The post-scripted theme of historian Ellen Schrecker's magnificent Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America is that the McCarthy era was, though it is otherwise treated in too many history texts, no isolated horror contained neatly in time. Rather, as a besotted demagogue and his fellow firebrands chased phantoms for headlines and gripped America in a terrible obsession, the nation stalled. We squandered years of potential advancements in education, healthcare, civil rights--virtually all public policy--and the malignant effects lingered for years more, well after the fever broke. There's no compensating cure for raging ignorance.
And that, I imagine, is how someday the history of our Tea Party preoccupation will be written--as an intoxicated free-for-all, a squandering of opportunities, a terrible obsession with unAmerican phantoms and, for years to come, an irreversible waste. We can never regain all that we've squandered in lost jobs, lost revenue, lost social mobility, lost recourses in containing global warming ...
Thus implied E.J. Dionne a couple of days ago:
Seeing our government and our creditworthiness held hostage to the demands of a right-wing minority is infuriating. It’s also heartbreaking ... because the only thing keeping our country from being its growing, innovative and successful self is genuinely and unnecessarily stupid politics.
It's also heartbreaking because we've been here before. By now we as a body politic really should know better--empiricism can be a powerful teacher; by now we really haven't a good excuse for permitting another right-wing minority of utter buffoons to so devastatingly dominate the political scene.
There are of course good reasons for having permitted it: an often uninformed, often indifferent electorate; the media's lapse in due diligence; rigged incumbencies; the corruption of myopic big money; political leaders' seemingly unbreakable habit of merely coping with acute crises rather than collectively delivering public tutorials on the absolute democratic necessity of sustained civic engagement. God knows Obama has tried, in spurts and stabs, to wake us the fuck up, but he's received too little allied aid to make much of a lasting impression.
"The system" is indeed groaning to serviceability once again, as I ventured the other day. Nonetheless it has taken three years (depending on how one counts them; one could easily argue 30) for Americans to see this controlling right-wing buffoonery for what it is. What a waste.