Now that Sarah Palin has been eaten by a grue, the mantle of Person In the Republican Party Who Might Actually Believe That Stuff has been taken up by Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann. You may remember Bachmann from her bizarre assertions about the US Census and its possible role in a massive government conspiracy—something she stopped talking about after a census worker was killed in Kentucky. Like Palin, Bachmann believes in an American People whose will is diametrically opposed to that of the federal government—particularly the Congress part of the government, which she, bafflingly, is a part of. Also like Palin, her signature issue has become health care reform. Despite polls showing that most Americans favor a public option, Bachmann knows that “real, freedom-loving Americans” oppose the government “taking away [their] health care.” To make their voices heard, she’s taken it upon herself to organize a protest on the steps of Capitol Hill at noon today, at which she encourages protestors to enter their congresspeople’s offices and demand that they vote against health care reform. “This is the Super Bowl of freedom, this week,” she says. How can Michele Bachmann find the resources and communication apparatus to organize such a Super Bowl, in which an abstract concept competes with another, unnamed abstract concept on a week’s notice? Well, fortunately there’s Fox News:
Anyone with access to the internet knows that the similarities between Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler are numerous and eerie. Both were heads of state. Both were closely involved with their nations’ auto industries. Both were talented orators, and both presided over the systematic extermination of six million Jews. When you get right down to it, our sitting President and Adolf Hilter are pretty much the same person, except Obama hasn’t suspended democratic elections, implemented a policy of cultural nationalism, embarked on a massive expansion of the armed forces, created a class system based on ethnicity, assumed control of the national media, staged an attack on the legislative branch, implemented a eugenics policy or invaded a sovereign nation.
He is black, though. If you hate Barack Obama’s politics and you’re also a racist, the election of our first black President is doubly galling. You know what else is galling? The fact that Adolf Hitler—generally agreed to be the worst human being of the modern era—was a racist, too. That was, like, his thing. Which makes it hard, when you’re vigorously arguing that black people have an extra muscle in their calf that makes them especially good at pro basketball, not to think of yourself as maybe kind of an asshole.
By now you’ve probably seen the video of Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.) putting the rhetorical whompus on one of his constituents at a town hall meeting in Dartmouth. If you somehow haven’t, do yourself a favor. The question—put to him by the most adorable hate-filled populist ever— was “Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy, as Obama has expressly supported this policy, why are you supporting it?” It’s an elegant rhetorical trap, but Frank finds a way out of it. First, he points out that the questioner is currently holding a photograph of the President with a Hitler mustache drawn on it. Then he asks her what planet she spends most of her time on, and concludes that “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in it.” As they say in Boston: face! Somewhere, Cicero is smiling.*
I was going to be angry about these kids, but one look at the profoundly sixteen-year-old-girl expression on that sixteen-year-old girl’s face and I didn’t have the heart. (If you’d like to get real sad, you can read a blog written by that poor girl’s mother, in which she calls Barbara Boxer a “moronic twit.” The badge on the right side indicates that she’s made the list of “best conservative blogs on the net,” which is apparently determined by total word count.) That’s her boyfriend on the left, proving again that teenage boys will do anything under certain conditions. And what are these desperate youths and the ragtag band behind them protesting for? Lower taxes on the rich, reduced social services, deregulation of business and conservative fiscal policy.
To hear Frank Rich tell it, protests like these are harbingers of a new era of cultural and political upheaval. Last weekend was the fortieth anniversary of Woodstock, which television raised me to believe was the most important moment of the 20th century. It turns out that was all to promote The Wonder Years, though, because this year’s commemoration was overshadowed by the season premiere of Mad Men. First of all, if you don’t watch Mad Men, you should start immediately. It is the Cadillac of television shows, or the Combat! blog of television shows in that Frank Rich and I agree with it more than anyone else in America. Second of all, Frank Rich is right. The year that resonates with our present cultural moment isn’t 1969; it’s 1963.
Rick Perlstein had a terrific editorial in the Washington Post yesterday, in which he points out that populist hysteria has historically broken out every time the United States embarks on a period of significant change. Whether it’s the insane red scares of the postwar era—when the combined FDR and Truman presidencies were called “treason” by disgruntled plutocrats—or widespread rumors that the 1964 Civil Rights Act contained a provision for enslaving whites, shrill rhetoric and ridiculous claims have been midwives at the birth of every new American era. Gross.
Perlstein also points out that the two ready explanations for why legions of Social Security beneficiaries have appeared at the same meetings to make the same baseless claims create a false dichotomy. It’s not that A) everyone is retarded or B) insurance companies and conservative politicians are in league to manipulate public perception. It can be both!