Monday, February 14, 2011

The Ghetto

I can sum up "Be Nice To Bigots" in a single sentence: "Republicans should alienate a significant portion of their voting base in order to stand up for the truth about President Obama's nationality." Good luck with that, Mr. Saletan.

Say what you will about the Birther movement, and "rampant idiocy" immediately comes to my mind, but this much is true - regardless of how far out in Right field you think they are, they haven't given up their right to vote. And given elective politics pretty much anyplace where the outcomes are not pre-determined, any large voting block of people, especially people who can actually be relied upon to go to the polls (or, depending on the circumstances, stay home in protest) will be courted by SOMEONE. And if that voting block spells the difference between victory and defeat, they will continue to be courted, rather than exiled to the political wilderness.

Given that the President is a Democrat, and the Republicans (more or less by definition) are not, it's not surprising that they'd move to capitalize on the fact that there is a large population of people that don't like the man, and/or his politics/policies, and use their votes to put themselves in power. If that means turning a blind eye to their eccentricities, so be it. The truth can be dealt with once a Permanent Republican Majority has been installed in Washington, D. C. It's a simple fact of politics - no matter how enlightened and populist you are, if you can't win an election, your policies aren't worth anything. So idealism has to wait. In light of this, is unrealistic to the point of being blatantly stupid for Mister Saletan or anyone to expect that the Republicans are going to set out to antagonize such a large segment of their constituency by publicly repudiating their beliefs on national television. Sure, they're not going to risk turning off the rest of the nation by outwardly buying into the Birther worldview. But that's as far as it's going to go. And Birthers themselves understand this, and don't force the issue themselves, for the most part.

Mister Saletan closes his piece with an admonition to John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell. "If they want to be leaders," he says, "it's time to lead." But Legislators are not leaders. Legislators, including Senators, are simply a species of Representative. They can, if they so chose, decide that they should replace their constituent's judgments with their own, but they'd better be wildly successful at delivering the goods that way, or come the next election, they'll be on the bus home, in favor of someone who does a better job of being a "public servant" - i.e. doing what they're told. In fact, I can't think of a single institution where real leadership is invested in a person or persons who are directly answerable to the whims of the lead. It's a safe bet that even World War Two would have gone much differently if Generals Eisenhower or MacArthur had been required to run for re-election multiple times during the conflict. And besides, even the strongest leaders have to know when it's unwise to impose themselves upon a constituency that doesn't share their beliefs (see Mubarak, Hosni). The question of whether or not President Obama was actually born in the United States just isn't important enough to pick a fight over, especially if that fight would endanger the whole of the Republican agenda, and not bring any tangible benefits to the Republican leadership, even if they won.

It's time for the political Left to let go of the idea that President Obama is everybody's President, just as the Right had to come to terms with the fact that President Bush wasn't everybody's President, and it's unlikely that no matter who comes after President Obama, they won't be everybody's President either. And given that whoever leads the opposition in Congress is likely to rely on that fact, it's futile to call upon them to change it.

1 comment:

Keifus said...

In a better world, believing (or pretending to believe, or even entertaining the belief) something that is easily disproven idiocy would be a political liability, or in the case of the press, a career impediment.