I never thought I'd say this, but in one regard I can sympathize with George W. Bush. Hey, Your Fraudulency - I feel your pain. They've misunderestimated me, too. The mainstream media and all the politicos inside the Beltway seem to have misapprehended the size of the outrage in the country. Again.
During the Clinton impeachment extravaganza, the media and the Republicans were relentless in their hounding of the president. Now, I'm not going to defend Clinton's extracurricular activities. I don't have to; I'll let Bob Barr, Newt Gingrich, and Henry Hyde do that. The punditocracy and those one can only loosely refer to as journalists, said we were outraged. And then looked at us expectantly.
Oh sure, we were a little cheesed off that he used the Oval Office to get, er, serviced, by an intern. It was tacky, and we figured Hillary had the right to kick his butt. We thought it was a bit icky that Clinton was old enough to be Lewinsky's father, and that there are questionable power politics in play whenever the boss and the employee get it on, especially when the boss is the Big Boss of the whole damn country. We shuddered when the Starr Report went digital. (I did not read it. I don't need to know that much about anyone's sex life unless I plan to sleep with them, and even then I don't need to know about stains on dresses.) And we all gradually realized… what did this have to do with Whitewater? Or any other actual crimes? You know, what Starr was supposed to investigate? We began to see that it was a Special Prosecutor power-trip run amok, enabled by the right wing's slavering hunger for Clinton's head.
We were tired of it. Really tired. We wanted it over. But contrary to Republican plan, we didn't blame Clinton for this "national nightmare." We blamed the media. We blamed Starr and Tripp. We blamed the Congress that wouldn't let it go. And so Clinton's approval ratings soared. We failed to be outraged on cue. We confounded their expectations by responding in a rational manner.
And now it's happened again.
According to the media, we're not angry. No, we're not. No, we're NOT. Okay, maybe the black people are. Maybe the "fringe" people are. You know, those unstable radicals who think they have the right to vote, or exist. Women, blacks, gays, Jews, liberals, Democrats, students, the working-class… you know, those people so far outside the mainstream. Pesky ingrates. There's only a few of them. Nevermind that a grassroots internet movement with no big-name leaders or centralized funding brought thousands to protest at the Inauguration. We'll just point the camera over here towards those nice people in fur coats and cowboy hats… And surely those radicals will get over it soon.
Inside the Beltway, both Republicans and Democrats are living in their own little world again. This time, when we're enraged, they're oblivious. They want us to get over it. Because the theft of Democracy isn't of as much national import as some consensual oral sex. The Republicans actually want the country to rally around their boy, and the Dems to show a "bipartisan" spirit by not pointing out the flaws in his programs and policies or resisting even egregiously inappropriate nominees. The Dems are saying, "We can't stand up to them. We made a deal for very little power and influence, and we don't want to ruin that! We have enough to filibuster, but don't ask us to do it. It might make them mad. If we resist now, we won't have the ammunition to resist later. Which we won't do either. George invited us over for lunch! He nicknamed me 'Sparky'!"
Our last glimpse of true integrity and courage on the Hill were the actions of the Congressional Black Caucus and others who walked out on the vote certification when no Senator would co-sign their objection to Florida's electoral votes. Senator Kennedy showed some promise as a vocal and influential opponent of Ashcroft, but he backed away from a filibuster because the purported Democratic leadership didn't want him to do it. I want to hope they're saving up for resisting right-wing Supreme Court nominees, but I fear they've had Jello implants to the knees. They don't seem to realize their constituencies are waiting for them to resist, and will turn on them if they fail to represent us.
Along with the Congress, the media have misunderestimated us. Again. It almost seems as if they're trying to guess wrong. We're tired of an irrelevant subject and want to move on, they're relentlessly obsessed with it. We're unshakably furious at a dangerous breach of the country's core ideals, and they think it's yesterday's news and probably never happened. "Why bother telling people Florida counts now put Gore well ahead? I mean, it's over, already. We're busy putting a positive spin on state-funded religion, arch-conservative (read: Confederate) cabinet nominees, tax cuts for the wealthy and environmental destruction. Go away. Voter rights. Hah. Like anyone cares."
I'm not sure whether to hate the mainstream media or pity them. Hate them for the unqualified idiot they helped anoint. Hate them for their collective loss of journalistic integrity. Hate them for parroting the lies and refusing to seek, see or speak the truth. Hate them for being corporate mouthpieces. Or pity them, because they will become obsolete. They have forced the sensate from them in droves, and with the internet and other alternative media ascendant, the mainstream media's heretofore burgeoning influence is built on hollow ground. They have the power now, and I don't think we have the power to cause their downfall. Only they can do that. I just hope it will be soon.
As I've said many times in the past couple months: I'm not sure whether to be more afraid for my country, or more afraid of my country.
© 2001, Elizabeth R. Albertson, from democraticunderground.comNEXT: ADVICE ON "THE CHICAGO WAY"