Creationism. Intelligent Design. Faith-based this. Trust-your-gut that. There's never been a better time to espouse, profit from, and believe in utter, unadulterated crap. And the crap is rising so high, it's getting dangerous.(Also a seedling for his 2009 book Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, discussed previously.)
There is one point in the stump speech, however, that catches the cynic up short every time. It comes near to the end, when Obama talks about cynics. Obama says that cynics believe they are smarter than everyone else. The cynic thinks he's wrong. The cynic doesn't think he's wiser or more clever or more politically attuned than anyone else. It's just that he fears that, every morning, he'll discover that his country has done something to deface itself further, that something else he thought solid will tremble and quake and fall to ruin, that his fellow citizens will sell more of their birthright for some silver that they can forge into shackles. He has come to believe that the worst thing a citizen of the United States of America can believe is that his country will not do something simply because it's wrong. It would be a mistake for anyone -- but especially for a presidential candidate -- to believe that the cynic thinks himself wise or safe or liberated. In 2008, the cynic is more modest. He considers himself merely adequate to the times.The Cynic and President Obama (October 2012)
Perhaps all our best presidents are the ambiguous ones, the ones hardest to figure out, because they force us to take more of the obligations of citizenship on ourselves, and not to look for some Great Man to lead us. Too often, the president had been criticized for not being what other people made him out to be four years ago — the conservatives who fell for him were particularly lachrymose in this regard, the liberals more angry — and the cynic thought that was a dodge. He has no obligation to be what you wanted him to be, what you wished he would be. No person owes anyone else that.The Comeback Speech Romney Should be Giving
The rain fell more steadily as the cynic sat there on Mr. Madison's back porch. Another guy, thought the cynic, who did his best with what was available, who hated "faction" so much that he designed a system against its poison, but who also helped found the longest surviving political party in the history of the world, the party that had just renominated Barack Obama to be president of the United States. Of all the possible presidents in 2012, Barack Obama was the best of them. But that wasn't the point anymore. The country needed more than a president. The country always had needed more than a president.
How'd you like it? You wanted me to be authentic and you got it, both barrels, gold-plated with a lovely mahogany stock, perfect for killing varmints. Put me on a podium in front of an auditorium full of mouthbreathers I wouldn't hire to park my car and I turn into an ice sculpture. But put me in a room with sentient piles of currency, and I can relax and explain the way the world works in the only language they understand, the only language that counts. I speak Money, bitches, and if you didn't learn it when you were young, there ain't no Rosetta Stone you can use to play catch-up now. We spoke Money at home. We spoke Money at prep school. Parlez-vous franc? Sprechen sie Deutschmark? You don't speak Money, you don't speak to me, because, well:2010 State of the Union flashback: Last Night, Barack Obama Became President
I'm Mitt Romney, bitches, and I'm all you got left.
Who else is there? The Democrats are a timorous collection of trimmers and hedgers, one more bad beat away from whimpering themselves into a gelatinous goo just liquid enough to ooze under the door of some lobbying shop. They couldn't get laid in a whorehouse if they drove up in a Brink's truck. They spent a flat year trying to get one vote out of Olympia Snowe.Murderer of Opportunity, Political Coward, Candidate for Vice President of the United States
And the Republicans are simply insane. Poor old John McCain is being primaried by J.D. Hayworth, once the dumbest man in Congress, at the behest of what might be called the lunatic fringe, if it wasn't the very mainstream of the party now. The energy of the party is wholly directed from the ancient, dark heart of American conspiracy theories, where it is not directed at simply standing athwart anything this president wants to do. Republicans repeatedly have voted against measures they have previously supported. Meanwhile, angry seniors in goofy hats have got them all terrified.
Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn't believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth: our government. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he's ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare.On RNC Opening Night, Republicans Dare to Build a Lie
It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie. It was an entire evening based on demonstrable lies told in service to the overriding demonstrable lie. And there was only one real story for actual journalists to tell at the end of it.The Problem with the New American Exceptionalism
The Republicans simply don't care.
They don't care that they lie. They don't care that their lies are obvious. They don't care that their lies wouldn't fool an underpaid substitute Social Studies teacher in a public middle school, who would then probably go out one night and get yelled at by Chris Christie. ("They believe in teacher's unions. We believe in teachers," he said in his speech. Yeah, you just don't believe in paying them.) They don't care that their history is a lie and that, by spreading it, they devalue the actual history of the country, which is something that belongs to us.
The will not to believe is the shifting sand beneath the unstable entire architecture of American Exceptionalism. Because our attachment to the idea is theological, and not empirical, we can neither look at our history nor our politics honestly. Eventually, the lies pile up, one atop the other, and you get a Willard Romney, who runs an entire campaign based on self-refutation and deceit. Eventually, the elections become electronic Kabuki. Our elections must be honest, not because we make them so, but simply because they are ours. It will all work out right in the end because this is America, fk yeah, the shining city on a hill. Faith eventually undermines reality. We start believing in spirits and incantations. And then we fall, hard.The Post Office Is Not an Other. The Post Office Is Us.
There is a reason why we used to build buildings the way we built the post office in Geneva, with its mural and its marble, and its great arching windows and its Doric entablature. It wasn't because we were profligate. It was because we considered self-government, for all its faults, to be something precious that belonged to all of us, and that it should be housed in places that looked as though we valued it enough to celebrate it and protect it at the same time. They were monuments we raised to ourselves, because we deserved them.Elizabeth Warren: The Politics Blog Interview
He had been waiting since 9:30 that morning. Three hours later, he'd finally gotten through the doors and into the library, where he had shown the ladies at the desk his photo ID, and he'd been given his ballot and directed to another line leading into another room. He waited another half-hour, and he eventually wound up at another desk. The man told him to put his ballot into a machine. Reynolds did as he was told. The problem was, of course, that he hadn't actually voted. He'd followed the precise instructions of the only two election officials he'd encountered and he wound up casting a blank ballot. Brooks, who'd admitted that she'd never seen a situation quite like this one, could only offer Reynolds an opportunity to fill out an report on what had happened. "There's nothing else," she told him. "Technically, you already cast your vote."Why I'm Voting to Re-Elect President Obama
Deliberate? An understandable accident? It was probably the latter, but that didn't matter to Brian Reynolds, who was sitting despondently on a curbstone. "Three hours," he said. "Three hours, I wait here to vote. I want to vote. It's important to vote. And I do everything they tell me to do, and my vote does not count. That is not right. They should educate the people in there to do what's right."
The line went past him, all the way to the end of the parking lot. Brian Reynolds sat on his curbstone and watched the other people who were waiting to vote. His day as part of the World's Greatest Democracy was over. He had cast his vote. For nobody.
This is not "fear" talking. I watched the Republican primaries. I went to the debates. I saw long-settled assumptions about the nature of representative democracy thrown down and danced upon. I heard long-established axioms of the nature of a political commonwealth torn to shreds and thrown into the perfumed air. I saw people seriously arguing for an end to the social safety net, to any and all federal environmental regulations, to the concept of the progressive income tax, and to American participation in the United Nations, the latter on the grounds that a one-world government threatens our "liberty" with its insurance-friendly national health-care reform bill. I saw Rick Santorum base his entire foreign policy on the legend of the 12th Imam, and I saw Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann actually be front-runners for a while. I saw all of this and I knew that each one of them had a substantial constituency behind them within the party for everything they said, no matter how loopy. When you see a lunatic wandering down the sidewalk, howling at the moon and waving a machete, it is not fear that makes you step inside your house and lock the door. It is the simple logic of survival. Fear is what keeps you from trying to tackle the guy and wrestle the machete away from him. And, as much as it may pain some people to admit it, the president is the only one stepping up to do that at the moment.From last night: For Obama, the Clock's Running in His Own Head Now
There will not be many more of these. There are three more days, and then Fired Up and Ready To Go will join All The Wat With LBJ and I Like Ike as ancient prayers. If he loses, there will be a powerful movement to render him, and these rallies, as footnotes. If he wins, he will be president again, and it will be a dusty, grinding job for as long as the calendar allows him to do it. At the end, with Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" pouring out of the speakers, he turned from the podium and, just for one second, he did a little dance step. And then you could see the discipline reassert itself again. Ever since he came upon the scene, he has been a candidate who has had to rein himself in, someone who could sing Al Green, but just a line, someone who can dance, in front of an adoring crowd, but just one step, and then gone again. On the press riser, his senior staff was watching him do it, and they all smiled, and the sunset fell across their faces.More Long Reads from the campaign trail.
« Older On Kate Moss, and Taking One for the Team: "So, ea... | Camilla the rubber chicken is ... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments