Wallpaper and fever dreams…
Posted January 18, 2016on:
Remember the old joke – “If Barack Obama cured cancer, Republicans would complain about the unemployment rate of chemo-therapists.” During the State of the Union, we saw that joke played out in real-time Kabuki Theater.
When the President called for a “moon shot” to cure cancer, Paul Ryan sat there in his best Derek Zoolander scowl and would not applaud.
Paul Ryan did not clap for curing cancer. Paul Ryan did not clap for the troops. Paul Ryan became “wallpaper,” his word not mine, only allowing himself, “to be respectful and not wince or grimace or do anything. So I just kind of poker-faced the whole thing, just out of respect for the institution, the office.”
To review: The Speaker of the House, third in line for the Presidency, a former candidate for Vice President, is so frightened of the Fringers in his own party that he presented himself to the nation as a Thorazine enthusiast coming down off a three-day Molly ride. Just as a point of comparison, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, applauded Dubya 33 times during his final SOTU address.
This toxicity played out again this weekend with the effectuation of the Iranian nuclear deal and the swap of five Americans and seven Iranians. Those successes follow the release of ten sailors after just 14 hours of Iranian detention compared to a 2007 incident where British sailors were held for two weeks.
Ahead of schedule, the nuclear deal secured the reduction to 6,000 enriching centrifuges from 19,000 and eliminated 9,700 kilograms of already enriched uranium. The prisoner swap accomplished the release of the five Americans traded for Iranians who had violated the trade sanctions – not exactly high value targets.
So how did the Kabuki chorus respond? The Republican candidates were begrudgingly pleased with the release of the Americans, but they sang in full-throated condemnation of the Iran nuclear deal, criticized the feckless Obama, and promised to “tear up the nuclear deal on day one” of their imaginary Presidencies. Nary one of the candidates acknowledged any American success or optimism.
My point is neither about the bad manners of Republicans, nor is it about the politics of being mindless oppositional automatons. My point is that the anti-establishment Fringe virus has overtaken the host. If Republican Party leaders and candidates are so frightened of a de minimus segment of their base, how can that party ever be capable of governing?
Anger, fear, and conspiracy have replaced any notion of governing principles. The genesis of this wayward languor is found in the symbiotic relationship between the party and conservative media. Simply put, there is no delineation between the pabulum spewed by Fox and talk radio and the party’s rightward sprinting ideology. If their ideology was coextensive with their disbelief in science, they should be falling off the edge of the planet right about now.
This summer I ran across the article, “They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing – Conservative Media’s Influence on the Republican Party.” It was written by Jackie Calmes, a New York Times reporter, while she was a Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It is a masterful explanation of the parasitism of conservative media as it digests the Republican Party.
The article is no light read – it’s about 17,000 words, but it is the most comprehensive explanation I’ve read about this historic devolution of the Republican Party. The article is chocked-full of quotes and analysis by the endangered species of moderate Republicans.
The following is a sample of the insightfulness:
From a prominent, but anonymous Republican: “It’s so easy these days to go out there and become an Internet conservative celebrity by saying some things, and who cares if it’s true or makes any sense. It’s a new frontier: How far to the right can you get? And there’s no incentive to ever really bother with reality or to compromise. There’s no money, ratings or clicks in everyone going along to get along.”
A Republican Congressional staffer said, “Now it seems that so many people are going for the niche, for the red meat, and there are all these outlets where you can do that. It’s playing to the base, but the base doesn’t live in reality. And that’s the problem: It’s taken the party in a really self-destructive direction.” The aide continues, “When you’re setting down a marker and you know that your ask is unaccomplishable, that it’s not a goal that’s achievable, then it’s just about ratings and money.”
If anyone should ask, that is what this election is about: Who is the best person to save this country from a governing agenda conjured by the fever dreams of talk radio and Fox.
This is an open thread.
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