A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Remember when you were a kid and your mother put something on your plate you didn’t recognize and said, “Eat it. It’s good?” And remember that sudden, life-changing understanding you had when you took the first bite and realized that the world was a hard and cruel place where a mother would betray her own child? Revelations come to us all: every now and then, our eyes open just a little wider and a liitle more light comes in. The irony is, most of the time when this happens, the world actually gets just a little darker.
I love politics. It’s the thing that separates us from the beasts. Throughout history, it has protected us from the bullies who roam this earth. It allows people like me to say what I like without looking over my shoulder for the boys with the electrodes. It delivers us from anarchy (which, by the way, has never been our natural state.) It prevents chaos in a world where next-door neighbours don’t necessarily like each other. It organizes us to achieve and accomplish things we could never do individually, and it keeps us from butchering each other with any more alacrity than we already possess. Without politics, our world would look very much like the Dark Ages – scary, brutish and nasty.
Politics is the only human activity that combines our noblest ideals with our scuzziest behaviour. It’s the real Sport of Kings. And the rules of the game are very simple: there are no rules. There never have been. Ever since the first Egyptian tough guy discovered that Pharaoh sounded a lot classier than “that mean bugger over on the Nile,” there has been only one guiding principle to political life – you’re useless unless you win. It doesn’t matter how altruistic your ideals, how noble your cause or how brilliant your solutions, without power you’re just another philosopher without a kingdom. This is why, across history, so many men (and a whole lot of women) have assembled and excused all manner of low-life “ends justify the means” schemes and sacrificed more than their honour on the altar of political power. It’s the way of the world. You don’t have to like it; but it is the nature of political power.
Unfortunately, this leads us to the current crew of Republicans who wish to become the most powerful man in the world. Their brand of “all’s fair” in primary campaigning is stooping to a new low. In fact, they actually reached rock bottom some time ago, and now they’re starting to dig. For the first time in my political awareness (and understand, I remember Richard Nixon!) I’m holding my nose. Never in the history of political conflict has so much dirt been thrown so far for so little gain. Look, men! If you’re going to sling mud, at least make sure it sticks. Not only that, but I’m not even certain these guys watch the news. It’s the economy, stupid! Yet, every time I turn around, one of them wants to bomb Iran, build a mansion on the moon or eliminate representation without taxation — meanwhile, stopping time entirely and returning the social calendar back to when Eisenhower was running the show. Is anybody serious, here? Take a look at yourselves, you guys! You’re yapping on, as if you can change the world, but everybody and his puppy knows you spent last week hiding out from Rush Limbaugh, for God’s sake! Not one of you called him out, and every one of you should have.
As of close of business yesterday, Barack Obama still had the keys to the White House, and Super Tuesday or not, the Republican Party is no closer to calling dibs on the lease. Somewhere around Ohio, I had the revelation that these three pretenders (Sorry, Ron! You never had a hope!) just don’t have the cojones for the job.
Politics is about ideas, but you can idea ‘til you’re blue in the face: eventually you have to do something about it. You have to generate some excitement. You have to gather the tribes and give them something to hope for… something to vote for. This primary season is turning into the bland leading the bland, and nobody seems capable of putting it away. Somebody’s going to win the nomination, obviously, but unless that somebody steps up and demonstrates political power, it’s not going to mean much. Barack Obama isn’t a very good president, but he’s a great politician. From what I’ve seen so far, that’s something the Republicans candidates aren’t. Right now, it doesn’t matter who wins: come November, Obama’s going to beat their brains out. It will be the worst defeat since Lyndon Johnson kicked Goldwater’s ass back to Arizona in ’64.
Last night, looking at the Super Tuesday numbers from Ohio, I suddenly realized: today, the world is a harder, crueler place.