Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, April 16, 2012

That's The Phrase We Were Looking For

We began outraged at the investigation, and deeply troubled by Stand Your Ground.  Now we're off on these meta-outrages.  I never thought the point was to "Make Zimmerman Pay."

That phrase is from Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Meta-outrages.  That's the best phrase I've heard about our public discourse.  There was stuff to be legitimately outraged about - Zimmerman not even being arrested in Trayvon Martin's death, GOP and Catholic prelates efforts to deny contraception coverage to millions of women, the consistent obstruction of the GOP - but then we get sidetracked into these meta-outrages.  Al Sharpton is annoying, Hilary Rosen is history's biggest monster, Obama said something obvious about the Supreme Court.

It kind of goes to what I was saying about the Secret Service "scandal".  We should be concerned first and foremost what our elected figures do for the common weal.  That should be the main focus of the political media.  What will happen if the Ryan budget passes?  What would happen if the Court strikes down ACA?  What will happen if Iran gets the bomb?  

Instead, we get fed a diet of meta-outrage.  And, yes, both sides do it.  But it seems that either the Right does it more, or their meta-outrages get picked up and amplified more.  I guess that might depend on how you see the Rush Limbaugh slut shaming of Sandra Fluke, but the Democrats tend to get upset about policy issues, whereas the GOP gets their dander up about whether someone was mean to the stay at home moms of multi-millionaires.

Alexander Hamilton was not - I think it is safe to say - a faithful husband.  He loved his wife, but the deep seated insecurities that drove him also drove him to other women.  When caught paying hush money to the husband of Maria Reynolds - his paramour - his accusers suggested he used public funds to pay off Mr. Reynolds.  Hamilton boldly admitted the affair but vigorously and methodically shot down the insinuations of misuse of public funds.  

It contributed to the end of his political career, but I wonder what would have happened if Aaron Burr had not shot Hamilton and he had lived to general an American Army in 1812.  He might have risen to the Presidency after that.  (If he was half the general he thought he was.)

And maybe we could talk more rationally about public virtue and private morality.  Maybe we could understand that it is how a public figure behaves to the commonweal that matters, not his personal affairs, except in so far as they shed light on his public life.

But maybe the reason we care about why Mitt strapped his dog to the roof of his car is that Romney is not going to give us ANY clue about what he intends to do once he's president, so we have to go with the Seamus story.

I don't know.  I'm rambling.

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