View from the couch: The Great Refudiator 

President Obama, I hope, will become the Great Refudiator during the critical year of 2011. Meaning, borrowing Sarah Palin's wonderful coinage, that Obama will make most of what I have said during the last year wrong and superfluous. That he will hold the line, battle the Republicans, reverse the gains of the filthy rich and bring up the "middle class" and the working poor, which, come to think of it, is most of the middle class.

Sarah Palin, though, has been repudiating her coinage of "refudiate" as a mere typo (in her Alaska "reality" cable show), even though she gave a nod to Will Shakespeare as a coiner of words. Instead of sticking with that line, though, she said her new word was a lowly tweet typo. Quickly, film of her using the word on TV previous to the tweet surfaced. But, it would be better for the culture at large if she accepted the mantle of one of her literary predecessors (not Shakespeare), but Mrs. Malaprop.

Mrs. Malaprop, of course, comes from Sheridan's eighteenth century play, The Rivals. And she is a forerunner of Sarah Palin, interested in world events and the consequences of the same. One of her memorable lines from that play is, "If I reprehend any thing in this world, it is the use of oracular tongues, and a nice derangement of epitaphs" Mrs. Malaprop is obviously (or perhaps not) a comic character, an object of satire, rather than desire. And, unfortunately, Sarah Palin is an object of some desire, as well as satire. Whom among us can refudiate that?

So Palin should take pride in inventing refudiate, the coupling of refute and repudiate. An unnatural union, it well might be, but it produced a reasonable offspring, now finding its way into dictionaries. English is the most malleable of languages, which is why it is taking over so much of the globe. More Chinese are bi-lingual in English than we Americans are bi-lingual in anything.

Why I want Obama to be the Great Refudiator is to quell the discontent percolating in his base. The false hopeful dawn of his election and inauguration has given way to this dreary dusk of discontent, so much so the White House may not even have to chide the progressive base, since it won't much matter to the administration this year. Of course, it will matter in 2012.

Though I've written about this in the past, it bears repeating: Close elections are aimed at "independents" and "swing voters," which makes them desperate affairs. For swing voters and independents are, in the main, will-o'-the-wisp lunatics who do not know their own minds, much less their own self-interest. Mostly, they go with the popular winds, whichever way they happen to be blowing. In Obama's triumph in 2008, all the enthusiasm blew them in his direction and he won formerly red states, like our own Hoosierville, Indiana.

But what group caused all that excitement, enthusiasm? Obama's progressive base, those who were with him at the beginning, and those who joined after he beat Hillary in the primary. The so-called independents and swing voters, as they are wont to do, went with the likely winner. It made a big number. Yet, where will the enthusiasm come from in 2012? Nowhere, that's where, unless Obama becomes the Great Refudiator.

Alas, one of the great mysteries of our time is why satire has no efficacy. Why Sarah Palin can be walking satire and still get thirty percent of the national vote. Why Jon Stewart isn't considered a satirist, but a person a lot of educated people get their news from. Why The Onion seems like a news magazine. Unfortunately, satire requires people to know what is being satirized. It's a cause-and-effect loop, and if the larger public is unaware of what is being satirized, the loop is never closed. One would think we live in an Age of Satire, but we really live in an Age of Post-Satire. Or a post-satirical age. If you want to refuidate me, go right ahead and try.

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William O'Rourke

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