I believe it was in 1977, when I was at the State Department, that President Jimmy Carter advised Americans to ‘get over their inordinate fear of Communism’. (He also warned of our unsus-tain-able dependence on oil, and put solar panels on the White House roof - panels later removed by Ronald Reagan...)
Jimmy Carter’s advice was quickly buried, and as a long-term consequence, Rachel Madow was hardly able to restrain her gaiety as she dissected the blooper that kept on giving in Christine O’Donnell’s debate with her Democratic opponent for Senate from Delaware. But behind the gaiety lurks the the sad fact that had the debate not taken place in front of a public of law students, there would have been no reaction to O’Donnell’s ignorance.
The Tea Partiers are only able to brandish copies of the constitution as they talk about ‘taking their country back’ because most audiences haven’t a clue about what it says. Even Ms O’Donnell, who claims to have taken an in-depth course on the Constitution at Claremont Graduate school, would have to carry a copy at all times to appear even superficially knowledgeable.
Belated implementation of Carter’s advice would include a manda-tory crash course on the Constitution for all students above seventh grade. But the problem goes deeper than preventing future elections from becoming side-shows.
Had Americans been exposed to serious analysis of twentieth century ideologies - including the competing ideologies of the framers -TV’s finest would not have to resort to chortling over constitutional snafus to win over voters to the progressive side. As things now stand, repeated accusations of ‘socialism’ by Tea Partiers and standard Republicans can only be met with nervous assurances on MSNBC that ‘nothing is further from the truth’.
The truth is supposed to set people free. The truth about life in Germany under Hitler and contemporary life in countries with social democratic regimes (or ‘socialism’) would enable American voters to recognize the fascist goals of the Tea Party’s backers, corporate America, from whom the Supreme Court has recently lifted its last remaining obstacle to power.
Socialists are the last minority in America to have remained in the closet, and soon it will be too late. For the BBC to suggest, as it did yesterday, that the riots in France could soon come to America, is to compare apples and oranges. Today the BBC backed off, asking: “What is it that makes French students revolt so?
Carefully handed down from generation to generation, the modus manifestandi has become part of national lore. Quite consciously, the makers of this student rebellion are acting out the parts created by their forefathers and - mothers in that greatest of all student rebellions: May 1968. The rituals are identical: the 'general assemblies' in which budding leaders bellow into bull-horns, the arm-link procession, the look of beatific joy.The slogans are straight from 1968. The students chant: "Sarkozy, t'es foutu, la jeunesse est dans la rue" (Sarkozy you're screwed, the youth is in the street) - which apart from the name is a formulation unchanged from De Gaulle's time.”
The Brit - dangerously Americanized - still hasn’t got it right: the French modus manifestandi can be traced at least as far back as the Bastille. In America, earnest anchors and comedians convene crowds to the National Mall - a few yards from the twin seats of power - to exhort them to turn out on election day.