I founded Armchair Firebrand as a direct response to Republican obstructionism in our government and the widespread proliferation of Right-wing misinformation throughout our media. In the weeks and months since this endeavor began, those nefarious forces have only grown stronger.
Washington D.C. shut down well before last weekend’s epic snowstorm descended upon our nation’s capitol. Thursday, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) placed a “blanket hold” on nearly seventy Obama Administration nominees currently awaiting Senate approval.
Shelby’s objection has nothing to do with these qualified individuals themselves. Rather, it hinges upon a pair of earmarks, recently eliminated from our nation’s budget, that would benefit his home state of Alabama. Placing these narrow interests above filling so many vacant posts within our government is both irresponsible and inexcusable.
Shelby’s intransigence is also a sharp rebuke of President Obama’s recent request that the G.O.P. govern responsibly rather than blindly obstruct his agenda. If Senate Republicans insist on throwing such temper tantrums every time they don’t get their way, our country will soon become ungovernable.
Even more despicable is the venomous vitriol spewing forth from the Tea Party’s inaugural convention in Nashville, Tennessee. Friday, in his speech at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo fervently denounced our President as “a committed socialist ideologue” elected by “people who cannot even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English.”
Then there was Sarah Palin, an unsuccessful G.O.P. Vice Presidential candidate and half-term former governor, who reportedly received $100,000 for delivering the convention’s keynote address Saturday night. Palin began with a stunning indictment of optimism and progress, rhetorically asking Obama voters, “How’s that hope-y, change-y stuff workin’ out for ya?”
Meanwhile, Palin’s political paradigm or, to employ her preferred populist parlance, presumably, “that fear-y, status quo thingy,” seems to be working out just fine, at least for her. This self-centered strategy has proven extremely effective in the short-term, upping Ms. Palin’s media profile while lining her pockets at the same time.
However, appealing to people’s irrational fear of change generally brings out the worst in them (a fact demonstrated by the many misguided and offensive slogans spouted at tea party events last summer).
And assuring voters that we can continue consuming resources at or above our current rate is as reckless as it is dishonest. To use a tired metaphor, at a time when Americans must get leaner, Palin is scoring political points by telling us we can eat ice cream every night for dinner and never gain weight or run out of milk.
Journalist Jacob Weisberg recently bemoaned this cheap brand of political charlatanism in his piece for Slate.com, “the politicians thriving at the moment are the ones who embody this live-for-the-today mentality, those best able to call for the impossible with a straight face…Middle-class Americans really don’t want to hear about sacrifices or trade-offs—except as flattering descriptions about how ready we, as a people, are, or used to be, to accept them.”
As Weisberg notes, in our democracy, the buck stops with us: the American People. We’re the ones enabling the despicable words and actions of cynical charlatans like Shelby, Tancredo and Palin by failing to expose the obvious flaws in their logic. Instead, we’re left with a public unwilling or unable to separate fact from fiction and make the tough choices necessary to bring our country back from the brink.