Is it a mystery why a six-pack of rightwingnuts, loonier and less qualified than the Wasilla quitter, are vying for Senate seats while the most principled Democrat, Russ Feingold, faces ruin? Hot-dogging prayer warriors sell better in off years than a modern philosopher king – all of two years after Democrats supposedly routed wrong-way Bush and demon Cheney.
What an irony if the GOP Demolition Party thrives from the very horrendous recession its own self-serving, tax-giveaway, budget-busting wars fomented. Not only is this season’s nasty spawn of Palinistas riding roughshod, I see few progressive antidotes – not one, new, significant, emerging leftwing candidate who champions reason over politics as goon show.
Though “goon show” fits Christine O’Donnell, Tea Party primary wins reflect a new moralistic Politics of Judgment, honed by harsh Old Testament twists lacking compassion. Tea Party extremists don’t just boycott testy interviewers, scoff at science and history, or dismiss opponents as treasonous enemies. Today’s radicals see politics as a holy war, adamant against compromise while clinging to some mythological, nativistic, throwback fantasy notion of America.
Though the president can’t abandon two inherited wars, the left hasn’t mastered political holy wars, resists pre-emptive, military crusades disguised as self-defense, and knows staged rightwing, campaign burlesque is powerless against joblessness, unfair taxation, hunger or despair.
Evil-doers Multiply at Home
To observe this factional disorder, look no further than micro-managing President Obama, who months later still doesn’t promote health care as a national moral (even Christian) imperative. Instead, he squandered his bully pulpit for a year, dickering over details that insure corporate options and profits. The right hates nuance and complexity, much preferring fire and brimstone sound bites to ridicule micro-management, especially by uppity blacks.
Thus GOP fat cats fund unending domestic crusades against whatever confuses Tea Baggers – a nearly infinite array. How simple when the world is a black-and-white combat zone between good and evil, echoing W. The only news is the expansion of “evil-doers” to include big-spending, secular “socialists” defending 20th Century advances.
W. quickly withdrew the crude term “crusade” against Muslim countries, but the concept rivets politics on the right, dripping with belligerence, contempt, moral censure and opprobrium. One welcomes the D.C. rally to “restore sanity” but that won’t compensate for insane GOP candidates who think raped women must bear the offspring after violation. Or think the minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare are unlawful. A few more nutcases empowered for six years will really do in the Senate, augmenting Sen. DeMint’s New Confederate Insurrection.
The reality is, reality has bolted, at least in GOP primaries. Brand- and media-driven hysteria drive holy wars, however deranged, and let’s admit it: the left is lousy at absolutism, let alone gung ho crusades, or bizarre equations of personal with national salvation. Bad religion plus bad economics, laced with bad culture wars, altogether sabotage what’s worked for America for 225 years: admit problems, assess options and resources, then advance legislation that serves civil rights, education, economic mobility, or access to social and health services. In short, the outclassed leftwing agenda has gotten waylaid, about as respected as Rodney Dangerfield.
Eternal Time Trumps Secular
Look, holy wars (even real wars) sell better than facing complexity or a paralyzed, failing empire allergic to solutions. Prayer warriors prefer polarizing sound bites, rushing to berate gay or unmarried teachers, non-mosques not next to Ground Zero, or law-abiding abortion doctors. In the right corner are zealots invoking cosmic forces – the reality behind the reality – whether God, suspect American exceptionalism, or the vacuous sanctity of the free market (subsidies and cronyism don’t count).
In the other corner is the scattered, divided left searching out solutions, like which empirical evidence addresses which complex, annoyingly real-world dilemma. That demands hard brainwork, innovation and research, even compromise among stakeholders and with viable realities. Hardly the preference for most primary and mid-term participants, eagerly seizing any fantasy that supports rote assumptions and never demands uncomfortable sacrifices. Survey the brace of escapist mass culture – TV hits, best sellers or pop movies overflowing with magic, vampires, clairvoyant detectives and cartoon heroes – and you find nary an adult making hard decisions.
Mere leftwing earthlings, living in real, secular time, without decent leaders or punch lines, don’t have a prayer against anointed prayer warriors who invoke eternal time and a divine benefactor who likes things the way they are – otherwise He get them changed, you dummy. Ultimately, government isn’t about politics, nor serving unfortunates “caught in the tentacles of circumstances” (a line from LBJ’s father). Nor is America about religious freedom, separating church from state, nor women owning their bodies, nor foreigners having full rights. Eternally speaking, America answers to Christian incarnation, life against death, an Armageddon pitting good vs. evil and order vs. disorder. For the elect, Christian literalism trumps inferior faiths, and if God didn’t want global Yankee capitalism (and rampant imperialism), would He have blessed us with the almighty Pentagon and the Church of Palin, Beck and O’Donnell?
The right wins elections when its alternative reality frames enough prejudices, when its witches’ brew of anti-government mania finds the lowest common denominators of fear and hatred. For believers, life is a spiritual waiting room between birth and salvation, thus budget deficits are mirages, wars pay for themselves, and deregulation plus low taxes answer to divine math, not Washington bean counters.
Ours is not to reason why
Alas, reality, like climate change, has a recurring habit of biting everyone in the ass, realists and deniers alike. Mother Nature is the first transcendent value, preceding any Rapture. By undervaluing the ongoing holy wars, Democrats and the left are losing: 1) mass media clashes (for entrenched, structural reasons), 2) political messaging/framing mêlées (from party incompetence), 3) the small-town-church-Teabagger network battles (lacking local PR infrastructure), 4) campaign fundraising contests (corporate and individual defections), as well as 5) the enduring “battle for America’s soul.”
Indeed, the left tends to disregard the “invisibilities,” and the huge majority susceptible to the language of faith, conversant with sin, soul, spirit, and eternity. Progressives are also flubbing our best, global holy war – the chance to save the world by saving the earth – but it’s early (or late, methinks). In the meantime, the Tea Party reinforces the divide between adults who trust reason and evidence, the here and now, vs. those who elevate leaps of faith, magic thinking (cutting taxes cuts deficits, armies conquer terrorists, O’Donnell is not a witch) and the motto, “Praise the Lord but pass the ammunition.”
Eventually, demographics favor Democrats but for now, the left is getting gobsmacked by ruthless extremists who worship expediency and smashing enemies, where ideological ends justify all sorts of untruthful means. After all, if God wanted a black man as president, would He have us call it the White House? For the fringe, the status quo is blessed with “status” beyond human ken.