Who could have guessed, only a short year ago, that mid-term elections would be so darn much fun? Yet here we are, five months away from elections that are usually a major snooze, enjoying all the political melodrama of a high school election for Prom King and Queen — and we’re only at the Primaries.
Some credit is due, of course, to the Tea Party’s transformative pseudo-populism that has turned garden variety conservatives into political contortionists trying to fit themselves into the Tea Party’s anti-establishment agenda — at least long enough to bag some of their votes. The Tea Party’s major contribution to electoral politicking, however, has been to legitimize the prospects of some seriously inexperienced, quasi-anarchic radical demagogues that couldn’t have won the proverbial office of dog-catcher in more rational times. But “the times, they are a-changin’…”
Just as we don’t have a clue how to fix the man-made disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, neither do we have any idea how to right our seriously listing “Ship of State,” in which our fearless leaders have decided to fire the cannons continuously over the bow, instead of bailing and plugging the leaks, to keep the ship from going down.
If one listens carefully to the campaigning of mid-term candidates (I know, I know, it can be quite disturbing) it becomes very clear that we no longer care very much what our political candidates think (or don’t think) about issues that theoretically impact life in America because, clearly, they don’t live in the same America that we do. Neither do candidates care very much about the general electorate’s thoughts on the issues because the general electorate doesn’t contribute enough to finance 21st century political campaigns — corporations and PACs do that.
The conundrum, for politicians, is that ordinary voters still provide the grease (tax dollars) they need to quiet the “squeaky wheels” that finance their political careers; so ordinary voters must still be courted. And it takes large amounts of money, and political capital, to persuade blocs of taxpayers/voters that the interests of corporate donors coincide with their own public interest.
Voting in America has become very much like playing the lottery — if you are extraordinarily lucky and beat all of the odds, it might pay off in a material way — but no one really expects to win. Meanwhile, for the losers, life goes on very much as usual, without any fortuitous assistance from the gods. Win or lose, millions of people will pony up for lottery tickets, week after week (whether they can afford it or not), because “you have to play to win.”
Politics, like lotteries, depend on a certain predictable level of participation and a great deal of hope and trust. Lotteries take your small contributions, which add up to huge amounts of money, and guarantee that someone will win big; all of those contributors who don’t “win big” can be comforted by the fact that their money has provided some amount of feel-good commonwealth, like better schools or assistance for the elderly.
Those are, I believe, some contributing factors to some of the more sophomoric campaign performances we are currently being treated to and, ultimately, the deadly voter apathy that can only make a bad situation worse; but then who cares to carve out a portion of their Tuesdays to go to the polls and choose between Dumb and Dumber?
Whether you choose to vote with a ballot or vote with your feet, it’s quite educational to take a look at the candidates and their efforts to win the “hearts and minds” of American voters…
Rand Paul, who recently won the Kentucky Republican primary for a Senate seat, gave us our first taste of a true Tea Party candidate floundering for a solid platform as spectacularly as the party that he aligns with. Paul came out of the gate, politicking like a pro running for President, à la Scott Brown; national media were only too happy to provide ample high-profile opportunities for Paul to trot out his half-baked ideological ramblings, committing political hari-kari in the process.
If the Tea Party, whose passion is for installing “newbies” in public office, had any misgivings about Rand Paul being the offspring of Congressman, ex-presidential candidate and Libertarian standard-bearer Ron Paul, Rand’s post-Primary victory-lap performance should dispel any notion that he knows what he’s doing in the political arena.
In the span of a few short days of peddling his “ideology” on national television Rand Paul has managed to be: unceremoniously excommunicated by orthodox Libertarians; publicly eviscerated by a reluctant Rachel Maddow for his stated support of business owners who have been stripped of their “right to discriminate,” by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, against clientele that they deem “undesirable”; mercilessly lampooned for his “accidents do happen” position on the Deepwater Horizon disaster along with his judgment that President Obama was treating BP in an “un-American” way by holding them accountable; excoriated for his view that the Americans with Disabilities Act is unfair to small business owners; and, last but not least, sued by the Canadian rock band Rush for copyright infringement for misappropriating one of their tunes as his during his campaign.
Someone with a little more political savvy than “The Candidate” finally pulled the plug on the Rand Paul Gaffe Machine and there was a brief quiet spell during which it is easy to imagine Paul being trained, by political handlers, to think before he speaks, because the American public is not as forgiving as loving parents or fraternity brothers who are inclined to indulge and, indeed, provide standing ovations for every pearl of pastoral wisdom that drips from the favored son’s honeyed lips.
Paul’s most recent tentative step back into the limelight is a little Op-Ed apologia that he penned for the Bowling Green Daily News that basically begs the public’s pardon for his excess of wonderfulness and pronouncing himself on an equal footing with Martin Luther King, Jr. That should dispel any rumors that Rand might be racist as well as casting himself in the role of the terribly misunderstood, but no less monumental, idealistic intellectual. Which, according to Rand Paul, is exactly what we’re lacking in American government today.
Paul’s “Ode to Himself” Op-Ed starts out like this:
“Kundera writes of a balcony scene in the winter snow of 1948 Prague. Clementis offers his fur cap to the new leader Gottwald. Later Clementis is purged by the Communists and airbrushed from all the photos. All that remains of Clementis is the fur cap on Gottwald’s head.”
Anyone who’s ever attended a pretentious, country club cocktail party knows this guy and also knows how his story ends whether he wins or loses elections. He’s right when he says that he’s not a pragmatist, but wrong when he defines himself as an idealist. He’s a narcissist — pure and simple, and professional politicians are poised to eat his lunch — if he gets a foot in the door.
A recurrent theme that is emerging out of Team Paul is that no matter what cockamamie thing comes out of the candidate’s mouth it’s tangential to the real issues which, I have to assume, he’s keeping “closer to the vest.” Jesse Benton who holds the unenviable position of serving as Paul’s campaign manager made this statement to USA Today regarding the Rush lawsuit:
“The background music Dr. Paul has played at events is a non-issue. The issues that matter in this campaign are cutting out-of-control deficits, repealing Obama Care and opposing cap and trade.”
But, wait a minute Jesse, aren’t Libertarians supposed to be all about respecting others’ property rights?
Then again, at the head of Paul’s Op-Ed piece he reminded readers that:
“I support the Civil Rights Act, but 2010 battles are about government overreach in lives.”
I vaguely remember hearing similar rhetoric, back in the day, from members of my generation who joined the SDS and who subsequently learned (the hard way) that the real world chews up and spits out ideologues for kicks.
Rachel Maddow just did a pretty comprehensive (and entertaining) rundown of those areas in which Kirk has taken some “political license” that is well worth watching.
In the meantime, here’s a summary:
Kirk is now famous for “misremembering” the fact that he did not win the U.S. Navy’s Intelligence Officer of the Year award (Instead, Kirk’s entire unit won a privately sponsored, not a Navy, merit award). Undaunted by the need to publicly retract that “mis-rembrance,” Kirk went on to “mis-remember” that it was his staff that caught the error in his official bio, when, actually it was the Department of the Navy that demanded that he correct his record.
Other notable Kirk “mis-remembrances” include having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as Operation Desert Storm. And then there was the time that Kirk came under fire while flying a plane over Iraq not to mention his stint at “commanding the war room” at the Pentagon. All Flights of Fancy…
Clearly, Kirk believes that one’s military service is an important distinction when running for office so he has spared no embellishment in distinguishing his own military record. But Kirk’s “gift of gab” doesn’t stop there. As Maddow says: “He also makes stuff up about the world at large…”
Like Kirk’s rationalization that, of course the US should be drilling off its shores for oil, because, after all, the Chinese are drilling off the coast of Cuba and sucking up all the oil that could be ours (which assertion, of course, has no basis in actual fact). And while we’re on the topic of oil, Kirk promises to do his best to persuade the US government to stop getting oil from Iran — he even gives figures of 80 million barrels a day — which should be an easy sell, since the U.S. doesn’t get oil from Iran. Finally there’s the entirely fabricated story regarding the relationship between Somali pirates and France that is so convoluted that it makes me weary to think about it, so you’ll just have to watch the Rachel Maddow clip to hear it in all of its “fabulous” detail.
So. If Rand Paul is “simply a narcissist,” Mark Kirk is simply a liar.
Of the three Republicans, no one has been behaving particularly like an establishment politician, but then again we have to keep in mind that this is Nevada. The primary campaign has essentially broken down into a catfight with a detached bystander.
According to Brian Seitchik, Danny Tarkanian’s campaign manager, “Danny’s the only one who’s talking about issues, while Sharron and Sue club each other.”
I guess that’s why Danny was not doing as well in the polls.
Sue Lowden has snagged national attention for comments at a recent town hall meeting in Nevada in which she said that patients could barter with their doctors for health care — she suggested chickens as a once acceptable remittance for medical services. Easy for Sue Lowden to say since I’m sure that health care coverage is not an issue for her now and certainly wouldn’t be if she wins the November election and lands in the US Senate.
Sharron Angle, on the other hand, is of a more generous spirit, as Sue Lowden pointed out in her now-viral ad claiming that Angle had supported a program designed to use taxpayer dollars to provide prisoners with massages and spa treatments — a program of “detoxification protocols” attributed to the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Angle, who campaigned as a morally driven Christian crusader all about cracking down on government spending (and thereby securing the blessing of outfits like Tea Party Express and the Government is not God PAC), decided it might be best to purge her website of any whiffs of Scientology, like her fundraising work with celebrity Scientologist Jenna Elfman.
Elsewhere we have similar shenanigans in what has become known as the Polygraph Primary in South Carolina where Republican Nikki Haley is seeking to replace sex-scandalized Mark Sanford as candidate for Governor. As soon as Haley appeared to “show some legs” in the contest, rumors started to swirl about Haley’s own sex life. Not one, but two, men came forward to allege that they had known the otherwise married Haley “in the biblical sense.”
Both civic-minded champions came forward armed with evidence of the veracity of their claims: one provided text messages and phone logs to make his case; the other brought along polygraph results. Not to be outdone, another of Haley’s Republican opponents, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer jumped on the polygraph bandwagon to prove he had nothing to do with any of it.
According to Alex Pereene, covering the story for Salon, one of the purported lovers is, “Larry Marchant, a local lobbyist and former strategist for Haley opponent (and dimbulb bigot) Andre Bauer, says he had a one-night stand with Haley at a ‘school choice convention’ in 2008.”
The local Fox affiliate was happy to administer a polygraph test to confirm Marchant’s story; the results — inconclusive.
Pereene goes on to note that, “Marchant, suspiciously, ‘admitted’ to the indiscretion the day he was fired from the Bauer campaign, less than a week before today’s election.”
“Haley told the local media that all these allegations happened as soon as polls showed her with a lead over her rivals.”
I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in seeing any of these Yahoos in high office. As parents, most of us wouldn’t want them teaching in our schools so why, in God’s name, would we let them run the country? Maybe it’s a lack of viable alternatives…?