One of the regrets I have about absenting myself from the blogosphere these past months is that I sat on my rhetorical hands right through the election. That’s not completely true; I did engage in some spirited discussions on the left-leaning Pop Punk Message Board and Ben Weasel’s right-leaning Riverdales Discussion Board (spirited enough, it turns out, to get me banned for life from the latter).
I also let my opinions be known via Twitter and Facebook, often responding directly to the garbled, illogical, and shamelessly incendiary tweets of @SarahPalinUSA (the chutzpah of this ferret-faced huckster appending “USA” to her surname when she’s as un-American a demagogue as we’ve seen since the heyday of Joe McCarthy or Fr. Coughlin was itself enough to infuriate me). Yet while there’s a certain appeal that goes with having to condense one’s rage into 140 characters (125 where I addressed my comments directly to @Sarah), and while it’s good discipline for someone like me, who tends to go on a bit when given room to ramble, I felt – vaingloriously, no doubt – I might have a greater effect on the public consciousness if I wrote about the election in a more “serious” forum like, um, for example, this one.
Okay, let’s get real: even if all my readers religiously followed my recommendations, it’s unlikely to have affected the result in a single precinct anywhere across the land. Still, there’s always the possibility that something I say will reach someone who’s in a position to reach someone or several someones else, and that slowly, surely, cumulatively, I might have some impact upon the collective wisdom of the body politic. Considering the plethora of dingbats who do get taken seriously, why not?
But if, as the old saw has it, politics is show business for ugly people, it should stand to reason that one’s chances for success are about as likely as those of being handed a fat movie contract for hanging around sipping a soda in Schwab’s Drug Store. Another way of looking at it being that the “show business for ugly people” gibe wasn’t a gratuitous insult, just a pithy description of how things actually work, namely that the uglier you are (I’m talking metaphysically now), the more likely you’ll succeed.
That’s certainly the case with the likes of Weepy Permatan Boehner, from all appearances a thoroughly reprehensible human being soon to sit two heart beats away from the presidency. And he, while an old time party hack capable of speaking simultaneously out of both sides of this mouth while telling the truth out of neither, is far from the most malignant of the forces likely to be wielding power in the next few years.
Comparatively speaking, that is. I don’t doubt that Boehner and his buddies will happily steer America into the first available ditch if it makes it easier for his corporate chop shop backers to strip the wheels and ship the scrap metal off to the Third World for chump change, but plain, old-fashioned larceny, while distasteful, is something we more or less have to accept as part of the political process. Boehner is clearly a crook of the Nixonian ilk – his repulsive election night bawling about “chasing the American dream” came straight out of the Checkers “Republican cloth coat” playbook – but he doesn’t strike me as the more dangerous sort of con artist, the one who genuinely believes his own bullshit.
Sadly, enough of the latter type have been elected or are waiting in the wings for 2012 to justify serious concern for the future of the country. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not as though we haven’t had fruitcakes and nutcases in high office before. Under normal circumstances, the USA would be resilient enough to come through the current Know-Nothing revival without batting an eye. But these aren’t normal times, nor are they times where we can afford the kind of stagnation that, given the Republican Party’s lurch to the far right lurch and the near-total ineffectualness of the Democrats, is probably the best we can hope for right now.
Don’t get me started on how much worse things could get, or could have already gotten if hardcore Tea Partiers hadn’t succumbed to a fit of the vapors and nominated unelectable assclowns in several states, thus saving us from a Republican-controlled Senate that would have perpetrated far more mischief than the House of Representatives will be able to manage on its own. But with the Democrats showing no sign of being able or willing to fight back or regain the initiative from the hard right, I fear that not only are we in for a rocky ride these next couple of years, but that we’re looking more and more likely to be lumbered with a Republican president and Congress come 2012. And lest you forget, with the Supreme Court already leaning sharply rightward, even a one-term Republican president could make appointments that would tip the high court into Torquemada territory for a generation to come.
Put it this way: as much as I try to avoid the apocalyptic rhetoric and thinking that I indulged in way too often as a youngster in the 1960s and 70s, I’m feeling a clear and present danger that the United States as we’ve known it could be kaput and kablooey in the not too distant future. Laugh all you want at the Tea Party lunatics – they will no doubt continue to keep a lot of otherwise indifferent comedians in business – but there are enough of them to shift the political center of gravity, as John Mitchell memorably but perhaps prematurely put it, “so far to the right you won’t recognize it.”
The real problem is not that the Teabaggers are lockstep neo-Birchers or crypto-fascists – some are, of course, but many of them share no particular ideology other than that of being riled up – but that they, together with the ideological right-wingers who have a stranglehold on the Republican Party, and the purely self-interested millionaires and billionaires who bankroll them, comprise a coalition of the mad, the bad, and the unabashedly deranged that just might, especially in the absence of any credible Democratic opposition, be unstoppable.
Most people who voted Democratic this year – myself included – did so not out of any passion or affection for the Party as it’s presently constituted, but because it seemed like the only chance we had of stopping or at least slowing the country’s plummet into mass hysteria. Frankly, I can understand why the Teabagger crowd gets so exercised at the mere thought of Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, because they don’t inspire much confidence or warmth even in those of us who actually agree with some of what they say.
And the president? He seems to have followed in the footsteps of Jerry Brown as Mayor of Oakland: full of great ideas and soaring rhetoric for the first year or so and totally MIA thereafter. These days you’d barely know we had a president, let alone one who was going to transform our whole political culture and put us on the track back to greatness. As much as it pains me to say it, we needed another Franklin D. Roosevelt and got Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter, need I add, being the one-term Democrat who did as much as any Republican to deliver this country into the clutches of Ronald Reagan.
I don’t know where Obama’s guts or ideals or political instincts disappeared to, but just try reading his tin-eared Twitterisms: they sound like they were written in Fortran, whereas Sarah Palin’s, as dishonest, illiterate, and blatantly immoral as they might be, virtually seethe with passion and intensity. The woman who struggled to graduate from high school is kicking the ass of Harvard Law.
Does this mean she has the inside track to become our 45th president? Maybe, maybe not. You’d have to look far back into the 19th century to find someone less qualified to take the reins of the world’s incredible shrinking superpower, but America has a long history of caring little for “qualifications” in the usual sense. A good line of patter and a winning smile (or snarl) will often take one further than knowledge, character or experience (not that the president, we’re reminded daily by his almost paralytic inaction, has a lot of the latter, either).
There always the likelihood that, being a short-fused dipstick, Palin will deal herself out of the presidential sweepstakes with the sort of spectacular faux pas she’s shown herself prone to, and – hope springs eternal – it’s equally possible that Obama will emerge from his torpor to display the leadership and courage the country is crying out for. But I for one am not holding my breath.