Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Whistling past the graveyard

As many of you know, I'm something of a recovering political scientist. In my younger years I was heavily involved in the political scene: chairing committees, volunteering for candidates, hosting a cable-TV show, attending conventions, even running for office. Fortunately, I've gotten all that out of my system.

However, having caught the political bug when I was eight years old, an interest in politics - even from the point of view of a detached observer - isn't something you shed overnight. Although I've made progress - I don't watch the debates on TV, I don't belong to any groups, and some years I don't even vote - I still keep an eye on what's going on. When I have time, that is.

It's in that spirit that I must say this year has been, from a spectator's standpoint, one of the most entertaining campaigns in years. I mean, who doesn't like to see a political party have a nervous breakdown, even if it's the party you once belonged to? And who doesn't get a charge out of seeing the other party on the verge of nominating a candidate none of them really like, because the only alternative is to vote for an aging socialist? Believe me, this isn't the kind of entertainment you can get simply by watching old TV shows.

It's also been instructive, insofar as it demonstrates just how out-of-touch with the rest of us are the elites governing this country, If you've paid a scintilla of attention to what's been going on, this won't come as news to you. It does, though, apparently come as quite a shock to the elites. Things that I've been saying, that others have been saying - for years! - come as something of a revelation to these party hacks, and not in a good way. It's the kind of revelation they turn from, much like some of the Biblical figures who cover their ears when a prophet gives them some bad news, and usually just before they're struck dead or turned into a pillar of salt. That the same thing is likely to happen to today's elites seems to be promising*, but it does beg the question: what happens next?

*Promising, in the same way that a ship full of lawyers sitting at the bottom of the ocean is considered a good start.

One of the nice things about being out of the political prognostication business is that I don't have to have an opinion on everything. If people, other than good friends, were to look to me in hopes that I could make sense of this year's campaign, I think I'd probably run screaming from the room. Since I don't have to have an opinion, however, I can simply relax in my recliner and chortle at the continuing bloodshed. That doesn't mean I don't have some opinions on the matter, though.

First of all, Marco Rubio needs to grow up. His namecalling of Donald Trump is beneath a man whom many already think is too young and too inexperienced to be President. When Jack Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he did everything in his power to convince voters that he was up to the task, that he wouldn't be learning on the job, that his youth did not signal inexperience, but rather a new and vital energy. Rubio seems content to demonstrate the kind of etiquette you see on the playground, sticking one's tongue out and saying "nyaaaah."

This isn't to suggest that Donald Trump is any better - but he is, at least in one way. When it comes to insults and namecalling, he's far better at it than Rubio, or anyone else out there. It comes off as confidence, nay arrogance, and often cringeworthy, but he doesn't sound like a petulant kid. Furthermore, he's played an important role in demonstrating to the public that the emperor, in the form of the Republican establishment, has no clothes. We may wish there was a different messenger delivering the message, but you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Someone had to expose these phonies for what they were, and Trump was apparently the only one willing to do so. Those who wish it were being done by someone else have to wonder if perhaps it's because nobody else felt that way. Or had the guts.

I'll probably be voting for Ted Cruz in the Texas primary today, because he's closest to my way of thinking, but I can't help wishing he was running a better campaign. There's no way Rubio should be beating him in some of these contests. All the same, I'm grateful for how he's made enemies within the Republican establishment. We'll just have to see what happens, but I think he has to win some Southern state outside of Texas tomorrow, or it will become much harder to take him seriously as someone who can beat Trump.

Speaking of the Republican establishment - have they been taken to the woodshed, or what? For years, I've said there was no material difference between the two parties. For example, they both want to spend your money, they only differ on where and why. But neither of them care about you. And their elitist attitude, topped off by the once invaluable but now excretory National Review, has been a shock. It's true that the politicians are out of touch, way out, but so are the pundits. If future candidates have gotten the wake-up notice that these fools aren't to be trusted, consulted with, believed, or even tolerated on the same continent, then that's been a good thing.

Which leads me to the collapse of Fox News. Yes, Fox has truly proven they aren't any better, or smarter, than CNN, MSNBC and the rest. They distort the news as much as any of them, they run with their own agenda and bend the news to make it fit, they advocate rather than report, they depend on personalities rather than serious journalists, and you can't believe a word they broadcast. For years I used to defend Fox News from the charges made by people who looked at the quality (or lack thereof) of programs on Fox broadcasting. I would point out that just because the broadcasting arm filled their time with slutty sexual innuendo and disgusting urban rap, you couldn't append that to all of Fox. The News Corporation was a completely separate entity, only sharing the Fox name. No more - with the exceptions of Lou Dobbs and Stuart Varney (and occasionally Neil Cavuto), Fox has proven that they don't know the meaning of the world quality - or of a lot of other words, either.

With all of that said, does it matter who wins in November? Well, as someone said, things could hardly get worse with Trump in office. He has said some very good things, and considering the shape of America right now, perhaps blowing the whole thing up and starting over is a good thing. It's certainly what needs to be done with our political parties, and soon - they've both shown themselves not only useless but duplicitous, utterly contemptuous of the common American, and thoroughly in tow with Big Business, for whom they will do anythng to keep them happy. Speaking as a conservative (whatever that means, nowadays), the spinelessness with which the Republicans in Congress exercise their authority reminds me of a story Churchill once told.

Referring to then-Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, Churchill proceeded to tell the story of how, as a child, his parents had refused to allow him to see a circus sideshow act called "The Spineless Wonder." He then added that, until now, he had supposed he would have to live his entire life without seeing a spineless wonder - but then he saw Ramsay MacDonald.
Nor do the Democrats offer anything in response. Bernie Sanders seems to think you can give away everything to everyone, and his supporters are too dumb to know any better. They are, however, right in one important way - they sense something rotten in their party, they get the feeling their own elites are contemptuous of them, trying to push Hillary down their throats whether they like her or not. And is there a politician alive, including Trump, as unlikable as Hillary? Has any candidate since Herbert Hoover ran for reelection during the depression invoked as little enthusiasm among her supporters as she has? More important, neither of them respect the public and their concerns any more than the Republicans do.

Immigration, political correctness, the economy - none of this really matters to them, not as long as they can live in a world outside of the one they've created. Peggy Noonan, with whom I've had many a quarrel over the years, hits it on the head with this diagnoses, and follows it up with a column that accurately indicates why the elites are so far out of touch, one which I'm surprised The Wall Street Journal would publish considering their responsibility in creating that world. Peggy had something to do with it as well, but when it comes to repentance, better late than never.

How does it all end? I don't know, other than I sense it won't be good. This country is headed for a fatal division between multiple factions, one which defies peace talks because none of the parties even speak the same language, hold the same values or believe in the same things. It is a dialogue that cannot happen, because there is no common ground left. That's bad enough when you've only got two sides, as was the case with the Civil War. When you've got four or five, as is the case today, the only question worth debating is whether or not the splits will be violent. I pray I'm not around to see it happen (although, again, it would be entertaining as a spectator - one who didn't have to live in it), but unless God decides it's time to call a halt to the whole thing, the disintegration of the American Experiment seems to be a fait accompli.  One could argue that this was destined to happen from the beginning, and that seems increasingly to be the case. And whether or not that's the case, when you get to the point, as I have, that you don't even feel like celebrating the Fourth of July because there's nothing worth celebrating - well, in that case perception becomes reality.

Noonan ends her first column with words that would once have been overly dramatic, but now seem prophetic:  "In Washington there used to be a widespread cliché: 'God protects drunks, children and the United States of America.' I’m in Washington a lot, and I’ve noticed no one says that anymore. They stopped 10 or 15 years ago. I wonder what that means."

So do I, Peggy. So do I.

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