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.

The March on Washington and White Privilege

Coverage of the remembrance of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s speech (1963) is mostly segregated, ironically. Here’s what I mean: in local and national newspapers, on network and cable programs, and so forth, coverage tends to focus on Black reactions to the March and the speech. A local paper might get the reaction of Black residents who are known to be activists or who attended the March or both. A cable channel might get the reaction of a Black political figure or a Black academic. And so on.

There’s nothing wrong with such coverage; it’s necessary. But what’s missing is a White response that isn’t merely reactionary, like that of Laura Ingraham’s on Fox News, or passive: think of a White commentator sitting back and observing Black folks reminisce or opine.

That is, the coverage maintains White privilege, in this case the privilege of remembering a moment comfortably, of watching Black folks discuss the event, and of having the event framed in safe ways. The overall effect of the coverage is to suggest that things were bad, there was a March and a great speech, and things got better.

I’d like to see more White folks interviewed–Whites who found themselves galvanized by the events and got involved, or even Whites who don’t remember the 1960s fondly. I’d like to hear from Whites who recognize their own privilege and see things in the nation and in their communities that still aren’t right: race-related issues with education, law-enforcement, the judicial system, voter-suppression, and so on.

I’d also like to see a more complicated remembrance of those times–one that includes views from Malcolm X, the actions or inaction of politicians at the time, facts about the FBI’s secret wiretapping and surveillance of Dr. Kind (a timely angle, given our current problems with surveillance).

Mainly I’d like to see coverage that genuinely engages White people and that doesn’t isolate black people, coverage that isn’t routine and even cliche.

Another Triumph of Appearance Over Actuality

Yesterday morning [13 May 2012] I was listening to “Weekend Edition Sunday” on NPR when Rachel Martin* spoke with Walter Isaacson about the many patents that the late Steve Jobs had registered for artistic creations.  Mr. Isaacson published a biography of Mr. Jobs about the time Mr.Jobs died.  Mr. Isaacson summarized the matter:  “You know, he was taught in the early 1980s by a great guy named Mike Markkula that the packaging really matters. You have to impute a beauty to a product from the moment people see the box. And so he has a design patent with some other people at Apple – I think Steve’s name may be first on it – of just the way you open the box to the original iPod and how it is cradled. And you open it and it hinges like a jewel. There’s a certain theater, an emotional theater in the unpacking.”

As I listened I thought that Mr. Isaacson deftly summarized modern impression management:  Sellers manipulate impressions via packaging unrelated to content [if indeed the packaging does not substitute for content, as in political speeches].

And attend to Mr.Isaacson’s phrasing [transcript courtesy of LexisNexis Academic]:  “You have to impute a beauty to a product from the moment people see the box.  … And you open it and it hinges like a jewel. There’s a certain theater, an emotional theater in the unpacking.”  Mr. Isaacson’s ode to adornment encapsulates the age.  Emotional theater indeed!

* Rachel Martin was my student in Politics and Government at the University of Puget Sound.  She has since grown way past anything I might have taught her!



Euphemism-Alert!: “Entitlement Reform”

At the Huffington Post, I read this excerpt from an article about Tim Pawlenty’s plan to run for the presidency:

Pawlenty’s message to Tea Party voters, whose energy helped the Republican party take control of the House last fall, combined two of the movement’s favorite phrases: “We the people of the United States will take back our government,” he said in voiceover while the video showed U.S. Marines marching.

The 50-year old father of two summarized his time as governor with the claim that his administration “proved we can restore limited government in America.”

As for a platform, Pawlenty gave a vague clue to what he’ll define as his basic planks. “We know what we need to do — grow jobs, limit government spending, and tackle entitlements,” he said.

I hope you didn’t miss the irony of a voice-over concerning “we will take back our government” fused with images of the U.S. Marines marching. The U.S. Marines represent the federal government, the last time I checked. So is Pawlenty’s plan to take back the Marines from the government, or to use the Marines to give the government to Tea Party voters, or . . . ? I hope you get the bigger picture: please don’t analyze Pawlenty’s images and rhetoric. He’s got Paw-lenty of nothin’, nothin’ is Paw-lenty for him.

But let us focus on “tackling entitlements” or “entitlement reform,” the euphemism du jour of pandering GOPers.

So, when you go to a cafe and give the cashier money, guess what? You are entitled to the beverage you ordered!

When out of your paycheck is taken a Medicare tax and a Social Security tax, guess what? You are entitled to an annuity-payment and to health-care when you are old. How dare you accept the annuity payment and the health-care. Free-loader!

That well known Leftist, Harry Truman, came up with the idea of Medicare, by the way, but it took twenty years for that bit of common sense to get passed–during the Johnson administration. By all means, let’s limit government to the size it was when Truman was president.

My suggestion: reject the euphemism, “entitlement reform.” Insist upon something slightly more blunt and truthful: screwing over old people while always ignoring the revenue-side of the equation.

And “limit government”? If he’s serious, Pawlenty will limit . . . government’s massive military-budget (our military-spending is greater than that of the rest of the world’s, combined); government’s interest in whether a woman has a baby or not; government’s definition of marriage (I suspect you and another adult can handle that definition, especially since you, not Pawlenty, will be the ones getting married); and so on.

Of course, Pawlenty and the other Panderers want to “tackle” entitlements (image: Marines tackling old people) but never tackle, say, mega-corporations via anti-trust laws. Nor will they tackle corporations who pollute or mining corporations that laugh at safety-regulations.

Fire up the Orwellian crap-detector when you hear or read “entitlement reform” and “limited government,” please. Keep your hands off my coffee, please, Governor Paw. I paid for it. Limit government on behalf of whom, please? Be specific, Governor.

And how does a president’s government “grow jobs” without asserting itself? Okay, I’ll play along: by staying out of the way, the Free Market and all that. But if you’re staying out of the way, you’re not growing anything, and if you really want to stay out of the way, you’ll not run for president. I mean, if you really want to limit government, stop running for office, for God’s sake. If government is so repugnant, run away, run away!

Political Rorschach

Rorschach Poster

Rorschach Picture

I have encountered this poster in multiple hallways.  I like to look at it because it seems to me an inspired political “statement.”  It says nothing but seems to betoken much.  “Never forget” invokes the Holocaust, of course, to all who know of that usage over the last decades.  The indirect question “Why We Study This Subject” is brilliant flim-flam.  The indirect question is not answered, yet its answer seems evident.  Indeed, reasonable persons not only could but would disagree about what the subject might be or ought to be.  The subject was terrorism?  unconventional warfare?  international political economy?  guns and bombs?  the baneful effects of mixing religion and politics?  We’re pretty sure the inference is not that the subject was roses, but little more than that is clear.

Meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

What a perfectly, beautifully empty symbol!  What delightfully vapid blather!  A consummately arresting skyline makes for a cunningly eye-catching but empty symbol.  Are we at such a stage in our political decline that vacant minds are taken in by a vacuous graphic?

Kool Aid, Tea, and Levers

Wild Bill recently analyzed the cliche, “drinking the Kool [Flavor] Aid,” pointing out, among other things, that one who drinks the Kool Aid (in the Jonestown sense with which people associate the cliche) will be dead, like the metaphor,  and unable to be manipulated further.

Columnist Kathleen Parker recently (5-5-10) deployed the Kool Aid cliche in a piece lamenting the probable demise of relatively conservative Republican Bob Bennett from Utah:

“If Obamaphiles have been sipping Kool-Aid, Bennett’s primary challengers have been steeping in the bitter tea of an angry electorate. Indeed, more than two-thirds of delegates to the upcoming Utah Republican convention consider themselves to be tea party supporters.

If good-faith, conservative legislators such as Bennett fail to pass muster, who will be brave enough to legislate?

If no one, then what?”

I assume Parker equates liking Obama’s performance in office as “sipping Kool-Aid,” but it’s hard to know what she may mean, and really she’s just offering a tautology: “Obamaphiles love Obama.”  Oddly enough, I don’t encounter many Obamaphiles as I read about politics or talk with acquaintances.  Most people I know who characterize themselves as “liberal” or “Leftist” are more or less dissatisfied by Obama, even if they are horrified by the rightward lurch of a Republican Party that had already lurched that way once under Bush II.

Nonetheless, I take Parker’s main point, which is to suggest that the apparent purging of Republicans like Bennett exhibits an irrational quality:

“But Bennett committed the ultimate sin in tea party circles. He voted for the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP), aka “bank bailout,” during the George W. Bush administration. He advanced a market-driven health care reform bill as an alternative to the Democratic plan that, alas, also included an insurance mandate.

Never mind that a Republican president proposed the bailout, or that many Republicans and free marketers felt TARP was crucial to keep the economy from capsizing. For those who have forgotten, the point was to prop up the credit system to keep enough money flowing so that the ‘free market’ didn’t collapse entirely.”

In other words, the scheme called TARP was pretty much an emergency response, one that was not liberal or conservative but just necessary to prevent a Depression.  Bob Bennett sensibly voted for it.  It achieved more or less what its designers said it would, as Parker explains.  For his sensible trouble, Bennett will probably get the boot.

For Parker’s troubles and her fair, sensible question about actually governing, she receives disdain, such as this, from one John Hawkins at Right Wing News:

” […]Then there’s moderate Republican Colin Powell who endorsed Barack Obama. There’s also moderate Republican Kathleen Parker, moderate Republican Christopher Buckley, and moderate Republican David Brooks, all of whom may as well have endorsed Obama […].

So, let’s see: Do moderates make up the majority of the GOP? No. Are moderates a big help on fund raising? No. Do they defect on crucial votes to pass liberal legislation and kill conservative bills? Yes. Can they even be counted on to stay in the party? No.

But, what do we hear?   We need the Republican Party to be more moderate: Like Charlie Crist, Arlen Specter, Colin Powell, David Brooks, Meghan McCain, yada, yada, yada — failure.

Yes, moderates are welcome in the GOP. Yes, we need to run moderate candidates in certain states. Yes, the GOP needs to do what it can to convince moderate voters to pull the lever for the party.

But, the Crist defection is just the latest evidence of the obvious: The GOP needs to be a conservative party, centered around conservative principles, with conservatives in charge of all the important levers of power.”

Parker’s error, I assume, was in expressing dissatisfaction with Sarah Palin. . . . The “yada, yada, yada” [one d or two?] amuses, as it springs chiefly from Seinfeld’s show, which I guess was conservative in the sense that you’d never guess from watching it that anything more serious than “close-talkers” was happening in the world, but which was otherwise centrist, middle-class stuff–not the Right Stuff John Hawkins seeks.

The double-deployment of “lever” intrigues.  In plain sight, Hawkins suggests pandering to and patronizing moderates, more or less tricking them into pulling a lever for conservatives.  He may want to approach deception more stealthily; who knows?  At least he admits he wants a party centered “around” (he means “on,” as a circle is by definition centered on its midpoint) conservative principles, which seem to include the principle by which one manipulates, tricks, and mocks moderate GOPers.  He also wants conservatives in charge of all those important levers, levers which bring to mind the machine in Oz.

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