Sometimes our disbelief intensifies from psychological projection. When a senator rails about the one percent and the need for higher taxes, we just assume that he made a fortune in office, or married into it, or dodged the taxes on his yacht. We assume when Barack and Michelle talk about “folks” and “paying their fair share,” they prefer the tony resort and golf links to what the rest of us frequent. When I hear of “campaign financing reform” and “no more revolving door” and “no more lobbyists,” I assume that the speaker believes that such declarations provide him with Medieval exemption, and that by voicing his disgust he can be indulge without consequence.
Why Don’t We Believe?
What are the sources of our disbelief these past four years? We have certainly had presidents who did not tell the truth — Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton most notably. But what is different this time is the attitude of the media. It is quite good at hounding right-wing fakers and dissimulators — and there are many — and so-so in going after centrists like Clinton. But once it invested in the present untruth, then our government understands that they have rolled over. The theme of this presidency is not just that the media is on its side and invested in its redistributionist vision, but that the administration is so certain of that fact that it need not worry even about the most blatant evidence of dissimulation and untruth.
When Plenty of Stuff Means Not Enough
Besides the media, the sheer affluence offered by high technology, mass production, and generous entitlements makes the old notion of poverty almost obsolete. And that fact makes us not believe almost anything that the present administration says. Why do flash mobs target sneaker or electronics stores rather than Costco’s food bins? How can it be that almost everyone we see using an EBD card has both a cell phone and a nice enough car? I don’t begrudge them, but I don’t believe that this is 1933 and we need a new FDR to keep us alive one more day. Obesity not malnutrition is the scourge of the poor. When I visit local health clinics, the plague among the patients is diabetes brought on by obesity and a diet of sweets and starches, not vitamin deficiencies or insufficient calories. There is little scurvy or rickets in my hometown, but an epidemic of high blood pressure. Federal rhetoric does not resemble reality: I drive with the radio on and hear Obama blasting the fat cats who have shorted the poor; I pull into the local parking lot, and watch the full bus head up to the foothill gaming casino; I then enter the food market and see most with EBD cards, and note that lotto tickets sell like hotcakes. Again, I accept the welfare state, but not the lies about it. Perhaps that is why I quit believing.
Utopia within Our Grasp
There is a third contributor to our increasing disbelief. Socialism is scary because it envisions heaven on earth if we are just willing to employ the necessary means to obtain it. To question those means is to question why someone should not have as much as someone else. In theory, the advocates of socialism should not be Hollywood stars, Washington grandees, trust-fund beneficiaries, and high-paid professors and lawyers, inasmuch as their largess must, in such zero-sum thinking, have come from someone else. In fact, promoting socialism has become a therapeutic exercise for the better off: it offers psychosocial comfort for those who have a lot, with the assurance that they have so much that their own redistributive plans would not make that much difference to themselves. The resulting disconnect is that capitalists par excellence promote redistribution, and feel no word or act is out of bounds to achieve that noble goal — and the rest of us believe almost nothing they say.
If Barack Obama loses the election — despite incumbency, despite the media, despite the October surprises to come, despite his mellifluous teleprompted rhetoric — it is because a growing number simply do not believe anymore what they hear. It is all bottled piety without truth.