As far as American political and economic life goes, this is the Era of Elmer Fudd. It’s a time when Elmer defeats the irreverent, freedom-loving Bugs Bunny, when the idiot Wile E. Coyote catches up to all those American roadrunners, from Johnny Appleseed to John Muir to Jack Kerouac and the eponymous Roadrunner himself.

There was a time when Americans reveled in the defeat of carnivorous fools. But now it’s the insatiable goons themselves who are the heroes. In a kind of psychological inversion that will probably lead to thousands of academic conferences in the future, today’s tea partiers make rebel heroes out of their own villainous oppressors.

So I ask, with all due seriousness, “What’s up, Doc?”

It’s not like we lack for comedy, which predictably abounds in the Fudd Era. Maybe the only rhetorical rule still on the books, at least as applied by today’s media, is that any ridiculous thing that can be said will be said.

Ann Coulter said the other day that radiation is good for us. Will she take her own advice and head for the healing waters of Fukushima, Japan?

FoxNews accused a CNN reporter of volunteering to serve as a human shield for Muammar el-Qaddafi. Jon Stewart, perhaps the last Bugs left standing, had some fun with that one, wondering aloud whether the Fox reporter who refused to be so used covered the Libyan revolt from the safety of his hotel room in “Coward Johnson’s” motor inn.

So, it’s not that we are any less funny. We may be funnier than ever, though I doubt all those future academic conferences will get the joke (I hope they do).

Historically, mass identification with oppressors and abusers has always led to, uh, very unpleasant outcomes. Yesterday’s words for these circumstances are currently prohibited (okay, maybe there’s a second rhetorical rule). There’s a big, flashing neon Verboten hanging over such terms as fascism, tyranny, Nazism, totalitarianism, etc. Bipartisan correctness demands that we move beyond labels, don’t you know.

How about Fuddism, then? The term would refer to a political arrangement in which fealty is called freedom, in which the regular sacrifice of have-nots and the enrichment of haves becomes proof of economic health, in which the hunters, masquerading as the hunted, vanquish the tormentors who stood in the way of their supreme wills for so long.

I don’t doubt that self-interest and willful acquisitiveness have permanent niches in our DNA. What’s troubling, though, is that democracy-protecting safeguards and laws intended to promote egalitarian striving and the common good are now seen as inhibiting liberty, not promoting and protecting liberty.

Is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker not an Elmer Fudd loosed upon the real from the virtual world of satirical cartoons and given ACME parliamentary traps to nab Bugs? Walker’s demands upon the heroic, quorum-busting Wisconsin Senate Democrats were just inelegant versions of Fudd’s delightful command:

Come out of your holes, you cowardwy wabbits! Bang, bang! And I’ll bwow you to smitteweenies!

By smitteweenies Fudd means smithereens, a word that comes from smidiriin, an old Irish word for fragment, which is precisely what is left of our democracy.

The time has come for climactic turning-of-the-tables, when the ACME dynamite explodes in the faces of Fudd and Coyote. Can we return to those stories and restore something like a democratic consciousness in the land? I think so. It remains alive in many.

As Bugs once said to Fudd:

All right now, this has gone far enough.