Granted, Randal Edgar begins his report with equivalence between political parties, but it’s still surprising to see Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s offensive remarks achieve front-page, above-the-fold status in the Providence Journal. If anything, however, that attention only makes me more wary of our all-too-natural reaction.
I’ve absolutely no doubt that Whitehouse derives enjoyment out of writing and delivering soaring partisan rhetoric about his vision of the most evil people of our day (conveniently, his political opposition), but in an environment in which Sen. Al Franken (D, MN) disallows Sen. Joe Lieberman (I, CT) a few moments to wrap up remarks, it seems to me unlikely that Whitehouse would be granted permission for diatribes unless there were political utility. It could be merely that the Democrats know that forcing through the sort of healthcare bill currently on the table is going to come at a political cost across the ideological spectrum, from far left to far right, so they want to toss some crumbs left and deflect some blame right.
Even if that’s the only motivation for Whitehouse’s division and offense, it’s important to consider that he occupies a very safe seat, from the perspective of Washington, D.C.: He’s not up for reelection until 2012, and he’s from a relatively liberal state, in which stridency might buy him stronger support in some quarters. I suggest that we look at his remarks as an act, not just of his, but of the Democrat Party’s. The critical questions, in that light, are:
- From what are they trying to distract the public?
- How can we avoid being distracted?
My fear is that the too-obvious answer to the first question — that they’re simply throwing up sand in preparation for passing unpopular legislation not only in the dead of night, but in the dead of a silent night — hides something more sinister. Whatever the case, the various videos of outlandish comments from Sheldon are not going anywhere; they’ll be on the Internet well into the 2012 election cycle, and they’ll no doubt have picked up additions along the way. In the meantime, we should avoid turning our gaze so fixedly on our senator that we fail to be offended at the broader destruction of our way of government (not to mention of our economy) being perpetrated by his party.
By all means, begin planning for 2012, but don’t let political stagecraft and the design of our electoral system become a shield against your ire, right now.