Can America Be Saved From the Stupid?

In 2008 Barack Obama’s campaign slogan was “Yes we can!” It’s a nice sound bite, but as the United States approaches its 235th birthday it’s acting like an arthritic old man who doesn’t even try to get out his chair. Remember when other nations used to comment upon the American can-do spirit and envy its eternal optimism? Probably not; no one has said this for decades. We now live in the land of “No,” where a million excuses are put forth as to why we can’t fill in the blank (rebuild the infrastructure, have national health care, reduce carbon emissions, give women equal rights, allow gay marriage, develop a national energy plan, fund NASA, reduce gun violence, tax the wealthy, eliminate poverty, pay our teachers….) “Yes we can!” threatens to give way to “imperial overstretch,” a phrase coined by Paul Kennedy in his distressingly prescient The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987).

When I opened my April 1 newspaper, the news was no joke. Among the grim storiess--raging U.S. battles in Iran, Afghanistan, and Libya; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s denunciation of the judge who stayed his bill stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights; Ohio Governor John Kasich signing into law a bill akin to Wisconsin’s; Missouri’s bipartisan decision to end extended benefits for the state’s unemployed--“enough is enough” said the well-paid and employed lawmakers--the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s refusal to reconsider the relicensing of Vermont Yankee, a facility like those that failed in Japan; and House of Representative threats to shut down the government unless deep Social Security cuts are made. Maybe it’s already too late, but Neal Gabler and Joe Bageant gave me some ideas about what progressives need to do now if they hope to right the USS America.

Gabler recently penned “The Arrogance Divide,” which blames liberals for failing to capture the mainstream because they’ve been “condescending” and elitist toward the poorly educated, Tea Party supporters, and Bible-belters. In Deer Hunting with Jesus, Joe Bageant agrees that liberals don’t understand the group he dubs “rednecks” and their gun-totin’, bad-eatin’, Bible-praisin’, Fox news-watchin’, Walmart-shoppin’, government-hatin’ ways. To be fair, Bageant thinks the rednecks are self-deluded, but he too chastised liberals (such as himself).

The first thing progressives need to do is tell Gabler he’s out of his mind. Although I hate to speak ill of the dead--Bageant died on March 27--progressives need to be more arrogant and aggressive in their assault on stupidity, not embrace rednecks as the misguided-but-cuddly creatures Bageant thought them to be. Gabler suggested at the end of his article, “don’t call them stupid. They hate that.” My response? They are stupid. Pathetically stupid, imbecilic, moronic, and dumber than homemade sin. And after years of being insulted by them for having the temerity to rise from redneck roots and get myself educated, I don’t give a sqwanker’s farley if they resent me for saying that. I’m tired of bleeding my heart’s blood for them.

My heart sank when I read Gabler’s imploring ending because I thought to myself, “Yes, this is just what liberals will do. They’ll apologize in their limp-wristed, cojone-less, muddleheaded way.” Stop it! Here’s what has to be done with Walker, Kasich, Fox, Palin, and the Tea Party: Take ‘em down. Stop looking for bipartisanship; you’ve a far better chance of resurrecting Elvis. Crank out the recall campaigns, launch your own propaganda vehicles, and fight fire with fire. Stop being nice; stop being polite; and stop being naïve in the belief that reason always triumphs. Take a page out of how the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers broke unions: tie up the right-wingers in court. It’s time for progressive groups to switch from advocacy to litigation. Do to anti-choice groups, corporate lobbyists, textbook censors, tax dodgers, financial sector thieves, deregulators, and other enemies of the people what they did to ACORN--litigate them into bankruptcy. More to the point, understand what they Right has known since the days of Lee Atwater: the best defense is a good offense. Sue the bastards!

Speaking of the people, while progressives are giving up some old delusions, it’s high time to let Comrade Marx molder in his grave. Stop being romantic about the working class, which is unlikely to be the building block of a new society. Bageant wanted me to love his misguided lot from Winchester, Virginia. Sorry. I grew up near there and I find nothing charming about the people he describes. Blue-collar America is onboard with the Right; they have become Marx’s lumpenproletariat and are as likely to develop class-consciousness as they are to discover cold fusion and end our dependence on foreign oil. Have they been deceived, as Bageant claimed? Yes. But isn’t this the same crowd that preaches self-reliance and personal responsibility? Yes they are. I have great sympathy for their plight, but if you put sandwiches in front of hungry men and they refuse to eat, should we shed tears when they starve? Frankly it pisses me off to hear Gabler and Bageant blame people like me for their woes. I’ve supported labor unions, social welfare programs, job creation, and income redistribution my whole life only to be called a “socialist” and “an arrogant liberal.” (Guilty on the first charge, nolo contendere on the second.) Progressives need to go forth as if the ill-educated (and often non-voting) masses are content to sit on their deep-fried asses and let Glenn Beck think for them. Go ahead and be contemptuous. You have my permission. In like fashion, consider cutting ties to groups that used to be liberal but haven’t been since Bill Ayres was a terrorist--the U.A.W. for instance.

Fellow progressives may disagree with my prescription, but they’d better get on board with the idea that the future of America is a fight, not a discussion. The only other option is to take down the Stars and Stripes and run a white flag up the pole. Admit that the U.S. was a noble experiment that failed. Break it up and reestablish the C.S.A. somewhere along the line runs south of Winchester. (The C.S.A. can’t have Maryland, a very blue state.) Put up the border fences. Frankly, I’d be okay with that.


ALHC said...

Hurrah! But give me some names, Professor, of the leaders of this progressive movement. Bernie Sanders is fighting the good fight, but we need more of his ilk, and I don't see them in Washington. I am happy to report that VT has some good Democrats fighting the health care fight, but we need more of them too....Aimee Hutchins Cronin

Colleen Geraw pidgeon said...

Whew, I feel better even though I'm not the one who said this. Nice job, Lars! Now to spread the word...