Ginsburg, celebrity culture and “civil grace.”

Saturday 19 September 2020

I despise the celebrity culture that has taken over this country.  The Democratic National Convention was nothing other than a cheap, vacuous, celebrity infomercial devoid of policy and full of “cult of personality” programming.  It was an embarrassment. 

Somehow, we were supposed to believe that because Joe Biden is a nice guy and has lost family members, he should be president of the United States.  Somehow, we were supposed to pat ourselves on the back and glory in the fact that we had nominated an African American, Asian woman to be vice president.  Never mind the policies of these two people.  Never mind their histories.  It is supposed to be enough that these two are telegenic, just as nice as they can be, and fit certain categories of human beings.

That is evidently where we are.

After the convention we were treated to more infomercials.  In one of them, Kamala Harris had a charming, laughing, conversation with Barak Obama about Biden liking ice cream and wearing a certain kind of sunglasses.  This was seriously intended to get us to vote for the Democrats – the fact that the party elite could chat on television and laugh about the personal foibles of the candidate.  This is what they think of us.  This is nothing but insulting.

In the true fashion of this celebrity worship culture we have going on, the corporate media is this weekend, endlessly talking about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  We are in the middle of a war for  a democratic society, and we are engaging in celebrity worship.

As Elie Mystal pointed out writing in the Nation, we don’t have time for this, and Ginsburg would be the first person to see that we don’t have time for this.

Ginsburg occupied a pivotal position on the U.S. Supreme Court and her death has created a crisis that just illustrates the dysfunction of the government and the society.  The death of a judge, one judge, shouldn’t throw the country into a crisis.  The appointment of one judge shouldn’t mean the difference between democracy and authoritarianism.  But, it does.  It hands to the Republicans the opportunity to conclusively warp this society into an authoritarian kleptocratic state devoid of rights for regular ordinary human beings. 

This is where we are.  We have to fight this authoritarian take-over with everything in our beings.  But, tonight, on CNN they are hosting Scalia’s son to discuss (out of all the other things about Ginsburg’s life) the beautiful relationship between Ginsburg and one of the arch enemies of law and therefore democracy, Antonin Scalia. 

I’m sorry but I just can’t stomach this.  I suppose there is somewhere, something laudatory about being able to be friends with people who are sitting at the peak of privilege and wealth and power and working to destroy democracy and the rule of law for the rest of us, but I just don’t see it. 

If we have to sit through this eulogizing of Ginsburg, the last thing we need is to have right-wing Federalist Society zealots to talk about her.  The last thing we need is to try to convince people that what we need is more bipartisan cooperation.  No, we need less, and we need to fight for democratic law and democratic institutions.

The corporate Democrats who have much more reason to talk about Ginsburg, are bad enough.  Last night, Nina Totenberg was on Rachael Maddow talking about her friendship with Ginsberg.  She said wistfully that Ginsburg had planned to retire in 2016 and have her successor named by the first woman president.  Isn’t that special?  I might plan to have thoroughbred horses fly out of my ass, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

This story was presented as if it demonstrated something positive about Ginsburg, and it has been retweeted today by people who obviously think the same thing.

To me, it just demonstrates what was wrong with the Democratic Party elite in 2016 and what is still wrong with the Democratic Party elite today. 

Barak Obama declined to tell the American people the truth about something crucially important to them.  He refused to tell them that Russian operatives had intervened in the 2016 election to the extent of penetrating the voting systems in 50 states. 

Obama made this decision, as far as I can tell, because first, he was afraid of the reaction of Republicans if he came out and told the American people without bipartisan support.  He was so afraid of appearing partisan he lied by omission, lied about something vital to the functioning of democracy.  Mitch McConnell refused to join Obama and make a public, bipartisan statement and Obama didn’t have the guts to do it alone.

Second, Barak Obama was afraid of tarnishing his cherished legacy by appearing to be “partisan” in the 2016 election.  He was more concerned with his legacy (to people who despise him) than his country. 

Third, Barak Obama was so sure Hillary Clinton was going to win, he decided he wouldn’t have to tell the truth to the American people.  Clinton could solve the problem after she was elected.

All three of these excuses stink to high heaven and again illustrate something characteristic about the Democratic corporate elite.

This professional class of Democrats think they know better than the American people how to run the country.  They think that their judgement is better than everybody else’s. 

They can handle, among themselves, an unprecedented intrusion into the election process.  Why tell the unwashed masses?

Obama reportedly thought that telling the truth would shake the confidence of the American people in the election process.  He’s not the only member of the Democratic elite to think this.  There are an astounding number of people out there who will react like vicious dogs if the integrity of the election process is even questioned.

The logic of this position just amazes me.  It goes something like this.  The election process has been corrupted but we mustn’t tell the American people because it might shake their confidence in an election process that because of corruption can be no longer relied on.  So, it’s better to have the American people believe a lie, continue to trust an election system that can’t be trusted.  It’s better because we (the Democratic elite) can deal with it ourselves, behind closed doors.  That worked out really well.

This same kind of hubris evidently led Ruth Bader Ginsburg to think she could continue (in ill health and advanced age) to sit on the Supreme Court and have Clinton name her replacement.  Having the first woman president name her replacement made a good story, a fitting end to her career.  And, like Obama, she was convinced (so convinced she was willing to risk our future) that Clinton was going to win.  Even with a compromised election process (which they all knew about), Clinton’s baggage and low approval ratings and an e-mail scandal, Clinton was going to win.  Why?  Because they wanted her to.

I’ve got news for these people.  They don’t get to determine what’s going to happen.  They don’t control events.  What kind of delusional hubris leads one to stay in a position at the Supreme Court, a crucial position, a history changing pivotal position, counting on the fact that they are going to waltz out with the first woman president because that’s what they want to happen?

I’m sorry.  Ginsburg appears to have been a wonderful person, lawyer, activist, but someone genuinely concerned with and committed to the struggle, with the future of the country for ordinary people, would have resigned during Obama’s administration to make sure that the ideals she believed in and fought so hard for, had a chance of continuing. 

And, I fault not only Ginsburg but Obama and his administration for not pushing her resignation.  I ask you: What is wrong with these people?   

I keep going back to a film quote.  As Yankees are overrunning Atlanta, Aunt Pittypat is concerned about Scarlet having a chaperone.  Dr. Meade, in utter and complete frustration yells:  “Good God, woman, this is a war, not a garden party.”

But, this Democratic elite – the politicians, the “strategists,” the pollsters, the pundits – all of them are so filled with pride and smug assuredness that they can’t see what is happening around them.

Even now, after all the mistakes of 2016, the Democratic corporate elite seems to be waltzing off an electoral cliff supported by their own delusions.

Ginsburg wasn’t a healthy 50-year-old.  They knew she was ill, had known for years.  If they couldn’t convince her to resign when Obama could nominate a successor, they should have had a strategy for what they were going to do if she suddenly died during Trump’s administration.  They should have hit the ground running on Friday night, not sat stunned, grief stricken, and still counting on the Republicans to “do the right thing.” 

I mean, Jesus F…ing Christ.  Anybody who is now, four years into this administration, relying in any way on the Republicans to do the right thing, is just brain dead (I include Cory Booker in that category).

For the first time on Friday night, I heard Chris Hayes interview somebody (Rebecca Traister) who sounded like I and a lot of other people have felt for four years.  Traister was and said she was terrified and furious.  She sounded like somebody who was terrified and furious, not like the stable of “calmers”, the “institutions are holding” gang on MSNBC who have been interviewed today.  Cory Booker, Klobuchar, the presidential historians, Hirono (as much as I love her), Capehart, Jarrett.

I swear I think that part of the deal to convince all the corporate democrats to drop out of the race and endorse Biden was an agreement by MSNBC to interview them every fifteen minutes.

Last week, Cory Booker was on Ari Melber’s (also disgustingly celebrity laden) show claiming that what we needed was a “return to civic grace.”  That’s Booker’s answer to an authoritarian take-over, a return to “civic grace.”  I’m sure Mitch McConnell will take that “return to civic grace” and stuff it up Booker’s nose.

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