Last week, comedian Jon Stewart announced his Million Moderate March, a rally in Washington, D.C., on October 30th that is meant to “restore sanity” in this country because the Right and the Left are both equivalent in their violent rhetoric and their unwillingness to engage in civil debate.
According to Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity Web site:
“Ours is a rally for the people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs)—not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence… we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point. Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement. … Join us in the shadow of the Washington Monument. And bring your indoor voice. Or don’t. If you’d rather stay home, go to work, or drive your kids to soccer practice. … “
Meanwhile, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg is rushing around the country trying to support “Republicans, Democrats, and independents who he says are not bound by rigid ideology and are capable of compromise, qualities he says he fears have become alarmingly rare in American politics.”
As much as Jon Stewart makes me laugh, there is something about all this Middle as Magically Absent of Ideology claim that just isn’t very funny. As anthropologist Clifford Geertz long ago pointed out, what we think of as “common sense” is in fact an ideological stance that protects the interests of the people with the most power. So whose interests are at stake and what is being protected by the resurgence of a supposedly ideology-free Middle? And how can the “commonsensical” notion that being on the Left or the Right is ideological and therefore bad be countered by those of us who think extreme times might in fact call for extreme measures?
The first thing that is clear is that the Muddled Middle wishes to merge the Left and the Right as “the same” and that this is in and of itself a powerful ideological weapon. The Left and the Right are not the same in this country, for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most fundamentally, the Right has way more money. As we now know, the Tea Party is funded not by disenfranchised working-class white folks, as they might claim, but by some of the richest and most conservative individuals and corporations in this country. In addition to Rupert Murdoch and his Fox “News” there are the Brothers Koch, David and Charles, along with their front, Americans for Prosperity and Dick Armey and “Freedom Works.”
Now we find out that in addition to some of the wealthiest individuals in the world, Big Oil and Big Medicine have been funneling money to the Astroturf movements that are taking over American political discourse in the guise of grassroots ones.
And the Left? What large corporations or wealthy individuals are whipping up support for labor unions and universal health care and an end to the Military Industrial Complex? Let’s see… ummmm… oh, none.
Because the truth is the political system has been hijacked in this country by large corporations that can now give directly to political candidates that represent their interests over the interests of citizens. To make matters worse, an economically and culturally disenfranchised group of Americans, whipped up by nostalgia for white privilege and at times heterosexual privilege, now dominates everything from elections to news cycles to fashion (remember when the Sarah Palin secretarial updo was all the rage?).
And the answer to such a revolution from above fueled by misplaced anger from below will not be the Muddled Middle, pretending that they have no point of view but that of “reason” and “common sense.” Indeed, the Muddled Middle is in fact continuing to represent the interests of corporations and corporate-controlled media against the interests of the majority of Americans who have been getting worse off since 1980.
By pretending that the best response to the corporate takeover of American democracy is a refusal to do anything to counter it, the Muddled Middle leads us to do nothing to resist as some of the worlds greediest corporations continue to highjack our democracy. And that just isn’t very funny.