Sunday, April 01, 2012

Quotable: Sweet Melissa on Hubris ... And The Perils of Being Too Sweet

"¡In hip hop we call it gettin' high on your own supply!"

WHAT BETTER REASON for watching Melissa Harris-Perry, aka Sweet Melissa or Melissa's Hour of Power, in the weekend a.m. broadcasting hours on MSNBC? It has the cadence of the morning shows with the substance and intellectual stimulation that is lacking from the usual parade of a.m. fluff and personalities of those shows.

But Melissa is much too sweet sometimes in accommodating liars from the right in her midst and seeking absurd, strained areas of commonality. The lie that Scott Walker campaigned on his union-busting strategy was so egregious it should have been more vigorously contested by the host. (See Rachel, and Walker's Super Bowl party when he revealed his secret union-busting policy intentions to his brain trust.) And what is it about the pathological propensity of the right to lie? The difference between so-called "centrists" and liberals or progressives is that "centrists" cannot tell the difference between "compromise" and "caving."

This is a historical axiom, e.g. the Russian Revolution and the rise of Nazism in Germany between the wars, when a political "center" which caved to ideological extremists in the service of some ephemeral "good faith" compromise accelerated the rise of totalitarianism. Progressives were once again vindicated, after so-called "centrists" scoffed at our pleas for the President to take a harder, more principled negotiating posture on health care and the budget rather than the virtually complete "Grand Bargain" cave-in to John Boehner revealed, with minimal historical hindsight, last week. Arianna Huffington wrote:
[I]t's never questioned why this courageously-doing-the-right-thing-bipartisan-Grand-Bargain somehow always means screwing the middle class and working people. It's just assumed, as it is in the Post story, that there's no other way to do business in DC. At least not any way that is considered Very Serious. Getting out of wars not in our national security interest? Not Serious. And a sign of being the party of wimps. Asking the wealthy to pay more? Not Serious. And class warfare to boot!

It's further assumed that the Grand Bargain, almost regardless of the policy details, is in-and-of-itself a good thing. Reaching a Grand Bargain deal is itself the win — because it means Washington's actually doing something. Unasked is whether that something is actually good for the country. It's just assumed that it is. So, according to the piece, while the Grand Bargain on the debt was on the table, the White House saw Obama as "a politically selfless president willing to rise above the partisan fray and make difficult choices for the good of the country."

What is alarming is that President Obama himself bought into these establishment assumptions. Of course, it was known at the time that the president was seeking the Grand Bargain, and was in on-again, off-again negotiations with John Boehner. But what wasn't known was how committed he was to making it happen. As Jonathan Chait put it in his excellent post on the piece, "Obama was even more desperate to cut a deal than previously believed — dangerously desperate, in fact."
If you're a progressive, the reaction was a yawning 'so what'? Why anyone should be surprised by what Arianna Huffington called "Obama's Devolution" is a mystery to us. Nonetheless, Arianna and Paul Krugman set the right tone of alarm and outrage. Some of us believe, now more than ever, in confronting so-called wedge issues of class and race with a ruthlessness that the Kiki McLeans of this world call 'hyperpartisanship'. (When the other side is ruthlessly seeking to destroy its political opposition, it would be foolish not to fight fire with fire.) I call it the ugly, unvarnished truth glimpsed by holding up a mirror to this society and the "laws" which codify union-busting, voter suppression, curtailing women's health and reproductive choices, and one that most people can easily understand on a gut level — allowing Treyvon Martin's killer to remain at large and possibly walk free.

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