Friday, January 15, 2016

The Republican Party Presidential Candidate Circus

It's been interesting (kind of) to watch popularity polls for the Republican Presidential candidates. First Donald Trump the rude, crude, unavowed materialist rose into the limelight. He lied about his wealth. Then he took a bit of a dive as Ben Carson the spiritual guy rose up into the light. He lied about his story. He's fallen away now. Or fallen asleep. Who knows.

Then Marco Rubio had a few minutes in the spotlight. He doesn’t know how to manage his personal finances. He’s not so high on the charts any more. DT started climbing again.

Now Ted Cruz is rising in popularity. One story that he tells is how he proposed to his loving wife Heidi that they liquidate everything to fund his Senate campaign. He says she said yes in 60 seconds [because she believed in him so much—how romantic]. She says she said let’s be sensible about this [perhaps she didn’t believe in him quite so much]. The picture he paints of her as the adoring, totally supportive wife who will risk everything for him is a little off. Her suggestion won the day. 

And he who says he’ll rid America of the scourge of big banks actually got loans from big banks that allowed him to liquidate without risk. One of the loans—low interest—came from Goldman Sachs who Cruz publicly criticized for getting special treatment from the government. I wonder what Goldman Sachs thinks of all this.

The penury picture Cruz paints is a little off too; the couple had interest-bearing assets worth millions that earned them around $400,000 that year. Ah well, what’s another tall story from another GOP candidate. 

While the spotlight shifts about on the stage, lighting up one after another of these wannabes  the Republican party scrabbles about for a real candidate to support. Because Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio (let’s face it, the others don’t have a shot in hell) aren’t real Presidential material, they’re 3rd rate actors starring in 3rd rate soap opera dramas they’ve written for themselves that they’re all convinced are documentaries. 

The GOP doesn’t want the Trumpeter who is uncontrollable; or Ben Carson who’s in a perpetual fall asleep state and knows nothing about politics and who the hell wants another black guy in the White House; or Ted Cruz who hates government; or Marco Rubio who can’t control his finances. 
What about Jeb! Poor old Jeb! They wanted him. They gave him money. But he just can’t get a foothold anywhere. And he does rather drag around a ball and chain. He should have changed his name. Oh, but then they wouldn’t have given him money.

Humor aside, the chickens have come home to roost for the GOP. When Obama won in 2008 there were a few sane voices in the Party saying that it needed to change because its voter base (very conservative, wealthier older whites) was a dying breed and the Party needed the support of minorities and women, and the middle class in general to survive.

To go more conservative was to go in the same self-destructive direction, right? Wrong. The voice of reason did not have its day then or even in 2012.

Instead the Republican party got the Tea Party crazies with Ted Cruz at the helm. They didn’t muzzle him, they enabled him. Remember John Boehner, the man with the orange face who never went near a tanning studio no? He couldn’t stand up to the crazies. You’d see him on talk shows saying how difficult his job was, and that the House was an unruly bunch. But when they pushed to shut the government down he let them. When Obama drew his line in the sand Boehner said “we fought the good fight”.

Personally I didn’t think he looked particularly proud of himself as he said it. He looked cornered. Blackmailed. Do what we say or we’ll get rid of you. Eventually they broke him anyway. And took the Republican party so far right that it fell off the planet.

In that process though, the voters did something strange. They knew they were dissatisfied with the Republican party. They wanted something new.

They settled for GOP candidates who are so much further to the right that they don’t even seem connected to the old Republican Party. Why have voters who had the good sense to be unhappy with the Republican Party been seduced by blusterers, liars, cheats and egomaniacs? That’s pretty much the definition of snake oil salesmen, not potential Presidents.

Everybody has their theory and this is mine: Snake oil salesmen will always have some kind of audience, not because people are generally stupid but because they’re generally vulnerable and it’s hard to penetrate the con. It’s impossible to do it if you live off misinformation and you’re prey to the kinds of fears that give rise to prejudices that make you inflexible and shut down your capacity to reason—and if your world is in disarray.

The Republican party turned its back on the middle class and left the lives of the majority of Americans in disarray. That created a fertile breeding ground for snake oil salesmen.

It’s an old dynamic. When people are in need, swoop in and give them a message that relieves them of the burden of thinking too much and of taking responsibility in their own lives. And give them a hero to project onto. Christian missionaries use it, fundamentalists use it. The needy are miraculously transformed into inflexible worshippers. It’s a mistake to think that everybody understands the complexities of why our lives end up in discomfort, as individuals, communities and society as a whole. A lot of people just want a quick fix. And they want to be entertained by whoever’s offering it.

In an era where “reality” shows predominate, where special effects that pound the senses are off the charts, where everything is big and distracting, where truth is a small word and barely has a voice, and where people are truly suffering, it’s easy for snake oil salesmen to get an audience.

Now the original Republican Party, which is almost looking sane in comparison to this crop of candidates who are utterly dissociated from reality, is lost. Where can it turn? Who can it support?

We tend to ignore hairline cracks in a wall or small frustrations in a relationship. We very rarely look at them and say “If I don’t fix the crack it will widen, if I don’t address my frustrations they’ll get worse until we fall apart.” Years later our house has fallen down and we’re locked in acrimonious or not but still very painful divorce. And we look back and say “why didn’t I do something when I could?”