For quite some time now, it's been abundantly clear that the GOP has had the market cornered when it comes to less-than-serious players, be they in talk radio, on Fox News Channel, or, shockingly enough, occupying seats in Congress. We know the names: Sarah Palin, Steve King, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Donald Trump, Ann Coulter and so on.
The Democrats, meanwhile, never content to allow the other side to hang itself, continue to thrust their own rogues gallery of fringe screechers onto the national stage. There's a very real opportunity for the left to occupy the adult high-ground, yet they can't quite hold that position for long enough to matter.
Indeed, there continues to be a demand for incendiary headlines pegged off news items about talkers whose only real contribution is narrowly-argued hyperbole and red meat. There's no need to name names, and I hasten to note that I'm excluding comedians from the aforementioned rogues gallery. The left has always benefited from its contingent of funny people, and it hasn't been used to its fullest extent.
Regardless, there's one character on the left who's rapidly wearing out his welcome. Cornel West is otherwise a brilliant and accomplished thinker, but he's fallen prey to the lure of the over-the-top soundbite, with its accompanying viral notoriety on social media.
Take as an example his latest Trump-style blurt. During Monday's "News Day" on CNN, West discussed the increasingly volatile Democratic primary campaign from the perspective of his recent endorsement of Bernie Sanders. Not content to go with a sane, sober analysis of what's happening between the two candidates, West opted for this instead:
"Sister Hillary Clinton is the Milli Vanilli of American politics,” West charged. “She lip-syncs, she gives lip service. But when it comes to policy, who supported the crime bill? Who supported, not just the deregulating of banks, but also pulled the rug from under welfare?”
First of all, that last part is the responsibility of President Bill Clinton, and Hillary shouldn't necessarily be held accountable for policies that her husband endorsed nearly 20 years ago.
Second of all, Milli Vanilli? This is the best he can do? A reference from 20 years ago?
As far as lip-syncing goes, it sounds like West is making a stink about Hillary moving leftward to embrace some of Bernie's positions, paraphrasing something Bernie himself said on CNN the day before -- that Hillary is "echoing" some of Bernie's ideas. Ever since Bernie gained momentum on the frontrunner, nearly defeating Hillary in Iowa and closing the gap nationally, Hillary and Bernie have been engaged in a debate over how progressive Clinton really is.
Hearing Hillary Clinton discuss her liberalism is a brand new development that ought to be applauded rather than ridiculed as lip-syncing. In fact, I always thought that Bernie's original involvement in the campaign was to drag leftward Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton. If this was the case, and I have no reason to doubt that it was, shouldn't West and others feel a sense of accomplishment? After all, it's exactly what she's managed to do.
Come to think of it, in 2008 she didn't bother to tack to the left in the face of Barack Obama, even though Obama fared better than Sanders at this stage of the contest. And yet Bernie has done it.
So, it seems like a cruel trick to pull Hillary to the left, then to relentlessly criticize her for doing exactly that -- at least from the perspective of Bernie and his supporters. If you're a Republican, then Hillary was already liberal enough, but the rest of us know that it's always possible for her to step closer to the left wing of the party. Would we prefer that she retreat to the middle?
Nevertheless, there appears to be a kitchen-sink approach being employed by both sides of the Democratic primary race. Driven by social media, bloggers and talkers across-the-board seem to be exploiting every bit of news from Hillary or Bernie as if each item is a disqualifying event. Call it pre-impeachment. They're both stealing the elections. They're not who they say they are. Neither can defeat the Republicans in the general. Etc, etc, etc. Skim through your Facebook news feed and you'll see the processional of wild accusations, most of which are published by source-free propaganda sites.
And Cornel West, as a surrogate for Bernie, should know better. Instead of ballyhooing his candidate, he's merely fueling the inchoate slap fight with bubble-gum nonsense about lip-syncing.
The Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia should've been a wake-up call that the stakes are too high to self-destruct months before the general election is underway. Along those lines, the unserious screechers would be helping most if they simply checked their hyperbole before stepping in front of cable news cameras.