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Alternative reality in Wisconsin

By Larry Eubank
web posted March 14, 2011

"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

That's what George Bernard Shaw said, and Democrats and public-employee unions have been a prime example of the principle for many years. They have lived in mutually-beneficial symbiosis in order to prey parasitically on the public. Unions collect dues which they give as political donations, to (in effect) bribe elected officials into giving them sweetheart contracts. And only the poor sucker taxpayers come out the losers. Union members were naturally bound to object to an end to this arrangement.

Creating An Alternative Reality

It was however, hard to find a high-minded rationale for opposing an end of the arrangement. Unions couldn't just yell, "We've got it pretty soft, and we want to keep it that way!" Nor would shouts of, "Screw you, Jack, I'm all right!" carry much weight. There's no outraged virtue in naked expressions of greed. So some alternative scenario had to be invented, some template in which union members could pose as the aggrieved, injured innocent.

Fortunately, Democrats have a lot of experience in inventing such scenarios. Liberals often have a hard time arguing with their opponents on the substance of issues, because there is no earthly rational justification for most of their policies. Thus they are unable to rebut the arguments their opponents actually make, and have to resort to distorting them in order to respond to them.

That's why leftists rely on rhetorical gimmicks like character assassination and motive-mongering; they claim to discern their opponents' real motives in proposing a particular policy, then they argue against that invented motive. They fabricate their own, alternative straw-man version of what's really at stake, then proceed to debate, protest, and throw conniption fits over that version. They live and argue within an alternative reality.

For instance, remember Arizona's immigration law, SB 1070, which required immigrants in Arizona to carry documents proving their legal status? Here's how it was characterized in the media:

"You can imagine, if you are a Hispanic American in Arizona…suddenly, if you don't have your papers and you took your kid out to get ice cream, you're going to be harassed." -- Barack Obama

"The law is a campaign against people who look a little different from the majority...in my case, obviously, the color of my skin. If they see me doing yard work, under the law, they'll be suspicious if I'm documented or undocumented."  -- Roberto Reveles, president of the Board of Directors of the Arizona ACLU, in a TV ad  (on-screen translation from Spanish)

It was easier to be outraged over the law as they construed it in their own heads, than over the law as it was actually written.

Or take "Plame-gate," the outing of undercover CIA file clerk Valerie Plame. It has long been known that Richard Armitage was the one who really "outed" Plame (if an undercover CIA file clerk is ever "in"). But as recently as March of 2010, Code Pink looney Jodie Evans rushed a stage and berated Karl Rove for supposedly "outing a CIA agent." After everything that's been come to light about the whole ludicrous affair, she persists in believing the leftists' alternative version of reality!  

And in the present instance, Democrats naturally don't discuss Governor Scott Walker's budget-repair law on its own terms. They resort to their usual tactic, "psychologizing" their opponent. They purport to read his mind, and they invent a narrative of what "really" motivates him: the real motive, they tell us, is not a financial bind, but just the fact that Republicans like union-busting.

One of the originators of the line was a Harvard professor:

"What's going on in Wisconsin is not simply an attempt to adjust the benefits or co-pays or health plans," said Theda Skocpol, a political science professor at Harvard University. "It's an attempt to bust the unions." -- "Wisconsin in near-chaos over anti-union bill," by Dan Hinkel and Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2011.

People who invent such motives are like the drunk in the joke, who is looking for his keys underneath a street lamp, not because he dropped them there, but because that's where the light is better. Similarly, Democrats adopted the "union-bashing" trope not because it's true, but because it is more convenient for them; it is easier to argue against, and easier to become outraged about.

Leftists jumped to embrace that alternative reality. For instance, Alan Colmes said on the Fox News program "The O'Reilly Factor," Feb. 22, 2011:

The bigger issue here is that you have got a governor who has lied. He is claiming it's about  the budget when it's about union-busting.

Colmes would rather believe he's fighting the governor's lies than that he's fighting efforts to clean up the budget-making process and to eliminate a systemic abuse of the public trust.

Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold also jumped on the alternative-reality bandwagon:

This is not about the budget at all this is about trying to destroy people's right to collectively bargain.. . . If you begin with a dishonest approach...and begin making threats, it's a really an assault on Wisconsin's traditions. It's really something a new governor shouldn't be doing.

Yes, "if you begin with a dishonest approach," then your logic can take you anywhere; but Democrats  had to first invent that scenario, like the drunk under the lamppost. Feingold shows how weak-minded, biased people rush to embrace a self-flattering alternative version of reality. (Obama himself immediately bought into the scenario; he is never slow to express his own personal prejudices.)

Argumentation by the impugning of motives is a childish form of debate. Union members have reacted like a small child who, being told to clean up his room, throws a tantrum, shouting, "You hate me! You want to kill me!" So then the grown-up has to assure the child he doesn't hate him or want to kill him. Thus the argument is successfully diverted; it's no longer a matter of arguing, "All the rest of us have cleaned up our rooms. You need to clean your room, too. It won't kill you!"  No, the discussion has to address the child's claims that, "You don't love me! You want to kill me, bash me, bust me!" That is what is achieved by the union workers' violent reaction to "union-busting." 

Unions and Democrats are seeking to mask their systematic abuse of the public trust, their collusion in sweetheart deals, their symbiotic looting of the public coffers, in crude invented scenarios about "union-busting." If that's how unions are going to work, go ahead and bust them. ESR

Larry Eubank's web site can be found at http://www.larryeubank.com/ © 2011

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