George Will and the “Logic” That Put the GOP in A Fix

“Fix” in this case means a broken state, one that begs to be fixed.

On FOX’s Sunday chat-show hosted by Chris Wallace, George Will opined that “fear” and “incredulity” prevented the GOP higher-ups from confronting and trying to stop Donald Trump’s climb to the nomination.  Whatever!

Will then climbed aboard the old Reaganesque hobby-nag, asserting that citizens who voted for Democratic candidates consisted chiefly of people who worked for “the government,” AFSCME union-members (federal, state, county, and municipal workers), teachers, and others who belonged to “a dependent class.”  Message: “gubment” (Reagan’s folksy pronunciation) is bad, the people who work in one of its capacities are lesser than those who don’t, one should recoil from them and gubment, and people who vote GOP are, one infers, “independent.”  Second message: But enough about the sociopath Trump: what about those bad citizens who don’t prefer him?

And now Will and other GOP geezers fear or deny the rise of a fatuous, hateful lard-ass who has been catapulted over the political wall, like the cow in Mony Python and the Holy Grail, by hateful, blind “anti-government” enthusiasm. Here is your Reaganism.  Here is your Reaganism on the Trump-drug.

Note that in the world of this logic, teachers, fire-fighters, food-inspectors, soldiers, spies, garbage-workers, the police, and so on are to be sniffed at imperiously as horseman Will passes by, insensible to the city-worker who will sweep up the horse-shit.  Whereas someone who works for the defense industry or FOX News is just flat-out better.  How? Well, they just are.

In Will’s dream-sequence, most of the better people are White, of course–hence his career-long dismissal of Blacks’ problems in the U.S. as their fault and hence Trump’s nihilistic comfort with KKK sentiments.

Shall we point out the obvious? The Constitution, created by all those sagacious  White founders, many of whom went on to join the dependent class, established a (wait for it) government. —So that by the time Reagan’s con to continue to seduce White folks, especially in the Dixiecrat South, mutates into Trumpery, it is, like a terrible virus, a form of reckless, accidental anarchy, anarchy not springing from some considered ideology or wise distrust of authority, but anarchy infatuated with authoritarianism. So that mere McConnell is loosed upon the Senate, refusing to allow the hateful government (of which he is a part, oops) to do, at least, what the Constitution says: review a SCOTUS nomination.

In his pretentious prose and pose, for the better part of four decades, George Will helped to create Donald Trump’s rise, even though the Rovian Tea Party is the more recent puff of meth that riled and roiled the racist, anti-knowledge mob.  Thank you, George. Thanks so much. I do fear the consequences of a  Trump presidency, as I appear to be somewhat sentient this morning.  I do not find Trump’s rise incredible (in the old sense of the word), however.  It looks more like inevitable.

 

“The Road Not Taken” Syndrome

You are probably familiar with Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” If you are, and if you believe the poem implicitly encourages taking the figuratively less well-trod path in life, then you belong to a vast majority, and you are in error.

A main point of this post, however, is not to correct your error, per se, but to use the established meaning of the poem as a reference-point as we all continue to consider the pseudocracy–the reign of seeming, government by deception and willing self-deception, and media of misinformation.

Two excerpts will demonstrate what the poem actually “says”:

1:Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

This describes the “other” road. Note that, in effect, the roads are similar in appearance and wear.

2: I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Note that the teller is speaking from the present and that he is predicting what he will say and that what he will say has no bearing on his having taken “the other” road. How could it? For in that present moment, NOTHING has resulted from his taken the road he took. In fact, the speaker is more or less admitting that whatever the consequences, if any, will be, he will say (with a sigh) what he will say. One might say, then, that the past and past choices will be what we say they will be.

However, it truly no longer matters what the words in the poem convey because the culture at large has decided what the poem means; indeed, the culture at large may not even know that the phrase “the road less traveled” alludes to the poem. The culture at large has absorbed the alleged lesson that one should take the road less traveled, even though if everyone took that advice, the less traveled road would be the most traveled one.

Similarly, in the pseudocracy, beliefs and psuedo-facts are impervious to observation and information. Thus, no matter what the Act says or what people are experiencing, “Obamacare,” to many, will be Obamacare, not the AHCA, and it will be “a government takeover,” and it will be “more expensive,” and it will be an example of socialism.

And: the Democratic Party will be the party of “the little guy.”

And: White conservative Christians will be under siege, the ultimate victims.

The Republican Party will be the party of judicious financing and small government.

The Democratic Party will be the party that protects the environment.

And: the proper foreign policy will be to make the world afraid of us, and making the world afraid of us will be a good thing.

President Obama will have been born in Kenya, and will not be a Christian.

It will be only a co-incidence that most of the U.S. Senators are White, wealthy men.

And so on.

As Yogi Berra might have said, Nobody takes the road less traveled anymore because it’s so crowded.

We shall be talking about the pseudocracy, with a sigh, ages and ages hence.

Short Con, Long Con: More Advice for the GOP

My imaginary friends ask me, “Why are you giving advice to the GOP? You’re not of the GOP.”

Two answers: I’m so old that I remember sane GOPers–like Eisenhower! Second, I like to help people. Why, just this evening, I was behind a guy in line at the grocery store who had beer, a bag of potatoes, a whole chicken, and carrots. He didn’t have enough cash for the spuds. So I covered it. He was wearing a Green Bay Packers hat. The Packers beat my Raiders in Super Bowl II. That was not block to doing the right thing. I gave him a fist-bump, and he went on his way, with a bag of spuds, which, being of Swedish extraction, I worship.

So:

Dear GOPers,

Here is an example of a short con. A man rings your doorbell one morning, and he’s dressed sparklingly as some kind of landscape professional. He has a box of what look like sprinkler-parts. He says he’s stranded and needs 10 dollars, cash, of cab fare, and he’s willing to leave the “parts” as collateral. You’re sleepy, he looks impressive, you don’t really care, whatever. You give him the 10 bucks and take the “parts.” About 20 minutes later, your spouse informs you that you’re an idiot. The guy is running a short con. You think, okay, lesson learned, 10 bucks.

The long con keeps you coming back and coming back–chiefly with this bullshit: Hey, we got unlucky (a hurricane), the enemy is everywhere (Governor Christie!, gays, hippies, people with less than ivory skin!), Obama is still a radical Muslim spy from Mars (be afraid!).

Thus, on Fox, Dick Morris, whom I call Morris Dick, blabs about how he got certain demographics wrong. If a contractor built a house for you, and the whole main floor were out of plumb, and the contractor said, hey, my plumb-bob had a knot in it, would you believe him or her?

In the Wall Street Journal, Rove blames Hurricane Sandy on Obama’s victory. First of all, WTF happened to the WSJ? Make that a mantra, my Republican friends: WTF WTJ? Secondly, if a lot of rain and wind can disrupt several billion of dollars (10 or 20 per cent of which goes to a dough-necked huckster), then what, exactly, were you spending your money on? Ask your spouse, “Honey, was I conned?”

Not literally (emphasis: not literally), take Grover Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and so many others out, attach cement slippers, and invite them to take a dip in Lake Erie.

Seriously. YOU’RE PAYING HARD COLD CASH for this shit?

The short con is the fault of the con artist.

The long con is the fault of the conned.

One last piece of advice: Mitch McConnell is part of the long con. What has he helped you to do? What is HIS net worth? If you were in a poker game in Las Vegas, would you trust a short, “mild mannered” Kentuckian with perfect hair and oyster-shell spectacles? Of course not.

My GOPer friends, don’t allow yourself to be pimped one more time. Imagine you are out of cash, and imagine I just paid for your bag of spuds.

Unreliable Narration in Politics

As Wild Bill and I have been re-interpreting Orwell’s classic essay (“P and the EL”) from a 21st century point of view and investigating what we call “the pseudoracy,” we have, from time to time, looked at metaphors: Orwell’s infamous “dead metaphors,” the metaphors of politics, and the metaphors favored by the media.

Metaphors are, essentially, a province of imaginative writing, even though other provinces of society exploit. For no particular reason besides vividness, I think of the TV commercial Reagan’s folk produced: “the bear in the woods.” The bear = Russia. A metaphor.

Until today, however, I hadn’t fully considered another province of imaginative writing from a political angle: narration. A colleague–she teaches German, as it happens–said to me in the parking lot, “It’s not that I think Romney is a liar; it’s that I have no way of judging whether he’s a liar because there is no stable narrative.”

You will pardon, I hope, the academic phrase “no stable narrative.” Rephrase it this way: Romney never gets his story straight, and, more important, never feels compelled to do so.

In other words, on what issue has Romney NOT changed his “tune,” no matter what, and no matter when? The campaign operates as if no one is keeping track.

I hasten, once again, to add that all politicians lie. Nonetheless, the Romney campaign may be cut above–or below.

I also hasten to add that, in literary criticism, the notion of an “unreliable narrator” in literature has been around for quite sometime. Another version of it is “dramatic irony.” For example, a character on stage may think he is telling one thing when we know he’s telling us quite another. For another example, consider Poe’s narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” We the readers know he is mad and therefore “unreliable.” We “see through” his story to the “real” story.”

Romney and Poe aside, I find the question of narrative and politics fascinating. Looking back amateurishly, I think of campaigns that created a narrative and stuck to it. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Kennedy’s youthful, gee-whiz, and chic “New Frontier.” LBJ’s “Great Society.” Carter’s almost-pious turn from the Nixonian years of dishonesty. Reagan’s turn–back–to some good old days. Obama’s turn to “change.” And so on. –A “stable narrative” deployed, that is, independently of Party.

But Romney? I think the narrative has indeed shifted every week, if not every day. It’s remarkable. I don’t quite yet know what to make of it, but “it,” I think, is new. It is not a dead or cliche narrative; it is a narrative scribbled on water. It may speak to the extent to which many people would vote for anyone over Obama. It may also speak to the unbounded cynicism of the pseudocracy, in which (for example) John Kerry must defend his war-record (noe that he has one), and George W. Bush does not (his was not just absent but suspect). The tactic was the wreckage of narrative.

It–the unstable narrative– may also speak to an almost instantaneous amnesia on the part of the public.

The Rhetoric of Employees-As-Political-Beings

Wild Bill and I work at a small liberal arts college, which is, according to the tax code, a not-for-profit entity–although, given the cost of tuition, some parents may want to dispute that status.

I just received the following email from the dean here (all my colleagues did, too):

Dear faculty colleagues,

In this election year and especially as political activities heighten as we approach election day, it is important to remember the rules governing political activities on college campuses. We need to remain in compliance with applicable rules and regulations in order to preserve Puget Sound’s tax-exempt status as an educational institution.

Certain political activities are permitted and others are strictly prohibited. Essentially, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations such as the University of Puget Sound may not participate in or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office. Two helpful resources for planning are:

• Puget Sound’s long-standing Political Activity Policy, which aligns with applicable laws and regulations and can be found on the university’s web site here.
• Specific situational guidance provided by the American Council on Education (ACE), with helpful examples of permitted and prohibited activities based on judicial and IRS rulings, IRS guidance, the Federal Election Campaign Act, and Federal Election Commission regulations. These ACE guidelines can be found here; item I.B.Y7 on providing opportunities for candidates to speak is particularly worth noting.

If you have any questions, [ ] or her delegate will help sort through the details of your desired political activity on campus and help determine what is and is not possible.

Of course, being a writer and teacher of writing (and not a lawyer), I focused on the last sentence and desired to excise “what is and is not possible” and replace it with “what is and is not appropriate, according to the regulations.” That is, it’s possible for me to campaign for someone on campus. It’s not appropriate, apparently.

Of course (part deux), I thought of Governor Romney’s allegedly having urged certain corporate employers to tell their employees whom to vote for: Romney, I’m assuming.

I do understand the rationale behind treating not-for-profits differently than for-profits. I’m just not sure I agree with it. In fact, I think a plausible (if not convincing) argument could be made that campaigning on campus would be instructive to students, especially those in a political science department. And a plausible argument could be made for inviting bosses not to lean on their employees about elections. What, eight hours of work isn’t enough for you? You have to bug me about your political preferences?

Finally, I’m mildly amused by the idea of a boss telling an employee whom to vote for. I imagine an employee responding with a “sure, boss,” followed by much eye-rolling once the boss is out of sight. I also imagine voting the opposite way, just out of spite. The situation is just a bit like the question of signing loyalty-oaths back in the 1950s. A colleague once opined that the most likely person to be first in line to sign the oath would be . . . a disloyal person–a spy, for example, or just a wag.

We are all political animals, or beings, Aristotle noted. Except when we wee are working for non-profits. Or when we are working for for-profits, in which case we are, apparently, children.

Of the “Re-distribution of Wealth” and the “Welfare State”

Mr. Romney’s tactic (Romney seems unencumbered by a strategy) for extricating himself from the quicksand into which the almost hour-long tape has plunked him seems to be to say, in effect, “President Obama was ‘secretly’ taped, too, and he was caught talking about helping poor people!”

Mr. Romney is getting some help. Rush Limbaugh asserted that President Obama is not the president of all, hates people who make money, and wants to take that money and re-distribute it. Robert Samuelson suggests that Mitt Romney is missing an opportunity to emphasize the degree to which Mr. Obama supports “a welfare state.” Samuelson also suggests that about 90% of the population receives some kind of federal monetary support, not the mere 47% whom Romney insulted.

Let us slip out of this circus’s tent and examine two terms, “re-distribution of wealth” and “welfare state,” for we are about rhetorical focus while they are about noise.

Of course, “re-distribution of wealth” is meant to send Marxist electrical shocks through our flesh, nerves, and bones. I’m feeling nothing because I’m focused on the “re.” Why not just “distribution” of wealth? I feel the same way about “re-doubling” our efforts. How about if we go more slowly and just try doubling them? And if we have to quadruple them, how many efforts were we giving in the first place?

Second, does raising the income-tax rate of the wealthiest from 33% to 39% constitute a distribution of wealth? I’m trying to imagine a (former) very wealthy person chatting with a friend and saying, “Bob, I’m not rich anymore. I just paid my taxes.” It’s more likely that Bob’s friend will continue to get richer regardless of the tax-bill because of the way capital grow, the way it keeps distributing wealth to those with capital. Ladies and lads, let us dispense with the “re” and politely ignore subliminal Marxist alarms–not, I shuffle to add, for political reasons but for linguistic and rhetorical ones. Let us also remember that during the presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower (a noted Marxist), the income-tax on the wealthy was much higher than 39%. Chill out, fellow capitalists! Mr. Lenin, he dead.

Concerning “the welfare state,” I choose to define that as a state concerned with the welfare of its citizens. It is a shocking notion, I admit. The effects of this notion have almost devastated Sweden (a noted “welfare state”) because it gives glum Swedes too little about which to be gloomy. It is a clean, well lighted place. Well, not so well lighted in Winter. “Erik, more vodka, my good man–I can’t see the sun, and it’s noon.”

On a more serious knot, I mean note, has President Obama done anything to alter the essential capitalist character of the United States’ economy? Could he do so even if he wanted to? How?

Even Mr. Samuelson admits that much of the dreaded “federal assistance” comes in the form of Social Security checks and Medicare reimbursements, which follow hard upon the heels of imbursements. We who get a paycheck distribute some of that to the Social Security program, and, through a payroll tax, we distribute another part of that paycheck to Medicare. If we live long enough, we get that money back–figuratively. As far as I know, this system has not eradicated private property, eviscerated the rich, or put clamps on the alleged “free-market” system, which often seems as free as a rigged lottery.

Ours is a capitalist economy, so capitalist that, arguably, much of Congress represents corporations more faithfully than it represents constituents “back home.” The federal government, however, does in fact distribute some money collected to the following: military veterans who have earned a pension and/or who need health-care; people who have been out of work but are still looking for work; old people who paid into Social Security for 20, 30, 40, 50 years; old people who need to see a doctor and/or buy medicine. President Obama seems to support the basics of such a system. Many presidents seem to have supported it. It seems like a pretty good system to me, especially given the alternative: large numbers of people in every community who are ill but get no treatment, hungry but get no food, old but have no place to go. One upon a time, the systems were invented to address such problems in our communities. Okay?

Inside that aforementioned tent, much noise is directed at this system of distributing money to those who, apparently, need it and who paid into the system themselves. I wish more noise were directed at another distribution of money: that which goes to our military system, which costs more than all the military systems of the world combined. I think a military system is a good thing to have, but does ours need to be this big? Even if I were inclined to say “Yes” (I am not so inclined), I’d want more “debate” about the topic and less debate about how Social Security, Medicare, and checks for the unemployed are (not) draining the wealth of the wealthy. Mr. Romney wants to distribute even more money to this military system. I think this smacks of Marxism. I kid the Romster.

Rush, take your “welfare state” and “re-distribute” it where the sun doesn’t shine–and no, that’s not Sweden. Mitt, the tape runs for almost an hour, and it captures you giving the rich diners what you know they wanted to hear. Your words were distributed.

Knowbotomy: Coined and Defined

A coinage, a neologism:

Knowbotomy: A self-administered operation in which one removes rational faculties and learning so as to be susceptible to political manipulation; a willing surrender to ignorance. –Hans Ostrom (2012)

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