Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Revolution or Counterrevolution?

the opinion-forming class is in love with words: to adapt WH Auden, it

worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives.

--Janet Daley, Telegraph (U.K.)

Here’s the best definition of “revolution” I found:

rev·o·lu·tion--activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation.

And for “counterrevolution”:

coun·ter·rev·o·lu·tion--a movement to counteract revolutionary trends.

Bill Schneider, the former CNN political analyst and interpreter of polls, writing in “Politico” described House GOP budget-cutting last week in these loaded terms:
The House Republican majority acted out a revenge fantasy against President Barack Obama and the Democrats in retaliation for what they see as the left-wing ideological aggression of the last two years. They are the counter- revolution [against t]he Democrats['] liberal revolution. [emphasis added]
OK. Never mind the words “out a revenge fantasy,” which form a prejudicial phrase Schneider could have dropped without losing anything but emotion. My interest is in Schneider’s references to “revolution” and “counterrevolution.”

My last two posts use “revolution” to describe what the Republicans are attempting in Washington and the states: overturning the “good government” domination of our economy that has prevailed since New Deal times—for eight long decades. Any effort in 2011 to call Democrat-led Big Government status quo a “revolution” strikes me as odd.

Schneider’s column, however, does just that. I suspect certain words are important to Schneider and his friends. Two nights ago on the “Daily Show,” Jon Stewart mocked Wisconsin union demonstrators’ efforts to compare themselves to Egyptian revolutionaries. Folks trying to hold onto privileges threatened by a recent state election just aren’t Cairo protesters risking their lives to topple a dictator, Stewart said.

But Schneider apparently wants to hold the word “revolution” for the left. He wants the word, even though it’s only been a decade since liberals, squeamish about having Democrats identified as the party of “red states,” gave away the color of revolution to Republicans and grabbed blue for themselves.

No, calling Democrats “counterrevolutionary” just won’t do; not at all, not with Madison protesters coming across as quite privileged in a high unemployment economy. So Schneider attempts to argue that Obamacare, the accompanying huge increase in government spending and debt, and the expanded federal regulation of business and Wall Street we’ve seen in the last two years isn’t what we thought it was—the culmination of Democrats’ 80-year effort to complete the New Deal. No, instead, it’s a new revolution, and the Republican effort to overturn 80 years of growing government domination of our economy is really a counterrevolution to get us back to 2008.

Maybe words become important when you no longer control the underlying actions. In any case, it’s actions that will determine whether the current Republican (counter)revolution succeeds or fails.

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