One week ago today, Keith Olbermann recorded his last words as the host of Countdown. The very minute he left frame, the blogosphere and Twitter world caught fire as millions expressed shock, sadness, anger, and for the conservatives of the nation, delight. Conspiracy theories raged across the ether as corporate giant Comcast, whose merger with NBC technically started that day, was assumed to have ordered K.O.’s firing. Supporters quickly drew a line from Olbermann’s axing to Comcast and thence to the Citizen’s United ruling by the Supreme Court one year prior. Boycotts of MSNBC and NBC were planned and indeed demanded.
Liberals who have watched conservative commentators and bloggers burst into flames at the smallest hint of potential liberal scandal, have now (seemingly) adopted the same strategy. The worst possible conclusions of every event are automatically drawn, without corroborating evidence, and draconian solutions are immediately pushed as the only true liberal reaction. Liberals shocked at the reactionary and often violent rhetoric of the right, have decided to adopt a similar tone and trigger pressure in their own dealings with the worlds of politics and the media. We have seen the pattern repeated many times after; the decision to abandon the public option, the decision not to sanction Israel during the Gaza War and blockade, the decision to select the not liberal enough Elena Kagan, the decision-making before and after the Big Spill, the decision to adopt the plan that included a consumer financial agency inside the Fed, the decision to make a deal on taxes with Republicans, Tucson, and the firing of Keith Olbermann.
The blood of 19 Americans was spilled in Tucson, Arizona on the 8th day of 2011. This terrible tragedy is but the latest and most severe trauma to our democracy in a line of bloody wounds that has steadily drained it of civility. That we have condoned these attacks for so long is a testament to a pair of often contradictory ideas; our shared desire to uphold free expression, and our nation’s dysfunctional embrace of the immoral and unethical in the pursuit of “victory”.
The United States of America, we presumed, moved out of the realm of the “banana republic” almost 150 years ago. It would seem natural, after all, for a nation that lost better than 2% of its population to internal conflict, to learn from its mistakes. President Lincoln’s desire for healing, and President Johnson’s commitment to reconstruction without retribution, were explicit acknowledgements of the need for civility in government. The decades since have not been perfect, filled as they have been with violent flash-overs, the deceitful actions of the few, and the errors of imperfect people. But these decades have established the United States as a beacon in the world; a place where, despite the warts, diverse peoples could find peace and prosperity amidst a world of violence.
America’s real Libertarians have the distinction of consistency over the last several years. Far different from their Republican cousins, who throw around terms like “small government”, “fiscal responsibility”, and “liberty”, Libertarians actually believe in those terms. That isn’t to say that I agree with the whole of their premise, but I do appreciate a political philosophy that accepts the consequences, good and bad, of its practice.
Libertarians believe in the most narrow interpretation of the Constitution, and in particular the commerce clause. They also believe in a minimum of intervention by state and local governments in the activities of citizens. This is an all-encompassing belief; social issues like sexual preference are off limits because civil liberties are absolute. Libertarians are close cousins of fiscal/business conservatives, and are as far removed from social conservatives as they are from liberal democrats. Their views on the size and scope of government, and the corresponding tax rates necessary to maintain needed activities have made libertarianism a natural political pairing for the Tea Parties.
The Real America, according to Hannity, Beck, Palin, and others, exists only in those states that are dominated by Republican politics. A cornerstone of the toxic labeling of today’s politics, the concept that liberals and their liberal states aren’t truly American has become the excuse du jour for dismissing political thought. Real Americans, apparently, reside in the rural areas of the Midwest and Southeast. They are all evangelical Christians who believe that the Founding Fathers established a Bible-based nation. They are also, it would seem, all libertarians who demand the complete withdrawal of the democracy from American life.
These rules that have been established, by the few and for the benefit of the many, are absolute and irrefutable. Catholics who don’t subscribe to the Catholic League diatribes of William A. Donohue are apparently excluded from American status. Liberals especially, need not apply; indeed the whole history of America where liberals have had involvement is being rewritten. FDR is no longer the rallying point for the greatest generation against the Nazis and Japanese, he was just in the right place at the right time. JFK no longer faced down Nikita Khrushchev, started the U.S. on the path to nuclear submarine dominance, or inspired the world changing space race. The America that once embraced, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore”, no longer has room for the full measure of its own native sons and daughters.
It was 234 years ago that the Jefferson-penned Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men from the 13 crown colonies of North America. First and foremost, the signing was an act of treason against the Crown and, during the time of Manifest Destiny, and act of sacrilege. While Jefferson and the founders are often acknowledged for their bravery, it was the meticulous legal craftsmanship of the Declaration that proclaimed the credibility of a nation. This move was not a hectic power-grab, nor was it politics run amok. Thomas Jefferson took great care in explaining the case for separation from England.
It is perhaps necessary, in our current political climate, to explain the reasons for rebellion to a new generation of patriots. If our great nation is to see another 200 years, we must all have a clear understanding of our origins. Anyone presuming to talk or write of the simplicity of those origins is either ignorant of the truth, or else ignoring the truth. More than five years of war followed the signing of the Declaration; the construction of the Constitution took a further six. The men who framed the Declaration, rebellion, and Constitution that followed, were farmers and tradesman, lawyers and doctors, pastors and soldiers. The Founding Fathers were anything but a uniform group of idealists.
I have, over the past months, outlined areas of President Obama’s performance that I felt warranted severe criticism. His virtual censure of the single-payer option in the health care reform battle, his deal-making with the pharmaceutical industry during the same process, his choice to steer clear of financial reform last spring, his stance on Afghanistan (which seems to be a vanilla option between liberal and conservative rather than a real strategy), and his inability to clearly define U.S. policy as it relates to the nation of Israel; all of these warrant criticism.
But Mr. Obama’s critics on the right need no real issue to complain about; they are content to find fault with the President’s very act of breathing. For liberals, there is a very different dynamic at work; falling directly into the very stereotype that U.S. conservatives label them with. Liberals, it seems, just want it all now without having to do any dirty work. The Big Spill, its aftermath, and the President’s speech on the issue are but a microcosm of the way lazy, petulant liberals treat their champion. Without choosing to see the big picture, and eschewing the work that the President told our nation would be necessary on the campaign trail, liberals are proving that they actually believed what conservatives were telling them about Barack Obama.