First of all, we have to accept that mainstream American politics has long been about which party’s lies resonate better with the voters. For most of the last 35 years, the Republicans have had the more popular fantasy, to the point where the Democrats have had to borrow parts of it just to be able to get a hand in the cookie jar from time to time (I’m lookin’ at you, Obama, Bill, and Hillary!). A delusional belief system accompanied by compulsive lying would be easy to spot and treat if it were the province of only a few isolated individuals, but, since similar delusions and manias have a grip on the minds of millions of people, it becomes tempting to simply accept them as consensus reality and go along with the madness, forgetting that it’s what we once vowed to cure. “Of course American politics is built on ego, selfishness, greed, delusions of grandeur, and overwhelming paranoia. Of course you’re always going to have to choose the lesser of two evils. Get used to it!”
Lately, however, the Republican side of the duopoly has reached a pitch of madness. There have even been signs that it might be turning into a healing crisis, rather than a fatal spinout. There are some signs that this same healing crisis has spread into the Democrats, as well. Part of the Democrats’ delusion has long been that they, as the more populist wing of the corporate duopoly party, offer a real alternative to the Republicans. “Hey, we’re for abortion and gay marriage! Vote for us, ‘cos we’re cool!” Get ’em by the short hairs, and their hearts and minds will follow, eh?
I think we can trace the beginning of this particular delusional/manic episode to the 2000 election, when the Republicans turned Al Gore’s wonky, intelligent, detail-oriented personality into a major campaign issue, as if the qualities that might make him a good President were drawbacks, reasons to vote for his opponent, who seemed to embody the very opposite of those qualities. The Republicans, I believe, compounded this by conspiring to steal the election from Gore, a crime which the Democrats chose to ignore, instead blaming Ralph Nader and the Green Party. In psychological terms, that is known as displacement.
That illustrates the fundamental dynamic that has played out between Republicans and Democrats in all the instances I am going to relate: an unfair contest between the cruel and the clueless, in which the clueless remain clueless about why they keep losing, or even why they keep playing the kind of games they lose. Where I grew up, I was taught that, if somebody says something that seems to be dripping with weird implications, you don’t just play along like nothing is happening, you say what those implications seem to be, letting the chips fall, and the poop fly, where they may. That is what I am going to do here.
We’ll skip over the near certainty that 9-11 was a flimflam and the absolute certainty that Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” was a con, and check into 2004, when the Republicans again turned what should have been a strong “selling point” for Democratic candidate John Kerry–his war record–into a new political verb–they “Swift boated” him, emphasizing
a version of what happened to Kerry in Vietnam that painted a much more negative picture of him–they said he turned and ran. His own crew members deny that. But here’s the thing: the comrades-in-arms who attempted to discredit him also shared a dislike for his later change of heart–he joined Vietnam Veterans for Peace, and became a major spokesperson for the group. I think that’s where he redeemed himself, but it really burned some of his old war buddies’ bacon. They did not care for the notion that they had fought on the side of injustice. Sorry, guys. US intervention in Vietnam was wrong, and Ho Chi Minh was right, even if the repressive Vietnam of today is far from the U.S. Constitution-inspired workers’ and peasants’ paradise that Ho envisioned. I also think that the Democrats’ use of Kerry’s “war heroism” as a selling point shows that, whatever their disagreements, Republicans and Democrats agree on the importance of American imperialism. Read the rest of this entry »