The spooky old pulp avenger known as The Shadow was fond of hissing a lesson at his defeated criminal enemies: The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.
The fruit of total politics is bitter, too. One cannot help noticing that everything in our hyper-politicized culture is becoming a teeth-and-fingernails struggle in which the losing side is demonized. This kind of thinking even found its way into the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, as the majority opinion spilled a remarkable amount of ink on insulting those who supported and passed DOMA, dismissing the possibility that anything but hatred of homosexuals might have motivated them.
Wow, so Bill Clinton and all the Democrats who voted for the law he signed are hateful homophobes! Well, no. They get an instant pass for everything they’ve ever said or done, because they are now politically aligned with the same-sex marriage movement.
The same is true of loudmouth actor Alec Baldwin, a one-man wrecking crew of offensive verbiage that would terminate most other Hollywood careers. He recently dubbed a reporter a “toxic little queen” and a “little bitch” during a Twitter tirade. (You know you’re allowed to take a deep breath and calm down before you type something on Twitter, don’t you, Mr. Baldwin?)
Baldwin eventually issued a pro-forma apology for his “ill-advised attack” and said he was just really, really angry at that dratted reporter… but as “someone who fights against homophobia,” he couldn’t truly be guilty of it, could he? Gay-rights groups were pleased to give him a pass, and onward Baldwin’s career rolled, right past the shallow media grave where Paula Deen is buried for something she said 30 years ago.
This is an essential distillation of totalitarian politics. Never mind your sexual orientation; everything is settled by your political orientation. Support for the proper causes excuses a remarkable degree of thoughtcrime. Absolution is achieved through politics, because the government does everything important; personal conduct is a trifle compared to the power of billion-dollar programs.
This philosophy even over-rides biological reality. There are plenty on the Left who will tell you Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann aren’t really women, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas isn’t really black. A Democrat state representative in Minnesota, Ryan Winkler, thought nothing of labeling Justice Thomas an “Uncle Tom” because he voted the “wrong” way on the recent Voting Rights Act decision. Confronted about this outrageous language, the college-educated Winkler claimed he didn’t know the origins of the phrase “Uncle Tom.”
Then Winkler dug the totalitarian hole deeper by whining, “I didn’t think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas should be even more concerned about racial discrimination than his colleagues.” Because his skin is black, you see. That means he’s supposed to think a certain way, and vote a certain way. If he doesn’t behave according to this liberal racial programming, maybe it’s time for left-wing politicians to administer a DNA test.
Not only is the fruit of politics bitter, but that weed is growing at amazing speed. Everything is politicized now. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin hijacked a speech about the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg to deliver a lecture about gay rights and civil rights, which advocates of the former have spent years trying to blend into a thin paste with the latter. Very little about the actual battle of Gettysburg seems to have slipped into her notes. That’s how the total political environment works: the past is but a tool for promoting today’s agenda, and there isn’t much room for chunks of the past that aren’t immediately useful. What does the valor and sacrifice of Gettysburg matter, compared to the needs of the gay marriage movement, and the adventures of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s favorite 20th-century Democrat presidents?
It’s always funny when the devotees of total politics abruptly decide their least secure terrain is “sacred ground” beyond the reach of representative democracy, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi bizarrely described late-term abortion. The crowd of late-term abortion fanatics shipped in to support Texas state senator Wendy Davis in her filibuster against health and safety regulations has taken to waving signs that read “Politicians are not doctors!” Apparently they are completely unaware of ObamaCare, which made politicians and their bureaucratic appointees the supreme rulers of the medical system… to say nothing of their beloved federal super-government’s belief that it should micro-regulate every other industry in America.
That’s another feature of totalitarian politics: the designation of certain precious subjects as beyond the pale, beyond the vote, for the matter has been tabled, the law of the land has been written, the science is settled, and those who otherwise posture as agents of the popular will are suddenly unconcerned with what sixty, seventy, or eighty percent of the people think. A free nation with a legacy of Constitutional restraint, federalism, and self-government should not believe that any legislation is permanent, or any discussion is over forever. But “progressive” totalitarianism is eager to secure permanent victories from which it build “forward” into a larger State, smaller private sector, and more bitterly divided populace.
Total politicization is bitter because it’s all about redistribution, compulsion, and the slicing of limited pies. What you are “entitled” to must first be taken from another, and naturally they resent it. Identity politics turns serious discussions into nasty food fights in which all that matters is the subjugation of the hated losers, and the validation of exalted winners. Competition is the healthy expression of conflicting human ambitions; among its other virtues, it does not require the conquest or destruction of the “losers.” But competition has been dissolved by a growing government’s increasingly arrogant demands for obedience. All that remains is settling who gets to give the orders at the ballot box. Of course that’s an ugly way to arrange society, and it leads to untold levels of strife. People can get along nicely with their competitors, and even their opponents… but not their enemies.