A Cynical Society Update Part 3
When I wrote The Cynical Society, I was guided by two opposing propositions: that democracy was deeply ingrained in American everyday practice, and that cynicism was as well, presenting a major challenge. This dynamic between democracy and cynicism was clearly evident in the case of the recent Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of “Obamacare.” Chief Justice John Roberts demonstrated how individual action matters. He apparently acted in a principled fashion, defying cynical interpretation. In my judgment, he made a significant principled contribution to the health of the body politic, as well as to the health of many American bodies.
I had an inkling that this could happen in April:
“I worry that this [cynical] kind of attitude has even become the common currency of the Republican appointed justices of the Supreme Court, as they express Tea Party talking points about the health insurance mandates, with Justice Scalia pondering the forced consumption of broccoli and the like. But I have hope. It seems to me that it is quite possible that the Court, with Chief Justice Roberts’s leadership, will seek to make a solid decision based on the merits and not the politics of the case, in the shadows of the Citizens United decision and Bush v. Gore. The integrity of the court, its reputation as a judicial and not a political institution, may very well rule the day.
The way the Court handles this case is a good measure of the degree cynicism has penetrated our politics and culture. My guess is that the health care law, in whole but more likely in part, will be overturned in a political 5 – 4 decision, or if the Court wants to fight against cynical interpretation, attempting to reveal principled commitment, the decision will be 6 – 3 upholding the law, with Kennedy and Roberts, joining the liberals. If the law is overturned, from my partisan point of view, the chances for a decent life for . . .
Read more: Chief Justice Roberts and the Health of the American Body Politic
Cynicism is a key cultural characteristic of the political right today. It’s aggressive, different from cynicisms past, much more than the enervating political orientation and questionable political tactic that I studied in the Reagan era. It is central to the “conservative” brand, first clearly presented at “fair and balanced” Fox News. It was shockingly revealed in the speech Mitt Romney gave to the Associated Press editors on Wednesday. I fear that this cynicism has also invaded the Supreme Court and think it is quite apparent in the response to the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.
Romney’s speech pivoted around the open mic exchange between Presidents Obama and Medevev of Russia. Romney sees in this the key that can unlock the mystery that is the Obama presidency:
“Barack Obama’s exchange with the Russian President raises all kinds of serious questions: What exactly does President Obama intend to do differently once he is no longer accountable to the voters? Why does “flexibility” with foreign leaders require less accountability to the American people? And, on what other issues will he state his true position only after the election is over? …
He wants us to re-elect him so we can find out what he will actually do…
With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama’s hide and seek campaign…
Unlike President Obama, you don’t have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in – or what my plans are. I have a pro-growth agenda that will get our economy back on track – and get Americans back to work.”
Given the unsteadiness of Romney’s political commitments, this is an odd attack, as was noted by the talking heads on cable after the speech, but I think much more troubling is the way that Romney used a relativity trivial informal exchange between two presidents to provide a cynical account of Obama’s “hide and seek” politics.” This explains the basic pattern of criticism of Obama that Romney, his Republican rivals . . .
Read more: The Aggressive Cynicism of Mitt Romney and His Party: A Cynical Society Update Part 2