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September 11, 2009
Conservatives behaving badly?
Joe Wilson wasn't the only Republican who was fed up with Obama's dishonest, partisan speech Wednesday. Rep. John Shimkus walked out on Obama's speech, as reported by Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune's Washington Bureau Swamp blog.
Many conservatives love this sort of acting out, because they have the same impulse. Joe Wilson, while condemned by the Dems and their media lapdogs, is a hero to many activists. Others, like AT's Ethel C. Fenig, decry incivility and see it handing ammunition to our enemies.
Once again, Republicans are being decried as uncivil and worse. But it turns out that the real story is a bit more complex. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in a roundup of reactions, credits Dana Milbank:
I am not so certain that this acting out is such a bad thing. I remember conservative pundits from Charles Krauthammer on down lecturing us that the town hall demonstrations were going to backfire and turn public opinion in Obama's favor. They were dead wrong then.
The American people are not quite as prissy as the conservative elites, for whom polish and politeness are ideals. The media-generated stereotype of Neanderthal conservatives has made it essential for those conservatives who wish to be taken seriously in American elite circles to be on their best behavior constantly, and to deplore anything which reinforces the Neanderthal meme.
The hypocrisy of the left is breathtaking here. We recently experienced 8 years of dissent as the highest expression of patriotism, and hissing of POTUS during a State of the Union address. The widespread snickering when a shoe was thrown at George Bush demonstrates the phoniness of much of this outrage. These memories have not completely faded. The connection between the words liberal and hypocrite gets one more reinforcement.
The implicit symbolic message of extraordinary actions is that we are in extraordinary times. The reason the left turned to demonstrations as a mainstay tactic in the civil rights and Vietnam War campaigns is because they work. They draw attention, and can cause people to think. With abundant attention from a sympathetic media, they were able to put their causes on the national agenda. They were afforded opportunities to make their case.
The public is already skeptical about Obama's health care sales job, and by seeing that some just can't stomach what Obama is saying, they know something extraordinary is going on. The dominant media will not support them, of course, but those media are trusted by a diminishing minority of Americans, most of them somewhere on the left hand side of the spectrum. Among the undecideds, media huffing and puffing about conservatives is not enough to discredit a cause anymore. The public reaction to town hall protests showed that. Alternative media have gained enough traction that we can exploit the lacunae in the MSM coverage and gain the public's attention.
Slowly, slowly, people in the middle are awakening to the fact that Obama is no ordinary president, but rather one who has an agenda on which he did not premise his candidacy. The media may yawn as the system-altering changes are implemented one after another, changes that will weaken and impoverish America for generations. That is an awful thought to contemplate, and people avoid thinking it. But when they see that thought expressed by others, and see other disquieting signs that things are not quite normal with this guy in the White House, they may entertain the possibility.
Tomorrow, an unknown number of people will greet the Tea Party Express in Washington, DC. in the 9/12 demonstration. Another sign to the American public that these are not normal times. The usual suspects will huff and puff, if they cover the event at all. A lot of good it will do them! The public will make up its own mind, as it continues to think through this health care issue, and refine their understanding of this still unknown president, in only his third year of national prominence.
Most people care deeply about their health care. They aren't going to be rushed into ObamaCare, and enough Dems in Congress know that they could lose their seats if the public turns against it.
Disclaimer: I do not advocate rude behavior by anyone. I personally believe in self-restrain and civility. And that Neanderthal thing has been a stone around my neck in left-dominated academic and cultural settings.
But a movement without passion is an idle preoccupation, not a political force. Let's not actively encourage this sort of thing. But keep in mind that a battle is being waged and that the left has showed us the complex way symbolic acts can affect the public consciousness when a movement is building.
Hat tip: Rosslyn Smith