Friday, October 03, 2008

A Herd of Mavericks

Biden Teaches Palin the Meaning of 'Maverick'

When my husband was a starving student he used to get his teeth fixed for free by dental students at his university who needed live subjects for practice. It was always an adventure and, on one occasion, a student slipped and drilled a hole in his cheek.

I wouldn't trust a trainee dentist, much less an amateur, to work on my teeth or go to a maverick dentist with a penchant for unorthodox dental procedures. Neither would most Americans. But, at least until recently, when it comes to politics Americans want amateurs and mavericks. Why?

Because most believe that in areas outside of mechanics and technology, expertise is a sham. Dentistry is a mechanical business, like engineering and computer repair so certainly we want people with training, skills and credentials to do these jobs. But everything else, most particularly politics, is just a matter of common sense. The pretense of academics in the humanities, journalists, politicians or others who don't monkey with machinery or push symbols to expertise is nothing put a scam. People who set up as "professionals" in these disciplines are just corrupt, overpaid hucksters who band together to feather their nests and to exclude others from jobs that any sensible person could do--and, indeed, do better than they can. The subtleties and complications they talk about are nothing but a smoke screen to obscure the fact that they have no real expertise and their machinations only make them less effective in doing jobs that really take nothing more than common sense and good will.

That, I suspect, is the thinking behind Americans' contempt for "professional politicians" and "Washington Insiders," and their demand for term limits to insure that politicians never become professional. It's also the source of Americans' sympathy for conspiracy theories, contempt for all components of The Establishment and conviction that there is an enormous amount of vital information that every Establishment organization, from the mainstream media to the medical profession, doesn't want us to know. There is, we believe, the technology to produce light bulbs that will burn forever but the Establishment doesn't want us to know that. MMR vaccine causes autism but the Medical Establishment is hushing that up, just as it hushes up the virtues of herbal cures and alternative medicine. Aliens landed in Roswell, New Mexico, but that information was suppressed by the Military-Industrial Complex.

Enter the mavericks. A maverick is an outsider, a loner, an independent thinker who rejects Establishment orthodoxies. Americans admire mavericks because we believe that outside of strictly technical areas, expertise is nothing but a sham--a stifling, corrupt, entrenched orthodoxy. And so, fully one third of Americans are political "independents," unaffiliated with any political party. They regard themselves as mavericks and support politicians who claim that they are not politicians, who assure self-styled maverick voters that they will not toe the party line.

In the course of the Vice Presidential debate yesterday, Sarah Palin was at pains to assure voters that both she and John McCain were mavericks. When asked how her policies would differ from McCain's if he were unable to complete his term in office and she were to assume the presidency, she assured the audience that she and McCain disagreed about a variety of issues (without getting specific) because they were both mavericks.

If I were a Republican and believed this I would certainly not want either McCain or Palin in office any more than I would want a maverick dentist drilling my teeth. I would want someone who would faithfully represent my political agenda and had a cadre of technocrats on tap to implement it. But I'm a Democrat, and I want professional Democratic politicians in office to promote my agenda.

Both Palin and Biden, following their bosses, made a fuss about bipartaisanship. I don't want bipartisainship any more than I would want "fair and balanced" coverage of evolution and "intellegent design" in the public schools or equal time for astonomy and astrology. Evolution is good science; "intelligent design" is junk. I don't want equal time for good science and junk science or for science and superstition, and I don't want any compromise in politics or equal time for the Republican junk agenda. Americans' preoccupation with bipartasinship is just another manifestation of the assumption that ideology is balony so that partisanship is no more than corrupt, self-serving factionalism.

But the Rodney King program is bs: we can't, and shouldn't "all get along" because some of us hold view that are correct while others hold views that are incorrect and pernicious. We should no more compromise with Republicans' agenda than oppositon parties should have compromised with Hitler's program, or proposed 3 million Jews to be gassed rather than 6 million.

If this sounds extravagant it may be because progressives don't take their own program seriously. Millions of Americans have been trashed: they've lost their jobs, their health insurance and their homes. The economy is in meltdown and we're mired in an unwinnable war in Iraq that has trashed the country and cost thousands of lives. This isn't a consequence of personal incompetence or of corruption: it is the direct result of a wrong-headed, failed ideology. The Bush administration is the reducio of that ideology and nothing is going to change until Americans get it.

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