Friday, August 1, 2014

Pushback from the Little People

Campbell Brown's appearance on the Colbert Report included one of the popular reformster mini-themes-- the desire to be insulated from any manner of dialogue.

Granted, this is not exclusive to reformsters-- there are many groups of people in American society who have trouble distinguishing between being disagreed with and being oppressed. But among the privileged there seem to be some folks who just find it too, too unpleasant when the little people try to talk back to them.

She Who Will Not Be Named said, in dialogue with Jack Schneider, that "reformers are under attack every day from unions." Campbell Brown herself has previously decried the suffering she suffered because Big Meanies picked on her for not following rules of disclosure. I mean, can't she just, like, you know, DO stuff?

So on Colbert, Brown mounted the defense of her super-secret backers list by declaring that these poor defenseless deep-pocketed must be protected by people like this scary radical--

Yes, poster board, once you've hit it with a magic marker or two, can be dangerous as hell.

There are several takeaways from close reading the complaint.

* Acknowledgement. The crowd outside Colbert was not epic, traffic-closing, window-shattering, riot-birthing huge. But (as with the modest-sized BATs gathering in DC), the folks inside the building rightly recognize it as the tip of an iceberg. When Brown says she wants to protect her donors from those people out there, she's acknowledging that there are a lot of people "out there." We've come a long way from the days when reform opponents were characterized as tiny fringe elements.

* Privilege. Once again, we hear the plaintive cry of the Child of Privilege who finds democracy unpleasant and messy. "Look, all we want to do is make the country run the way we think it should. Is that too much to ask? Why do people keep interrupting us by, like, talking and stuff? We should be able to do this without interference." Nobody has acknowledged this as baldly as Reed Hastings (at least, not on tape) but there is this repeated impatience in reformsterland with the business of democracy. Shut up, do as you're told by your betters, and don't talk back. And some like Brown don't just find little people talking back inconvenient, but really upsetting. This is not how things work in their world. In their world, a Presidential candidate should be able to talk about how awful the lower class is in this country in a posh room being served by a waitstaff composed of lower class folks (and it is deeply shocking if one of them makes a video of it).

* Cluelessness. There are times when I believe that some of the reformsters really don't get that they have started a fight. Brown just wants to gut the foundations of teaching as a career; why are teachers saying mean things about her? I just jabbed the bear with a pointy stick and kicked her in the face; why does she want to bite me? I mean, on one level, she's not wrong. When we find out who's financing Brown's little mini-series on court-based activism, we will undoubtedly have a few words for those people, and some of them will not be nice.

But it will still be an uneven fight. On one side, we'll have teachers writing strongly worded letters and blogs and-- well, I was going to say speaking out in the media, but of course that's crazy, because what media outlet would interview a teacher. But we'll have words, and we'll use them to "attack" these folks, who will undoubtedly turn out to be unelected gabillionaires who are answerable to nobody, least of all, little people. On their side will be millions of dollars, high-powered lawyers, the federal Department of Education, and the mainstream media outlets.

Given the disparity in power, influence and tools, one wonders why folks like Brown even care. What are they afraid of? I can think of two possibilities.

One is that they feel their victory is assured, but they are leery of sacrificing the fiction of democracy. They don't really want to have to come out and say, "Okay, we're not playing any more. We didn't want to have to say this, but in our current system you have no say, and we're just going to do what we want. We were hoping the illusion of democracy would keep you quiet, but play time is over. This isn't a democracy any more, and what we say goes."

The other is that they know democracy is NOT dead, and given enough noise and political pressure, politicians will have to listen not just to the money, but to some people as well. If people decide to actually pick up democracy and use it like a pointy stick aimed at overinflated balloons, something's going to pop. If enough people start talking about the emperor's new clothes, the whole court is going to get caught parading naked, embarrassed, out of power, and finally having to face what they really look like.

I would like to pick the second, please.


  1. Brown as taken to blocking any of the little people who annoy her on twitter. I proudly claim to be among the first to be blocked. Brown does not realize, the more noblesse oblige she displays, the louder we will become.

    Defending her rich reformy friends from the "little people" who will bother them? Wrong country lady, go back and read the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

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