Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Black Swan Swims

The American right, and its Republican Party, have formulated their talking-point in response to the Tucson tragedy, but its impacts are bigger than any public relations posture.

In the overheated claims of certain right-wing bloggers that President Obama is happy Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-Ariz.) was shot, is an implied recognition of the political damage done to the red state revolution before it ever got going.

The shooting represents what author Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls a "Black Swan," which he defines as "an event (historical, economic, technological, personal) that is both unpredicted by some observers and carries massive consequences."

The first, and most immediate consequence of the Tucson massacre, was that it arrested the GOP's envenomed plans to generally make life miserable for what self-appointed inquisitor-in-chief Rep. Darrell Issa (R) calls the most "corrupt administration ever."

Which is a fine example of discourse that is less than courtly.

Congress was suspended after the tragedy and Republicans began to back down, sensing the Democratic caucus had become something of a feral animal. Some of their own had been hurt or killed. A real tragedy had occurred and they were, rightly and demonstrably, very upset.

If not scared.

The long-overdue softening did not end there. Newly minted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was criticized for not attending the Tucson memorial service, but he had serious and real business to handle at the House Republicans' retreat.

It was more than a retreat in name, because out of the meeting came an admission that the revolution was not likely to be televised, let alone launched, because
"Washington Democrats still control the Senate and White House," as Boehner noted.

Choosing patriotism over his post-presidential election peevishness, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) penned a mostly gracious column in the "Washington Post," praising the president's speech in Arizona and calling for a greater civility in our public discourse. It amounted to a clarion call that commits Republicans and their Tea Party antagonists/allies to a kind of unilateral disarmament.

When McCain wrote that, "we should be mindful as we argue about our differences that so much more unites than divides us," he was essentially signing pink slips for the media carnival barkers whose daily bread is demonizing Americans who believe in progressive tax rates, peace, and social programs.

McCain tried to take the fire-eaters' toys away, noting that, "I reject the accusation that the president's policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals."

That's the Tea Party-line, and that group, together with Tea Party Express rider Sarah Palin, came in for a particularly harsh drubbing in the shooting's aftermath.

They'd gotten away with a long run, pushing the limits of acceptable debate, spitting at congress people, disrupting their town halls, lining them up in the crosshairs of graphic gun-sites, and generally doing very well by it.

But the electoral success came at a price, paid mostly by others, and now they're back on their heels instead of attacking.

When some nut makes your words a live and macabre tableaux, when he attempts to blow a Congresswoman's brains out, slays her idealistic aide, and murders a little girl for good measure, you've bought yourself a bumper crop of trouble ripe for the reaping.

The aforementioned talking-point confected by conservatives is that their insults and disparagements of those different them than did not cause the shooting, that he was a "lone, deranged, gunman, acting on his own, without political leanings blah, blah, blah."

That is probably not true, though in an effort at putting his money where his gob is, President Obama unselfishly granted the concession and ended the discussion.

Even if Sarah Palin's gums are still flapping.

Which is somewhat the point. Tea Partiers and their Republican allies know no other way. It is not enough to carry unconcealed weapons to Democratic convocations and pepper they or their constituents with invective.

The ranting and raving must extend to those in their own party, which, in highwayscribery's estimation (and Karl Rove's, however briefly) cost the Republicans a shot at the Senate majority.

To wit:

The "L.A. Times," reported that three different Arizona state Republican apparatchiks were forced to step down in the face of threats and harassment from the little darlings. The shooting has these people spooked, too, and they don't view civic engagement as worth the price of their hides.

And that's a loss.

The paper reported fleeing GOPer Jeff Kolb saying, "This is a group of people who should in theory agree on 95 to 98 percent of things. This is not Republicans against Democrats. I don't get it."

The highway scribe does.

They flouted the rules of democracy in order to gain power and now stand to lose it for the same reason.

And it is not a question of employing the oft-abused lefty-cry of "Fascist" to point out that these are brown-shirt tactics of intimidation and that, if the Tucson madman had no truck with the Tea Party, they've still benefited by his actions where Arizona Republican politics are concerned.

The Tea Party and their allied drum-breaters, spent too much time screwing the empiricist's square hat onto their round heads in an effort to separate their heated diatribes from an event it seemed to prescribe.

But they never denied the heated rhetoric itself, which has left them plainly vulnerable in wake of the Black Swan's swim.