If you want to get something done -- or more to the point, undone -- in this country, you need a good strawman. Their numbers have been growing lately, especially in the debates over health care reform and state battles over workers' compensation.
A "strawman" is a slang term for a sham argument propped up to provide an adversary that can only be vanquished by a solution that doesn't make sense standing alone. It's the boogeyman, the red menace, the indolent poor -- pick the ridiculous stereotype of your choice.
Here in Florida, our Mad Hatter governor Rick Scott and his tea-tippling legislature have been merrily dismantling our state's infrastructure with the help of strawmen.
They've slashed education and eliminated tenure for those liberal, freeloading teachers, gutted decades-old environmental protections so those job-killing tree-huggers can't stop hard-working, job-creating developers from paving the Everglades, and made it more difficult for students, minorities and other left-leaning pinkos to vote based on the nonexistent threat of widespread voter fraud.
Just for good measure, they prohibited those nosey intellectual doctors from raising the subject of firearms with their patients. After all, what could guns possibly have to do with health?
All since January. So much straw burning that you can still smell it in the Gulf breeze.
Yes, of course Florida is leading the 26-state challenge to the socialized medicine of President Barack Obama's health care reform. After all, shouldn't it be every god-fearing lower-middle-class American's right to live a life unfettered by health insurance? Kind of lends new dimension to the term "better dead than red" (as in ink).
Strawmen aren't native to Florida, of course. Up in the parka states of Maine, Montana, Ohio and Wisconsin, they're hard at work dismantling state workers' compensation programs because those legions of straw slackers out there are sitting at home watching "Judge Judy" instead of clocking in.
One would think that the world today is scary enough without creating strawmen to clutter our mass dreaming. Real problems like affordable health insurance, sustainable fuel, safe food and productive employment need real solutions, not self-serving hand puppetry.
The problem with strawmen is, when you knock them down, there's nothing there.
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