If you happen to be reading this at noon your time on Tuesday, March 16, I want you to do something for me. Get up from your desk, find the nearest English major and scream in their ear, “Onomatopoeia is for talentless hacks!” over and over for about five minutes. Then go back to what you were doing.
Oh yeah, and write me a check while you’re at it. Just call me an American for Prosperity.
Of course the real group called Americans for Prosperity, an industry-funded 501(c)(3) and (4), is a successor to the folks that brought you the demise of Hillarycare more than a decade ago. But, as equal opportunity obstructionists, they’re also known to front for climate change deniers and the tobacco industry.
Wearing their “hands off our Medicare healthcare” hats today, they’re calling on members to get in their gas-guzzlers and drive to their nearest U.S. representative’s office and lay on the horn at noon today. They’re calling it the “Honk No” campaign, and frankly, I think it’s brilliant.
What better way to illustrate immovable, irreconcilable, not-worth-even-discussing-in-a-reasonable-tone differences than with the obstinate honk of a car horn? As President Obama put it himself, “The time for talking is over.” Which means the time for shouting unintelligible invective has begun.
Why bother going into your representative’s office and actually talking to someone on staff about your concerns over the healthcare bill? No, it’s much better to sit outside honking your horn. That way you can’t be convinced that there’s anything good about healthcare reform.
And the gridlock can continue indefinitely, with nothing accomplished on either side. Nothing, of course, except for a continuation of business as usual. Which, incidentally, is just fine with the megacorporations that fund Americans for Prosperity.
On the other side of the healthcare debate, you’ve got Organizing for America, the post-election iteration of Barack Obama’s national campaign team, coming at the endgame from a decidedly more conversational point of view. They’re using today to urge members to call neighbors in swing districts, where the vote of a Democratic lawmaker for healthcare reform cannot be assured.
It’s an interesting idea. Instead of calling representatives, something which activists are no doubt sick of doing on the healthcare front, calling a lawmaker’s constituents and having a conversation about healthcare reform promises to at least be different, if not particularly effective at this late date.
But efficacy aside, these two efforts are emblematic of two very different approaches to civic engagement.
Those on the right are opposed to even having a nuanced conversation about their political beliefs. Instead, they honk and holler and stand in the way of progress on almost every front. Failing to engage, they entirely undermine their latest gripe that lawmakers aren’t listening to them.
On the other hand, progressives seem intent on talking everyone to death, without actually doing anything. Perhaps it would be more effective if the left took up this honking idea as a symbolic plea for obstructionists and others who are against any kind of change in the status quo to get the hell out of the way.
In all likelihood, though, liberals will keep lecturing wearily to the choir. Meanwhile, angry conservatives sit in the back seat of their cars while faceless corporations honk their car horns incessantly. The only thing the two seem to have in common is that neither can hear the music being produced.
And perhaps that’s the most destructive status quo of all.
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