Modern conservatives have a worldview that posits a cruel, Social Darwinist society, in which all people, no matter their circumstances, should somehow “know better” than to let bad things happen to them. Sick people shouldn’t get sick if they have no health insurance. Poor children shouldn’t get hungry if they have no food. Uneducated people shouldn’t fall for credit scams. Black people shouldn’t let themselves be purged from the voter rolls by Jeb Bush. Michael J. Fox shouldn’t allow himself to shake from Parkinson’s while promoting stem cell research.
Conservatives tend to smugly blame the victims in the cases above. But conservatives are in the minority, right? We all know that in most cases, sick people cannot prevent themselves from being sick; poor children can do nothing about their poverty; uneducated people are uneducated because of system failures; and the disenfranchised cannot prevent political leaders from disenfranchising them. Those people who really can help themselves, but become victims anyway, are the exception, rather than the rule. As enlightened liberals, we get that.
Or do we?
I fear that blaming the victim has infiltrated our political discourse, left, right and in between, to an alarming degree. For six years, prior to my current incarnation as zzzzzzzzzzzlist bloggista, I yelled at my friends and family for blaming the Democrats for the Bushian takeover of our government. “Why don’t you blame the Republicans? They’re the ones who are doing everything! They have control of the committees! They change signed bills in the middle of the night! They don’t even let the Democrats into the room when they create legislation! Hastert doesn’t even bring a bill forward unless it has ‘majority of the majority’ approval, which means it has no chance of being filibustered!” (Yes, I’m a pain in the butt. Are you surprised?)
No, no, it was the Democrats who were at fault here. Never mind that demonizing the victims is a conservative meme that liberals should be ashamed to promote – bloggers such as Bartcop hammered the Democrats daily for being out of power and unable to prevent the strong-arm tactics of the Republic majority.
Well, now the Democrats are in power, but BARELY. The Senate majority is razor-thin. It counts, of course, because actual humans are now in charge of the committees. (Substituting Patrick Leahy for Arlen Specter as Chair of the Judiciary Committee has had some excellent consequences, for example.) But in terms of getting 67 votes – enough to stop the Deciderer’s newly-discovered veto pen – well, let’s just say it’s a wee bit challenging to get 16 Republics to vote with Democrats on the color of the sky, much less something controversial, such as cutting funding for the Iraq war, or impeaching Bush, Cheney and/or Gonzales. And of course, Bush has had six oversight-free years to completely infiltrate every area of government with his political hacks and flunkies, not to mention the almost-fatal damage his regime has done to our country’s laws and institutions.
Yet after barely six months of power, liberals are screaming even louder about how worthless the Democrats are. Why haven’t they fixed everything Bush has done by now? Why haven’t they ended the war, impeached Bush/Cheney/Gonzales, restored the Constitution, etc. etc. etc.? NEVER do we blame the Republics for blocking Democratic efforts at every turn. No, we take the actions of the minority of Democrats (such as the ones who voted for the FISA bill) and sweepingly apply blame for their actions to the leadership. Well, isn’t it possible that the leadership was misled by those Democrats? If so, why can’t we blame those Democrats?
Even worse, to me, is how many liberals refuse to give the Democrats credit for anything they are actually accomplishing. So often in the blogosphere (comments on Huffington Post and Eschaton, for example), I hear that the Pat Tillman hearings, the Justice Department hearings, and the NSA wiretapping hearings are so much political theatre. Oh really? Then why have these hearings led to so many resignations? The mighty are falling. The DOJ is in a total shambles, with Gonzales barely holding on. (Another Gonzales protégé resigned today, by the way.) DeLay, Libby, Abramoff, Hastert, Rove, Rumsfeld – all gone or going, long before the President stumbles out of office.
I’m tired of hearing conservative memes falling from liberal lips. It really sickens me that people cannot tell the difference between the criminals and the victims of their crimes. Am I saying that all Democrats are perfect and all Republics are evil? No – although at this point, Republics who hold any political office at all should not be trusted in any way, shape or form. But can we at least blame the right people when something goes wrong? Can we stop repeating Rove’s lies as gospel? And can we finally, FINALLY get some nuance back into our political discourse?