A standard response to what is going on politically in our country right now is, “The country is so polarized. Opinions differ widely.” This, from the “average voter,” a person of limited interest in politics (which is most people). The problem, dear people, is not only that opinions differ—facts differ. Let me illustrate what I mean.
The other day, Meet the Press put on a program which might have been entitled “Fat Cat Meets His Match.” It featured an older, obviously successful establishment figure, a businessman, I suppose. And the intellectually formidable TV commentator, Rachel Maddow.
HERE IS WHAT I IMAGINE MAY HAVE GONE ON AS FAT CAT PREPARED FOR HIS PROGRAM WITH RACHEL MADDOW:
Fat cat goes to the imaginary chairman of his imaginary political party, one Gargle Secundus, asking for his advice and help.
Fat Cat: Dear Mr. Chairman, I’m being featured on Meet the Press this Sunday. David Gregory is sure to bring up the current “women’s crisis” and Rachel Maddow will be there to no doubt claim inequality of pay for women in this country. What should I do?
Chairman: First of all, F. C., please call me “Gargle.
Fat Cat: OK. Fine., Gargle. What assistance can you offer?
Gargle: Let me take you on down to our Department of Phony Statistics. Our statistician will assist you.
Gargle: F. C., may I introduce you to Ms. Elvira Worthnothing. She will assist you. Ms. Worthnothing has been with us for three years. She has a strong background as a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry and as a high-ranking official for the FDA.
Elvira: Gratifying to meet you, Mr. Fat Cat. We have a whole department here working 50 hours a week churning out fake facts in all areas. What is the area you are concerned with ?
F. C.: I will be on TV with Rachel Maddow, who is sure to complain that women are paid less for equal work in our great country.
Elvira: Yes, that is one of the current preoccupations of these people.. Anything to take people’s minds off the President’s mishandling of the economy. But we can take care of that. Our committee, which is comprised of disgraced politicians, disgraced clergy, disgraced corporate executives, disgraced bankers …, works diligently to come up with phony statistics on just about every issue.—climate change, health care,immigration, public education, college loans… Let me get to my file.
AND SO IT MAY HAVE GONE. THE MAN I HAVE DUBBED “ Fat Cat” MAY HAVE GOTTEN HIS DESIRED PREPARATION FOR HIS SCHEDULED APPEARANCE ON MEET THE PRESS.
On the actual program then, “Fat Cat” tried every trick in the book. First, he cited his major phony statistic: “The problem is that women don’t usually take jobs in high-paying fields such as science, finance, engineering.” Rachel Maddow started to protest. Then F.C. did what right-wing panelists often do –he tried to overtalk and outtalk her. Ms. Maddow was ready for that. She said, “I can’t believe, since you and I have always been friends, that you won’t let me make my point.” This served to shut the man up. Miss Maddow then proceeded to cite real statistics from reliable sources, such as the Department of Labor. Rachel also took on the other Right-Wing panelist, a member of Congress, a woman. Rachel pointed out that the woman had voted against a bill trying to ensure fair pay for women.
After Ms. Maddow had made her points, Fat Cat spoke again. “I admire your passion,” he said. Rachel shot back that he was being condescending. “Passion aside,” she said. “The evidence is all on my side.”
The whole point of my writing today is that it takes a truly assertive and well-informed person to handle the nonsense (including misogyny!) coming from the demagogues on the Right. Rachel Maddow is such a person. Unfortunately, our President, Barack Obama, has, at least until recently, been loath to take on these people on the Right.*
Rachel had to spend a good deal of the next hour on her own nightly program rebutting the man’s charges. She quoted at least three reputable sources that said women get approximately 77 cents on the dollar a man gets for the same job—in nearly all fields.
So , to conclude from all this, what we are dealing with in today’s crisis political climate is, in part, the need for people who know what is going on, who have assembled their facts, having to assert themselves and spend most of their time refuting the lies and distortions coming from the dark side.
This, plus a public who lacks genuine interest, who will not seek alternate news sources which would inform them. My husband and I have a number of acquaintances whose idea of a pleasant evening is to sit in front of the TV watching Fox News. My husband just read to me a NY Times column stating that the British consider Fox News a joke, and I guess Americans are a joke for watching it. A recent study found that habitual Fox viewers are less informed than people who claim to have no news source at all. So how can they then vote intelligently?
The President’s approach has normally been to try to get along with and make deals with those who oppose him. This might have worked well in some Magic Kingdom where peace, justice, and good intentions reign, but it has not worked here. And it is, I hope, not too late for him to have assumed the role of Warrior for Truth, Justice, Reason, and Sound Public Policy, which he has done, at least to some extent.