Monday, November 13, 2006

But I thought about the game, the game. Yes, I thought about the game...

A whole lot of people inside the Beltway who've been spectacularly wrong about everything for the last 15 or so years, and I mean everything---about Whitewater, Travelgate, Newt, the Impeachment, Gore's "lies," Bush's compassionate conservativism, Dick Cheney's and Don Rumsfeld's statesmanship, the War in Iraq, this last election, everything---have been busy, busy, busy since Wednesday trying to prove that despite all the evidence they still know what they're talking about and the conventional wisdom that drove all their thinking down blind alleys for the last decade and a half still prevails.

These pundits, journalists, TV talking heads, analysts, and consultants have been pushing the idea that the Democrats didn't actually win Tuesday nor did Bush exactly lose. Nothing changed but a few labels. The product, the center-right big business-friendly surrender to Karl Rove when push comes to shove politics the Media Insiders love, is just now more easily identifiable and socially palatable.

On Tuesday, they've been quick to assure us, the country moved squarely to the right of the middle where it's always been and where it belongs, and even though a lot of Right Wing hardliners lost their seats in Congress, the election proves that the Democrats don't have to pay any attention the the Progressives in their party. The Center-Right holds.

Which is probably news to the likes of Sherrod Brown and John Hall.

It's probably a bit of a surprise to Rick Santorum too.

And Harold Ford, the DLC poster boy who is now out looking for work, might be asking his patron Rahm Emanuel to explain it to him: "How is that my losing proves that you were right for choosing me to run?"

And how the election was a victory for conservativism and timidity and continuing the status quo needs to be explained to the people of Arizona who decided they don't want their state to officially hate gay people and the people of South Dakota who rejected the Religious Right's dream of changing the state motto to The Coathanger State and the people of Kansas who got rid of their creepy, misogynistic Attorney General and the people of Missouri who decided that they prefer to let scientists work on curing diseases than listen to the preachers tell them to value zygotes over living people and the people of the Western and Rocky Mountain States who in just three years have turned over their governorships, state houses, and Congressional delegations from red to blue.

The six new Democratic governors, including Eliot Spitzer and Deval Patrick, might be wondering how their victories are victories for the Washington Establishment's conventional wisdom too.

I can tell them.

Inside the Beltway, state governments don't matter.

For that matter, government doesn't matter.

The reason that the Club of the Spectacularly Wrong can be so insistent that they're right to be Right is that there was only one race that truly mattered to them this fall, Joe Lieberman's.

Lieberman's their pal and their mascot and their front. For years he's been their favorite politician because as a Democrat he's allowed them to tell themselves that their wrongness is rightness. Joe thinks it therefore it must be so. They can listen to Lieberman tell them that John Roberts isn't a Right Wing extremist and the War in Iraq is necessary, things they want to believe, and not have to notice that they are swallowing what the Republicans want them to swallow. Lieberman is a Democrat, after all.

They need Lieberman in the Senate, they need him to be a power player, so that they can be as conservative as they are without having to admit that it puts them on the same side as the yokels and yahoos on the Right Side of the aisle.

They needed Lieberman to win, also, so that they could continue to hold all other Democrats in contempt, especially the Progressives, the netroots, and, the most contemptible of all, bloggers.

Lieberman beat their enermies' favorite, Ned Lamont, and that proves that all's right, and Right, with the world.

Shakespeare's Sister calls these Beltway Insiders the Believers in Nothing. But that's not quite true. They believe in one thing at least---in maintaining their own positions as the Wise Men and Wise Women who get to the rest of us what to think.

Go slow, they're telling the Democrats. Play nice. Don't stir up trouble. Don't act as if you've actually won anything or that your winning matters or gives you permission to actually try to do anything. Don't listen to the voters who sent you here, listen to us. We know best.

You would think that all these so-called journalists would be salivating at the thought of Charlie Rangel and Henry Waxman lifting up rocks and watching all the bugs scurry.

No way. Investigations will reveal too much. Not about the Bush Administration or the extent of the Republicans' corruption and incompetence. About the Beltway Media Elite's spectacular stupidity.

Hold those hearings and they will show just how dumb the Media Elite was about Iraq, about Bush, about everything for at least the last 6 years.

Hold those hearings and we will all know for certain sure what we already know, that the Media Elite lay down on the job or, worse, cheered the crooks and the incompents on to their thefts and blunders.

Hold those hearings and it will be clear how none of them deserves to be trusted to know what they're saying ever again even if they're reading the time of day off their Swiss watches.

Yes, I am really accusing at least 500 highly-educated, supposedly sophisticated, self-congratulatingly "liberal" but "realistic" people in Washington of not caring about anything more than their own vanity and reputations.

More than that, I'm accusing them of being lazy, intellectually, professionally, and morally.

They don't like having the Democrats in charge because that means they will have to care, at least to the point of having to pay attention.

Democrats make them work. Democrats talk policy and throw numbers around and they think out loud and they work hard at getting things done.

Democrats have a bad habit of being smart, smarter than the Insiders themselves, and that means they have to work to keep up.

You just need to look back through the archives. Again and again you will find them complaining about Democrats being smart. What did they dislike most about Bill Clinton? The fact that he'd keep them up late into the night talking about politics, policies, and ideas like they mattered. What did they hate about Gore? He was a smartypants. What bugged them about Kerry? He was another one who talked as if it all meant something.

Why did they prefer to travel with George Bush? Because Bush never talked to them about that stuff. The fact that he didn't talk about it because he didn't understand it didn't bother them. They understood that he didn't understand it because he didn't care to, and they liked that attitude. It matched their own. And it saved them from having to do work. Much easier to report on what the candidate thinks about baseball and NASCAR than what he thinks about Hezbollah or NAFTA.

I think this explains their infatuation with St. John McCain. McCain may have a lot of flaws, but one thing he isn't is a deep thinker. Straight-shooter, straight-talker? Code words for shallow and simplistic. McCain talks in bromides, boilerplate, and bilgewater. He's no dummy, he may in fact be very smart, and he's definitely not disengaged like Bush, but he's not showoffy smart like those darn Democrats, you don't have to have done any homework to follow what he's saying.

There are plenty of smart, hardworking, committed Republicans in Washington, but they're easy to ignore. If they aren't boobs and yahoos themselves, they come from states where nobody but boobs and yahoos live and who cares about those states? Flyover country. You're a fool for living there so it's your own fault if you can't get good health care, a decent education, an abortion even if your health's at risk. Who cares if you can't get married? Who cares if your most important city drowns?

The smart, hardworking Republicans who aren't true-believers are cynics who'll be glad to assure you at dinners and cocktail parties that nothing they say really counts so it's ok for you not to care or be appalled.

The ones who aren't cynics are clowns, and it's a lot easier, and more fun, to chuckle knowingly at clowns like Rick Santorum and George Allen and Mike DeWine than it will be to ignore Sherrod Brown and Jim Webb and Bob Casey.

Fortunately, Joe Lieberman will hog the spotlight. He'll happily and energetically push those others, the ones who insist on caring, into the background.

Joe's already at it. He's already out there assuring the 500 that they're right, his victory is the only one that mattered. Joe's back and that proves it. Nothing has changed. Nothing matters. No need to think or re-think. No need to worry. No need to care.

The game goes on.

The Beltway Insiders, the believers in nothing, don't care what happens or doesn't happen as a result of what they say or as a result of what any politician they're talking about does or doesn't do. As Shakes says, they've convinced themselves that politics is nothing more than a game, and they cover it as a game, with no outcomes beyond declaring winners and losers.

The reason this election has upset them is that this time they are among the losers.

Partial reading list, to be updated:

Will Bunch's Why I'm mad: An open letter to David Broder from a fellow journalist.

Paul Waldman on what really happened Tuesday, a big step to the left.

Glenn Greenwald on why Russ Feingold makes the Insiders' heads ache.

Tom Watson on Moses Lamont and Other Heroes.

Rob Farley's shorter Mickey Kaus: If you voted for the war in Iraq you have not business asking what went wrong over there.

Major thanks to Susie Madrak.


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