By Robert Wallace
Don’t get me wrong. Patricia Heaton is a hottie. (It’s OK, my wife says I can say that.) As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also an Honorary Chair of Feminists for Life. And Ray Ramano is a pretty funny guy. Despite these facts I’ve never been able to get into Everybody Loves Raymond.
I don’t know what it is about family sitcoms these days, but it seems like every marriage relationship onscreen boils down to a couple of bickering children. It’s a constantly adversarial relationship pitting an insecure, incompetent, immature, and selfish husband against his uptight and domineering wife. Playful teasing can be funny, and of course every marriage has disagreements, but there just didn’t seem to be enough love interspersed between the friction to keep those improbably hot wives and their pathetic husbands together.
When I first saw a few episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8 a couple of years ago I immediately thought “They’re going to get divorced.” I didn’t watch the show often because the chaotic scenes of two overwhelmed parents trying to wrangle eight kids completely stressed me out, but in just about every episode there are short snippets of the unhappy couple sitting rigidly before the camera and trading snide remarks about each other.
Of course we know now they do end up getting divorced. And in hindsight my initial reaction seems pretty obvious.
But at the time I second-guessed myself. I think part of the reason I changed my original estimation was that shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, etc have so lowered my expectations for modern marriages. But more than anything, TV content conveys a sense of inevitability to that narratives it depicts. We’re passive consumers, and we simply observer the representation of reality depicted on the screen. It might not be real, but it’s constructed, and so the regular rules don’t apply. All the signs were there – even from a few casual viewings – that there was serious trouble, but that was the name of the show, right? Jon and Kate. I guess it must work for them, I decided.
Everyone in America – conservatives and liberals alike – has been looking at the Obama campaign (including his term so far) through similarly tinted glasses not coincidentally because most of our perceptions of it are shaped by the TV. All the signs of potential trouble have been there from the beginning. America is fundamentally incompatible with the Obamas. We may have come a long, long way from our radically independent roots, but we’re still a fundamentally individualistic country. We’re still a country that believes in our greatest institutions. Even people who want to bury the principles of the Constitution have to pay lip service to it to survive in politics. You don’t mess with the troops and – as Obama found out – you don’t mess with the men and women in blue either. We’re still a country that understands such basic concepts as “don’t spend more money than you have.” Sure, you may whip out the credit card in an emergency. Sure, you may go into debt to buy a home for your family. But responsible or emergency spending on credit has nothing to do with the drunken spending spree Obama and the Democrats have been on. One started – not incidentally – by Republican President George W. Bush.
Contrast this with the Obamas. We have Michelle “Proud-of-My-Country-for-the-First-Time” Obama who believes that her race comes before her country and even her God. And we’ve got Barack “Spread-the-Wealth” Obama who believes that the colletive outweighs the individuals and who views the fundamental principle of the US Constitution – limited government – as an obstacle to be overcome rather than a precept to be protected and – dare I say – conserved.
Talk about irreconcilable differences! All the signs have been there from the beginning: this is not a match that will work.
And yet despite this, Obama won. He won because the aura of inevitability that had been Hillary Clinton’s was ripped from her clutched fingers by a deliriously worshipful mainstream media and handed to Obama like a token of love and fealty. The same kind of intellectuals who produce our evening entertainment crafted a fairytale for us. The narrative was one of hope and change, sure, but what it was really about was redemption. We’re a nation founded on a principle of equality, and yet our history is marred by the most egregious repudiation of our central principle: slavery. The Obama campaign did not present us with a decision to be made. It was a passion play to be experienced. A communal ritual of cleansing.
And for those who dared question the coronation there was the explicit threat: anyone who endangers the rite of racial atonement and rebirth by refusing to buy into the narrative and actually voting based on policy is actually just a bitter, fanatical racist clinging to guns and an intolerant, out-dated religion.
And so the voter turnout in 2008 was lower than 2004 and Obama won. Not because he won the country over to his worldview, but because the narrative of redemption was too appealing. And for those who didn’t buy into the myth — well, many of them were either intimidated by the threat of being labeled racist, apathetic after the betrayals of Bush, or simply disgusted by John McCain’s lackluster campaign.
America is facing two dangers right now. The first danger we face is the obvious one: encroaching statism. The second danger we face is more subtle, however. The country is becoming increasingly attracted to political polls that stand for the exact same things. As long as the Republican Party continues after the mold of Bush and McCain the choice of Democrat vs. Republican is like rooting for the home team vs. the visitor. Rooting for your team because of the pure chance of where you happened to be born may be good enough for modern tribe psychology, but is that any way to run a country? They’re both playing the same game, people.
I don’t want to detract attention from the first danger because it’s the more immediate one. As low as Obama’s poll numbers are and as incompetent as his team has been in recent weeks, we can’t count him out. We cannot rest until we have buried cap-and-trade, euthanized socialized medicine, and defeated all the other efforts to remake America in the image of the failed policies and dogmas of the past.
But in the back of our minds we need to be aware of what else is going on in our society. Take a look at the decaying condition of our newspapers and network news. The mainstream media richly deserves the imminent financial catastrophe that is headed its way, but we should be cognizant that – for better or worse – at least the MSM represented some attempt to have a middle ground where Americans from the left and right could fight over a common watering hole. The “I’m going to take my ball and go home” attitude that is replacing it – on the left and right – is dividing America into opposing tribes that don’t even recognize each other, let alone communicate with each other. Meanwhile both political parties are being reduced to little more than glorified errand-boys for the special interests that keep getting the same Good Ole Boys (or Girls) elected.
A wise man once explained how this process led to the fall of the Roman Empire:
On both sides the ancient propaganda of freedom has a singularly hollow ring, because each was being torn and flattered by internal bits of polarization, that factio, the restless, narrow, angry and violent defense of special interests which, according to the ancient observers, was what really destroyed the Empire. Each half of the world was in itself a world of factions and parties, of rival ideologies and rival cultures pitted against each other in deadly conflict, yet so exactly alike in everything but label as to give the impression that one antagonist is simply a mirror-image of the other.
This is a very important principle. As the two poles conceive an ever-greater antipathy to each other, they become more and more alike. Everyone knows that it is like poles that repel each other. As each recognizes itself in the other, it resents the incriminating resemblance. It was the custom of the emperors of Rome and Asia to describe themselves in identical terms, while each accused his rival of being a base forgery and depraved imitation of himself. We have not here a real clash of ideologies at all, but only the rivalry of parties animated by identical principles and racing for the same objectives. What they were both after was … power and gain. And the secret of commanding loyalty on both sides was, of course, to play up the wickedness of the other.
While the short-range danger is both clear and present, the long-range danger is left unaddressed. I don’t think Barack Obama’s presidency has any more of a chance to be successful in the long run than the Gosselin’s ill-fated marriage. There are enough good men and women in this country standing up and joining the political arena for the first time that, if we remain dedicated, we can win.
But if we allow this upsurge of patriotic dissent to be hijacked by a corrupt Republican Party, then just a few years from now we’re going to have another George W. Bush, but worse. Bush – I believe – was in large part motivated by a sincere and profound desire to keep America safe following the attacks of September 11, 2001. I don’t think he was a bad person, but there’s no question that expanding government as he did through programs like No Child Left Behind was bad government. So we will end up there again, with Republicans on a spending spree and expanding government, and the idealistic, charismatic populist who comes after Obama is going to have an even better chance of pushing the country over the brink. The heightened dangers we face from resurgent old enemies, nefarious new enemies, and a US dollar speeding towards the brink of total collapse only serve to raise the stakes.
The solution is simple: we who have stood up as conservatives must refuse to be co-opted by the Republican Party. Pragmatically speaking a 3rd party is not the solution (although I’m not ruling it out, either), but we must absolutely not allow our movement to be co-opted. This means more of us need to run for office ourselves, become active at the primary level in selecting genuinely conservative candidates, and more vocal between elections in holding our elected representatives accountable. Although I’ve long been and continue to be a supporter of Mitt Romney, I can think of no candidate that better epitomizes the fresh spirit we need than Sarah Palin. Young, conservative, willing to learn, and in it for the right reasons.
Regardless of the specifics of what we do in the years to come, the key is that we keep the base active. It’s easy to be motivated now, when Obama’s insane policies are creating a convenient rallying point. It’s going to be harder – ironically – to remain vigilant if and when Obama and Pelosi’s progressive policies are soundly defeated.
Robert Wallace is classical liberal and a devout Mormon. He is currently studying economics in graduate school. He and his wife work as business analysis consultants, and they live as undercover conservatives with their two small children in a liberal bastion of a college town. He has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.