Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Crazy Out There

Have you noticed it too? I'm struck at the intensity of the political irrationality out there everywhere. Take guys like Glenn Beck, the nutcase on Fox. Or any number of similar crackpots on the right such as Bill O'Reilly, Limbaugh, the majority of the GOP contingent in Congress, the tea partyites, and just about any run-of-the-mill conservative you run into out there. They're all a bit looney, don't you think?

I'm reminded of just how crazy things have gotten by the situation in the 23d congressional district in New York, where a socially moderate Republican has resigned from the race and endorsed the Democrat running against her. Why? Because a third candidate in the race running as a candidate of the Conservative party forced it upon her. And this dude, a businessman named Doug Hoffman, who doesn't even reside in the district has won endorsements from all the above named nut cases of the right. The original Republican candidate, a model of her kind, it turns out, was not sufficiently pure on social issues such as abortion and gay rights. Boom! She had to go. Ideological purity must be a hundred percent pure.

How can we explain this? Maybe it's something in the air or the water. Maybe aliens are bombarding the planet with rays that turn some people's minds to mush. Actually, I think the reason is a lot more terrestrial. Actually, the real reason, or at least what I think is the real reason, is more frightening. It's something innate in the very fiber of some people. It's all-encompassing fear. Fear of changes that won't stop. A black man is president, Chinese money is keeping the U.S. afloat, people are getting divorced all the time. Drugs, gangs, crooked bankers bailed out by the government, homosexuals wanting to get married. Abortion, rap music, babies having babies, priests sexually molesting children. Where does it all stop, they want to know. What next? Whatever the hell it is, it's going to make things worse!

So people seized by such fears seize instinctively on the appropriate symbols of salvation, people who give voice to their outrage. People such as the ones above and--preeminently, a person not mentioned above. Sarah Palin, right now about the spring into the headlines again with the publication of her memoir book Going Rogue: An American Life in a couple of weeks.

Matt Tabai in writing about Palin's resignation as governor of Alaska, says, in that inimitable style of his, that Palin has been grasped by the loonies of the right, even when by any objective standard, she's absolutely clueless about nearly everything. And just why they should seize on her "defied rational analysis by making a primal connection with the subterranean resentments of white middle America, which is apparently so pissed off now at the rest of the planet for not coddling its hurt feelings in the multicultural age that it is willing to embrace any politician who validates its insane sense of fucked-overness."

Palin is, he writes, "a conduit for middle American resentment . . . the perfect leader for the inevitable pushback against the Obama era, when America in a vague and superficial sort of way decided to celebrate the values of culture, tolerance and knowledge. The other America doesn’t read and doesn’t remember anything it didn’t learn in the last five minutes; it’s angry and unhappy but doesn’t want to think about why, and knows only that it wants someone to pay the price for what it feels."

These people may be scared, but they themselves are scarier.
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