Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Memo to the Angry Opposition: Watch Your Mouth.

I haven’t entirely worked out my own reaction to the passage of what is euphemistically come to be known as “the health care bill.” (Well, I guess that sentence indicates that I’m kinda getting there.) I’ll address that in a series of articles to come.

But after one day of hearing about threats against U.S. Representatives and rumblings of violence against public buildings, my views on citizens of that mindset are fully formed:

They’re stupid.

My grandsons are not allowed to use that word, but I’m all growed up, and it fits. They’re also not allowed to say “shut up,” but let me amend that first reaction thus.

I don’t care if (I’m addressing those furious souls now) you think:

--   that the law is hopelessly dumb and cannot possibly achieve its promised results;

--   that it was achieved by corruption that is breathtaking even by the relaxed standards of the United States Congress;

--   that it threatens the overall health of residents of the United States;

--   that it promotes abortion;

--   that it will permanently damage the economy, and your economy, and your descendants’ economies;

--   that it represents a palpable move toward socialism in this country;

--   that it was achieved through fraudulent misrepresentation at every step of the way, beginning during the presidential campaign;

--   that its passage willfully ignored the demonstrable will of the majority of Americans;

--   that President Obama is a bad man who has surrounded himself with, and appointed to high office, bad people;

--   that it is immoral;

--   that it erroneously designates certain things as “rights” and rewards the undeserving;

--   that it violates principles of federalism, the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, substantive due process, or any other constitutional emanation;

--   that it surrenders United States exceptionalism and promises our reduction to the level of failing economies and health care systems elsewhere in the world (and some more locally) that have adopted stuff like this, to their toothless and advanced-medical-procedure-free regret; or

--   that it represents the triumph of academic, Rawlsian “social justice” theory (John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, that unreadable book with the bright green cover that the present generation of leaders were breathlessly assigned in their philosophy/poli sci/econ courses) over the evidence of your own eyes.

Don’t care if you think any of those things (if you’ve forgotten the beginning of that sentence). Screaming bloody murder and threatening -- or doing -- violence is not only criminal, it is incredibly damaging to your own cause.

First, even if you don’t really mean it, even if you yourself would never participate in a crime, it may inspire the weaker and more impressionable among you to do so.

Second, the publicity it attracts makes the opposition to the law look like a bunch of know-nothing peckerwoods. If anything, it will have the effect of driving away the thoughtful opposition and stiffening what modest popular and political support the thing now has. It will turn the debate from what actually appears in those two reams of congressional prose crafted by low-level staffers (and, ack, lawyers) and towards your bad behavior.  The Sixties violence against the Vietnam War did nothing to bring it to an end.  That happened only when Americans understood its folly through the information they received from Walter Cronnkite.  Revulsion toward the radicals probably sustained official support beyond what it would otherwise have been.

Third, it exposes you as hypocrites. If you support American democracy, practice it. November 2 is coming up. Modern communications and analytical technology (which, with the exception of Al Gore’s contribution and the encouragement of some national security dollars, has not been a government initiative – if you doubt that, take a look at the hardware at your local government office) gives you the tools to analyze the law and communicate your conclusions to nearly every citizen, pretty much for free. Raise money for candidates who will promise repeal, modification, whatever you think is required to rid the statute books of whatever it is you so loathe. Communicate their views to voters; encourage others of like mind to vote for them.

Fourth – now think about this one – if you really believe, I mean really, truly believe that the administration and its congressional supporters are promoting the kind of tyranny that justifies what is starting to sound like, in your rhetoric, a proto-revolutionary response, what prevents you from believing that your reaction will not call forth even greater oppression and bad policy from these very same leaders? What, for example, do you think Congress would do with the next gun-control bill that came before them if one of your number took a shot at a congressman or, heaven forbid, a more senior leader? (I can’t bring myself to say it.) Anyone remember what happened when Kennedy was assassinated? We got an enormously sympathetic Congress giving Lyndon Johnson The Great Society on a silver platter – a giant step towards the kind of welfare-state collectivism you hate. (I know, Oswald was a communist, but the point is that leaders succeeding to power after an event like that tend to get what they want – not what the opposition wants.) Putting it more simply (about time, I know): Do you really think that destructive acts will make people agree with your point of view?

Agree with the law or disagree with it, the fact is that as we sit here on March 24, 2010, the riptide of history is on the side of those who would legally recompose the national legislature and the executive branch through the ballot box. That box, it’s quite a tool. Have some confidence in it. It’s your right to holler all you want, and to communicate in a way that conveys your anger in a civilized and rational way, but if by your actions – or your language -- you drive away those who want only to understand to the best of their capability and make the right decision the next time they install their representatives and executives, you will have done nothing but ensure that your blithering will fade to the margins of history, where it belongs.


  1. Here are the unedited headlines on tonight's Drudge Report:

    Obama's Campaign Fundraises Off Threats...
    Shot Fired At GOP Rep. Cantor's VA Office...
    VIDEO: Clyburn says Republicans 'aiding and abetting terrorism' against Dems...
    Rep. Markey asked for police patrols at home...
    WHITE POWDER: NY Congressman's office evacuated after threat...
    Dems Accuse Palin Of Stoking Liberal Hate...
    President mocks Republicans for acting is if bill is 'Armageddon'...
    Threats against lawmakers spread after vote...

    And Drudge is no friend of the administration or the health care bill. This is what you get -- reaction that gets you a result exactly opposite to the one you desire.

  2. I think you miss a larger point, Steve.
    When people are disenfranchised because their "elected" representatives refuse to follow the rules, the law, and the constitution, the people are forced to resort to the one thing they have left: threats of violence.
    The Supreme Court's taking the volatile subject of abortion - about which otherwise reasonable people obviously disagree - out of the hands of voters and effectively beyond the reach of their state representatives is an example of this, I think; although it is unfortunate, it has undoubtedly helped to lead to the occasional violence acts against abortion clinics.
    In the same way, what many perceive as not only unwise policy but as an unconsitutional infringement on their basic human right to be left alone (and not forced to buy something just because they exist), rammed down their throats through chicanery and parliamantary maneuvering in the face of very vocal public opposition, is understandably going to help inspire some people to abandon legal means entirely in favor of self-help.
    I don't want to see armed insurrection any more than you do, but an old saw has it that the natural political order of things is to go from tyranny to revolution to independence to complacency to dependency to tyranny to revolution again. Many people see this bill as crossing the line between dependency and tyranny.
    No matter what you or he may think, Obama doesn't have a mandate to remake the United States into a socialist state, and if he pushes much harder in that direction the people will push back, however they can.
    The headlines above don't bother me, because Democrats will never say nice things about Republicans except when Republicans abandon their principles and vote and act like Democrats. We think they're wrong; but they think we're evil. Although 41% of white males voted for Obama in 2008 (and maybe 2% of African-Americans voted for McCain), for example, Democrats think anyone who didn't vote for Obama is a racist. (Some probably are, but most probably are not, just like the people who voted for Obama.)
    And it is extremely childish, unwise, and un-Presidential for Obama to make fun of anyone, in any way, even if he disagrees with their views of how they express them. (Sort of like mocking people for "clinging to their guns and religion" - let's see, wouldn't that be the First and Second Amendments?) If a president wants to be respected, he has to behave like a president of the United States, not like a name-calling "community organizer" from Chicago.
    As for me, I'm a member of the (late) Sam Kinison school of political philosophy: I don't condone violence, but I do understand what turns Mr. Hand into Mr. Fist.
    Let's all hope that cooler heads prevail. If not, then things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better.

  3. Anon, thanks very much for your thoughtful post.

    So . . . what exactly is the "larger point" I'm missing? That people are angry? Didn't miss it. That people have a right to be angry? Didn't miss that one, either; I say expressly that they do, and listed a dozen or so reasons that why they might be. And you say "I don't want to see armed insurrection any more than you do." Sounds like we're in agreement.

    If the larger point is that "people are really, really, REALLY mad, and that justifies threats and acts of violence," I didn't miss that that is the position of some members of the angry opposition. I just think it's wrong, and, if they continue to advance it, it will achieve a result precisely opposite to that they which they.

    Now, if Obama somehow contrives to deprive the populace of its right to throw the rascals out in November, I'll reconsider. Uhtil then, these folks need to refocus.

    Thanks again, and hope to see you in these pages again soon.

  4. The point is that the folks in the White House and Congress are the ones who need to watch what they're doing and saying. If Republicans are responsible for the health care bill, as you argue in an earlier post, then Democrats are responsible for the current threats and acts of violence. The ability of governments to tamp such things down depends on them being isolated; when they become widespread, government fall.
    And don't be surprised by the lengths to which an administraion might go to "deprive the populace of its right to throw the rascals out," because we don't really have government of the people by the people any more. States already gerrymander Congressional districts so badly that the politicians choose the voters, not the other way around; scheming Senators timely resign so that sympathetic governors can appoint their successors; and even Supreme Court Justices time their retirements so that a President of their choosing will nominate theirs.
    Obama won by - what? - 6 million popular votes? He's surely lost that many white male votes in the past two years, but wait until he grants amnesty (and voting rights) to 11 million illegal aliens, most of whom will vote Democratic in thanks for their "free" health care (thanks actually to you and me). Then the next move will be restoring votes to felons. So much for a meaningful democracy!