Watching the media hysteria in the days after the November 3rd election, I wonder if enough of us have visited carnival sideshows and heard the barkers there. That is the closest experience I know to listening to the bray of pundits and partisans, frantically sounding out their opinions about the outcomes here, there and everywhere.
The purpose of the barker, just in case you don’t know it, is that of advertising agent, to convince you of the product’s desirability so you will come into the tent. The big tent, no – their individual, tiny tent. Bearded ladies, fattest man in the world, genuine aliens in a jar, the car that Jayne Mansfield was riding in when she was decapitated, Balloon man – you aren’t going to be cool if you haven’t seen this 2010th wonder of the world.
The skills needed to sell the Republican party – that party that is still insisting its ideology will cure the ills that it has created – will rival those of the best barker. They are on display now. Listening to winger Chairman Michael Steele at his presser Wednesday express concern that the Democrats, with 60 members of the Senate, couldn’t pass a health care reform bill did bring to mind the backroom scene that had to have preceded it. That back room had to have filled with intaken breath where, gasping with astonished laughter, the assembled 2010 campaign planning committee barked with wonder at the calm grasp of spectacle their Chairman gave to this piece of phantasmagoria. I wonder what question prompted the Chair could plan to actually pass blame for his party’s obstruction tactics on to the Democrats.
The sense of responsibility that right wingers have shown in the administration of the country is epitomized to me by the Katrina tragedy, an immense disaster that a quarterhorse dilettante was given to solve as a reward for party loyalty. With an ability for administration that seemed to amount to picking out an appropriate shirt to wear for the cameras, a showman had in his flapping hands the city of New Orleans, with its hundreds of thousands of desperate people.
The concept of shilling as substitute for policy has been a recent one. I see it on the floor of the House and Senate now, where a debate on credit card regulations is turning ghastly. The Chairman of the Committee, Barney Frank, with deep logic, calls for an end to suffering on the part of constituents. Pitting this against Rep. Hensarling – who repeatedly expresses the surety that by passing consumer protections, Congress will prevent credit availability to his constituents for paying for the “trillion dollar government takeover of health care bill” – is an exercise in absurdity.
Yes, we all know that the government administers excellent health care plans for Hensarling as a member of Congress, and me under Medicare. The swill about government takeover has been thrown about since FDR, and has been disproven time after time. A carnival barker uses emotional language, not logic, though, to bring in the gullible passing by with a huge cup of whatever the mark was sold at the drink tents before reaching the freak show.
Sorry, but I remember when both parties approached running the government with an attitude of responsibility. The worst administration ever (Bush’s) was the first time I saw the spirit of product sales take over from commitment to a country. When the product they were selling was so devalued that its own qualities had to be ignored, the right wing turned into the freak show that we are seeing now.
Two unjustifiable wars that involved a descent into torture and bombardment of innocent civilians; a military strained with tasks never intended to be endured repeatedly by the same personnel to the point that suicides are at record numbers; deregulation that displayed its own inherent self-destructive results over eight years; administration by party faithful whose enthusiasm for ideology was their entire resume; substituting the pretense of ‘reverence for life’ for real measures that could save those tens of thousands of lives lost because of unattainable health care; educational meltdown leaving this country far down in our students’ ratings compared to industrial nations; tax incentives to executives to strip jobs and manufacturing facilities away from the real economy and to grab the short term gain; turning the prospering consumer economy into a wage and job starved depression: That’s the right wing product challenge. There’s a challenge that takes some real diversionary tactics. Selling it has turned the leadership of the party from one of solemn responsibility into the desperate barking we are hearing now.
What is required to sell the right wing product is dissociation from pride, dedication to overlook criteria about actual value, and the personal need to make it in a bewilderingly complex world where you are responsible for untold distress but have to pretend that repeating your mistakes will solve the immense damage you have done. The wonder is that even the most craven hypocrite can want to pass this crew off as capable of governing anything.
For myself, I wish them no luck at all.