Sharp Left: When ‘Dissent’ Is Distracting Hypocrisy

By TEVAN GOLDBERG

A sad day it is indeed when supposedly “liberal” publications like The New York Times and The Guardian are seen practically falling over each other singing praises of those bold Defenders of Democracy, the Senate’s newest Knights of Truth, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. Seriously, if I sound mockingly hyperbolic (which, to be fair, I am), just read how the Guardian’s Sabrina Siddiqui described Flake’s recent Senate speech in her less-than-subtle front page piece entitled “Battle hymns of the Republicans: Trump civil war is just getting started:”

“It is time for our complicity and our accommodation for the unacceptable to end,” Flake said, in explosive remarks that were instantly labeled as a historic act of defiance. “There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.”

Similarly breathless praise was shown forth upon Flake’s fellow Republican ideologue, multimillionaire Tennessean Bob Corker, whose recent criticism of Supreme Idiot Donald Trump was described by The New York Times as “an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party.”

Historic act of defiance! Extraordinary rebuke! What a low bar we’ve set for such things. Yet in all fairness, one could be forgiven for agreeing with these laudatory words upon first glance; after all, the sight of a senator referring to the White House of a sitting president as an “adult day care” would have once been quite the spectacle, and admittedly felt pretty satisfying to read. But this blanketing coverage is hardly more than a vapid, TMZ-style play-by-play of a Twitter feud between two celebrities. What Flake and Corker are actually frustrated about is The Donald’s near-comical unwillingness and inability to play the Reaganesque role of President, something which even previous all-time foot-in-mouth champion and expert shoe-dodger George W. Bush managed to occasionally pass for (‘Mission Accomplished’ Top-Gunnery notwithstanding).

The reason that all these establishment Republicans like Flake and Corker ever went along with Trump’s stunning idiocy at all is because his attention-consuming theatrics take all the focus off of their party’s quieter dismantling of environmental and financial regulations, industry capture of agencies and other blatant giveaways to their corporate masters. Trump’s lack of any substantive policy knowledge or interest, however distasteful to Washington intelligentsia, is fairly inconsequential for the bureaucracy assembled by his party to finish the task of converting our state to little more than an enabler and enforcer of corporate greed. If Jeff Flake were somehow President instead, I have little doubt that he would have nominated oil industry mouthpiece Scott Pruitt for EPA chief just as readily.

Obviously Trump is eroding the office of President, and our culture more broadly. But these things were in decline long before that bloated orange embodiment of toxic masculinity decided, likely out of boredom, to chain the nation to his cart on the express lane of societal malaise. Yes, Trump has brought the aesthetics of the presidency to a Kid Rock shade of terrible, but sadly this unflattering representation of American politics more accurately reflects its internal moral rot than the poised, intellectual Obama. Why didn’t Republicans like Flake decry “the constant non-truth-telling…the debasement of our nation” (his words on Trump) when Bush’s cabal blatantly lied about WMDs in Iraq? Is this Republican tendency towards honesty also annulled every time a fossil-fueled lawmaker denies climate change? Was the office of President not eroded when it started to approve summary executions via drone strikes on American citizens without due process? The hypocrisy here is so outstanding that I’m struck with the horrifying possibility that they’ve begun to believe their own nonsense.

Thus the real root of Flake and Corker’s insubordination, and their subsequent positive press, comes not from any place of real dissent, but because the carefully cultivated veneer of stately legitimacy has been crudely ripped off by a man with the tact and taste of an 11-year-old. It’s almost grotesquely beautiful, if it weren’t so painful to watch. Now the capriciousness, the astounding corruption, warmongering, jingoism and plain old irresponsibility that has unfortunately characterized the last few decades of the declining American Empire is no longer festering, disguised, in the background. Instead, it’s exuberantly celebrated in every asinine tweet, unconsidered nuclear provocation, and embarrassingly public tit-for-tat that we see faithfully reproduced on screen and page, ad nauseum.

This is too much for most of us to handle, let alone pillars of the old order like The Times or Bob Corker. So instead we pretend that it’s just this one buffoon’s crusade on decency, rather than a reflection of the society that placed him on its own throne. Even so, it’s frankly pathetic to see publications that brand themselves as principled liberal opposition siding so readily with politicians as despicable in substance as Trump is in image. Perhaps once we rid ourselves of a perverse longing for the illusion of righteous governance to return, we can actually get to the work of achieving it.

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Sharp Left: When ‘Dissent’ Is Distracting Hypocrisy