I have to say that my deepest gloom right now is about how exactly the kind of red-blue, right-left, abstract ideological posturing that has bedeviled the US since Vietnam has come back with a vengeance. My hope was that Obama could get past this. He's trying and his record, to my eyes, is exactly as he promised. But old habits die hard, and the anger on the left and viciousness on the right seems straight out of a boomer playbook. I think the right is much more destructive right now, but the Hamsher left is driving me a little nuts as well. A reader echoes this sense:
My teabagger parents are gloating today about the Brown victory. To them, this whole politics game is like football: they simply cheer for the red team to beat the blue team. Period. They don’t know or care how Brown or any of their other preferred candidates are going to solve the real crises my generation will face.
And for all their slogans and smugness and phony outrage, the teabaggers are on the wrong side of the future in every way I can imagine: Entitlements will have to be cut. The eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security will be raised, benefits will be means-tested, and Medicare will eventually be rationed. Everyone in my generation knows this. We accept it. But we want those programs to stick around in at least a minimal, bare-bones form. The teabaggers just mindlessly shout “Don’t cut my Medicare!” But they don’t mind bankrupting it for my generation.
Taxes will be raised. This is a fact. But teabaggers keep demanding tax cuts, insisting that cuts increase revenues, a claim that can’t even be called discredited because it was never credible in the first place. Policy-smart conservatives know it’s hooey, but teabaggers love it because it’s a convenient, feel-good talking point, truth be damned.
The rest of our lives will be filled with economic stagnation and profound personal insecurity.
The health care system as we know it will fall apart, spiraling costs will destroy growth, and the government will be forced to take an ever-bigger role in health care, sooner or later. What it means to be middle-class will be drastically different in fifty years, maybe even twenty. The disruptions of globalization will require government to alleviate the economic risk on individuals through programs like expanded unemployment benefits, targeted job training (and re-training), and education reforms. Teabaggers’ answer? Scream “Socialism!” and argue for ending all regulations and social welfare programs.
The theme of the future will be the need to accomplish more with fewer government resources. This will require a generation of leaders committed to the old-fashioned conservative notion of good government. For teabaggers, though, it’s an article of faith that there is no such thing as good government, so they don’t care what kind of hacks they put in office.
American empire will have to be rolled back. We can’t afford it. The defense budget must be cut. But teabaggers just want more and more war, imperial occupations that never end, in every corner of the globe. You have to wonder if war simply makes them feel good. Climate change and peak oil are facts. They will alter our lives in ways that seem like science fiction to us now. But teabaggers grasp at any flimsy excuse they can find not to face these facts, from “Al Gore is a hypocrite!” to “Drill, baby, drill!” to “The emails prove it’s all a hoax!”
The ridiculous, exhausting culture war has to end. My generation is sick of re-fighting Vietnam and Selma and Stonewall. We don’t want to be defined by whether we eat arugula or wear Carhartt. But the teabaggers need the culture war to continue forever because it ratifies their prejudices. It justifies their hate. It prevents the change they fear.
Now who is better prepared to start solving these problems now, a pragmatist like Obama or the teabaggers? Who is the real small-C conservative? If teabaggers continue to stand in the wayor God forbid, if they take powerhow much longer will it take for leaders to emerge who are willing to do the hard work? I asked my father what his solution would be. “Blow up the whole government,” he said. “I’m not responsible for your security.”
If that’s not nihilism, what is?