I guess I must have repressed my memories of the Republican opposition to the Clinton administration. It required too much suspension of disbelief even for a long-time Coleridge fan. Reminds me of the time I tried to turn my experiences running a legal aid office in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in Chicago into a series of short stories. The one that finally ended that career detour was the two kids I interviewed about their juvenile court case, who told me they had run away from home because their parents were practicing black magic.* I realized, as I reviewed my notes, that there was no way I was going to be able to make truth as believable as fiction, and I might as well go back to writing briefs and memoranda.
So here we go again, with the MSM trying to make the opposition loonies as believable as the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen. Lewis Carroll, thou shouldst be living at this hour. Remember poor Vince Foster, supposedly murdered by White House operatives because he Knew Too Much? Nobody could ever enunciate just what he knew too much about, but si non é vero, é ben trovato. And the apocryphal Secret Service agent whose job was to recruit lesbian bimbos for Hillary? Lesbian bimbos? Gimme a break. The scandalized reporters who discovered that Hillary, in her brief forays into the investment market, had actually made money? Omigod. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria! (sorry, I know I’ve used that before, I just can’t find anything more apt.)
Some saner conservatives are pointing out that the loonies are raising some valid points, such as the proper role and size of government, which deserve a serious debate. Some liberals have pointed out that we just had that debate, which, in this great country of ours, is called an election, and our guy won. Some other liberal commentators suspect that the reason the loonies can’t accept the legitimacy of the Obama presidency is that he’s Black. Obviously, they have the same trouble I did remembering the Clinton administration, which the loonies also never accepted as legitimate, even though Bill is at least as pale as I am, and Hillary is a good deal more so. They just started with the axiom that the Clintons had somehow snuck in under cover of darkness and then changed the locks on the White House. Color was never an issue. The issue is, and has always been, who qualifies as a Real American. A few Blacks and Hispanics (especially Cubans**) actually do. But anybody who believes the government has a valid role providing help for non-rich Americans really doesn’t qualify.
Remember the New Deal?*** FDR made it happen by making a deal with the Devil, or rather, the Dixiecrats, that would guarantee that none of its benefits would extend to Black people. Social Security and Unemployment Compensation specifically didn’t cover agricultural and domestic workers, who made up the majority of employed African-Americans at the time. Black sharecroppers didn’t count as “farmers” for purposes of the New Deal agricultural programs. Aid to Dependent Families was off limits for Black single mothers, because it was too easy to prove them “morally unfit,” unlike White widows, or to show that, unlike White women, they could never qualify because they always had a way to support their children, namely domestic labor. And so on. Well, what the loonies are looking for this time around is a guarantee that Obama’s health care reform won’t just exclude illegal immigrants from coverage, but will guarantee that they can never, ever, get treatment for any medical problem in any medical facility that receives federal funds, or from any doctor or nurse whose education was paid for with federal grants and loans. Anything less than that will forfeit all support from that side of the aisle.
But everybody in this particular controversy, on all sides, seems to have forgotten that, unlike FDR, Obama doesn’t need the support of the loonies to get his program passed. Yes, it would be nice to end the LaRouchie/teabagger/loony-sponsored sniping and become One Nation. But every time Obama extends a hand across the aisle, somebody cuts off one of his fingers. Now, apparently, he has only one left. Let’s hope it’s the one he needs for the appropriate gesture.
* In fact, what the parents were doing was Santeria, which most people at the time didn’t know about, and which the kids didn’t know about because their parents had always told them “We’re Catholic,” until the kids came home from school early one day and found their parents and some friends in the basement doing stuff Sister had never taught them. The solution, as in most juvenile runaway cases, was to encourage better parent-child communication.
** In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m Cuban, but like many second or third generation Cuban- Americans, I do not consider Castro the AntiChrist.
*** See Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White for the best historical treatment of this era.