The Dismal Parade
posted at 10:36 pm on October 7, 2009 by Doctor Zero
A friend of mine recently observed that he wasn’t entirely happy to read my Hot Air posts, because reading about politics made him feel fatigued and weary. I completely understand the sentiment. I follow politics with keen interest, especially since I began writing about it, but I have no trouble seeing how most people find the topic annoying or depressing. Political discussions with those of different viewpoints can swiftly become confrontational and unpleasant, as not everyone enjoys the passionate presentation of ideas they profoundly disagree with, or the devastating criticism of politicians they voted for.
It’s easy to interpret condemnation of your voting choices as a blanket insult to your judgment. Those who generally dislike politics are even more likely to feel this way. A political junkie learns to expect a certain number of bruises in the rough-and-tumble of debating current events. In fact, many see the rough-and-tumble as part of the fun. Those who are less interested in partisan warfare view their biannual treks to the voting booths as an important civic duty, which they take some pride in completing, and they don’t like being forced to admit they might have chosen poorly. Even the rather large segment of the population that doesn’t bother to vote can still become emotionally involved in the big presidential campaigns – which are, after all, scientifically designed to manipulate the emotions.
When the candidate you voted for is pilloried as a criminal or a fool, there are three possible reactions: you have an epiphany and agree, you become angry and defensive… or you come to the melancholy conclusion they’re all criminals and fools, and you just don’t care any more. Epiphanies are rare.
Even those who do follow politics closely like to take a break, every now and then. I certainly do. I hate getting slapped with partisan messages and insults when I’m just trying to relax and watch a movie or TV. Conservatives are used to getting poked by ideological mouse traps, hidden throughout a generally liberal popular culture. Your odds of getting through prime time network TV without encountering a few evil businessmen, crazy religious people, or middle-class hypocrites are pretty slim. It’s not unusual to have a political rant explode in your face while you’re reading the sports page, or a movie review. Even the simplest entertainment often lunges at you without warning, desperate to raise your consciousness. Children’s programming is especially nasty in this regard, as its creators get the shakes thinking about all those children out there, waiting to be programmed.
When I’m trying to unplug from the political scene, I don’t like being pummeled with political messages I agree with, either. I would imagine no small number of liberals feel this way, as they weather a non-stop barrage of agenda programming for ideas they nominally support. Your own beliefs can become extremely annoying, when they’re blasted in your face on endless loop, every hour of the day.
Here’s the question that puzzles me: why do so many people who view politics as a dismal parade, and hold such a low opinion of politicians, seem so willing to entertain massive expansions of the government? What do they think is going to happen to the amount of politics infusing their lives, if the government nationalizes a few more industries, and racks up a couple trillion more in deficit spending?
If you complain about bitter, ugly politics seeping into too many corners of American life now, just wait until the government runs the health-care system. In the kind of limited government envisioned by America’s founders, an average citizen could afford to be disengaged from national politics, and would primarily concern himself with local affairs he understood, paid for by comprehensible amounts of tax money. In the belly of the super-State, your livelihood – and, with health care on the table, your very survival – demand you vote wisely for national candidates with hundreds of positions on issues you might not understand, or even care about. When you voted in 2008, did you understand every detail of John McCain’s position on toxic asset bailouts, or Barack Obama’s stand on immigration reform? For that matter, did they understand those details, or relate them to you with complete honesty?
Democratic elections are one of the main reasons some people believe government control of the economy is virtuous. Those high-rolling politicians in Washington answer to We The People, three hundred million bosses that can bounce them out on their ears if they misbehave! In reality, you have no such level of control over any of them – and even if you did, how could you claim to be making a fully informed decision about who gets bounced out of Washington? You don’t read those thousand-page bills, any more than the senators and representatives who vote on them. Will you pull the plug on your congressional representative if he acts against your wishes on fourteen issues worth $200 billion in government spending, but adopts your position on sixteen issues worth $295 billion? Will your decision include the twenty issues you don’t understand at all, valued at $520 billion? Blind choice is not free choice, and too many aspects of State-controlled life are hidden behind a shroud of complexity.
In the path of an aggressive State, there’s really no way to remain above politics. Indifference becomes consent. If you don’t like some of the details of the massive, half-unwritten health care legislation crawling around in the Senate, you had better hurry up and register Republican. If you don’t stiffen the spines of the GOP, and make the Democrats understand they’re committing electoral suicide by pushing their plan, your health care will be taken over by the government… and more taxes, regulations, and industrial takeovers will be coming your way. It’s like the worst book-of-the-month club ever. Do you dislike Republicans, and feel nonplussed about the idea of registering as one? I can’t say that I blame you. I’ve been one for years, and it’s not exactly like watching your football team roll into the Superbowl. The thing is, you really don’t have a choice any more. If you remain silent, and stay disengaged, a large chunk of your freedom will be taken away from you in the coming weeks.
The architects of the total State have arranged a game you will lose, if you refuse to play. The State has grown relentlessly for a century, but it’s about to make the kind of surge that has only happened twice before, in the New Deal and Great Society. That surge is going to leave the State sitting in your lap, growling about your unacceptable choice of light bulbs and insurance policies. If you thought it was hard to master the issues well enough to make an informed vote before, imagine what it will be like after the State becomes a few trillion dollars larger… and you begin to realize that your livelihood depends on defeating your political enemies.
I am fascinated by the study of politics and culture, but I dearly wish their wars could be fought with all-volunteer armies. America isn’t like that now. Everyone has been conscripted, and years of vicious battles lie ahead before anyone can dream of mustering out. We’re all on duty, every waking hour, because a comprehensive State is also inescapable. Nearly every aspect of our lives is hungrily eyed by groups that would like the government to invade it.
For too long, Americans have indulged the fantasy that government could grow without changing our culture. We thought we could pack on a few billion dollars in taxes and spending, here and there, but everything else would remain the same. Somehow, this delusion persists in the face of titanic health and energy bills. Anyone who finds politicians detestable, and politics unbearable, should refuse to drop another huge bag of money and chains into their hands. If you don’t speak out against it now, you’d better learn to enjoy politics.