Topics to Avoid in Polite Liberal Conversation
In a brief essay on Barack Obama's recent speech on race, New Yorker magazine writer George Packer, a good liberal, makes a point that is roughly similar to the one that Wild Bill Kristol made in his New York Times column on Monday: that we do not need to have "a conversation about race."
The two pieces are, of course, entirely unalike in tone and, more important, ideology, since Packer argues, rightly, that Obama needs to talk more about class, while Kristol would not want to talk about that, either. Their pieces do, however, both depart from the current warm consensus that "a conversation about race" is just what we all need at this tense moment.
However, there's another, deeper similarity between these pieces by the liberal Packer and the (some dare call him) fascist Kristol. Specially, both share a certain premise -- and it is one that has done us all enormous harm. That premise is some subjects are best not discussed.
While this is a given in Kristol's case, Packer states this premise openly in his last paragraph (which concerns the view that class trumps race), writing, "Democrats have been trying to make that argument for a long time, while Republicans have been winning elections." He then goes on to claim that "right-wing populism has been the most successful political force in America" for "over half a century."
What is the evidence for Packer's claim? It's an important question, because George Packer certainly is not the only liberal pundit who promotes the notion -- and a toxic one it is -- that the American majority has been pro-Bush, while reasonable types (like Packer and his audience) are tragically outnumbered by those feral boobs.
The answer is that there's no evidence for that apocalyptic view of the electorate, other than the many loud assertions of the media. Let me repeat that: There is no evidence that Bush/Cheney ever were elected. On the other hand, there is abundant evidence that they stole it; and that evidence -- ever more of which keeps popping up -- has been presented by a considerable number of precise and careful analysts, who have documented every claim they have made.
Now, as far as Packer is concerned, there's no such evidence; and, again, he is only one of many. While I have never talked to him, or exchanged e-mails with him, I have tried (and tried) to raise the subject of that evidence with quite a range of other good left/liberals; and I have noticed something interesting about the way they handle it. They do not try to refute it, nor do they openly dismiss it, as in "I find that hard to believe," or even, "What are you, nuts?" What they do, rather, is ignore it, saying nothing -- just as if you had told something horrible, and therefore unacceptable, about their wives, or children, or themselves.
In other words, they rule out all that evidence, not because it is not solid, but because they just cannot go there -- and one might also add that, in some cases, they do not want to go there, because, deep down, they rather like to think that most Americans are far dumber and a lot more primitive than they.
And so, confronted with the evidence, they tell themselves, if anything, that it is just madness, too preposterous even to discuss, like Elvis sightings or the imaginings of Lyndon LaRouche. And they also tell themselves that this whole "theory" of election fraud has long since been "debunked" (whereas the work of those debunkers, from Mother Jones' Mark Hertsgaard to Salon's Farhad Manjoo, was merely a restatement of that same defensive premise, and has itself been thoroughly debunked). Thus they have inadvertently, and paradoxically, confirmed the inconvenient facts, which, when put to them directly and completely, leave them speechless.
The theory that Bush/Cheney really won has had disastrous consequences, not the least of which is that a lot of liberals have been spooked, and therefore paralyzed, by "right-wing populism" -- whose influence has been bizarrely disproportionate to the real number of those zealots who have actually embraced it. (The myth of its appeal is based not just on those manipulated vote-counts, but also on the concentration of the media in rightist and/or corporate hands.) The Democrats, too -- Obama included -- have needlessly tacked right, and otherwise caved in, for no good reason, kowtowing to a criminal regime that never was elected, and never could have been, because it never had majority support.
The fact is that Gore won in Florida, according to the media consortium that counted all the votes, and that he would have won several thousand more votes if Jeb Bush had not stolen them before Election Day. And the fact is that Kerry/Edwards won, not only in Ohio, but nationwide, and by several million votes -- for there was no vast turnout of pro-Bush Christianists on that Election Day, since there were nowhere near enough of them to pull that off. And the fact is that Obama could beat John McCain, and handily -- if the election is not stolen yet again. (Clinton's vaunted lead in "the big states" -- especially Ohio, New York, Texas, California and New Jersey -- are all dubious, just like her startling "victory" in New Hampshire and her showing in Nevada, since there were many stark anomalies, improprieties and snafus in those all places, all of which advantaged her campaign.)
And while the myth of Bush's "win" has frightened liberal Democrats, it has made Bush's own cabal supremely cocky -- far more brazen in their criminality than any prior presidential team. Thus Bush himself has long shrugged off the national and international consensus, while his "Vice President" smirks openly, right on TV, at We the People's opposition to his war ("So?"); and thus Bill Kristol, also smirking, lies repeatedly, and with impunity, in service to this White House.
All of them clearly feel emboldened by the fact that they are not accountable to anyone: the voters least of all. And we are likely to be saddled with them all till Kingdom Come (which, if they "win" yet again, may be here sooner than you think) -- unless we force Obama and his party to confront the truth, and start to deal with it right now. But, alas, we have been told by good liberals that we cannot honestly talk about elections and now we are being told the same thing on race?