Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dumb and Dumber

One question raised by The New Yorker cover depicting the Obamas as Afro-Muslim terrorists, burning the American flag in the Oval Office under a portrait of Osama bin Laden, is who is dumber – the liberal pundits and bloggers who find the cover “racist” and “offensive” or the people (as many as 13% of the voting public, according to some accounts) who believe that the Obamas are pretty much as the cover depicts? The rightwing “blogosphere” and Fox News have much to do with the views of folks in the latter category; they planted the seed and cultivated the flower. But in the end we have to face the fact – 13% of potential voters are morons. Prickly liberals are another matter. Presumably, they understand the concept of satire at some level; it’s just that irony is beyond their ken. Or maybe they’re simply buffaloed – like the Democrats who supported (and effectively still support) Bush’s wars and who won’t say anything even remotely critical of “the troops”(torturers included) or the godly (so long as they’re Christians or Jews, no matter how benighted), and who won’t do or say anything that certifiable morons might deem “unpatriotic.” These liberals might not be dumber than the people The New Yorker cover satirizes, but they’re every bit as reprehensible.

The larger question, though, is how is it that right-wing bloggers and Fox could rustle up anything like 13% of the population? Why can’t people who have their heads screwed on right and who got enough oxygen in utero do that? Think how much better the world would be if, say, the Green Party and/or Ralph Nader got 13% of the vote! If it were the case that there are many more stupid and ignorant people out there than reasonably progressive and enlightened ones, the question would be easy to answer. But that’s almost certainly not the case. Therefore the question is anything but easy.

One thing is clear, however: that though they play some role, the “manufacturers of consent” in the corporate and corporate-friendly media are not the main culprit in the disorganization and decapacitation of the Forces of Light. It’s the institutions – the ones that channel holders of centrist and left of center positions into the cesspool that is the Democratic Party. In this crime against (small-d) democracy, we are all complicit to some extent. That’s why a first order of business, now and after Obama trounces the increasingly bathetic John McCain, must be to think hard about how to break out of the prison house our duopolistic politics has become.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Especially for people living in “battleground” states, voting for Cynthia McKinney and/or Ralph Nader (yet again) is problematic – given the institutional arrangements that constrain our politics. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too hasty in dismissing “third” (actually, second) parties or independent campaigns. They can’t “win” and neither can they restructure political life (unless circumstances change radically). It’s not even clear that they are useful as “educational” vehicles – since the media only mocks or derides them, when they pay attention at all. But there is still the expressive side of politics. Its importance shouldn’t be dismissed, even if protest votes have only a negligible effect on outcomes. For those of us who live in “safe” states, it is looking increasingly like casting a protest vote against Obama may make more sense than adding to the “mandate” of that Clintonized (center-right, empire and military friendly, shamelessly opportunist, bought and paid for) but “inspiring” Democrat.

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