Sunday, October 4, 2009

If Obama supports the Olympics, they must be bad: cutting off your nose to spite your face

Despite the shouting and name-calling, our politicians and pundits earnestly want what’s best for the country; they merely have different ideas about how to achieve it. When President Obama’s fiercest opponents endlessly criticize him and obstruct his agenda, they’re doing it because they genuinely believe that his policies will make the country worse off, not out of petty desire for short-term political gain (or to protect powerful interests). If he had ideas they agreed with, they would support him. Right?

Let’s test that assumption by looking at an issue that’s not ideological at all: the Olympics. Unlike health care, where you can make a legitimate case that there are better and worse ways of improving the nation’s health (and whether that is even a legitimate outcome for government to pursue), the Olympics are unambiguous in terms of the desirability of the outcome and the means of achieving it. That is, we all agree that bringing the Olympics to Chicago would be a good thing for the country, and there is no debate over the means for doing that – you either bring them here or you don’t.

So how did Republican activists react to the news that our country had lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics? See for yourself (the clip is from the conservative Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream Summit):

I mean, wow. A room full of Americans absolutely giddy that America lost its bid for the Olympics – or rather, giddy that the Olympic Committee delivered a loss to President Obama. And that's after Glenn Beck insinuated that the Olympics would lose Chicago $1 billion, and Republican Congressmen criticized the President for pitching the United States to the Olympic Committee. Seriously people, you don't have to stop liking the Olympics just because Obama likes them too.

We’ve thus come full circle since Rush Limbaugh’s infamous quip that he “hopes Obama fails”:

This isn’t the first time conservatives have called for their followers to inflict damage on the country out of spite for President Obama. Conservative radio hosts have, for instance, advocated a boycott of General Motors to ensure the company fails, knowing that a successful emergence from bankruptcy would be a victory for Obama (and more importantly, vindication of a greater role for government in the economy). Glenn Beck says that because Obama supports AmeriCorps, it must be a secret Nazi army. Michele Bachmann warns that the Census has been infiltrated by ACORN.

The smug giddiness over losing the Olympics only confirms the larger trend, showing just how fanatical opposition to Obama has become; for the most conservative of Republicans, it’s no longer principled opposition to specific policies – it’s a hope that the country itself will fail in order to vindicate conservative ideology. What scares die-hards the most isn’t that progressive policies will fail – it’s that they will succeed. Because that would prove liberalism correct after all.

Hence campaigns to destroy General Motors, to keep affordable health care out of the hands of millions of Americans, and even to oppose bringing the Olympics to the US. If the country must burn to prove an ideology – even if the flames are deliberately set by the ideology’s defenders – then so be it. The ability to never change your mind comes at a high price.

And congratulations to Rio for becoming the first South American country to host the Olympics. I’m not going to cheer my own country’s defeat, but I’m happy for another part of the world having its chance to shine.

*Note* Does anyone have video editing skills? It’d be great to create a mash-up of the Rush Limbaugh clip and the one of the people cheering over the Olympic decision. Leave a comment with contact info if you know how to do that.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman totally steals my argument


A different perspective on "you lie!"

Has right-wing hysteria claimed its first life?

AmeriCorps: the most dangerous army in America


  1. The right wing is positively giddy that the United States will not be hosting the Olympics. Seriously, has it dawned on you yet how utterly despicable these people are? I was just wonderin'.

    The main goal of the GOP these days is to insure that President Obama's administration is a complete and utter failure. They want to see as many Americans as possible suffer in the next three years, thus, ensuring that they will be able to seize control of the executive branch in 2013. If the president succeeds in making life better for his countrymen and women, they fail. It's as simple as that. Mitch McConnell, to his credit, always looks quite uncomfortable when he is forced to justify policies as atrocious as those being put forward these days by that hideous party. But Cantor always has a serene, angelic smile on his face whenever he is forced to defend the morally indefensible - sort of like last week, at a Town Hall meeting when he told a woman whose mortally ill relative had been left bankrupt by her medical bills that she should rely on charity. He seemed so content with himself. Quite strange really.

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  2. Cantor is definitely a slippery character, to say the least