The phrase "jumping the shark" comes from the TV show Happy Days where creative bankruptcy and desperation to keep ratings up resulted in a waterskiing Henry Winkler literally jumping over a shark, establishing a historical high-water mark for how far into the realm of the ridiculous and humiliating a TV show would go to attract attention and remain at the top of the ratings.
That same kind of desperation to get people to pay attention to you and take you seriously seems to have infected the Democratic Party, whose leaders are now saying the most outlandish things in a frantic effort to regain control of the national debate and reestablish their credibility. In the wake of massive protests against their insurance-industry bailout disguised as a healthcare plan, and shocking revelations about the corruption of their grassroots as represented by the whoremongers at ACORN, Democratic leaders seem to have become completely unhinged and are ready to say the most ridiculous things to try to demonize their opponents and win the soundbite war.
This has been going on in the media for weeks as pundits from the left have tried to portray protesters as racists and kooks, or shills for big insurance providing protest on demand. These efforts became increasingly embarrassing as more and more evidence came out that it was Democrats who were astroturfing and staging events while bringing in thugs and shills to try to silence their own constituents who were in the streets demanding accountability from their government.
Now the desperation to regain control of the debate has reached an even higher level, and dragged top Democrats into saying truly crazy and offensive things which are so over-the-top that they verge on self-parody.
At a Thursday press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tried to draw a comparison between current protests against the government and the anti-gay rhetoric and violence of the 1970s, saying, "I have concerns about some of the language that is being used, because I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco. This kind of rhetoric was very frightening, and it created a climate in which violence took place."
In addition to the obvious accusation of bigotry, she even seems to be suggesting the possibility of extreme violence by alluding to the Harvey Milk assassination. Pelosi was near tears as she recalled the violence of an earlier era, a violence which has no actual discernible parallel in the current, peaceful protests over healthcare and government spending.
Her attempt to equate protesters with violent anti-gay bigots like Dan White was just an extension into a different idiom of the outrage expressed by former president Jimmy Carter earlier in he week when he accused protesters of being racists for opposing the president and his policies. In an interview, Carter arrogantly dismissed any objections to current policies as racism:
An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he is African American. I live in the South and I've seen the South come a long way and I've seen that the rest of the country shared the South's attitude towards minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans. That racism in connection still exists and I think it has bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It is an abominable circumstance and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.
Admittedly, both Carter and Pelosi are creatures of the 1970s, but it's not 1978 anymore. That was a full generation ago. A lot of these protesters weren't even born in 1978, and the attitudes of today – even in the South – are not those of the Carter era, though they may be the inevitable outgrowth of that era's failures.
There are more parallels to the 1970s, of course. The man who prompted much of this criticism is Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC), who like a lot of the protesters is living in what seems like a bad remake of Sidney Lumet's 1976 film Network, uncontrollably shouting "You lie!" in the same way that Lumet's protagonist Howard Beale shouted, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore," largely in objection to the complacency of society and the failure of government and the media to be responsible to the people. His words could be coming from their mouths when he said, "Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!… You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it."
Beale was fed up. Wilson is fed up. The protesters are fed up. Obama, Pelosi and Carter and all of the pundits pointing their fingers at the justifiable anger of the people and calling it racism or bigotry to deflect attention from their own failures, seem to be recreating the 1970s all over again. They are oblivious to the fact that we've already gone through this once and that this time we're not willing to sit back and let a character in a movie express our outrage for us. All that got us was four years of Carter's presidential incompetence and 30 more years of building rage.
Ironically, Happy Days is also a product of the 1970s and was part of the desperation of that era to smooth over problems and hide in the unreal fantasy of an idyllic earlier era which never really existed. Like Pelosi and Carter, it went on too long and eventually became ridiculous and a parody of itself, leading to the jumping of the shark in its last season. Perhaps now that their rhetoric has gone so far overboard and become equally ridiculous, these relics of the '70s are jumping the shark as well and their era will finally come to a long-deserved end.
In the '70s we really were in the last days of a racist society. You had old politicos like Nixon talking about "niggers" 41 times on tape in the Oval Office and you had Earl Butz with his "the only thing the coloreds are looking for in life is tight pussy, loose shoes and a warm place to shit." But these are people who were literally from a different age — dinosaurs. They were born before World War I and were already in their 30s by World War II. They are two generations removed from Joe Wilson and three from most of the protesters; and that's a very long time in the evolution and maturing of a culture.
Not only are African-Americans strongly represented among those protesting healthcare and out-of-control government, but they are relatively young and most of them seem to be from the dreadfully racist southern states. Many of them have even been elevated to positions of leadership within the tea party organizations and the Republican Party. Most strangely, no one on the right seems to be excluding them or persecuting them or making them attend separate but equal rallies.
There's something surreal about old white Democrats calling young black conservatives racist. They've lost touch with the political realities of this millennium and are still fighting the battles of the 1970s. This isn't the right wing of Earl Butz or Richard Nixon. They're both long dead. Carter and Pelosi were part of the younger generation which fought them, but it's their turn to be the petrified relics of a past era who can't see that the change they prattle on about has already happened. It just didn't come out the way they expected.
So yes, because of the current generational cycle which has left amazingly out-of-touch, old-line socialists at the head of the party and influencing its younger members, the Democrats as a whole have jumped the shark on this issue of trying to portray the new right as racist. It's a laughable claim which is backfiring on them. On Facebook and Twitter and other forums which Carter and Pelosi have to hire people to use for them, the tea party activists and town hall protesters are so confident that they treat the accusations as a kind of in-joke, calling each other racists and laughing about it, because it's so obviously ridiculous.