During a comprehensive interview with The New York Times, President Obama attacked modern conservatism and the GOP for being too ideological and extremist. He continued by describing the Democratic Party like so:
And by the way, it generally is fact-based and reason-based. You know, we’re not denying science, we’re not denying climate change, we’re not pretending that somehow having a whole bunch of uninsured people is the American way.
Borrowing Politifact‘s ranking system, I’ll give this quote a “Mostly True.” For now.
I’m glad the president qualified his observation with the word “generally” because although the Republicans have slowly allowed the lunatics to take over the asylum throughout the last 14 years or so (mostly in the last five), the far-left wing of the Democratic Party is beginning to give the tea party a run for its crazy money. Put another way, yes, the Republican Party has ceded control to its crackpot tea party flank, almost irrevocably disconnecting it from reality and reason, but the far-left is growing louder as well and there’s a serious danger that the Democrats could repeat the GOP’s idiotic validation of its extremist wing.
By in large, America has gone nuts. Our political cheese has slipped off our political cracker.
The discourse has grown so utterly dysfunctional and incoherent — up-its-own-ass in reaction to every minuscule social media blip and every hyperbolic political headline, making it difficult to find an actual “fact-based and reason-based” discussion anywhere. Everything on the far-right and, yes, the far-left has become, to one degree or another, a conspiracy theory. NSA, drones, Benghazi, healthcare, Guantanamo, Gaza, Syria, immigration, teleprompters, the word “folks” — you name it and there’s a privileged crank being paid to spam Reddit with scare-headlines about it. And it almost always includes predictions about the end of America as we know it, with our perhaps-Kenyan, perhaps-conservative, perhaps-liberal, perhaps-pacifistic, perhaps-war-mongering president accelerating the inevitable death of the nation.
Is the tea party far-right more guilty than most for amplifying the nincompoopery? Absolutely, yes. While it was obvious five or six year ago that the ascendancy of the first African-American president would totally precipitate a meltdown among a particular subgroup or two, no one could’ve predicted where we are today. We can begin describing the movement’s psychosis with the historical fact that the Boston Tea Party for which it’s named was in fact a protest against parliament cutting the corporate tax rate to zero for the British East India Company, allowing the corporation to sell tea more cheaply than colonial importers. But since “taxed enough already” made for a convenient “T.E.A.” acronym, they went with the name anyway. From there, the tea party only disintegrated further into spastic gibberish.
–Tax cuts for everyone! Except nearly half of all Americans who pay too little, and Cliven Bundy shouldn’t have to pay any taxes if he doesn’t want to, and we’ll shoot you dead if you try to force him to pay.
–Don’t temporarily shut down this memorial! Meanwhile, let’s de-fund or abolish the Department of the Interior.
–A 99-percent scientific consensus on man-made climate change is a massive hoax.
–A healthcare reform plan originally devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation and promoted by top Republicans throughout the 1990s is an unconstitutional, socialist government-takeover.
–Congress is exempt from Obamacare, even though the Obamacare law newly requires Congress to buy insurance through the Obamacare exchanges.
–Obama doubled the deficit, even though the deficit has actually dropped from $1.4 trillion in 2009 to $514 billion at the end of this year.
–Undermining the commander-in-chief while troops are in harm’s way is unpatriotic, but only if the commander-in-chief is a Republican.
–We should still be sacrificing American lives fighting a war in Iraq.
–Even though scientists say otherwise, emergency contraception covered by Obamacare is abortion-inducing simply because we believe it is.
–We hate frivolous lawsuits, but the solution to checking executive power is a frivolous lawsuit.
–Obama abuses executive orders even though he signed the fewest executive orders of any two-term president in history.
The list goes on and on. The worst thing is that more than a few of these items have been mainstreamed by the establishment Republican Party. Seriously, many of us would welcome a civil debate on the basis of whether taxes are too high or whether spending is too low, but few have the patience to engage the mainstream GOP while it panders to its completely nonsensical base. Yes, politics often includes spinning the facts and, yes, politicians sometimes bend the truth (even President Obama), but it seems as if too many members of the modern right (be they politicians or participants) augment the original sins of politics with contradictory, inconsistent flailing — short-attention spans, historical blindness and an almost complete rejection of intellectual honesty.
And it’s getting crazier on the far-left, too.
I hasten to note, however, that the increasingly radical far-left has a very, very long way to go in order to be mainstreamed with the same vigor and electoral prevalence as the tea party, but it’s doing its best to make a show of it. Not unlike the tea party, the far-left ultimately began to lose its marbles in reaction to the Obama presidency. Prior to that, during the Bush years, there was a lot of noise, too, but it had a patina of intellectual honesty fortifying it. Plus, it made sense for the far-left to vocally oppose the Bush administration. But any attachment to political reality began to rapidly whither sometime around late 2009 and the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The opening shot: Kill the bill! Big names on the far-left refused to accept anything short of single-payer, therefore the ACA was weak and a betrayal of progressive values. The phrase “disappointed in Obama” would quickly be joined by “war criminal” and “worse than Bush.”
When the Obama administration began, many of the most pious top-shelf progressive writers, bloggers and activists decided that in order to be taken seriously, they must oppose the new Democratic administration with the same exuberance they used against the previous administration, even though the Democratic administration would pursue an agenda significantly comparable, though obviously not identical, to progressive goals. On the surface, this accountability mission sounded noble and honest enough. But in practice the narrative was lost and the plan rapidly disintegrated into screeching at the Democratic president irrespective of what he did or didn’t do. Successes were conspicuously ignored, or spun into failures, while failures were routinely coupled with Bush-era failures. “Accountability” quickly turned into “self-defeating, dumb accountability,” and the plan, unbeknownst to those executing it, dissolved into ineffectual white-noise.
None of this is to say the Obama administration has been flawless, but when landmark actions such as the overturning of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell or the historic passage of the ACA and the stimulus were downplayed as weak genuflections to the center-right, without acknowledging any view of the long-term impact as it pertains to reversing the politics of the previous decade, it became clear that self-righteous personal cred was prioritized over a realistic view of how the U.S. government functions and what political successes in this divisive age actually look like.
And if you happened to have noted the political realities involved in turning the ship of state, you’ve probably been tarred with the “Obamabot” label, in spite of the groupthink, clique mentality of the people who created and compulsively repeated the “Obamabot” insult in the first place. While it’s to be expected coming from the far-right given its obvious differences with the administration’s agenda, the collective scolding of anyone who refuses to blindly and indiscriminately scold the president, regardless of the facts, is sadly another characteristic of the far-left’s slow disconnection with political sanity. Broadly speaking, the far-left appears utterly incapable of realizing that change is slow, incremental and impure.
Perhaps it’s for this reason that the far-left has been to-date unsuccessful at mustering the same political support among the Democrats that elevated the tea party to its present status within the GOP.
So, for now, Obama is right. There are generally more adults running the show on the Democratic side. But who knows how long that will last. Social media has not only whittled political disagreements into 140-character freakouts, but worse, it’s legitimized sensationalistic ledes, which, in turn, have been legitimized with prestigious journalism awards. The participants who are most effective at writing click-worthy, outrage-inducing headlines are the participants who invariably receive the most attention, irrespective of content, and this can only cheapen the quality of the debate — now deteriorating at internet-speed.