Righteous indignation hurts Democrats
Color my neck red, but I often suspect some "progressives" are more interested in demonstrating moral superiority than winning elections. Vicarious participation in emotionally satisfying public spectacles renders them incapable of thinking about how presumptively unenlightened voters might react. And yes, I'm talking about you, MSNBC.
That woman holding a big sign for the TV cameras reading "I am a SLUT with a VAGINA, and I vote," at a feminist pep rally in Michigan isn't thinking about how badly President Obama needs her state's electoral votes. Nor how close polls show the Michigan contest to be. She's thinking about demonstrating her contempt for Republican legislators.
It rarely occurs to such people that they might be driving voters in the opposite direction -- any more than it occurred to the dopes that showed up at early Tea Party rallies carrying guns. (Interesting how that's stopped happening, isn't it?) Their first principle, always and everywhere, is displaying their righteousness.
But more about Michigan's genital nomenclature dispute later.
The countercultural left, of course, has enjoyed alienating drones since Woodstock. But hippies aren't the problem today. Indeed, it's the posturing of highly paid TV celebrities that has helped drive the Moral Indignation Wing of the Democratic Party into politically awkward positions in three critical swing states -- at least two of which President Obama must win to be re-elected.
To fans of MSNBC's evening political infotainment shows, three news stories have often eclipsed the presidential race for top billing all spring: the Scott Walker recall election in Wisconsin, the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, and Michigan's semantic squabble over women's naughty bits.
The network's handling of all three has been somewhere between embarrassing and reprehensible. Hosts and guests have taken active, partisan roles every bit as objectionable as, say, Fox News' Sean Hannity. In each case, their journalism has proven even worse than their political judgment. Democratic politicians would be wise to reconsider putting in face time on MSNBC.
Regarding Gov. Walker, there's little left to say except that MSNBC savants persistently misjudged Wisconsin voters. Acting as partisan cheerleaders, they ignored polls showing that many voters felt about recalling Walker pretty much as most Americans felt about impeaching Bill Clinton -- i.e., that a grave constitutional remedy shouldn't be used to re-run an election. The anger of Wisconsin's unions notwithstanding, voters also disliked being used as stage props. Fortunately, it appears the majority hasn't yet confused Big Ed with Barack Obama.
Florida's Trayvon Martin case has constituted perhaps the most egregious instance of journalistic malpractice since the selling of the Iraq War. For weeks at a time, MSNBC personalities Al Sharpton, Big Ed and Lawrence O'Donnell arrayed themselves as prosecutor, judge and jury -- promoting a wildly inaccurate, racially inflammatory version of the tragedy for nightly consumption.
In MSNBC's kangaroo court, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman's story that he was assaulted and beaten practically insensible before resorting to deadly force was reviled, mocked and lampooned. A murky film clip of Zimmerman in handcuffs was replayed a thousand times to show him supposedly injury-free. This went on for weeks.
Then when a police file was released proving Zimmerman had indeed suffered a broken nose and serious head wounds, something amazing happened. MSNBC not only failed to report these critical facts; it dropped the story altogether. Poof, gone! Hardly a word about Trayvon Martin has been broadcast by MSNBC's crack team of racial provocateurs in weeks.
Now that Zimmerman's freely given testimony to Sanford, Fla., police has emerged (the suspect was evidently too naive to lawyer up) observers are left to wonder whether or not, absent media pressure from the likes of Sharpton, he ought to have been charged with a crime at all. (See defense specialist Jeralyn Merritt's astringent analysis at talkleft.com.)
Such disgraceful episodes do more to promote racial discord and alienate voters from the Democratic Party than it's possible to say. To the extent he's identified with the case, President Obama's chances in Florida suffer.
Fortunately, MSNBC now has Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown's now-famous genitalia to fill a programming void. "If you don't like vaginas," Lawrence O'Donnell told viewers, "this is not your TV show."
Well, I wouldn't go that far. But I will say that Rep. Brown definitely asked for trouble, ending otherwise well-considered objections to a draconian anti-abortion bill with a childish joke: "I'm flattered you're all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no."
The adult response would have been pained silence. GOP legislators, however, played along, censuring Brown for 24 hours.
Daft progressives swung into action, summoning Eve Ensler, author of the tedious off-Broadway play "The Vagina Monologues" to the Michigan pep rally, giving right-thinking Democrats a swell chance to act morally superior while talking dirty on national TV.
And yes, I'm aware it's a clinically appropriate term with a thousand inappropriate synonyms. That doesn't mean everybody's got to talk about it.
Gene Lyons, Arkansas Times columnist, is at firstname.lastname@example.org.