Politics and reality

General Motors announced yesterday that it intends to sell stock again.

But that’s not what I’m going to write about.

I was all set to discuss how this move was going to move the electorate past the Baracknophobia that’s been spewed out into the ether over the past couple years, to damning effect. Obama’s a socialist? Then why is he approving the sale of the government’s majority stake in GM? Could it be that the government was, in the case of the Detroit bailout, simply a reluctant buyer of last resort and, now that GM is back from the dead, is now looking to move that ownership position back into the private sector? Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening. And could it be that having a public healthcare policy is simply a recognition that employer-based healthcare insurance is a vestige from a day when you worked for one employer your entire life — and that today we need to know that our kids’ meds are covered if we should decide to do something all-American like quit our job and start our own business? Yes, that’s true too. And when it comes to these points, or the stimulus or a new layer of consumer protection on Wall Street, the president made the sound, sensible, responsible moves that any grown-up in that job, regardless of party affiliation, would’ve made — as long as they were more concerned with policy than politics.

But politics is in the driver’s seat. And politics has always been — but never more so than the past couple years — driven by ignorance.

I’m not going to talk about the willful ignorance on the right.

I’m talking about the casual ignorance on the left.

What made me change my mind about what I’m going to post today was a get-together over dinner last night. I was with a bunch of literary types in downtown Manhattan. It was a diverse group by just about any definition. All races, all ages, all orientations. We were halfway through dinner when someone (rather rudely) pointed out that I was the only hetero man at the table — so this wasn’t exactly the John Birch Society.

The only non-diverse thing about this group was its politics. Everyone there was liberal. I include myself. I’m proud of my progressive ideals in part because it includes an appreciation for all reasoned viewpoints and cultural perspectives. My being liberal doesn’t mean I have to hate all conservatives or conservatism in general. If the GOP was still the party of Jacob Javits and Tom Kean — people who understood how to keep the trains running on time and how to keep the money in the safe, but didn’t give a rat’s ass what you believed or who you fucked —  I might be a Republican today.  (Up through the mid-1960s, a lot of Republicans were far more liberal than a lot of Democrats.)

But this nuance is as wasted by ignorami on the left as it is by ignorami on the right. These were bright, articulate, really quite brilliant people I was with. But I had to explain to them who Scott Brown was? And after I mentioned he’s Republican, I had to explain that he was a moderate who often voted with the majority, so he’s not really evil? These were people who have got the best educations, reputations for being deeply insightful, and I doubt they could tell you anything about what “cloture” or a “filibuster” is. I doubt that more than a couple of them could name their representative to Congress. All they knew is: “Obama good. Republicans bad.” Some of the best literary minds in America, and they were no more politically savvy than the teabaggers.

We can do better, people. Read the Times. Watch the NewsHour. Find a political blog you like and follow it.

We liberals have got absolutely no standing to rail against the ignorance on the right until we start addressing our own.

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