Epilogue—Bye Bye Blanco: To state the obvious, we liberals can’t fix our nation’s polarization all by ourselves.
In our view, our current “basket case” status began with the creation of pseudo-conservative entities decades ago. For decades, these entities have broadcast disinformation and encouraged tribal loathing. This has lessened the chance that we can function as Richard Blanco’s “one country—all of us.”
(For part 1 in this award-winning series, go ahead—just click this.)
But we the liberals have increasingly aped the conduct of The Others. In our view, this depressing development is perhaps the biggest story in current political media.
We liberals enjoy our tribal hate too; we spread our own disinformation. This makes it harder to achieve Richard Blanco’s one country.
For today, let’s take a quick survey of four recent events which occurred under “our sky.”
MSNBC’s treatment of hecklergate: It’s a requirement of tribal culture—we must learn to hate The Others. So it went when MSNBC helped invent hecklergate.
The question: Did Neil Heslin get heckled this Monday as he testified at a hearing about gun safety? Heslin’s 6-year-old son, Jesse Heslin, was one of the children who were killed in the Sandy Hook massacre.
It isn’t clear whether Heslin, a plainly sensible person, thinks he was “heckled” at this public hearing in Hartford. On CNN, he said he thinks the response by some spectators was “disrespectful.”
But on Tuesday night, Lawrence was angrily telling us that Heslin had indeed been heckled. He teased the topic again and again, helping us fuel our righteous anger. He then redefined the word “heckling” when he finally played the full tape of the (very brief) incident.
For ourselves, we wouldn’t say that Heslin was “heckled,” although that's a matter of judgment. We don’t think this (very brief) incident was cause for outrage or comment. But on Monday afternoon’s Martin Bashir show, the tape of the incident was “edited” (doctored) in such a way as to eliminate Heslin’s direct questions to the audience—the direct questions which helped produce that brief set of responses.
After the doctored tape was played, tribal pundits began to stoke tribal fury. Perhaps without having seen the full tape, they made embarrassing statements, like the one which follows from Julian Epstein.
To watch the full Bashir segment, click this. Does Martin Bashir ever quit?
EPSTEIN (1/28/13): This I think has to be a new low in this debate, the idea that you would desecrate the memory of the victims of Newtown and insult their families. This I think shows just I think how extreme and outrageous the NRA—and I assume the hecklers were NRA moles—how they’ve become.The NRA has relentlessly played the fool in the post-Newtown debate. But good God! Epstein was also playing the fool, telling us that the hecklers must have been “NRA moles.”
Was Heslin heckled that day? Did those who (briefly) responded to his questions insult him? Did they desecrate the memory of his son? We would say no to all those questions, although these are matters of judgment. But here’s what isn’t a matter of judgment: Once again, MSNBC had doctored a tape to fuel its viewers’ tribal fury. And Epstein played the fool in his ridiculous comments—just as pundits on Fox have done for these many years.
Bye Bye Blanco, the analysts said, after reviewing the relevant tapes-the full tape of the full exchange, along with Martin Bashir’s instant doctored version.
The demonization of Governor Haley: On Monday evening, Rachel Maddow helped us learn to hate Governor Jan Brewer more fully. She did so by giving us liberals a gong-show account of a rather unremarkable situation (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/30/13).
Two nights later, Maddow’s target was Nikki Haley, another Republican governor. In this instance, Maddow was troubled by the fact that Haley appointed Tim Scott to the Senate to replace Jim DeMint, who had resigned.
Haley had done this even though Scott plans to run for a full term in his own right. In the passage which follows, Maddow showered praise on Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who has just appointed a temporary caretaker senator, and she slammed the unethical Haley.
But there she went again! Can you spot some basic facts this tribal hate merchant omitted?
MADDOW (1/30/13): Interestingly, this appointment to the U.S. Senate today is actually the second one that Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts has made as Massachusetts governor. When Senator Ted Kennedy died in office, the governor made a similar choice for the appointment to that seat when he chose, also like Mo Cowan, a trusted former staffer who had no designs on running for the seat himself.Maddow taught us to hate Haley more fully for her lack of ethics and political character. Haley was Goofus—and Patrick was Gallant!
And if you think about that, it's actually a pretty respectful way to handle the profoundly anti-democratic process of one person just getting to designate a person to be a U.S. senator because there is a vacancy. We don't generally [sic] do that for the House, right? But we do that for the Senate, which is a kind of grossly undemocratic thing about the U.S. Senate.
And when a governor is given this grossly undemocratic power to be the individual designator of who gets to hold a seat in the U.S. Senate, how that governor chooses to use that power says a lot about that governor in terms of his or her ethics. They can, as Deval Patrick did both times, they can appoint a real placeholder to neutrally caretake the seat until an election can be held, an election that is not going to be affected by whoever this neutral place holder is. That`s how Deval Patrick has now done this twice.
Or alternatively, a governor can choose someone to appoint to the U.S. Senate who actually intends to run to keep the spot, thereby just granting that person the power and advantage of incumbency for the U.S. Senate seat for any future race.
And that’s what South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley did when she got the profound undemocratic power to appoint someone to a Senate seat in her state. She picked Congressman Tim Scott, who intends to run to keep that seat.
One governor taking maximum advantage of her chance to put her individual thumb on the scale of democracy. And one governor refusing to do that, staying neutral before the will of the voters. This kind of thing is a test of political character, I’ve always thought. Just ask Rod Blagojevich, when he gets out of prison.
But uh-oh! Speaking of ethics and character, Maddow forgot to tell us that Haley’s disgraceful conduct is quite common among governors of both major parties. As usual, we liberals were taught to hate The Other in the absence of obvious relevant facts.
Haley’s conduct is quite routine. One example: Just last month, the Democratic governor of Hawaii appointed his lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, to the Senate when Daniel Inouye died. Like Senator Scott (R), Senator Schatz (D) has said that he plans to run for the seat in his own right.
At present, at least three Senate Democrats originally reached that body by appointment (Schatz, Gillibrand, Bennet). We count three Senate Republicans who got there by the same route (Murkowski, Heller, Scott). Whatever you think of the ethics involved, it’s very common to appoint people to the Senate who plan to pursue full terms.
Governors of both parties do this. Unless your hatred is being amped by tribal players like Maddow. Unless you're being dumbed down.
Our tribe’s occasional harsh reaction to the views of Those People: Blanco was dreaming in his poem. He pictured a world, under our sky, which plainly doesn’t exist:
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,All of us equally vital—unless we hold the views of the other tribe. To wit:
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day...
On Monday, the New York Times published an op-ed column, Confessions of a Liberal Gun Owner. For our money, it wasn’t an especially helpful column, partly because the Times, in a typical cultural tic, published the thoughts of a gun-owning liberal novelist who now lives in Texas, though he hails from the northeast.
We found his piece a bit too writerly to be fully useful, but that’s neither here nor there.
The liberal writer, Justin Cronin, says he owns guns to protect his family, even though he understands the risks of gun ownership. He also says he thinks that guns “are woefully under-regulated” and that he “loathes the NRA.” That said, will anyone assume that Cronin invented the reaction he describes from his non-Texas friends?
CRONIN (1/28/13): Alas, the days of à la carte politics like mine seem over, if they ever even existed. The bigger culprit is the far right and the lunatic pronouncements of those like Rush Limbaugh. But in the weeks since Newtown, I’ve watched my Facebook feed, which is dominated by my coastal friends, fill up with anti-gun dispatches that seemed divorced from reality. I agree it would be nice if the world had exactly zero guns in it. But I don’t see that happening, and calling gun owners “a bunch of inbred rednecks” doesn’t do much to advance rational discussion.Cronin blames Limbaugh more—for now, we still strongly agree—but notes the reaction from our own tribe. That said, our tribe is often prepared to describe The Other in such colorful ways—and surely, everyone knows this.
“All of us as vital as the one light we move through!” All of us except the inbred rednecks who don’t see things the way we do.
Our professors can spot the explicit racists: Bobby Jindal recently made a fairly obvious statement: “The first step in getting the voters to like us is to demonstrate that we like them.”
With that in mind, do we the liberals actually like them the American people? Do we even respect the American people? In the Washington Monthly’s current edition, Professor Cobb made the analysts cry with this remark straight outta Yale:
COBB (1/13): The heralded “Age of Obama” began with a sugar high of post-racialism, but four years later the number of whites subscribing to explicitly racist ideas about blacks had increased, not diminished. (Cobb's italics)Presumably, Professor Cobb refers to this sad AP report, which actually says that the number of Americans subscribing to explicitly racist ideas about blacks had increased in the prior four years. “51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey,” the AP wrote.
Americans—“all of us!” The professor instead cited whites.
Whatever! But to the extent that it’s ever explained, the way the survey drew that conclusion seems to be an embarrassment. And by the way: As presented by the AP, the survey's topline data don’t show how many blacks or whites expressed such sentiments. We’ll guess that may be because many blacks are also “expressing explicit anti-black attitudes,” given the terms of this apparent pseudo-scientific gong-show.
But nothing stops us tribal liberals from reveling in such denigrations. To borrow from Dr. King’s shocked language about the Montgomery city commissioners: Even our professors teach us to hold and express these tribal views!
We agree with Justin Cronin; Rush Limbaugh is more at fault. But at present, we liberals are finally doing our part to extend the tribal chaos.
In his poem, Blanco pictured one day in the life. We have drawn from events of one week.
The beloved community can go fly a kite! We’re being trained to be tribal fools—and to be tribal haters.
The others have been in training much longer. But our tribe is catchin' on up.