The Phantom Menaced
It’s hard to know what to think of things like this. There’s something to be said, I suppose, for being reminded that Seattle, where I live, is indeed a liberal bubble, its progressive policies and forward-thinking politics an aberration even in the left-leaning Pacific Northwest, and that much of the rest of Washington state is populated by militiamen, tea party types, and other self-identified American patriots. And I do like to keep up to date on what armed hysteria the gun right is whipping itself into, so I can plan my day accordingly; like the people involved in the protest, I am an owner of multiple firearms, but unlike them, I am not a brain-damaged paranoiac, so it’s useful to be informed about what lunatic degree of terror a perfectly harmless piece of legislation has instilled in these dolts.
The specifics of the ‘protest’ certainly provide lots of opportunity for amusement. The ever-present huckster element manifests itself in the sale of “FIGHT TYRANNY — SHOOT BACK” gimme caps, reputedly to raise bail money; alas for the poor hat-hawker, no arrests were made, and he was forced to keep all that money for himself. The way the hapless crowds were thwarted from their eager act of well-armed civil disobedience by the authorities merely locking the doors is a fine illustration of why the right has never really gotten the whole idea of protest and prefers a nice comforting dose of authoritarianism. And the images of these brave freedom fighters wandering aimlessly through the halls of power trying to find someone who wants to listen to them, huddling in the porticos to avoid getting rained on, and hunkering down outside the governor’s mansion praying to Jehovah to smite someone already are highly comical.
Perhaps the biggest laugh/gasp combination comes from this quote from aging Tumwater sad sack Dave Grenier: “What’s the world coming to when there are people who want to break the law and they won’t let you do it?” Mr. Grenier is present at a protest, ostensibly of the government he believes has lately turned tyrannical, and he seems not to have a clue as to how the government works. One shudders to think of what his conception of law enforcement must be, as he does not seem to understand that its very foundation is not letting people break the law when they want to. (A supplemental giggle can be had from Monroe-based elected official Elizabeth Scott, who, after a show-us-your-tits display of top-grade pandering wherein she flashed her pistol to the hooting crowd, claimed “I carry at least one gun every day because a cop is too heavy and a guard is too heavy.” Rep. Scott might wish to visit Seattle more often, as we employ police and security officers capable of moving under their own power, who need not be carried around.)
But the real tell here, the one that has had me in a spin since at least the days of the Clinton administration when the right seemed to make a tectonic shift from merely oppositional to downright eliminationist, came from her colleague in the Washington state house, Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane Valley. Shea is another Tea Party blatherer, and notorious at the state house for his deranged violent outbursts; aside from his loopy political ideas, which include fanatical gay-bashing, he pulled an illegal and unlicensed gun during a traffic incident, has a track record of public and domestic outbursts of anger against fellow elected officials and his Russian bride, and, during his tour in Iraq with the Army National Guard, he was disarmed and referred for psychiatric counseling by his commanding officer for reckless behavior. In other words, just the sort of fellow you want wandering around the capitol building with a loaded gun.
According to reports, Shea “gave a fiery speech that included a list of more than 20 grievances against the government, including militarization of police, high taxes, surveillance programs, Sharia law, and restrictions on guns”. One could quibble on specifics here; it’s odd that someone so virulently opposed to gay marriage would not find Sharia law so objectionable, and it’s very odd to hear a private citizen armed with an assault rifle complain about the militarization of the police. But the real puzzler is that this isn’t a politician focused on an issue; it’s a politician, as so many on the right have become, blowing a scattershot load, shotgun-style, of exaggerations, lies, mischaracterizations, ignorance, and outright fantasy all over his electorate and hoping something sticks.
For all of their flaws, the Democrats, from the ever-shrinking labor left to the mainstreamed big-business technocrats who have held office since the 1980s, at least try to focus on actual issues — problems that really exist, and about which something at least theoretically can be done. Unemployment, income disparity, low wages, corporate corruption, monopoly power, workplace safety, pollution, alternative energy research, science funding, educational reform, police brutality, financial regulation — whatever one’s position on these issues, they are real. They can be observed and measured; their effects can be gauged, their existence can be seen, and the efficacy of attempts to steer them in one direction or another can be at least loosely graded on a variety of criteria.
But not only do so many of today’s Republicans deny the reality of the observable and indisputable issues, preferring a hands-off approach to virtually every economic problem, pretending vaccination is a matter of personal choice and not public health, and flat-out denying the existence of things like climate change; they also replace them with issues that are pure invention. Taxes are still low at the federal level, both in comparison to other highly developed countries and in comparison to our own history — and Washington doesn’t have a state tax. Sharia law is a pure fantasy in America, as much based in political reality as dragons or moon-men — and in Washington, we’re demographically more likely to be forced to swear fealty to the emperor of Japan than we are to become subject to Sharia law. Despite the seeming daily occurrence of gun murders and mass shootings, not a single piece of meaningful gun control legislation has been passed by the federal government in decades — and the one passed here in Washington was exceptionally mild and had widespread popular support.
The whole foundation of the Tea Party movement was that the American government had become so alienated from the ideals and goals of its people, that it had so abrogated the Constitution, that it represented an excrescence on the nation that needed to be expunged, no differently than our initial overthrow of the British. But despite its long life, not a single one of its dire predictions have come true — not a single one. Where is the Islamization of America we were assured was imminent from the Kenyan usurper Barack Hussein Obama? Where are the roving gangs of inner-city thugs, transformed by federal fiat into an army of goons to enforce his dictatorial proclamations? Where, indeed, are those dictatorial proclamations? Where are the padlocked cattle-cars transporting patriotic dissenters to FEMA concentration camps? Where are the blue-helmeted U.N. battalions, forcing socialist wealth distribution down our throats at gunpoint? Where is even a single one of the doomsday prophecies uttered daily by these rubes and hustlers? Obama has less than a year left in office. Even his signature program of health care reform doesn’t clear the bar of being unconstitutional; hell, he didn’t even manage to get insurance companies out of the equation, let alone come up with death panels or abortion on demand or strip-mall Mengeles or whatever other science-fiction nonsense these two-bit cretins have been fulminating about for the last seven years.
Why people continue to buy into the ramblings of a political party whose program consists of outtakes from The Turner Diaries is the subject for another column. But when people ask me why I am so hard on my fellow Democrats — why I save my strongest criticisms for liberals — this is why. The political struggle is being presented as a battle between bad Democrats and worse Republicans, with my vote, I am assured, either committed to the former or given, by default, to the latter. But to my ears, the Republicans literally have no argument to counter. They are trafficking in pure illusion, describing the political stakes in Fairyland; they have nothing to offer me that is worth arguing against. The battle should be between better or worse solutions to real problems, not between actuality and delusion. I’ll continue to focus on the problems of labor and the left; as far as the right goes, wake me when they talk about something real.