Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Hobgoblin Of Small Minds

Say what you will about Rush Limbaugh, but at least he's consistent:

During the March 17 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh -- "a great leader for conservatives" -- defended American International Group (AIG) from criticism of the company's controversial employee retention bonuses. Limbaugh declared, "A lynch mob is expanding: the peasants with their pitchforks surrounding the corporate headquarters of AIG, demanding heads. Death threats are pouring in. All of this being ginned up by the Obama administration." Limbaugh later claimed, "This $500,000 limit on executive pay -- let me tell you why it won't work. New York City will die. New York City needs a whole bunch of people being paid a whole lot of money, so they can tax their butts off, so that the city can maintain its stupid streets, potholes, and welfare state. Without the super wealthy in New York, it's over. ... This -- it's just a populist ruse. It's just designed to people go, 'Yeah, yeah!' "

Most people have focused on Limbaugh's "ginned up" comments. Some have focused on the fact that underlying what Limbaugh has said, there's a kernel of populist truth there: people are angry about the bonuses because they are rather hideous. 
And there's also something miniscule to be said in defense of the fact that New York City's economy is tied to the economic health of the brokerages and more, the brokers in them. As New York's economy goes, so goes the Northeast. As the Northeast goes, so goes much of the east coast. As the east coast goes...and so on.
It would take a better apologist than Rush Limbaugh to make that case, however.
I choose, however, to focus on the fact that this kind of statement is consistent with the kind of parody-conservatism that Limbaugh has preached for decades now.
I hope he lives a long life and continues to feed this malevolence into the mainstream media.
There is a saying that politics is the art of the possible. There is also a saying that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Let's take a closer look at those, shall we.
The art of the possible is attributed to Otto von Bismarck in 1867, although no one can cite the precise words he said. John Kenneth Galbraith had an interesting corrollary in which he said politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.
I tend to think that Bismarck was warning us (meaning people) that politics was an avenue by which that which can be done is done. He's also widely credited with the saying that the making of laws and sausages are two things which entail things you really don't want to know about, which dovetails nicely with this saying.
You see, politics is about compromise. Politics is about recognizing there are opposing factions who have a different agenda than yours, and trying to include those people in your political stances and actions.
It is, in short, about what degree of compromise you are willing, or more important, need, to go to get things done.
A foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of small minds is pretty self-evident, and Ralph Waldo Emerson was spot on when he talked about this. The full quote is even more revealing:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
Certainly describes the far right of this country to a tee. It also describes the far left in this country, but they don't have the megaphone that small minds like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham have. A foolish consistency bellowed at high decibels is to be admired for the breathtaking stupidity it entails. As Abe Lincoln used to say, better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.
By jumping through the hoops of fire that he has, Limbaugh has proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he is consistent.