On politics by temper tantrum

This week we were treated to something I don't recall seeing in my political lifetime: an actual, honest to goodness talking filibuster.

Senator Rand Paul, who never met a vaginal probe he didn't like, suddenly was up in arms over Americans' civil liberties. The Obama Administration's legal finding that under extraordinary circumstances a president had the authority to use weaponized drones within the borders of the US inflamed Senator Paul to fantasize of missiles flying into Jane Fonda's window. (An event which, I'm sure, Mr. Paul would not mind.) He carried out his talking filibuster for 13 hours, upon which when assured by Attorney General Eric Holder that no, the President didn't have the authority to randomly kill people from the air without an imminent threat to the nation, he ended his opportunistic stunt principled stand, and allowed a vote on approving the new CIA director.

Rand Paul's filibuster provided an object lesson in politics by tantrum. More than a few on the "left" were taken in by his "principled stand" on drones. Many on the "right", who would be fine with drones shooting at people all over blue states if Mitt Romney were president, cheered him on for striking yet again at the Kenyan usurper.

The loudest voices in our political culture believe that throwing tantrums is the way to move the ball down the field. The loudest on the left have decided that Obama is even worse than George W. Bush, as he purports to be "liberal", but is not in fact so—at least not according to their definition of "liberal". The loudest on the right, after losing consistently to Obama and his allies, rail that more purity is needed. The country is ready to accept a reactionary rightist, just as long as the GOP doesn't dilute the message.

This cacophony is magnified by the news media. There was a time when network news operations were run as a public trust. They were shielded from having to make money for their networks. With the advent of cable news and media consolidation, that's no longer true. The yelling classes bring in ratings, so their screams are broadcast by the national media.

Now, post-Rand Paul (who admitted on CNN that he was, in fact, for the drone program, thus trolling his new-found leftist supporters), the latest irruption on the Left, via Ed Schultz, is that Obama will gut social programs, as proven by his dinner with GOP senators. On the right, the civil war progresses, as its luminaries lambasted McCain and Graham for eviscerating Paul's filibuster stunt.

Again, Obama proves that governing by strategy is far more effective than governing by tantrum.

By meeting with select senators—ones with whom agreement can be reached on resolving the country's fiscal dilemma—he is quite simply dividing and conquering. Even if no workable solutions are agreed, the fact that any Republican would meet amicably with the President sows more discord in the caucus. If he in fact manages to split GOP senators and representatives for a "common sense caucus", the GOP will descend into fratricidal warfare. And any "sane caucus" will be operating based on Obama's priorities.

This politics by temper tantrum has been building for decades, and has reached a crescendo under Obama. When Ronald Reagan fully embraced the "Southern strategy", and brought the Religious Right into the GOP tent, the new blood's ire fueled Republican politics, and set the tone for national politics for decades. Some on the left, given to yelling as a strategy, saw the success of the Right and thought that emulating its tactics would likewise bring it to power.

Obama doesn't operate in that manner, and it infuriates his foes both on the left and right. They can't drag him into the mud with them. No, he's not Mr. Spock, absolutely cold and logical. But he knows that passion has to be tied to an effective strategy for it to be effective. Passion has to be the engine, not the driver. Someone has to be in control, channeling all that pent up power so that it doesn't blow up uncontrollably. Both the extreme right and left are spinning wildly, and can't understand why no one listens to them.

Is there an easy solution to this political peevishness? Of course not, because politics are based on human frailties. But when self-described liberals join conservatives in ending their tweets with #standwithrand, I wonder if they also stand with him in voting against VAWA, wanting to gut the VRA, and being in favor of stand your ground laws? And now that he's admitted to being, in general, in favor of the drone program, do they still stand with him?

If the liberal era which Obama is trying to midwife is not to be stillborn, those who screech loudest on the left have to embrace the fact that progress is not smooth and straight. And adding your name in support of a reactionary like Rand Paul because for 13 hours he assumed the mantle of one of the extreme left's pet peeves (except that he didn't believe a word of it) is not a way to further goals you claim to support.

The Right is imploding, and it's a delight to see. Let's not have the same happen on the Left.