In the pantheon of quotes that have no exact wording and are alternately attributed to Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, perhaps none is more satisfying than “Those who enjoy democracy and sausage should take care to learn as little as possible about how either is made.” Like a public men’s room, democratic self-government is both utterly necessary and really gross. The problem is that so many people are involved. If you’re like me, you can’t help but notice the paradoxical phenomenon that your friends are conscientious, dignified people whose generosity and depth of character makes them an invaluable gift, whereas everyone you don’t know is a stupid asshole. Democracy is a great way to decide what we’re doing on Saturday night, and a terrible way to decide how to reform health care. Or, rather, it’s the second most terrible way to decide that, just after every other means of government ever devised by man. If you think the Tea Party is irritating now, just wait until one of them becomes king. Until then, enjoy this collection of instances of mass opinion, be they public opinion polls, widespread beliefs, popular media or the concentrated retardation that is an elected official. It’s Friday, and we’ve all agreed that for the next two days it’s okay not to work. At least democracy got one thing right.
Foolishly, we here at Combat! blog assumed that the political climate of the United States would settle down a little bit after Sunday’s House vote on health care reform. On some level we’d rather not have to consciously acknowledge, we were even a little disappointed. The vicious political rochambeau that had so dominated the past year seemed finally at an end, and as heartening as that was, it also meant we’d have to turn our attention back to Miracle Whip commercials. How wrong we were. Finally freed of the pretense of opposing a specific bill, the anti-health care reform movement has assumed its true form as an unmoored cloud of hateful bullshit. Gone is the obligation to talk about actual health care policy. Gone is the pretense of bipartisan intent, and gone is the salutary need to anchor one’s statements to any element of the real world. What remains is the essence of the Tea Party right, scurrying out from the corpse of town hall democracy like those shadow things in Ghost. Now that it has been released from its host body, the soul of American politics can make statements like this:
If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days. Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!
A congressman said that, which makes the hypothetical at the beginning kind of odd. You already have a country, asshole, and it sucks right now, largely because of you. The asshole in question is Steve King, as usual, but he’s not alone. Now that it no longer has to maintain the illusion that it’s talking about health care reform, reactionary populism has unsheathed the long knives.