By Alan Bean
HBO’s new Aaron Sorkin series The Newsroom has conservative bloggers beside themselves. In the clip below, fictional news anchor Bill McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, launches into an extended rant in which he compares the Tea Party to the Taliban. Both groups, McAvoy suggests, trade in “Ideological purity, compromise as weakness, a fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism, denying science, unmoved by facts, undeterred by new information, a hostile fear of progress.”
Here’s the entire clip:
No thanks. The Tea Party is a mishmash of often contradictory complaints and enthusiasms. Many, perhaps most, Tea Party folk merely tolerate the brand of fundamentalist obscurantism The Newsroom excoriates. A lot of Americans enlist in the Tea Party because they are pro-business but anti-Wall Street. The bailout of the financial “industry” had more to do with growing the Tea Party than religion fanaticism. In fact, if Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party people were ever able to sit down for a beer they would agree on a lot of things.
I see Sorkin’s screed as an attempt to define a sensible political middle occupied by moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats. In the middle of McAvoy’s rant, this middle ground is identified as true Republicanism, but the speech has generally been denounced by Republicans and hailed by Democrats. According to McAvoy, real Republicans believe in “a prohibitive military” and “common sense government”. They believe there are “social programs enacted in the last half century that work, but there are way too many costing way too much that don’t.”
Moreover, real Republicans believe in free market capitalism, and law and order.
In other words, we’re talking about Reagan Republicans shorn of the small government libertarians and evangelical theocrats . . . in short, the people known today as Democrats.
It is not accidental that most Democrats have no problem with Sorkin-McAvoy’s “real Republicanism” while the real real Republicans hate it. Reagan style Republicanism is the new political middle; the turf currently defended by politicians like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Politicians to the right and the left of this safe middle ground, Sorkin implies, should be thrown under the bus. The real Republicans should come over to the blue side and the Tea Party and progressive Democrats can just go to hell.
Yet it is precisely this combination of global military imperialism and unrestricted free market bubble building that has brought our economy to its knees.
Ron Paul libertarians say we can’t afford to be the world’s policeman, and they are dead right. We currently spend more on our military than all the other children of earth combined.
International corporations get fat shipping American manufacturing jobs to the Third World while feeding off one speculative bubble after another. The anti-Wall street wing of the Tea Party calls this madness, and they are right. Ross Perot said much the same thing back in the Bill Clinton era and, come to think of it, he was right too. You really can hear that “giant sucking sound”.
The “centrist” politics of Sorkin’s Will McAvoy is a creation of the Wall Street gamblers that drove us into a deep recession. These people feed American militarism, anti-immigrant sentiment and the demons of mass incarceration because they hope to grow fat off the private contracts associated with such ungodly madness. Over half the military personnel in Afghanistan at the moment are private contractors. The war on drugs and the war on migrants is fueling a private prison boom of spectacular proportions.
Here’s the sad truth. You can’t get elected to either the Senate or the US presidency (or survive in much of the academic and religious world) without kissing the ring of Wall Street and what Eisenhower, had he survived into the twenty-first century, would be calling the military-prison-industrial complex. The folks pulling the puppet strings are the real masters of America. Unrestrained militarism and capitalism abide genuine democracy. Sorkin’s “common sense government” exists at the pleasure of men (and a smattering of women) who control the wealth of America while producing little of value.
We get nowhere demonizing the radicals on the conservative and liberal fringes of American society. These people are confused about a lot of things, but most of them are honest. Fundamentalists have wandered into an intellectual cul de sac, but American evangelicalism, for all its weird excesses, remains the beating heart of American spirituality. Casting conservative religionists into the outer darkness isn’t American, it isn’t Christian, and it isn’t wise. We need these people and, though they scarcely realize it, they need us.
I am not suggesting, as frustrated radicals often do, that there is no real difference between Republicans and Democrats or that elections are meaningless. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will not pursue the same policy goals if elected. But whoever comes out on top in November (this year and in the foreseeable future) must convince Wall Street and the military establishment that they are dependable guarantors of the status quo. So long as this is the case, politicians cannot treat what ails us.