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Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Shutdown an insult to American democracy

This was to be it; but I need to unburden myself of one more political polemic before my final column. It's the most important factor in the dysfunctional devolution of our political system, because it's enabling the election of those self-centered, tantrum-throwing, scorched-earth legislators now populating the starboard side of the congressional well.
I refer to the information bubble in which devotees of Fox "news" and right-wing radio live. It can't be said enough, even though, by definition, it's impossible to convince people who are in a bubble that they're in it. The only way they'll recognize it is if, by an improbable act of bravery, they choose to peek out on their own; open a little crack, secretly if necessary, to discover what's really out there. Sadly, they're walled off because they like it that way. It's safe in there; the climate is perfect, you can believe what you want, and everyone agrees with you. Obama's a socialist. Liberals hate America. Affordable care will destroy us all.
One person took me to task in an email for suggesting Sarah Palin is something less than a political savant. "You're just a doc," he pointed out. She, he compared, negotiated an $80 billion pipeline deal (before she self-disgovernized, to make millions, mentation not required. Also, it was $40 billion, and I sort of doubt it was she alone, but anyway...)
So I sent him a recent article describing the intentions of the current Alaskan Legislature to void the contract. The pipeline remains unbuilt, and may never be; but because of sweetheart deals the moose-killing grifter tossed in for her buddies, the state is paying contractors millions while they do nothing, with no end in sight. His response? "I'll read your article after you listen to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved for three hours." Well, of course I've listened to those guys, which is why I've felt the need to write stuff like this. (Who knows? The brain-dissolving effects might explain my loss of desire to continue to inform. It certainly works similarly on their target listeners.)
I've had conversations with other Foxophiliacs, too. When discussions have gotten around to the Affordable Care Act, I've pointed out that it originated in a conservative think tank as a Republican alternative to single-payer, and was implemented in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, where it's been highly successful. Later, I heard from one of my conversees, surprised after she'd read a nationally syndicated columnist who said the same thing. And it occurred to me: this intelligent and thoughtful person seemed not to have heard it before our colloquy, yet the information has been around forever. Can it really be, I boggled, that these putatively politically engaged people are that unaware?
Then I recalled the studies showing that Fox viewers are less well informed than people who don't watch TV news at all. (They'll deny it. That's how it works. By design.) To her credit, that person ventured beyond the dome of disinformation, far enough to read an exobubbloid columnist. What if all the Foxolimbeckified were so bravely to risk enlightenment? Might Ted Cruz -- who just spent 21 pointless, self-aggrandizing hours lying, argumentum ex-Nazium, about the Affordable Care Act and missing the lesson of "Green Eggs and Ham" -- get hooted off his rostrum; and would today's Republicans once again consider electing people connected to reality, willing to help, to argue their case honestly, in the world that exists outside that pernicious bubble? Not likely. The man who declined to read the article I sent claimed he was the open-minded one. Hermetically sealed is that vulpine vault.
Sean Hannity just smuggered that he's unbothered by the shutdown, because it doesn't affect him. And that says it all. Fellow Americans are hungry and jobless, while congressional Republicans, getting covering fire from Fox, do everything they can to make things worse. Rejecting settled law, they wreak indiscriminate destruction because they can't prevent people from getting health care. That, folks, is ideological sadism, soulless extortion, and nihilistic rejection of how American democracy works.
It's bubble-leaving time for their voters. If they don't wake up soon, it's over.
Sid Schwab lives in Everett. Send emails to columnsid@gmail.com.

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Peter Jackson, Opinion Editor: pjackson@heraldnet.com (@PeterJHerald)

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