Friday, April 11, 2014

True Surprises

When news surprises people - including those we know in the media - their reactions never cease to amuse us, though we're rarely amazed these days at the things that seem to catch everyone else off-guard.

For example, yesterday, late in the afternoon, Kathleen Sebelius resigned her position as Secretary of Health and Human Services. While some media organizations are pretending to be surprised, there isn't anyone we know in the national political media who is truly astonished at that outcome. Sure, the Affordable Care act exceeded its target enrollment goals with millions more Americans now having health insurance. But the disastrous initial rollout all but guaranteed Ms. Sebelius would end up resigning, once the program was back on its feet.

In another less-than-surprising move, CBS announced yesterday that Stephen Colbert would be taking over for David Letterman, once the elder-statesman of "Late Night" retires next year. However, there have been rumors that Colbert might be the replacement for Letterman for some time, especially among those of us in the national media. So, again, not too surprising.

We're also not surprised, after the Supreme Court's stupid decision in the McCutcheon case, that multibillionaires like the Koch Brothers are now trying to buy political influence all the way down to the most local level. Frankly, you might think those wealthy Koch boys would get tired of all the slobber, the way most Republican politicians suck up to them. Apparently, their very expensive suits must also be quite absorbent.

What has quietly surprised us over the last couple of weeks is that all that money - while still a huge, negative influence - hasn't quite worked out the way rich right-wing groups had planned.

In Wisconsin, the Koch Brothers and other wealthy right-wingers, through front groups with names like "Operation Prosperity" spent massive amounts of money on small, local elections - and they lost big-time. This kind of event isn't just local to Wisconsin, though, and it isn't only on the  local political level.

In Louisiana, Senator Mary Landrieu has had rich bullies like the Koch Brothers and others throwing many millions of dollars in negative propaganda at her all year. Yet, as even a Republican-leaning poll showed this week, Sen. Landrieu has a strong lead against all three of her Republican opponents.

Apparently, we Americans still don't like ultra-wealthy outsiders pouring out piles of their money to buy our local politicians. A growing number of Americans seem to be starting to wake up to the reality that the richest .01 percent of Americans are trying to buy the government away from the other 99.99 percent of us - and we're starting to get mad again.

That Americans still seem to have fight left in them, that we seem more willing to stand up for what's right than our modern entertainment options often lead us to believe about each other? That's a very positive surprise to us, one that mirrors the kind of social courage that President Johnson and the Democratic Party displayed when they passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the other equal rights actions of the 1960s.

To us, it's also a sign that Americans may indeed finally be ready to stand up and fight for the rights and freedoms that the extremists in the Republican Party today seem so hell-bent on trying to steal away.

As LBJ himself once said, and as President Obama repeated yesterday, in a celebration for the Civil Rights Act at the LBJ Library, "What the hell's the presidency for if not to fight for causes you believe in?"

Indeed, Mr. President.