Thursday, September 11, 2008

Combat Theocracy!

John McCain plucked Sarah Palin out of the ether – a woman barely up to the task of running a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere, let alone a state with a population smaller than many medium-sized American cities. She is no more “qualified” to run a declining superpower facing unprecedented problems than any of tens of millions of citizens selected at random. That ought always to have been clear to everyone. McCain’s “from the gut” choice should have been laughed out of Dayton, the moment it was announced. She should never even have gotten to Saint Paul.

It hasn’t happened that way. Instead, Sarah Palin has become a Republican “celebrity” (remember when that was a bad word in the Republican lexicon!), and the doddering war-monger McCain’s savior. This is all the more remarkable because all she’s done in the campaign so far has been to read speeches written by others -- from teleprompters (an area in which she does indeed complement McCain, since that seems beyond his capabilities). It’s always the same speech, more or less, and it’s a tissue of lies about her past – the bridge to nowhere, selling the airplane on ebay, etc., etc. It’s so egregious that even the mainstream media are on to it; in the past few days, they’ve exposed the lie behind just about everything Palin says. Then there is Trooper Gate and who knows what other little scandals she’s managed to accumulate in her brief tenure as Alaska’s governor. At first, media luminaries dismissed these “diversions”; now, it’s looking like they have legs. There have been no major gaffes so far. But why hasn’t her candidacy died from a thousand small cuts?

Perhaps it will soon -- when the campaign is no longer able to insulate Sarah Palin from the press. That could begin to happen in just a few hours, if she is indeed interviewed by Charlie Gibson on ABC. But it is looking increasingly like, whatever she says, her bubble won’t suddenly burst. She may be the reincarnation of J. Danforth Quayle or worse, but for the Republican “base” she is, more or less literally, a godsend. How is this possible?

Of course, part of the explanation is the Big Lie; something Republicans are good at. In fact, they’re so good at it that there are still people out there who think Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. The handful of genuine liberals in the so-called liberal press explain the phenomenon this way: people are too busy to pay close attention; they therefore have only a vague idea, fed by a torrent of subliminal messages, of what’s going on. This is a nice (liberal) way of saying that people are lazy or stupid or both. They sure are! Thus the fact remains: in politics, if you repeat something often enough, it’s taken as true, even if it’s clearly not. The Nazis discovered this phenomenon; the Republicans have taken it to heart.

But this is only part of the story. The real explanation is scarier. As the Clintonite turned Obamaite James Carville might say: it’s Sarah’s “faith,” stupid. It isn’t just that her Pentecostal, end time theology is creepier (more plainly psychotic) than most. It’s that she and the people who love her madly are theocrats: she and they want to put the Divinity in charge – through her leadership – so that the Land of the Free will finally become a truly Christian nation, notwithstanding that annoying Constitutional insistence on the separation of Church and State. The founding fathers be (literally) damned! They were right about guns, but they sure were wrong on religion.

I think this is worse than what we now have. No one really knows where George Bush’s head is at when it comes to the end time. No doubt, his faith is sincere. But he is not exactly a thoughtful fellow. He’s probably no more informed or even curious about theology than anything else. Moreover, despite his Buddy Ebsen accent [apologies to Buddy, an outstanding actor!] and his ‘aw shucks swagger, he’s still, under the skin, a Connecticut blueblood, the grandson of a Senator and the son of a President. [Why have Democrats never made an issue of the fact that little George is the only one in his family who talks the talk and walks the walk -- of a yokel?] With help from the (godless) Karl Rove, he became the evangelicals’ champion. But did they ever really trust him? Sarah, however, is the genuine article.

That’s why the Republican “base” loves her, notwithstanding the abuses of power, the lying, the not very abstinent daughter, and so on. It’s not the moose killing that wins their hearts and minds; it’s that she didn’t abort a baby with Downs Syndrome. It’s that, since she was a little girl, she’s attended the kinds of churches respectable Protestants look down upon and even loathe. It’s because, like many of them, she believes in her heart of hearts that the end is near.

It’s looking now like the Democrats finally will go after her and the geezer she’s working for on their claims to be “mavericks” and “reformers” and agents of “change.” Truth is on the Democrats’ side, and they have enough money in their coffers to get through to those busy, distracted people who are otherwise susceptible to the Big Lie. If they do their job well, they can turn the Republicans’ Big Lie strategy on its head. But, to close the deal, they really ought to go after the theocrats too.

Don’t expect our Democrats to do anything of the sort, however. Especially since Karl Rove mobilized the Christian Taliban to defeat John Kerry in 2004, the Democrats have been falling over each other professing faith. Before Sarah Palin exploded onto the scene, they were reportedly making inroads among the faithful. Since John McCain, to his credit, was known for holding the Christian Right in contempt, the conventional wisdom, as late as two weeks ago, was that finally the days when evangelicals could help set the world on course for a real Armageddon were over. No longer.

If only the Democrats, ever eager to put pandering over principle, had remained more true to the idea that religion and politics must not mix! Instead, they helped legitimate the views Sarah Palin champions. In this respect, as in so many others, the “solution” to the problem of “de-Bushification” -- the only one available to us, given our not very democratic institutions -- shows itself, yet again, to be part of the problem.

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