by The Other Katherine Harris
The Other Katherine Harris’s blog
April 13, 2008
It’s become fashionable to rail about how dumb Americans are – and, yes, we do tend to share some collective impairments (notably in world geography and languages) – but I’m struck again and again by the collective wisdom of my compatriots.
I often learn more from comments on a blog than from the original essayist, even if highly credentialed, and some who call talk show hosts on AirAmerica and NovaM reveal similarly transcendent insight. Radio being such an ephemeral medium, I can’t attribute this remark to a particular speaker or even recall precisely what show was airing, but here are perhaps the pithiest words ever spoken about our nation’s partisan disjuncture: “Republicans want to get rich and Democrats want to be right.”
That nails it in one, doesn’t it?
For some, personal gain is quite simply the highest value. We on the other side find this hard to believe – but it’s demonstrably clear that we’ll never win an argument with them, by appealing to their better nature. It isn’t that they don’t possess a better nature, but it’s kept firmly in its place, restricted to benefiting kith, kin and self-aggrandizing philanthropies. The only occasions on which they’ve ceded any advantage on a broad basis have been when they’d weakened the rest us so much that they’d effectively killed the Golden Goose, so had to fatten it up for a while. (Think Great Depression, for instance.)
By contrast, those of the greed contingent have grasped that the majority of people honestly place principle ahead of wealth. That makes us suckers, in their book, and they’ve managed to play us like suckers by mincing it up – extolling a few token precepts to gain followers. Mind you, these have no bearing on their all-important financial aims. Trumpeting biblical strictures costs them nothing and fools believers into thinking they also buy into the rest of the doctrine (those icky parts about service to others, fairness, peace and the spiritual perils of privilege). Likewise, it costs them nothing to bray about “the right to bear arms” and fools believers into thinking they also buy into the rest of the Constitution (those icky parts about governmental checks and balances, restrictions on war-mongering, even-handed justice and the primacy of individual freedom and conscience).
Thus, our would-be Masters of the Universe have exploited their fellow-citizens ideologically, as well as economically. In high political circles, it’s now considered bad form to point this out, but Barack Obama has been doing it – more gracefully when he spoke of our need to unite against the real enemy than when he spoke specifically of impoverished Americans clinging to God and Guns. In each case, however, he was expressing essentially the same thought. I’d like to see him broaden it to embrace these people as persons of principle, who were deliberately misled by being tossed a scrap of what they value. There’s a great affinity waiting to be tapped into, in that they placed something higher than their own pecuniary best-interest – which you’ll never see a True Republican do.