Part 3—She hears Obama name-calling: Human nature being what it is, we the liberals rarely notice how ineffective we are.
Truth to tell, we have been remarkably inept at persuading them the people in the past forty years. Consider the “gun show loophole.”
By common reckoning, about forty percent of all gun sales don’t require a background check under federal law:
You need to get a background check if you buy your gun over here. But if you buy your gun over there, no background check is required! Since we’re the ones who say we want background checks, this nonsense falls squarely on us.
This clownish state of affairs is commonly known as “the gun show loophole.” It’s almost like we passed a law saying you can’t rob banks—unless you rob the bank on Tuesdays or Thursdays or on alternate weekends.
Would you refer to such an exemption as “the bank robbery loophole?” Or would you simply regard such a law as an utterly crazy act?
The gun show loophole is utterly daft—and yet, it has been the state of federal law for a good many years. We the liberals have barely noticed. We certainly haven’t known how to get the “loophole” closed.
(Or maybe we just didn’t care.)
The reason for this clownish failure is fairly simple: We the liberals are very bad at persuading them the people to share our basic beliefs.
Despite Obama’s cheerful claims about what “we the people” believe, very large portions of the public don’t agree with our liberal beliefs. Over the past forty years, we the liberals haven’t been good at persuading them the people.
In our view, Adele Stan has given us a comical look at one possible reason for this.
In Monday’s Inaugural Address, President Obama decried the politics of name-calling—attacked name-calling by name! Basically, though, Stan heard him name-calling the other tribe all through his address.
Where Whitman heard America singing, Stan heard Obama name-calling!
In our view, Stan’s piece about Obama’s address has its definite comical side. But it may help explain why we the liberals have had so much trouble persuading them the people of even the most obvious points.
Stan wrote her piece for Alternet; it was reprinted by Salon. And good lord! As Stan watched Obama give his address, she saw the president conducting a “war” against The Other Tribe.
It was even “a war of prayer!” This is how Stan’s review started:
STAN (1/22/13): With its elegant rendering of the liberal agenda before the eyes of the American people, President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address was music to the ears of many a progressive. But to the ears of Tea Partyers and the Republican right, this inauguration speech, as well as the ceremony that surrounded it, was war—not just a war of words, but a war of prayer, a war of poetry and even, perhaps, a war of song.In fairness, Stan doesn’t exactly say that Obama was conducting a war. She merely says that the other tribe heard his words that way.
Driving the message home were the hands of the Fates, who conspired to see the second inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president fall on Martin Luther King Day, the national holiday whose very creation was opposed by so many who still today comprise the Republican Party’s right wing.
In this way, she mind-reads tens of millions of people, telling us how (all) those people heard Obama’s address.
As she continues, Stan “recounts a dozen ways in which the president brought his fight to the right, in no uncertain terms.” As she starts, she drives home a familiar point—the other tribe is a gang of slobbering racists.
We the liberals are drawn to this claim. In Stan’s view, this is the first of the dozen ways Obama “brought his fight to the right:”
STAN: 1. Reminding the nation who won the Civil War.We’re not sure what that activist restaurateur had to do with the staging or text of Obama’s address. But in Stan’s view, the first way Obama “brought the fight to the right” was by reminding them which side won the Civil War! (The North.) He did this by having the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic—by letting the choir sing the hymn right from the ceremonial podium! (We don’t understand that part either.)
On the eve of Obama’s second inauguration, civil rights leader Julian Bond addressed a crowd of progressives gathered in Washington, D.C., at the Peace Ball convened by the activist restaurateur Andy Shallal, Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now!” and a host of progressive entities. Bond spelled out the statistics of Obama’s 2012 victory for the crowd, noting that Mitt Romney’s voters were almost entirely white, and that the only states won by the Republican presidential candidate belonged to the old Confederacy.
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the anthem of Union troops in the Civil War, long ago passed into the songbook of patriotic themes, and has been played during the inaugural parades of other presidents, sung on several different occasions by the very white Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But when the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, in all its multicultural glory, was tapped to sing the anthem not from a parade stand, but from the ceremonial podium, a different chord was struck, thanks to its context: the invocation that preceded it, and the president’s speech, which followed it.
Again: According to Stan, when the Republican right saw a multicultural choir sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, this reminded them who won the Civil War. It struck them as an act of war conducted by Obama himself.
This strikes us a very uncharitable view of Obama. It strikes us a form of near-lunacy—and as a view of the world which is tinged with tribal hatred.
Stan asserts that The Others are full of hate. But to us, it seems quite clear that Stan herself is so driven.
Life-forms have always seen the world this way, of course, dating back into prehistory. The life-forms in Mountain Pass A have always felt that the life-forms in Mountain Pass B are evil in various ways.
This outlook was once a survival skill. Today, this impulse is one of the greatest problems confronting the global village.
We the liberals often bring this prehistory into the world. We’re eager to see the hate in those who dare to vote the other way. We rarely seem able to spot the hints of hate in ourselves.
Trust us. Others can!
Luckily, most of them the people won’t read Stan’s review of the speech. By the time we’d finished reading her piece, she almost had us hating Obama, so many ways had he been said to be waging that war on the others.
Stan heard Obama name-calling as he delivered his words of war. She even heard him attacking the others for being “immoral” about gay rights—as he recommended a cause he himself had opposed until May of last year!
Yes, Stan’s vision is tragically foolish, but we the haters love to hate. That said, Stan hated on the basis of race in her second item too. In that item, she said Obama brought war to the right by “reminding the nation of the history of the civil rights movement.” Also by “acknowledging the nation’s history of slavery!”
Stan’s piece is foolish, but it’s also fairly ugly:
We well recall when we were taught, as high school freshmen, to avoid “the glittering generality.” Even at the age of 14, this concept didn't seem real complex.
In those days, those generalities were most frequently aimed at blacks. We were warned to avoid this practice.
Today, the glittering generality is often aimed by us the liberals at them who don't vote as we do. At such moments, we offer very few qualifiers; within Stan’s text, everyone on the Republican right saw the use of that Brooklyn choir as an act of war. “They” felt the same way when “they” were reminded of our nation’s history of slavery.
Quite routinely, we the liberals think and speak in this and similar ways. We paint the others with a very broad brush, as life-forms like Stan have always done, all through the annals of time.
Why have we the liberals had so much trouble persuading them the people to see things our way? What has made us so politically hapless? So hapless that we haven’t even been able to defeat the gun show “loophole,” the dumbest law of all time?
We’d say there are several answers to that. But people like Stan have always made it hard for progressive outlooks and ideas to advance. In our view, the Stans help explain why they the people often don’t pay us much mind.
Did Obama call for an end to name-calling? Pshaw! Tomorrow, we’ll look at more of the name-calling in which our glorious side has engaged.
All too often, we the liberals do call the other tribe names. We even name-call them the people—and we don’t seem to hear ourselves do it.
Tomorrow: One high-profile use of the A-bomb
President Lincoln's strange flaw: In a recent Daily Beast profile, a Lincoln scholar revaled one of the flaws in this well-known president. Professor Wilson was pulling no punches:
WILSON (12/15/12): But perhaps the most significant and consequential of all the qualities Lincoln displayed in his public communications was an unwillingness to demonize his adversaries.Professor Wilson goes on at some leangth about this puzzling character flaw. Despite this quirk, Lincoln is widely regarded today as one of our greatest presidents.
Brought up on bare-knuckled frontier politics, Lincoln eventually came to the belief that treating your opponent with respect rather than demeaning him was not only more becoming but improved your prospects for making points with your audience as well...