• Exasperating certitude

    by  • September 22, 2013 • Commentary • 0 Comments

    IMG_1502My local paper, the Greenville Daily Reflector, runs a page two feature every day that both fascinates and confounds me. It puts “Bless Your Heart” behind its online paywall, so I won’t link it here. That uniquely Southern locution can express anything from admiration to pity to outright contempt, but the DR’s selection of unsigned laments leans heavily to the latter end of that scale. Each day is fairly predictable: complaints about back-biting co-workers and  left lane-clogging slowpokes, spiced with rants that carefully avoid racial specifics but which could be easily replaced with “%#$*&@ black people!” Occasionally a leftie breaks through — one today! — but usually the politics skew crazy-right, like this one from today: “What’s wrong with all the liberals who can’t see the IRS scandal, the NSA scandal, the Benghazi scandal and this awful Obamacare plan are a reflection of an arrogant and self-serving president.” No question mark, and I suspect the author omitted it not because the question was rhetorical but because he or she simply forgot by the end of the sentence how it started.

    Let us dispense with the no-there-there’s — that the supposed “targeting” of right-wing groups seeking tax-exemption was simply the IRS doing its job and included “progressive” groups; plenty of people on the left worry about NSA snooping, which the current president did not start; that the “Benghazi scandal” keeps morphing as its various iterations collapse, leaving only evidence-free speculation that something must have been wrong — and get to the nub: the exasperating certitude of the tea party right. It’s all true! Why can’t you see it?!?

    I was in an early voting line two years ago, after the GOP had taken over the North Carolina legislature but while Bev Perdue was still governor and had fought back its attempts to restrict voting rights, when an older lady in front of me loudly proclaimed, “I can’t believe you don’t have to show an ID to vote!” She must have figured half the people in the line would not be there, like the (then-) bearded guy behind her, but she prompted me to wonder what horrors showing an ID would preempt. It might be possible for an individual here or there to pretend to be a registered voter, but how, exactly, would you coordinate a large-scale effort to have non-registered voters claim to be registered, which you would have to do in order for such a fraud to be effective? Play that game out in your head a bit and you begin to see why the problem Republicans claim to have corrected with various voter-suppression laws simply does not exist.

    That does not faze the fact-challenged. The most common counter-argument — bruited frequently in “Bless Your Heart” and elsewhere — is that you have to show ID to do all sorts of other things, as if the most fundamental right of democracy were akin to buying a beer or boarding a flight to Chicago. When they step beyond that, they rely on the argument that there must be fraud, but we’re just not looking hard enough for it, as North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told “Here and Now” last month. So let’s just assume it’s there and do something about it. It’s all true! Why can’t you see it?!?

    But of course McCrory is no fool; however much GOP supporters insist on seeing something where there is nothing, he surely knows that voter suppression around the country is about keeping Democrats from the polls, as GOP stalwarts have admitted.  But that, too, gets back to the certitude thing. Unless you want to believe that the GOP’s efforts are all geared to snooker enough people into voting for them so that they can keep serving their ultra-rich masters (but that would be paranoia!), you’re left with: “People keep voting for Democrats! There must be something wrong! Why can’t you see it?!?”

    The statehouse strategy that wrested control of the U.S. House of Representatives from the sane and insured long-term control by the GOP now leads us to a new fiscal brink, with the House linking the de-funding or repeal of the Affordable Care Act to keeping the government running.

    All of this is despite the fact that, by an admittedly slight edge, more people voted for House Democrats than for House Republicans last year. As Politico recently put it:

    The GOP effectiveness in erecting a gerrymandered fortress has created a paradox: Even in a fast-changing electorate, with many demographic trends favoring Democrats, the part of the national government that the Founders imagined would be most responsive to shifts in public opinion and voter behavior may actually be the least responsive.

    Maybe the kill-Obamacare strategy will backfire, as a number of commentators suggest. But meanwhile, we’re all being held hostage by the why-can’t-you-see-it crew.



    Chuck Twardy is a writer and an instructor in the School of Communication at East Carolina University.


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