Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Unhealthy Dynamic

You may be getting the impression that I've seized on the issue of so-called healthcare "reform" with an intensity previously reserved for counterinsurgency and the Presidential election of 2008. That impression would be correct. Quite apart from the utter catastrophe which the slide toward a single payer system would represent for our already-precarious economy, this debate has highlighted in unusually high relief the tension between the centralizing tendencies of the Democrats, and the Conservative and Republican (at least theoretical) predilection toward individualism and free-market principles. Further, the tone and mode of the debate has simultaneously revealed the rank hypocrisy of the Left (for which vigorous dissent is only acceptable/legitimate if it originates from their camp), and the long-overdue awakening of the sleeping giant which is the Center-Right voice of most of America. Interesting times.

"Doctor Zero," one of the rising stars over at Hot Air posted a splendid editorial which discusses the full meaning and extent of the well-deserved damage which the Democratic party is doing to itself in this imbroglio. Here's a sample:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, wrote an interesting op-ed column in USA Today, calling the increasing numbers of Americans who are asking tough questions about the Democrats’ health-care scheme “un-American.” I know “interesting” probably isn’t the first adjective most people reading this would choose to describe it. It is interesting, though. It’s a desperate play by nervous politicians to extinguish resistance to a massive takeover they’re drooling with eagerness to complete. It’s the arrogant response of a political elite that sees itself as royalty, clad in the unimpeachable moral authority of democracy - a ruling class of philosopher-kings that only expects to be challenged once every couple of years, in carefully controlled local races they have a 90% chance of winning. Pelosi was elected from San Francisco in 1987, while Hoyer has been perched atop the 5th Congressional District of Maryland since 1981. To say that neither of them is used to sustained, energetic, effective resistance to their agendas would be an understatement.

The most interesting thing about Pelosi and Hoyer’s brand of McCarthyism is how pathetically ineffective it is. To their great surprise, calling the protesters “un-American” isn’t shutting them up. Today’s USA Today op-ed is the latest variation on one of the oldest plays in the Left’s playbook: painting their opposition as fundamentally illegitimate. It’s time for them to replace that page in their playbook, because it will never work again.

I tend to share the optimism here, if only due to the trends in the polls on Obamacare. It sure does look like people are responding to the voices of opposition, and that does not bode well for the the oligarchical thinking which seems to permeate the Democratic party. It really is stunning to see the looks of outraged incredulity on the faces of congresscritters who are challenged by voters who dare to question them passionately. It is telling that the only explanation they can provide is that these people are being steered by sinister forces. The problem with statists is that they are all-but congenitally unable to grasp that people can self-organize in ways which are rational, since their world-view holds that --populist polemics aside-- such organization can only descend from Central Planning Committees and the like.

But, as Mr Hengist rightly pointed out, this explanation only takes one so far. If the Democrats' unwavering faith in centralizing organization (and lack of faith in the collective effects of free, individual thinking) were the only factors in play, then the so-called "astroturfing" of GOP and Industry lobbies would be seen as no less legitimate than the "community organizing" of their own crowd. They would approach this matter as a robust contest of competing influence groups for the hearts and minds of the people, and the rhetoric would sound very different. Instead, we get the "Mob for thee, Energized Community for me" approach which is so definitively allowing the mask to slip from over the disdainful elitism and cynical opportunism which permeates the highest echelons of the Democratic party.

Further, the chilling irony of the Left decrying so-called "thuggish tactics" from those on the Right (and the Center, and anywhere else) is there for all to see (not a big fan of Michelle Malkin, but she does bring it together nicely here). Doctor Zero's post rightly points out that the current and evolving shape of the information landscape is already making it more difficult for the Democrats to shape the narrative as comprehensively as they once did. Even an indecently compliant media is finding itself forced to compete on a much wider playing field for control of the story.

And we all know how the Liberal elites feel about competition.

UPDATE (8/13/2009): I've been noticing in recent days that the term "teabaggers" has slid insidiously into the mainstream of how those who speak up in town halls, and demonstrate against oppressive government overreach are referred to. I'm finding it in the "official" mailings I get from MoveOn, etc. The epithet has been around for a while, but it appears to be spreading and becoming more entrenched. Way to stay classy, "Reality-Based Community." After all, nothing says 'moral high ground' like name-calling and crass sexual innuendo.


Mr.Hengist said...

That Pelosi/Hoyer Op-Ed is so deserving of a thorough fisking that I've had trouble making my way through it, but it seems to me that they are not saying that the protesters are un-American - or, at least, all of them, all the time. The actual quote is, "Drowning out opposing views is simply Un-American."

I agree with them in this specific context and I've been mildly dismayed at the raucous nature of some of the protests at these Town Hall meetings. It is, generally speaking, disruptive and inappropriate in the context of a Town Hall meeting (provided it not a fake one, as in, not packed with supporters who fawn and ask softball questions). Outside of a Town Hall meeting, or at a protest rally, raucous protesting is another matter entirely.

In a related note, the SEIU Local 1000 has posted a memo on their website which calls on its members to "come out in strong numbers to drown out their voices" in counterdemonstrations. In keeping with the Liberal pretext of principles we can expect that neither the Democrat party, SOTH Pelosi, nor HML Hoyer will issue a rebuke of this call to incivility.

Noocyte said...

I do agree that it would be best if the process of democracy were conducted in a thoughtful, dignified manner, and also that some of the more vociferous and at times histrionic displays at town halls have been more appropriate to rallies/demonstrations, and have given unwonted fodder to critics of the critics.

On the other hand, compared to some of the parliamentary antics of other nations, ours has typically been a model of civility and decorum (i.e., no fist fights or cat-calls on the actual floor of Congress!). In the face of the outrageous mis-and-disinformation which gets thrown around, the slippery unwillingness to answer direct questions with anything but scripted talking points, and the magnitude of the stakes involved, I'm inclined to give a pass to many of the frank expressions of outrage. For the most part, as I understand it, the line is not crossed nearly so frequently as those on the Left are bound to portray.

And, yes, the calls from SEIU and other groups to drown out the voices of dissent are truly repulsive, utterly characteristic, and altogether unlikely to be reported, let alone condemned.