Tuesday, January 31, 2006

spare the rod, spoil the senator

I'm starting to realize why the Right thinks we're so ridiculous.

Since the Alito debacle yesterday, I've received dozens of self-congratulatory emails from various progressive groups, crowing over "the difference we made", followed by another deluge of emails urging me to thank the Democratic senators who were strong and brave and independent-minded enough to support a filibuster.

Folks, we didn't make that much of a difference, because we didn't conjure up enough votes for a filibuster. And the Democratic senators who supported the filibuster were simply doing their job, which is carrying out the will of their constituents.

In our dealings with ourselves and our elected representatives, we resemble nothing as much as those apocryphal liberal parents that O'Reilly and Limbaugh are always trotting out: the ones who are so politically correct and so worried about irreparably damaging their offspring's precious self-esteem that they've banned booing at Little League games and forbidden teachers from giving out gold stars to exceptional students lest it make the others feel inadequate and harm their burgeoning little egos.

The Right doesn't believe in nurturing kids with unconditional positive regard. The Right believes in discipline, tough love, if you don't punish them they'll never learn, and that there's nothing wrong with a kid that can't be fixed with a good, swift kick in the pants. While I think this is an abhorrent way to raise children, I think it's a pretty damn good way to deal with our legislators. They're grownups. Their psyches are already damaged. THEY'RE IN POLITICS. How could any one of us do anything worse to their spirits than they're already done themselves in the name of advancing their careers?

Look, I don't want to have to reason with Dianne Feinstein. I don't want to have to threaten her, cajole her, or bribe her. I don't want to send her a flowery little email thanking her for doing what she was supposed to. Because the truth is, she didn't do enough. We're supposed to thank these people because they grudgingly agreed to go along with a filibuster, only after we deluged them with emails, faxes, and phone calls? Why weren't they behind the scenes, twisting arms and using their influence to get their more recalcitrant colleagues on board? I'm sorry, but I have trouble believing that getting 41 votes for the Alito filibuster isn't something that they could have accomplished if they had really wanted to.

And we're left tearing our hair out, wondering why we can't achieve that lock-step unity that the Right manages so effortlessly while we email our Senators and thank them so profusely for doing so little. George Lakoff may be right about the Left, that we subscribe to the nurturing parent model, and that's a great way to raise kids. But I think it's time we started teaching our elected representatives a lesson with a good, swift kick in the pants. Because if you don't punish them, how will they ever learn?

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