Several of my “friends” have posted this on Facebook:
“Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took billions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me either.” (I can’t trace the original source)
It is catchy and captures the frustration many share about the inequalities in America and the basic unfairness of the way things are getting played out.
What is puzzling to me is that while my first response to this was that it was a more liberal Democratic sentiment, some of my more conservative friends, even some Tea Partiers, have reposted it.
What can account for this? Somehow Americans on both sides of the political spectrum and in both political parties understand themselves as victims of powers and forces larger than they are.
This makes for a reactionary politics that values blame, undervalues compromise, and makes actually governing difficult. Which perhaps is why a pragmatist like President Obama is attacked by both the right and the left, and why we have seen such swings in the mood of the electorate in the last two elections.
Nobody is happy with the way things are. Everybody is like Howard Beale in Network, “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it any longer!”
But there is no agreement on whom to blame: is it Wall Street? Public sector unions? Big government? The richest Americans? The undeserving poor? Illegal immigrants? The list goes on.
Republicans and Democrats alike seem more interested in the other guy getting the blame for what goes wrong than actually accomplishing good for the country.
So in keeping true to my thesis that we are a blame society, who do I blame? First, I blame us, the electorate, for being lazy and shortsighted, self-centered and ignorant about how government works. And, as a reflection of us, I’m blaming our politicians and their unyielding partisanship in the face of big problems and issues. Where are the Moynihans and Fullbrights of yesteryear who could reach across the aisle? Is anybody else longing for some statesmen (of both sexes)? For some bi-partisanship? Or just some grown ups?