Monday, February 28, 2005

Resistance is Not Futile

Michael Tomasky in The American Prospect:

We’re just a month into George W. Bush’s second term, and already it’s becoming pretty clear what this country will look like four years from now if the Democrats don’t fight. Let’s just start, for example, with public television. The fate of the republic will not rise or fall on this question. We survived without it until 1965, and one supposes we will again, especially since public TV has pretty much been reduced to showing those pitiful Britcoms that even my mom is getting tired of.

If preventing mediocre programming were the impulse, yanking the subsidies from the Public Broadcasting Service would be fine. But we know that is not the impulse. As the recent attacks on PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell show us, the impulse is one of enforcing cultural purity: The kind of people who work at PBS are the kind of people who think it’s all right for a cartoon character to pay a call on a lesbian couple, and a community that is run by people like that, to today’s right, is a community that has to be destroyed.

Amtrak, too, could be gone in four years, making the United States the only advanced country in the world without a subsidized public rail system (increasingly, if something will make America the only advanced country without X, that’s all the more incentive for these yahoos to undertake it). Again, Amtrak is a long way from perfect (the lighting on the Acela feels like an interrogation room); we survived without it until 1971, and one supposes we can do so again if we have to, although air and highway traffic along the East Coast would become abominable.

Amtrak, of course, has nothing to do with the culture wars. But funny thing: The vast majority of the people who depend on Amtrak live in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. I hardly need to say what they all have in common politically, but it has to do with the word “blue.”

Democrats will be tempted to think of these battles as fights over television and trains. They are not. They are part of a larger project of the Leninist right of remaking society to conform top to bottom with the goals and priorities of the right-wing state. Television that offers positive gay couples and foreign programming and artsy-fartsy symphonies is counterrevolutionary. Subsidized railroads that chiefly serve populations that voted incorrectly are dispensable.


This is a moment of truth for Democrats. The Social Security fight is symbolic of a larger struggle in which the ascendant right is trying to remake the nation in its own image. The nation, despite giving Bush 51 percent of its vote, is admirably resistant to this push in many ways. The Democrats had better represent this resistance.

Amen. Karl Rove does look a little like a Locutus of Borg… with frizzy hair.