Under Bush I recall a lot of talk of “outrage fatigue.” Things were so bad, with news of the administration’s nefarious activities or the out-of-control consequences of its policy decisions hitting the public every day, that anyone not in the Reflexive Apologist Camp felt overwhelmed and almost helpless.1
Thank goodness for elections. Not that people could not have mobilized and changed the system in other, more substantial ways (constitutional convention, revolution, throwing Bush and Cheney before the Hague, etc.); but our consumer habits don’t trend to such extremes. Better to have a suave talking liberal with centrist tendencies speak to our better angels and provide inspiring relief with his wit, knowledge and stirring evocations of some of the better moments in our relatively recent past.
So what happened? David Sirota points to a recent example of what the right might call “liberal hypocrisy” with good reason:
We know that before the disaster, President Obama recklessly pushed to expand offshore drilling. We also know that his Interior Department gave British Petroleum’s rig a “categorical exclusion” from environmental scrutiny and, according to the New York Times, “gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf without first getting required [environmental] permits.” Worse, we know that after the spill, the same Interior Department kept issuing “categorical exclusions” for new Gulf oil operations, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar still refuses “to rule out continued use of categorical exclusions,” as the Denver Post reported (heckuva job, Kenny!).
Undoubtedly, had this been the behavior of a Republican administration, “the left’s” big environmental organizations would be scheduling D.C. protests and calling for firings, if not criminal charges. Yet, somehow, there are no protests. Somehow, there have been almost no calls for the resignation of Salazar, who oversaw this disaster and who, before that, took $323,000 in campaign contributions from energy interests and backed more offshore drilling as a U.S. senator. Somehow, facing environmental apocalypse, there has been mostly silence from “the left.”
But as Sirota rightly notes, this hypocrisy is not simply a symptom of My Party, Right or Wrong disease; no, it’s a big flashing neon sign pointing at the fundamental institutional weakness of the left whenever a Democrat assumes the executive branch of our corporate-run government. I know plenty of fellow lefties/liberals/progressives/independents/whatever who share my ongoing disgust with a whole list of Obama policies that either carry on with the horrible business of the previous administration — violating human rights, upsetting constitutional law, serving corporate interests against those of the public — or striking new ground (assassination of U.S. citizens abroad?! Novel!)
So where’s the outrage? Well, you can always hear from familiar quarters on the left, thank goodness, that are treated as “fringe” or “wacko” in the usual habits of marginalization. But what of the institutional left? Or the D.C.-selected lefty bloggers? Chirping of crickets or perhaps angry denunciations of “false equivalency” for noting similarities between Obama and Bush.
Matt Bors recently treated this theme much more humorously than I do in recent cartoon.
To be fair, it should be noted that media coverage can distort our impressions wildly. Remember that Tea Party protest in D.C against health care reform? It was outnumbered — 200,000 to 25,000 — by groups protesting against the oppression of immigrants (and this was BEFORE the Arizona law), big enough to get the attention of Obama himself via video speech. So what did CNN/MSNBC/FOXNews/et al. cover wall-to-wall over that weekend? Why that “grassroots” uprising of honest citizens hurling racist and homophobic insults at congresscritters on their way to work, of course.
1Yes, I know it’s an Onion article. Just citing the source, which spoke a deeper truth, as good satire always does.