The fash whisperer
Listening to the soft, senile voice of Peggy Noonan
© 2016 Gage Skidmore, used under a Creative Commons license
As I’ve said a number of times, Republicans don’t have policies as such, and their electoral tools — beyond the miasmic fear and rage they try to pump like poison gas into every honky home — mainly consist of preventing their opponents from voting.
Hence, the intense gerrymandering (as in Wisconsin, where Democrats need a double-digit edge to break even and the local GOP pretty much admits it), and the crazy laws (like Georgia’s Don’t Give a Voter a Bottle of Water law), and intimidation (like the tac gear Arizona goons) and such like.
Even their electoral shenanigans that are not overtly voter-suppressive still have that effect. Take the big “independent state legislature doctrine” campaign running through red states now to make it possible for Republican state legislatures to just overturn election results they don’t like. Of course it’s a dagger at the heart of democracy (what isn’t, these days?) because it’s meant to stop the will of the voters. But it’s also a way to drain away the voters’ faith in their power and their right and make them less effective when they can vote.
Think of it: The more that gets in the way of your vote ever counting, the less likely you are to keep trying. I remember way back in 1994, in the first mayoral election Rudy Giuliani won, when I stepped up to the poll and my registration was challenged — Lower East Side, Spanish surname, you figure it out. I had to submit an affidavit ballot, which might be meaningful if the vote is close and the loser contests the election, but otherwise it’s like a play ballot; you feel as if you’re not really part of the process.
Now think of all the Republican efforts to scuttle the vote — for which, by the way, the Democrats have no equivalent — and think of its long-term effect. A voter could quickly, or less quickly, get the idea there’s no point in voting at all.
So even if they’re just making you stand in long lines or follow cumbersome and meaningless rules that you can easily screw up — like the envelope-dating of Pennsylvania mail ballots — the long-term goal is to get you to give up. Hell, they’ll even inflict that despair on their own voters so long as it gets word around that when they’re in charge there’s no point in voting.
Here’s a fat piece of evidence for my theory from Peggy Noonan. The Pulitzer-blessed reactionary has never been too much in touch with the hoi polloi — though I have chronicled her hilarious attempts to act as if she has been — and now that she’s very old and probably hasn’t seen a subway turnstile or a ticket line in many years she’s even more out of it. So when she picks up on a current rightwing theme — even by osmosis, as I expect is the case here — it’s a sign that conservatives are hitting that note so hard that even grandma can hear it.
Here’s her new column. We don’t need to see the lede — oh, hell, let’s anyway:
William F. Buckley once received a postelection letter from an elderly liberal saying that she wished it were not only the number of votes counted but the weight and worthiness of each. Surely the votes of the thoughtful and informed should be counted more heavily than those of the frivolous and knee-jerk. If we did it that way, she said, the Democrats would have just won in a sweep and not gone down to defeat. Buckley replied that he too wished the votes of the more knowledgeable were given greater weight as this would ensure conservative victories for generations. My goodness they joked around in those days.
Yeah, they were a million laughs, Peggy. Next:
My modest hope as Tuesday approaches is that all ballots be cast only after much thought. It’s almost touching to talk this way, to want the quality of each vote to be high, but every time I hear “Vote!” or “If you don’t vote you don’t get the sticker that says you voted,” I realize that the pressure to vote is high, especially among the young.
Imagine being denied that sticker, it’s a wonder the kids don’t crack. Fortunately Peggy has plenty of ribbon candy and advice for them:
We say that voting is our right and duty and it certainly is our right, enshrined in that old Constitution, but our duty is to take a serious interest in our country, state and city, and be part of an informed citizenry. And then vote.
You hear that, kids? It’s like something you have to read books for. You hate that! You’re always looking at that phone.
Maybe you feel pressure to vote, maybe your friends or associates will tease or embarrass you if you don’t, but I don’t know.
Maybe your false friends offer you drugs to vote. Just say no!
If at this point in your life, for whatever reason, you don’t care that much and haven’t bothered to learn much and get a sense of the candidates — if in your heart you know you’re not as committed and informed as the neighbors, who are always going out to meetings and helping local groups — then I say it would be honorable to hold off and spend the next few years studying. This would be an act of humility. Democracies can’t continue without at least someone being humble.
So if you’re serious and take our political life seriously, please go Tuesday to the polls. And if not, admit it to yourself and try to become a better citizen so you can vote in good conscience next time.
Now we may ask — as Noonan’s editor is contractually forbidden to do — what the fuck is the point of this? Is it supposed to be contrarian and amusing? Like “libs tell you to eat vegetables, well I’m eating a steak so suck my dick”? That’s more of a P.J. O’Rourke shtick; say what you like about Noonan, she’s never so plainly rude.
No, we can assume that Noonan thinks she is making what she thinks it a serious point: That voting isn’t for everyone. But why would she, who gibbered on about the greatness of democracy for so many years, now make such an undemocratic statement?
My guess is she has heard from her rightwing and prestige media friends that democracy is, in this age of engaged black and feminist voters, not only an impediment to good government, but an impediment to be dispensed with — by force if necessary (Noonan would wince and cover her ears at that) — but for now gentler means may suffice. Noonan nodded and thought, yes, I hear the meaning behind their crude words — that’s her job, after all! — and what they’re saying is that democracy has gotten a little out of hand, and when it gets out of hand it has to be taken in hand, maybe even locked in a round pen and made to hear the whip. Peggy would recognize that metaphor as a little too sharp, and so work on it an hour or two: Democracies must be humbled — no; the voter must be humbled; no, humble — “Democracies can’t continue without at least someone being humble.”
There — that puts it over, but in the ladylike fashion that got people to give Reagan the keys to our Treasury, to our nation’s great calamity.
No one really listens to Noonan anymore; there are thousands of propagandists whose strident and bullying voices are more the modern style and do the real work for the GOP; Noonan’s voice is just a lulling sound some old-timers like to hear around bedtime. But if you take a moment to really pay attention to her, you’ll hear how deeply those other voices have penetrated.
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