Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Occasionally, Bill McClellan, the Post-Dispatch columnist, accuses liberals of being a whiny bunch.  That charge never made sense to me.  Do any in this group think we're whiny?  But now, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Thomas Frank, I get it.Monday morning's paper said that Ah-nie is in trouble for calling state legislators "girlie men"--sexist AND homophobic in just two words.  According to the Post, state senator "Sheila Kuhl, a Democrat, said the governor had resorted to 'blatant homophobia'".  Well, of course, he did.  He's Arnold.  And if I were Ms. Kuhl and a reporter asked me about it, I'd grin ruefully and say, "What do you expect?  We're dealing with Arnold here."  I think her self-righteousness tone is a tad whiny. 
Now for Tom Frank's contribution to my education:  In What's the Matter with Kansas?, he stresses how much the Red Staters hate political correctness--and any whining about it.  It's one of the many themes they love to rage about.  If you think we know how to sputter and moan, listen to Frank's description of our counterparts:
As culture war, the backlash was born to lose.  Its goal is not to win cultural battles but to take offense, conspicuously, vocally, even flamboyantly.  Indignation is the great aesthetic principle of backlash culture ....  The result is what we will call the plen-T-plaint, a curious amassing of petty unrelated beefs with the world.  Its aim is to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on. ...  The plen-T-plaint is the modus operandi for that cyberspace favorite, the political-correctness scoreboard, in which ridiculous examples of liberal intolerance (hypersensitive minorities, discrimination against Christians, silly mascot issues) are heaped up by the thousands. ...  Who knows what "precedent" the Supreme Court will pull out of its ass next?  Or which figure of everyday speech--the word "pet", the word "wife", any reference to Christmas--the commissars of political correctness will criminalize, even as they enlarge the list of swear words permissible for broadcast on TV?
Considering that Ms. Kuhl is probably already memorialized on several of these plen-T-plaint sites, I wonder:  is it possible to convince backlashers to see beyond these petty complaints?  In other words, is it possible to make them aware of our common ground?  In the short run, probably not.   It makes more sense to concentrate for now on communicating our vision of economic fairness to those receptive people who will help us rebuild a Democratic party that speaks for ordinary Americans instead of for corporations.  







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