People mostly remembered that Bill Clinton once had made a passing mention of what he called “the purveyors of hatred and division… the promoters of paranoia” on the airwaves. (At the actual memorial service, Clinton quoted Scripture and talked about healing.) This time, many people struck pre-emptively; Rush Limbaugh may be self-medicating his wounded ego for the rest of his life over what he imagines Clinton said about him. There was a lot of what was called “defensiveness” on the activist Right, but it was nothing of the sort. They were on offense, just the way they have been since they took that heat in 1995. They abide by the order Stalin gave to the Red Army when the Germans invaded in 1942:Ni shagu nazad.
Not a step back.
The activist Right wants this rhetoric for 2012. It wants the same dark energies that helped it win the House last fall. It wants to be able to say the same things with impunity that it’s been saying since 2009, as though Tucson never happened. Oklahoma City might as well have happened to the Hittites.
Which is how nothing ever changed. Which is why Oklahoma City wasn’t enough.
This is why all our proclamations of unity post 9/11 were bullshit. This is why anyone who had been fundamentally awake in the last 20 years knew they were going to be bullshit. We were no more new men made of moonbeams than we ever were, and none of these things are that long ago. We just tell ourselves they were, so that we can get on with business, because somehow in all our moving around, we decided a cultural memory was something we could cast off without consequence.
And not for nothing, but no small part of how easily we forget is how easily the Democratic Party let everybody forget all the nasty shit that happened during Clinton’s term, and Bush’s, and who was behind it all. So eager to work with those nice Republicans, so reluctant to offend anybody by saying something loud or possibly rude which might cost them votes from peoplewho were never gonna vote for them anyway. So afraid of being calledpartisan on the Sunday shows, partisan being the new liberal or something, partisan being a bad thing to be as a leader of a politicalparty. At every point they could have pressed an advantage, they stepped back out of concern for their own vanity. And this is what happens.
I had an editor, once, used to tear apart my stories because he said I was assuming readers were inside my head, assuming they’d know what I meant and would go where I wanted them to go. Thing he drilled into my head was, you want somebody to go someplace you have to take them by the hand and lead them, and then if they won’t go, you have to get behind and push them, and then if they still won’t go you pick your foot off the ground and you kick them down the road in the direction you want them to head.
People don’t just magically come to the conclusion that everything out of Rush Limbaugh’s and Ann Coulter’s and Sarah Palin’s mouth is a crazy lie because they listen and evaluate and decide why yes, these people are saying douche-y untrue things on a daily basis, possibly I should turn the dial. When there’s no pushback, when nobody in power is willing to stand up and counter this for fear of losing the moral high ground (as if the moral high ground in a swamp isn’tstill a fucking swamp), you’re left with the loudest voice in the room. And I’m human, I get it, it’s hard to drown that voice out after a while.
So you want this not to happen again? You want this not to be the uncomfortable memory we’re bringing up in another 15 years when there’s another Democratic president wingnut radio’s listeners are being told is Satan incarnate? Then you accept that nobody knows anything they aren’t told at top volume, and you open your mouth and you speak.