Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Laughing While Crying--Yet Again 

It is by the fortune of God that in this country we have three benefits: freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and the wisdom never to use either--Mark Twain 
A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in--H. L. Mencken

The main message from the current presidential circus is that our politics remain as inane as they were back in the days of the above quoted gents. Twain’s time was the Gilded Age and Mencken’s was the Roaring Twenties.  Both eras were characterized by the cruel concentration and shameless flaunting of wealth, with the swells inside their rococo palaces eating peacock off gold dishes and urchins outside in the alley picking through the garbage for table scraps.
    The rich owned just about everything, including the politicians. So what's new? In such periods, business takes over directly and the role and status of politicians diminish as they are seen correctly as little more than go-fers for the go-tos. Today that same drop in rank applies even to richies like Romney when they dive into retail politics. Their peers see them as posturing.  When you are already a master of the universe, what beside the pomp would make you stoop to the mere presidency of a country?
    On top of that, legislators hardly write legislation anymore. Laws are now more commonly drafted, down to the jots and tittles, by corporate lobbyists.  The pols are reduced to chaperoning them through Congress and to the president's desk. So what’s left for politician to do?  They have become our court jesters, making the most of the old line that politics is show business for ugly people.
    Regardless of who wins this November, it’s obvious that the Reps put on a better show for the money. That’s because they have better material. The Reps are a fount of spectacularly appalling ideas and atrocious initiatives.  You never know what horror they’ll come up with next.  With them it’s like rubber-necking at car wrecks. The poor Dems, by contrast, haven’t had any ideas, good or bad, in decades. I recently plowed my way through the official Democratic Party platform to see how it compares with the programme of the Front National, France’s fascist party (see Karman Turn for Apr 17). Written in a mixture of  bureaucratese, newspeak and hortatory cliches, the Dem declamation makes a soporific superior to the Philadelphia White Pages.
    The Dem campaign will get a tad livelier in the months to come. Obama's rhetorical skills will help pump things up, though not as much as back in 2008. Pathetically, he will be delivering the Dems' weakest and most hesistant ripostes to the Reps. After all, today's Dems don't want voters to think they’re extremists like FDR and Truman. Mencken and Twain are no doubt grinning in their graves. 

Bonus or Malus? 
 As you may know, I write a monthly satire column for the print edition of In These Times.  My editors at this excellent general news publication have allowed me to share it with my blog readers.  I begin with my April 2012 column.

                                 click on image to enlarge