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Democracy As An Exploit

Adam Greenfield, from his expat-home in Helsinki, calling a lie a lie and identifying a core weakness of liberal democracy:

And beyond that, there’s my sense of despair at the impotence with which the American body politic (and especially the “progressive” sector thereof, right up to and including President Obama) reacts to outside context problems or – might as well call ‘em what they are – exploits.

Consider “death panels.” This is clearly Big Lie territory, and of course the filthy little truth of the Big Lie is that it works and works consistently. But just what work does it do in the present context?

In trying to answer this question, it’s worth bearing this in mind: it’s not that the opponents of national health are playing the same game by a different set of rules. They’re playing a different game entirely. That is, a plurality of the folks who oppose some kind of public-sector involvement in health insurance almost certainly are not interested in helping to articulate a best-fit, balanced solution that would be minimally acceptable to everyone. Their all-but-stated aim is to deny, attrit, isolate, suppress and, ultimately, shatter their opponents.

The collectivites arrayed against the “Obamacare” bogeyman construct the body politic as a zero- or even a negative-sum game. They’ve identified a loophole, a vulnerability in the operating system of American democracy for which as yet there’s no patch. And because their victory conditions don’t require the affirmative production of a workable solution, the challenge before them is much (infinitely!) easier: all they have to do is drive a wedge through that vulnerability and they’ve won. The foreshortened, truncated, mutilated human lives that will result are collateral damage, an acceptable side effect. And the damage to the health and functioning of the republic? That’s a feature, baby.

Now, to tell the truth, I’m not all that surprised that there are people who would rather tear their country apart than articulate an honest ideological opposition and advance meaningful alternatives to the policies they dislike. But it’s not simply cynicism that teaches me this. It’s history.

Sometimes I just want to do what Barney Frank did, and ask "On what planet do you spend most of your time?"

But if Adam is right, I'll be missing the point: Pre-existing reality is not what's important, here. The Big Lie is all about creating a new reality that's more congenial to the real goals of the people promulgating it.


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