The "Audacity of Dope" becomes the force that drives the GOP turnaround
Boxed In: For Obama, the Congress under GOP control = intensified gridlock.
After George W. Bush completed his first term in his court-appointed job as President of the United States, the London Daily Times attached a flamboyant headline to a front page story about what it apparently viewed as a logic-defying 2004 re-election victory by Bush over his more cerebral opponent, John Kerry. It read something along the lines of: How Can 59 Million People be so Dumb ? Well, upon analyzing the outcome of our mid-term elections, perhaps this time the headline will read: Oops, she did it again!
For sure, the logic behind re-electing Bush in 2004 had all the scholarly value of a Britney Spears tune. But in reality, that outcome shouldn't have been shocking to the Brits then, nor should the results of these mid-terms be of much surprise to them today. If anything, both outcomes combine for a coarse doubling down of the maxim that in America, it's almost impossible for rationality, reasoning, or just plain old common sense to win a political battle against raw emotion. It is a decadent, win-at-all-cost, anything goes blood sport that masquerades as politics here in this country. In such an intensively piquant arena, rarely in the eyes of the American electorate, is erudition viewed as a weapon of any consequence.
Hence, what was again demonstrated -- through the voters' foolhardy embrace of the proponents of an, in some cases, neo-medievalist political agenda that essentially runs counter to the interests of those same voters -- is that the GOP's awareness that emotion dominates intellect can work miracles if properly channeled. It is this awareness which accounts for the strident promotion of regressive anti-intellectualism that's such a key part of the GOP political handbook. And the latest miracle it produced, of course, would be the Party's political resurrection during these mid-terms.
The Republicans own that portion of the nation's electorate which forms the political fodder that progressive MSNBC commentator Ed Schulz likes to describe as "low-information" voters. Indeed, some critics have pointed out that the perception of this group is that liberals talk down to them. As the University of Virginia's Gerald Alexander, a political professor, asserted early this year in a Washington Post op-ed piece titled: Why are Liberals so Condescending? : "This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever."
Perhaps, but if liberals condescendingly talk down to America's voters, certainly the GOP shamelessly dumbs down its speech to them to the point of absurdity. After all, who, but the most outlandishly ill-informed of Americans truly believes that President Obama is a closeted Muslim who represents a greater threat than al Qaeda ; or that certain Americans would be subject to government-mandated euthanasia ordered by " Obama's death panels ?" Nevertheless, as the election results now indicate, this kind of preposterous rhetorical sewage played a significant role in the Republicans' return to political significance.
The ugly implication of this, in all frankness, is that the GOP's political gains are simply the fruit borne of its success at cultivating ignorance. It easily renders its base spellbound; roping in toneless, lockstep support by substituting highbrow analysis with scant bits of symbolic truth infused with a whole lot of counterfeit buzzwords, ersatz accusations, flagrant distortions, and outright lies. As former Republican political strategist and dirty tricks pioneer Lee Atwater has said, "Just keep stirring the pot, you never know what will come up."
These days, what's in the pot seems a gnarly blend of precisely the assortment of incendiary issues needed to stew up a society now imbued with a of sense of impatient entitlement that demands a positive return within a nanosecond on any endeavor undertaken be it the speed of an ATM transaction or the time it takes for a nation to rebound from a near-financial meltdown. Due to a host of factors, Americans seems now incapable of accepting steady, incremental gains in life, only that which can be measured in large swaths.
Obama's first two years in office provide all the evidence needed of this. Within weeks of taking office, and with zero Republican support, the administration had pulled the nation from the brink of an economic catastrophe that had been building for the previous eight years of GOP leadership. Meanwhile, as of this September, the country has been delivered from the months-long recession that followed. Obama has reduced the middle-class tax rate to its lowest level in 50 years, enacted the most sweeping health care reform in 40 years, and managed to pull most of the air out of an upwardly spiraling unemployment rate carried over from the previous administration.
One might assume that such accomplishments would warrant the support of most Americans. However, having failed to get all Americans back to work before they got to a voting booth appears one of Obama and the Democrats' major undoings. The economic turnaround's apparently meager returns seem to have coalesced much of America into a U.S. state of mindlessness evidenced by its decision to return to power the party responsible for that mess in the first place.
Consequently, it becomes easy to argue that this election's final results symbolize an American electorate -- crippled in its decision-making by widespread attention deficit disorder -- partaking in a mass hissy-fit distinguished by its behavior in the ballot box. The apparent virtue found in the character of many of the Republicans chosen by voters to hasten America's turnaround seems borne of senseless frustration. I liken it to an irrational passenger blaming a bus driver because a four-hour journey can't be completed in two thus insisting that this passenger's cab-driver cousin be permitted to take over the wheel. It seems the act of a frustrated, impatient nation throwing up its hands and collectively yelling, "I JUST DON'T GIVE A F**K!"
Yet, it's appropriate to point out that blame for the counter-intuitive by-product of this dumbing down effect can't be linked exclusively to the submissive character of the "low-information" conservative voter base disparaged by Ed Shultz and other progressives. Politically-suicidal behavior on the part of an equally impatient, equally frustrated progressive base that essentially self-suppressed its turnout cannot be overlooked. Outside of those living in urban areas where early reports indicated high turnouts, progressives by and large seemed far too accepting of the "low voter excitement" mantra leveled at it by pollsters and pundits of all stripes in the months leading up to the elections. They may also have permitted the Obama administration's clear reluctance to aggressively push the Democratic base's emotional hot buttons -- i.e., play the "emotion" card -- to drive this sense of progressive voter apathy to the point that it worked in favor of candidates like Rand Paul.
The political process holds the prospect for many self-fulfilling prophesies. It also has a way of eventually casting a brilliantly articulate light on fraud, hypocrisy, and deceit. And, it is capable of stunting or completely nullifying the potential greatness in those who become sucked into its tendency to overindulge one's vanity ergo, the axiom: "power corrupts." And so, ultimately, as we are likely to once again discover, regardless of whatever problems Americans now have with the Obama/liberal/progressive agenda; the choice of the GOP/Tea Party/conservative agenda will eventually be revealed as not so much a sound alternative constructed on a foundation of common sense as an illogical concept conceived under extreme emotional duress.
On a fundamental level, voters -- particularly those of the middle class -- who are pro-Bush tax cuts for the rich but anti-organized labor; who favor an unregulated, OSHA-less free-market but are against qualified support for the trial bar; or who endear themselves to the U.S. constitution but want the government to shut down the ACLU, are essentially voters in opposition to their own self-interest. Yet, these are among the mindless array of faux populist ideals held sacred and pushed hard by many candidates who eventually attracted enough support among women,independents, and grassroots conservatives to not only earn some a spot in the general election, but a victory as well.
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