do about it, and that’s what I think is driving the realists among us to wonder out loud if the illusoiry promise of quantum change will be enough this time around to trump the status quo. That’s not troll-ish, that’s a cry in the wilderness from those whose political diaspora has spanned many, many years, in my case decades. Keep reminding yourselves that Clinton, and Carter to a certain extent, were aberrations, not the norm. Also keep in mind that the last Republican who actually “won” an election outright was Reagan, and connect the dots from there.

I saw Barack with Keith last night, heard him calmly keepin’ on and trusting in his message. Hey I’m a believer. Hell he had me at hello way back when. But the belief is in Barack, which is not enough. To really make it work we have to believe not just in ourselves, which is to say the progressive core of the electorate, but in those folks for whom you’d think voting Democratic would be a no-brainer. Ay there’s the rub. If we can’t convince enough people that enlightened self-interest is preferable to indulgent self-interest we’ve had it. That’s not troll-ish, that’s reality.

Now part of my own particular angst stems from living in western Mass., the heart iof the People’s Republic of New England, where if we get any bluer we’ll need to add a new color band to the spectrum. So while the battle is joined elsewhere we sit in splendid isolation, like the Washington swells in 1861 who packed picnic lunches and watched from a comfortably safe distance as their boys got smashed at Bull Run. If I hadn’t spent three weeks in Oregon this summer visiting family I might never have known there was a real horse race out there beyond our blue horizon. This isolation only adds to the frustration, since out here we’re all registered and committed. About the only political battles we fight in this neck of the woods are with some of our over-the-top PC types, but come crunch time we’ll all vote the same.

So I watch and listen as this life-or-death struggle for the future of the American experiment plays out on a distant plain, secure in the knowledge that my region will show the flag and do the right thing. Meanwhile, out in the real world it’s some bad shit happenin’ and there ain’t a damn thing I can do about it except hope beyond all expectation that this time our guy will actually get the dust to settle in the rest of the country just long enough for his clarity of vision to penetrate the force field of denial and self-absorption and give us back our beloved country.

And if my reading of history and bitter past experience renders me less sanguine than blogville might wish, if my presumed lack of enthusiasm makes me a troll by default, so be it. Lord knows I’d love to bring my aging bones in from the cold and darkness of our political nuclear winter and find warmth at Barack’s fireside, but I’m not holding my breath. Big truth is castor oil. A big lie is cotton candy. So we better find some sugar to help that medicine go down, and do it damn quick, or else it’s just going to get darker and colder out there come November.

“This concludes our emotional weather report. Now back to the eleven o’clock blues.”
Tom Waits

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Scarier than you think

Sarah Palin, asked what she thought about the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance: "If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers it's good enough for me..."

As the house pessimist, or realist depending on your point of view, I see this observation as yet one more indicator of how we could very easily lose this election.

Put simply, the Republicans have mastered the black political art of validating ignorance. Tie this in with the insidious and pervasive Orwellian re-writing of American history going on in home and public schools across the land, and you have a political weapon that would make Josefs Goebbels and Stalin green with envy.

Remember, we inhabit a political universe in which truth and fact no longer matter. History is what the Republicans say it is, and the pervasive, unspoken subtext is that America is, was, and always will be a Christian nation.

What concerns me about this is that we progressives actually, if not naively, believe that through the simple expedient of truth-telling we can re-educate the True Believers and shame the Rs' campaign into sticking with the facts (got yer deed t'th' Brooklyn Bridge right heah if you buy that one).

But what's truly scary about all this is how the Rs' political jujitsu can turn a progressive response into a backlash in a New York minute. The moment we correctly tag Sarah Palin, or anyone else of importance in the campaign, as the profound ignoramus she is - or they are - the Rs fire back with the latest variation of the egghead smear that's been their weapon of choice since Stevenson.

Works every time, neighbors. No one likes to be shown up, especially by some elitist lefty (which is to say anyone who knows the score who's telling you you're wrong), and the Rs know it. Consider how many people we all know who can't won't or don't make the distinction between ignorance and intelligence. Mention the fact that someone might be ignorant of the situation at hand and what do you hear? "You calling me stupid?" Nuff said.

So I'd be careful with how we, and the Obama campaign, deal with this. Joe Biden could easily shred Palin and her credibility in their debate, but watch out for the Rs' response. I can hear it now. Biden's just another glib pointy-headed liberal. Do we really want someone that articulate, that smart, talking over our heads all the time? Bad enough we have to deal with this uppity colored guy, but two eggheads in the same administration? Why that's un-American.

Republicans love ignorance and fact-bending. They thrive on it, and have co-opted it as a political stratagem, which means we should attack it not frontally but obliquely. To go after Palin directly springs the Rovian trap, so we nibble at the edges.

Put some quick references into ads and stump speeches, maybe give Joe Biden a zinger or two like "Y'know I've recited the Pledge of Allegiance all my life, and I believe in it with all my heart. But I also paid attention in history class, so I know that the Pledge wasn't written until 1892, which means that if Sarah Palin is right about the Founding Fathers endorsing it they would have had to live another hundred years. Now for someone running for vice-president, maybe to be off by a few years wouldn't matter all that much, but to be off by that much makes me wonder what other serious misconceptions Gov. Palin might be laboring under."

And under no circumstances do we go directly after Palin's pregnant daughter. Instead, let Obama, or the right group of surrogates, offer up something like this: "Now we've heard a lot from the Republicans, and will hear a lot more I'm sure, about good old fashioned family values. So I suggest you now to take a good long, hard look at the respective tickets, Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin. You've heard our stories, read all about us, so now ask yourselves which of these sets of candidates really represents the kind of values you'd want to see in your own families."

And don't belabor the point. Get in and get out. Journalist George Seldes, whose remarkable career spanned nearly the entire 20th century, and of whom too many progressives are, yes, ignorant, lived by a very simple mantra: "Tell the truth and run." He didn't mean it in a cowardly way. Instead he was all about get in, get the facts, tell the story and move on to the next one before anyone can draw a bead on the messenger.

So it's all about guerrilla tactics. Hit and run, in and out. Strike quick, strike hard, and then get back on message. Will it work? Who knows. This election hinges on whether or not we the people actually think we've hit bottom. Problem is that the Republicans are the bottom-feeders in this race, and know how to stir up the muck to obscure the truth. Our job is to keep blupping up bubbles of truth and reason through the primordial ooze of ignorance and fear that has pandemically infected the American electoral mindset, in the hope of some of that message actually getting through.

And I wish us all luck, because as we all know the fate of the American experiment hangs in the balance. If we don't find a bigger choir to preach to we've had it...