It’s fitting that Jon Stewart’s loving tribute came on the same night as the Republican debate, because the politics of hate-watching the Republican clown-car are the politics he gave us. For most educated, white liberals, being a Democrat now has no other content than feeling superior to Republicans. We spend our time mocking their obviously wrong statements and policies to cover up the fact that we have no real idea of what the right thing to say or do would be. Our politics are reduced to asking “where’s the outrage?” — and our disappointment about the lack of sufficient anger covers over the fact that we have no idea how we would harness that anger to produce meaningful change.
It’s absolutely pathological. Politics is completely captured by the GOP media’s “politics as entertainment” model — it’s just that liberals have a supplemental layer of commentary on the politico-tainment, to go with all the other TV write-ups. Does any of this make anyone more likely to participate in meaningful political action? Does it help clarify what policies we should advocate for? Does it do anything but confirm the stereotype that liberals are elitists who think everyone else is stupid?
Know thine enemy, you might say. Well, we already know our enemy. They’ve been saying the same damn thing for 35 years. They say it over and over, every single day, in every available forum. And if they cared about things like coherence or avoiding hypocrisy (the liberal commentator’s favorite form of critique, our weird post-Christian hangover), they would have noticed the problem by now. We are frittering away our time analyzing emotional appeals as though they’re philosophical propositions, because we don’t have a single damn thing to say for ourselves. The “stupid” conservative strategy has dominated our politics for decades, and it even let them regain a stranglehold on government two years after a transformative election in which they were utterly discredited. But we’re the smart ones, right? Because we notice that they claim to be in favor of life when really it’s okay with them if some people die. Wow, zing. Nailed it. Retweeted, favorited, tattooed across my forehead!