Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Let Us Rid Ourselves Of These Illusions

This is what I get for reading too many comic books back in the 1980s and 1990s:

From Infinity Gauntlet Issue 5. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is building to this.
From Infinity Gauntlet #5, copied from F-ck Yeah Thanos tumblr
I just like that final paragraph: Let me be rid of all illusions.

I'd like to think I can live with that as part of my moral code, that I will not let myself get deluded by misplaced ideology or twisted perspective of the real world around me.

Thing is, I keep seeing others refusing to give up their illusions, and it gets painful to watch them founder and wallow.

Take, for example, the media elites who keep pining for some Republican Savior to rise from these Beltway streets. Per Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice:

One should never dismiss any possible development in the multi-ring circus of American politics, especially in this particular cycle. And surely every American is entitled to his or her very own political Theory of Everything, whereby the sufficient application of correct thought to the perfect handcrafted artisan unicorn candidate will CHANGE THE CONVERSATION such that everyone lives happily ever after. But the latest media proposals by the usual batch of Media Village Idiots, reliably wrong ‘pundits’, and ambitious careerists gunning for earned media don’t even rise to the dignity of a couple of tinfoil-hatted cranks taking up floor time at local meetings and wall space on public buildings (or Facebook) to promote the Independent Union of Patriotic National Americans for Responsible Freedom…

Another take is from Alexandra Petri with the Washington Post - whose snark is attention-getting, this post about the DC Metro is one of the best satire works I've seen in regular print - who notices that the Republican Party leaders are twisting themselves up into knots trying to avoid saying they'll back Trump:

...But fortunately for senators in tough, competitive seats, there is another option. You don’t have to endorse Trump. You can just support the Nominee of the Party.
These are not the same thing at all! They are quite different. The Nominee is everything Trump isn’t.
Here’s Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) talking about Trump: “I have strong disagreements with Mr. Trump.”
Here’s McCain talking about the Nominee: “The nominee of the party, the party of Ronald Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt, has my support.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) won’t endorse Trump. In February, she said, “There’s no place in our society for racism and bigotry, and I found Mr. Trump’s response to David Duke and the KKK disgusting and offensive.” But she will support the nominee...
It is good that there is this third option. The Nominee sounds wonderful.
He seems to have a strong base of support. Senators who have nothing positive to say about Trump at all speak glowingly of the mysterious Nominee.
Very little is known about him, apart from the fact that he is probably statesmanlike and definitely not embarrassing to have at the top of the ticket, and probably Reagan would have liked to have a beer with him, or something, but what more do you need to know?
You can see it - just like Petri does - between the lines: these are people - politicians, pundits, pollsters - still pining that somehow they can turn this Con Artist Trump into a "respectable" mimic of their One True Reagan, or better still find a "pure" True Conservative (tm) to stop Trump with the purity of Burkean Thought and then crush Hillary driving all Democrats before him while the women lament.

As Anne Laurie notes:

But wherever could they find such a New Hope - a candidate of sterling conservative credentials, telegenic enough for the cruel media spotlight, someone who doesn’t mind risking the considerable chance of ending up as a nation-wide punchline? Cometh the hour, cometh the man...
That's the thing, isn't it? The Republicans and their pundit allies have been looking for this One True Conservative Savior (tm). Where the hell is he?

When this whole 2016 circus started back in 2012 - I am not kidding, the second Karl Rove had a meltdown over Ohio the entire party was planning for this - the buzz among the Republicans was that "we're going to have a strong selection of candidates" for this cycle. But by 2014 the signs were there that whatever bench of talent they had, the GOP really didn't have all that deep or imposing or charismatic a roster. And look what we got.

This year's roster - a group of weak unpopular governors, weak unpopular senators, and how-the-hell-did-they-show-up set of amateurs - was weaker than 2012's, made up of weak unpopular governors and senators and congresspersons and amateurs. And THAT election cycle was weaker than 2008's, made up of weak unpopular governors and senators and congressmen and barely one popular senator in McCain who still blew it on a ramshackle platform blown apart by a collapsing economy blamed in part on Bush the Lesser's poor oversight.

There's been a downward spiral in True Conservative (tm) Heroes to rally to.

What we're getting is this ongoing fantasy, this wish fulfillment, among the Far Right pols and pundits desirous for The Return Of The Reagan Heir: the Prince That Was Promised. We're talking about a set of people pining for the days when it was 1985: when Reagan stomped the hell out of Mondale and his dirty hippie librul army of Electoral College no-shows, Bipartisanship meant Democrats paid for the bar tabs, Capitalism was ascendant, Soviets were getting blown up in Afghanistan, Wall Street was peaking, Grenada was pacified, MTV gave us endless loops of "Money For Nothing", and it was safe for decent honest hard-working folk to openly declare they were proud to be Republicans Americans.

These pundits and pols still don't get it: that was all an illusion.

Even Reagan wasn't really Reagan. For all his "heroics" of tax cuts, union-busting and deregulation, Reagan really raised taxes again when the early cuts in 1981 made things worse, didn't go after the social safety nets like Medicare and Social Security like promised, and eventually played nice with the Soviets on getting nuclear weapon bans in place.

All Reagan really had was a skill set at being charming and congenial and communicative, which created his appeal to the general population. But that didn't make a True Conservative (tm) the way his hagiographers believe to this very day.

When the modern Republican Party is pining for a Savior, they're really pining for a candidate who can be this Passive-Positive person, someone likable and pleasing to the audience. Which was why a lot of pundits kept falling in love with these photogenic types like Marco Rubio or Scott Walker. But that person doesn't exist anymore. And for one very good reason.

The Republican Party doesn't HAVE anyone anymore who is genuinely likable or congenial. The Far Right has driven everyone out who can be open-minded and receptive and appealing on a personal level. They've created an environment within their party ranks that every member HAS to support a dogmatic agenda - restrict or kill a federal government they view as "bad" - that can only be backed by Active-Negative types of dour and sour politicians. That type of agenda can only attract that type of candidate, no matter how hard they try to fake empathy.

Any hope they have of a Republican even pretending to be the same as Reagan - or Eisenhower, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Lincoln - is a fool's hope.

This is it, Republicans. This is it, Bill Kristol and Erick Erickson and David Brooks and others raging against the oncoming storm that is Trump. No more lies, no more illusions. The reason you're getting Trump as your banner-carrier is because all your efforts the last 30 years to build a new Reagan has instead built a toxic stew of racism, sexism, anti-Establishment anarchy, and failure of leadership within your own ranks.

There is no one coming to save you, Conservatives. There is not enough fairy dust to make this wish come true. You as Republicans are utterly screwed, and you made it that way. No excuses.

The best we can hope for now is that there's enough American voters fighting to save themselves at the ballot box able to drive out this toxic Party of John C. Calhoun into the gutters where Eisenhower feared it would go. Get out the vote, America, go vote this November and for the Love of God don't vote Republican, they have neither deserved nor earned our vote for decades now...


Infidel753 said...

These are not the same thing at all! They are quite different. The Nominee is everything Trump isn’t.

Yes, it's as silly as everyone pretending not to notice that Clark Kent and Superman were the same person.

The fact is, the reason they're babbling incoherently like this is that they're out on stage without a script. We can see how weak their field was this year, but they thought they had a "deep bench" of strong candidates, and then this fascist orangutan came out of nowhere and fouled everything up, and they're still wondering what the hell happened and what they're supposed to do.

The reason the Republican party no longer has the kind of candidate who could emerge as a "savior" is that the party has made itself too toxic for such a person. If Eisenhower or even Reagan were running for President today, they'd have to run as Democrats, because the Republican primary electorate would reject them for their numerous positions which are, by present-day Republican standards, heretical. Conversely, it's striking that even though they keep harping on Trump's earlier support for Democrats, he ran as a Republican. He knew he couldn't win the Democratic nomination.

A lot of them are coming to agree that they need to support a third candidate as an alternative to Trump, but they can't agree on who that should be, and they never will. There are half a dozen options who appeal to one faction or another, but no one who can unite them all.

Paul said...

That's just it, though. there's no alternative anymore, there's no sane third party conservative option (unless all the pundits decide to go Full Libertarian and back Gary Johnson). there's this illusion, this godforsaken belief that there's a strong Reagan-esque True Conservative (tm) still out there when there never WAS one. Bush the Lesser? Please. Dick Cheney? Nixon redux. McCain? Romney? Pawlenty, remember how he was going to be the go-to guy? Rubio? Walker? Walker couldn't even last to the first debate.

Here's a serious question, Infidel. Who can you picture being the standard bearer for the Republicans in 2020 (should Hillary/Bernie win this year)? Who's left? All they have are weak, broken governors wallowing in debt-driven states due to their massive tax cut obsessions, or corrupt governors who wouldn't appeal outside of the so-called Tea Party base, or Senators and Congressmen wasting our time not doing their jobs, or media charlatans hoping for another book tour.

Who's seriously left for the Republicans to offer the nation in 2020? Sandoval? Paul Ryan (he's getting threatened with primary right now)? Another attempt by Rubio (who's gonna be long out of the public eye during his pending lobbyist retirement)? If we're lucky they'll run Rush Limbaugh just because they can't find anybody else.

dinthebeast said...

I think that what Trump shows us is that the Republican party, the actual party, is incompetent. That real Republican voters don't actually support the far-right positions in the party platform, and will happily vote for a candidate who at least claims to want to address the issues they feel are impacting their lives. They (mostly) still won't vote for a Democrat, because opposing Democrats is a part of their identity, even though the actual business of being conservative (conserving norms and traditions) has long since fallen to the Democrats to carry out.
Economic demographics is squeezing down the appeal of a blatantly pro-rich guy platform, and the famous economic optimism of the working classes in America is being poisoned by right wing media demanding hate and resentment. The uglier it gets, the more people just disengage from it. I guess what I'm saying is that an appealing salesman probably won't be that successful if people don't like what he's selling.
Why none of this seems tom work at the state level, I haven't the merest of clues.
As for 2020, the same clowns will be back, they're the only ones they've got.
And once again, hear ye all Democrats: VOTE god damn it!

-Doug in Oakland

Infidel753 said...

Here's a serious question, Infidel. Who can you picture being the standard bearer for the Republicans in 2020 (should Hillary/Bernie win this year)? Who's left?

Too many unknowns at this point to predict -- including whether the Republican party will still exist at all as a coherent entity in 2020. The divisions Trump has brought out into the open may prove unhealable, especially if his defeat this year involves some perceived betrayal by other Republicans.

If the party still exists more or less as it is now, I could imagine Cruz, Rubio, maybe even Jeb and Kasich taking another shot. There would be fewer candidates since running against a sitting President is always tougher. If Trump's health holds up, he might make another run even at 74, though I imagine the party will change the rules by then to prevent a rerun of this year.

The only guy I see talked on Repub sites as a new future Presidential candidate is Pence (the Governor of Indiana), and of course he made a name for himself by passing an anti-gay law last year and then caving to the resulting economic boycott. Nothing much new there. They look upon Ben Sasse as an exciting new figure, but I don't see it. He's a leader of the anti-Trump forces and the pro-Trumps won't forgive that. If he's not basically a wingnut, he won't get anywhere in the primaries.

So I think you're right. It'll be another demolition derby with all the cars broken-down clunkers right at the start. And the Latino and non-religious percentages of the population will have had another four years to increase.

And that's if the party is able to survive this year's election.