There was a time when American politics didn’t involve one party that was stark raving mad.
We are about to watch a week of lunacy unfold in Tampa. Not harmless lunacy like Moon-landing-denial—RIP, Commander Armstrong—but deadly, morbid and obsessive lunacy which, if successful in taking control of the nation’s policy making, will more likely than not threaten your livelihood, strip you of liberty, possibly endanger your life and demolish any hopes for the future of humanity. If you’re elderly, welcome to the Catfood Diet. If you’re a woman, better get used to the idea that you might be forced to bear a child against your will, if you have a bit of bad luck. If you have children, you’d better be rich, because education, opportunity, and climatic conditions which are reasonably reliable for generating food are things of the past unless you can afford to buy your way into the bubble of privilege.
Oh, and if you’re not rich, get ready to pay a bunch more in taxes, too, because that’s the only way to fund another massive tax cut for the rich.
I’ve never been a conservative. The conservative school of thought has always struck me as rather cowardly, actually: unwilling to try anything new to make things better for our fellows on the odd chance that the Haves might Have a little less. I simply don’t respect the politics of fear: fear of difference, fear of diversity, fear of an Enemy, fear of Doing Something New. I think conservatism is inherently the orientation of small-minded people, whether they’re small-minded because they’re selfish, or because they’re ignorant.
But let’s face it: these are not our grandparents’ conservatives. Once, sobriety and practicality were the watchwords of conservatism. Conservatives generally didn’t want government to try to solve problems for us because it would cost money, because it would inconvenience those profiting under the status quo, because conservatives weren’t the ones suffering from the problems to be solved, and because it might not work, so they were too scared to try. “It’s working for me, so leave well enough alone” might as well have been the motto of the Republican Party since purging its Progressives during the Taft administration.
But at root, conservatives in those days were still patriots. They cared about the country as a whole and were grounded enough in reality not simply to conflate their personal interests with those of the nation. They considered facts in drawing their conclusions, rather than simply making up whatever they think would sound good. They respected science…hell, they revered engineers. The pocket-protector crowd of aerospace and information technology and heavy-metal industry were in their camp.
Now we face a self-styled “conservative” movement within which there is competition to see who can be most outrageous and shrill. Wherein callousness, violent rhetoric, bigotry, absurd exaggeration and distortion of fact, and appalling policy suggestions are no longer the fringe, but are the norm. Where science and reason are heresy.
I could go on. And on and on and on and on.
The crazy, ignorance, and flat-out stupid in the talk of these people pales only in comparison to their hate: the no-longer-even-thinly-veiled racism, the xenophobia, the reflexive demonization of difference or dissent, the loathing of anything or anyone they suspect of being involved with sex (generally women, gay people and minorities, because white males don’t do that sort of thing). Worst of all, in my opinion, the ends-justify-means moral blankness: “we are on The Side of Righteousness, which means we are justified in pursuing victory By Any Means Necessary.”
We’ve seen that sort of thing before, and it never, ever works out well. What with the goosestepping and ethnic cleansing and all.
I’m old enough to remember a time when American politics weren’t an ongoing teeth-and-elbows scrum between one party trying—however diffidently, unconfidently or disorganizedly—to serve the interests of the American people, and another that is a psychotic gang of evil clowns.
It started with Reagan. The Gipper Gang was the first to come into power operating under the principle that it did not matter what they said, so long as they did so with a straight face, and the first to speak in genuinely Orwellian terms: Ed Meese’s claim that “there is no hunger in America.” The paranoid jingoism of hero-in-his-own-mind Oliver North, of Elliot Abrams and Dick Cheney, and all the film-plot extemporizing of the Sleeper in Chief himself, already well into dementia, from recollections of when he was “liberating the camps” in Germany to jolly jokes about bombing in five minutes.
Thirty-one years on, we arrive here, debating whether or not contraception, for Christ’s sake, is morally acceptable. Whether or not women should be forced to bear children who are conceived via rape. Whether or not we should dismantle a program which transformed old age in this country from an experience of poverty for most of our citizens, to one wherein only one in ten of us is consigned to that fate.
Thirty-one years of steadily distilling crazy, evil, greed and stupid down to a black, delusional concentrate of sociopathy. The Republican Party has become cyanide for the lofty principles this country has always told itself it stood for…and towards which, until the advent of Reagan, it steadily made progress.
Somewhere around half of the people in this country who take the trouble to exercise their franchise in November will vote for a Presidential ticket which stands for lining its own pockets while impoverishing the rest of the country and shattering what remains of its social contract. They will do this because they believe things that are so far removed from reality that they are incapable of acting in their own interests.
How do you undo something like this? When you’re at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, you have to pretend as though the Hatter isn’t mad. You have to try to fit in. No one in a position of any significance inside the Republican Party dares to point out the madness, even if s/he can see it…which by this point, is doubtful.
How can fact, reason, and civility be reintroduced to a political culture this degenerate? I wonder: has any society ever recovered from this kind of decline in its public discourse?
I don’t have any answers. But I know that a first step is that Republicans need to be drubbed in this election. They need a resounding rejection of their insanity: a solid rolled-newspaper to the snout.
Sure hope it happens.
Reposted from Green Dragon
UPDATE: Hey, thanks for putting me in the Community Spotlight!