Thursday, February 3, 2005

The Wayback Machine

Is it progress to go back to the way things used to be?

  • Maureen Dowd in the New York Times:

    I misunderestimated this ambitious president. His social engineering schemes in the Middle East and America are breathtakingly brazen.

    He doesn’t just want to dismantle the 60’s. He wants to dismantle the whole century – from the Scopes trial to Social Security. He can shred one of the greatest achievements of the New Deal and then go after other big safety-net Democratic programs, reversing the prevailing philosophy of many decades that our tax and social welfare systems should equalize the distribution of wealth, just a little bit. Barry Goldwater wouldn’t have had the brass to take a jackhammer to that edifice.

    The White House seems to think Social Security was corrupt from the moment it was enacted in 1935. It wants to replace it with private accounts that will fatten the wallets of stockbrokers and put the savings of Americans who didn’t inherit vast fortunes at risk.

    Mr. Bush and his crew not only want to scrap the New Deal. By weakening environmental and safety protections and trying to flatten the progressive income tax, they’re trying to eradicate not just one Roosevelt but two, going after the progressive legacy of Theodore.

    Bush wants to build a powerful legacy for “A New Century.” Unfortunately the one he has in mind is the 19th.

  • Frank Rich chimes in on the backlash against culture being waged by the new bluenoses; specifically Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ campaign against lesbians who have the gall to appear as extras in the background of a children’s travelogue.

    What makes this story more insidious still is the glaring reality that the most prominent Republican lesbians in America are Mary Cheney, a former gay and lesbian marketing liaison for Coors beer, and her partner, Heather Poe, who appeared as a couple in public and on TV during the presidential campaign. That Ms. Spellings would gratuitously go after this specific “lifestyle” right after taking office is so provocative it smells like payback specifically pitched at those “pro-family” watchdogs who snarled at the mention of Ms. Cheney’s sexual orientation during the campaign whether it was by John Kerry or anyone else. Surely Ms. Spellings doesn’t believe in discrimination against nontraditional families: by her own account, she was a single mother who had to park her 13-year-old and 8-year-old children in Austin when she first went to work at the White House. Then again, President Bush went on record last month as saying that “studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is being raised by a man and a woman” (even though, as The New York Times reported, “there is no scientific evidence that children raised by gay couples do any worse”).

    That our government is now both intimidating PBS and awarding public money to pundits to enforce “moral values” agendas demonizing certain families is the ugliest fallout of the campaign against indecency. That campaign cannot really banish salaciousness from pop culture, a rank impossibility in a market economy where red and blue customers are united in their infatuation with “Desperate Housewives.” But it can create public policy that discriminates against anyone on the hit list of moral values zealots. Inane as it may seem that Ms. Spellings is conducting a witch hunt against Buster or that James Dobson has taken aim at SpongeBob SquarePants, there’s a method to their seeming idiocy: the cartoon surrogates are deliberately chosen to camouflage the harshness of their assault on nonanimated, flesh-and-blood people.

    It’s all well and good to get sentimental about the past and “traditional family values.” The capper is that ABC has put together a reunion of the cast of Happy Days so that we can get nostalgic about a TV show that was about nostalgia. But the problem with that is that it is selective; we don’t remember the bad times along with the good, and it was the bad things – Fascism, poverty, segregation, and Communism that drove us to pursue progress and even celebrate it. And, like anything else, progress comes at a price. The only alternative is to stand still, and when you do that, you get run over.