Monday, January 23, 2012

Gingrich and the true believers

After watching the travesty that was the Republican primary in South Carolina, one wonders how a charlatan like Newt Gingrich could get 40 percent of the vote, particularly after his former wife’s revelations about his serial infidelity. The man is like a five-year-old in his utter selfishness. This is who we want for our next president?
How can Evangelicals in particular support such a blatant hypocrite? Gingrich claims he has repented of his sins and asked for God’s forgiveness. But he’s still benefitting from those sins, isn’t he? Gingrich’s idea of repentance is a sham. So why are Evangelicals buying his act? Are they simply clueless--or hypocritical?
Maybe they’re fanatics.  
In his 1951 book, The True Believer, Eric Hoffer analyzes “the art of ‘religiofication’ -- of turning practical purposes into holy causes.” What better way to describe Republican rhetoric and the Tea Party?
Honest Evangelicals and Tea Party followers (as opposed to those who exploit them) must see their own lives as spoiled and worthless. They crave a rebirth in a mass movement because they “are attracted by the prospect of sudden and spectacular change in their condition of life.”
Mitt Romney does not appeal to such people because he is so smug about his own “success”--meaning his mega-millions--that he really doesn’t want to change anything, other than to further engorge himself and the economic elite. The price of this free lunch for billionaires, however, may be staggering--and permanent.
The mass of Evangelicals and Tea Party zealots, on the other hand, really do seek change and see their cause as a holy one. As Hoffer points out, “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves. The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”
Take back our country? Everything is Obama’s fault?
Okay, Evangelicals may say, so what if Gingrich is flawed? We all are; therefore, let’s forgive him and elect him (he may be ruthless and shameless, but at least he’s not a witless buffoon like Rick Perry). Presumably, this is the gift that keeps right on giving. One wonders which sins Newt would need to repent of as president. Quite a list, I imagine.
“Mass movements do not usually rise until the prevailing order has been discredited … and has lost the allegiance of the masses,” Hoffer notes. “The discrediting is not an automatic result of the blunders and abuses of those in power, but the deliberate work of men of words with a grievance.”
Remind you of anyone?
Voters must never forget that politicians like Gingrich are all salesmen, whose only product is themselves. Salesmen aren’t necessary when a need already exists for a product. Their only purpose--other than to enrich themselves--is to create a need for their product.
Gingrich may be a great salesman, but he’s also a lousy human being who would make the worst president I can imagine. Unfortunately, Romney may not be much better. When I see how easily the voters of South Carolina were swayed by Gingrich’s outburst at the start of the last debate, I tremble for the Republic.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Mental Life of Dogs

Sometimes I just can’t believe what I read in the papers. Take Sunday, for instance. A columnist from the L.A. Times wrote a piece about how Mitt Romney put his family dog, an Irish setter named Seamus, in a crate strapped to the top of the car for a 12-hour drive back in 1983.
          Wondering if “it’s time to give Romney a break on this one,” the Times columnist, Meghan Daum, further wonders if the dog would “really have been better off crammed into a station wagon with seven humans than up top in a secure, enclosed crate with a windscreen.”
          Politics aside, one wonders whether Daum herself would’ve preferred being jammed inside the car to riding in a crate on the roof. In fact, one wonders who’s the more callous here, Romney or Daum?
Daum quotes a presumed expert to the effect that, “It was a different time. It sounds horrific now, but back then we didn’t know so much about the mental lives of dogs.”
          Really? And now we do? How much insight does it take to recognize that these two options represent no real choice at all? And yes, it certainly does sound horrific now--and it would’ve sounded horrific to me in 1983, as well.
          So, yes, at the risk of being pigeon-holed by Daumer as a “single-issue voter and that issue is the candidate’s policy on pet transport,” I object to such inhumane treatment of animals, especially family pets. I suspect most of us have known some jerk at one time or another who was capable of such dimwitted brutality, but I never thought I’d see the day when a columnist for one of America’s great newspapers would think it was funny.
          It isn’t, Meghan. Shame on you, and the L.A. Times, for not knowing better.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Big Lie

I wasn’t going to write about politics in this blog. But.

    After watching umpteen Republican debates, I wonder if anyone has a notion about what any of them would do if they got their hands on the White House? What happens when their stated positions run into the reality of divided government?
    No matter which Republican wins, I suspect the answer would be the same: executive rule by fiat like the last Bush, only worse. Since Democrats won’t agree to eliminate our tattered safety net, the next GOP president would simply take matters into his own hands and call it democracy in action. Works for the Supreme Court. Corporations are people? Really? So much for half a century of Republican dogma about strict interpretation of the Constitution.
    The Big Lie continues to prove its worth to Republican contenders, none of whom can open his mouth without uttering nonsense about the president. How sad that we’ve come to expect this. How astonishing when even a glimmer of truth escapes from elephantine lips.
    All this guff about taking back our country makes me wonder who Republicans are taking it back from--the voters, perhaps? As someone embarrassed by Kentucky’s two senators, I ask when are they going to give me my country back?
    I used to think Republicans would trade Bush’s huge tax breaks for the one percent for deficit reduction. How naïve. Now I see that the only thing the Republican Party stands for is money. However naïve occupiers are portrayed, at least they’re doing something.
    Cynical Republicans pander to the far right, but in their hands religion and patriotism are just tools to unseat Democrats. The Tea Party itself--how I despise their presumption in trying to highjack the American Revolution for their own selfish, selfish purposes--only further snarls things up.
    Whoever gets the nomination will no doubt continue to rely on the Big Lie, a propaganda technique coined by Hitler about using a lie so “colossal” no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."