How stupid are you?
I mean, let's just face it, shall we? That is precisely the question the right has been asking the American public for thirty years (and more) now. And that is the question the American public has been enthusiastically answering for the same period of time.
Like a crack junkie, in fact.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan presented America with a set of economic lies so transparent that even a monster like George H. W. Bush called them "voodoo economics." When he was contesting Reagan for the Republican nomination, that is. Once Bush had lost it, and when he wanted to be added to the ticket as the Vice Presidential nominee, everything became hunky dory, and no more voodoo critiques were uttered. That was one of the greatest acts of treason (I choose my words carefully) in American history.
But back to Reagan. "Watch this," he said. "I'm gonna slash taxes, especially for the rich, spend huge sums on 'defense,' and balance the budget at the same time."
Okay, so he wasn't a math major in college. Two out of three ain't bad, though, eh? Well, it is if you have to pay for his 'mistakes,' plus interest, as so many of us continue to do to this day. Prolly not a big problem, though. Even though Americans hate taxes with the passion of the truly infantile, I'm sure they don't mind working extra hours flipping burgers each week to pay for the enrichment of the previous generation of plutocrats and defense contractors. Right?
Or maybe it's just that their answer to the "How stupid" question is: "Very."
You might think that, because Reagan and Bush actually managed to quadruple the national debt with their little exercise in national folly. Or you might especially think that because Lil' Bush came along with the exact same snake oil a decade later. You had to be stupid to buy it the first time, but you had to have been really stupid to buy it the second time. We, of course, were.
And not just in terms of federal debt, either. A generation of Reaganomics has now succeeded in suspending ninety-eight percent of the country in standard-of-living formaldehyde, so that they felt zero effect whatsoever from the substantial growth in GDP over the last thirty years, and now those policies are cutting off their legs from underneath them altogether. All while the people of Reagan's class, of course, just piled on the riches. How stupid do you have to be to not notice who's diddling you?
Very, of course, but not necessarily as stupid as is maximally possible. 'Cause, guess what? Here they come again. This week Republicans once again have issued a manifesto calling for slashing taxes on billionaires and cutting deficits, all at the same time. And once again they will win big electoral landslide victories in November despite that patent idiocy. Or perhaps because of it.
Why don't they just come out and do magic tricks, instead? Oh wait. That's their Jesus bit. Never mind.
On the one hand, I don't blame Americans for voting for the party that isn't the Democratic Party this fall. Obama and crew are miserable failures, as completely unable to provide meaningful solutions to the problems facing Americans today as they are inept at winning political fights against manifest criminals. Looking at the landscape in front of them as it appears to voters' blinkered vision, it makes perfect sense to desperately swing to the party not in government when the house is on fire and the party in government is showing up with squirt guns. What could be more logical? This is, indeed, the fundamental notion of 'responsible government' itself, and it is at the core of democratic theory.
On the other hand, of course, there are two very excellent reasons why such a vote is completely idiotic. First, because there actually are more than two alternatives to choose from. I wish we had viable third parties in America but I don't normally advocate for them, given the massive systemic improbability of their success. That said, if there was ever a moment for which a third party vote was called for, this is it.
And second, because 'the alternative' to the Democrats are the very folks who put us in these crises to start with, and they are now explicitly devoted to making conditions even worse for ordinary Americans. That's exactly what will happen, of course, and if you think the present moment is grim, wait until you see how much fun the next two years are gonna be. They're gonna look like the mangled and ferocious spawn of a tainted marriage between the Depression politics of the Hoover era, the sick depravity of McCarthyism, the relentless scandal-mongering of the Gingrich era, and the completely unmitigated greed of the Cheney years. Welcome to the dismantling of civilized society in America. Yes, yes, I know - it's quite arguable whether such a beast ever existed. Well, at least that's one debate we're about to put to rest definitively.
And we also know for sure of yet one more thing Ol' W was wrong about. Remember when he said: "There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - You can't get fooled again!"
He shoulda checked with Karl Rove and the rest of his party of predatory shucksters, who seem quite incapable of not constantly trying to fool the public. And he shoulda considered the ridiculous improbability of his own presidency before attempting to quote Pete Townshend. Not to mention the current moment. We know why the GOP has to lie, and does so compulsively. Even in contemporary America, surely the stupidest country on the planet, the homo sapiens are still sentient enough to opt out of the most overt cases of self-immolation. If kleptocratic Republicans told the truth, who in the world would ever vote for them, other than the richest two percent of Americans?