Erstwhile journalist McKay Coppins had a HILARIOUS tweet regarding the Farm Bill passed by the GOP-led House:
A reminder for the DC press corps: pic.twitter.com/YCONEDKbrU
— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) July 11, 2013
The inside-the-beltway humor would be amusing save for one thing: the GOP bill excised all funding for food stamps from it, which normally makes up 80% of the spending in any agriculture bill. Families barely making it with that assistance are now facing a bleak summer. Will the House take up SNAP funding separately? Will Speaker John Boehner cobble together a coalition with Democrats to make sure that families aren't starving on the streets of the world's only superpower?
Oh, of course, these are rhetorical questions. Yet all the same, they are pertinent, and deserve some type of, if not answer, then an explanation.
Mr. Coppins' "humor" is illustrative of a disease which infects the corridors of power—or at least those corridors inhabited by the GOP and their media enablers. Call it "lack of empathy", call it the "I got mine screw you" syndrome. If you're waxing Christian, call it "lack of charity", or, perhaps, the more direct and appropriate "greed". It is the same disease which seemed to have had Ari Fleischer in its grips when, upon a tax deal raising revenue from those earning more than $400,000, which also limited how much one could deduct from one's taxes for charitable donations, tweeted that he and many like him would cut back on those donations. Because charity begins and ends in his accountant's office.
It is a disease which has had a long gestation. It's been infecting the American body politic at least since the accession of Ronald Reagan to power. But, in fact, it has always been festering in our history, from the landing of the Puritans to the Prosperity Gospel so popular now among certain sectors, which claims that God's greatest goal for his believers is for them to become stinking rich. (That part about the poor inheriting the earth must have been a typo at the printer's.)
The idea of social justice and the idea of social Darwinism have fought it out to an uncomfortable stalemate for most of our history. From the 1930s to the 1960s, justice had the upper hand. After that came the reaction which led to Nixon, Reagan, Bush père et fils, and the Tea Party vomiting of 2010. If you can't feed yourselves, to paraphrase the words of a well-known work cataloging this illness, you had better get to dying to decrease the surplus population.
We are now on the cusp of, possibly, another swing back towards social justice. Barack Obama has struggled mightily, with often scant help, to re-orient the country to the idea that we're all responsible for each other, that no man is an island, and that we're only as strong as our weakest member. It is, quite frankly, a Herculean task, which flies in the face of better judgment and experience. As McKay Coppins' tweet illustrates, those who are supposed to be informing the public are likewise infected with the disease.
But it may be the most important work we do in this generation. Yes, the midterm elections are of vital importance. But unless we inexorably change the mindset of more and more of our fellow citizens, we'll fight the same battles over and over, with losses and reversals which affect not only people's lives, but determine whether or not they live. The midterms are a step on a long journey; the ending of it has to be a society in which expressions such as Mr. Coppins', and actions such as those of the GOP-led House, are not only disdained, but unthinkable. We're engaged in not a mere political battle, a tussle between competing ideologies which tire people who are too busy just trying to lead their lives. We are, without exaggeration, in a battle for the nation's soul. Will an inclusive, expansive vision hold, or will we descend into 21st century serfdom, where only a few enjoy the benefits of the Republic, while the majority are mired in struggle?
That the GOP garners so many votes from people who are harmed by their policies is merely the proof of its pure cynicism, plying its base with fears of the Other coming to take "their country", while the party does more to destroy the idea of America than any immigrant, gay man, or African American has ever even thought of. I don't know if we can reach that base; it might be lost for another generation. The only thing we can do is to build a winning coalition which will continue to win elections, change the country bit by bit, until the GOP and its masters are consigned to history's dustbin. Anything less and what's happening in Texas will be the condition of the country, not the exception.
McKay Coppins' tweet is a symptom of the disease infecting the country. If we want to live in a country worthy of its ideals, we have to administer the cure.