Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fear itself

In a little more than three weeks this long, miserable presidential campaign must end, for better or worse. Measured only in jet fuel pumped and burned, it has been a terrible burden on the planet -- surely there is a better way to do this in 2008 -- and I would not want to meet anyone who is actually enjoying it. Are we better for knowing the extent of the racism that still pollutes this country? Are we really surprised at how easily a lynch mob can be gathered? ("Off with his head"? Where are we, Wonderland?) But there is one bright spot: the Culture Wars appear to be over.

The Republicans have not noticed, of course, and still cling to the "values" agenda of God, guns and gays that worked for so long. The trouble is, voters have had their attention turned to food, fuel and foreclosure, now joined by the fourth "F" of the Apocalypse, financial ruin. It's not just Wall Street -- it's never just Wall Street. Millions are watching their IRAs, their 401(k)s, their portfolios and savings shrivel, their unemployment benefits run out, their homes lose value, their health insurance evaporate, and their retirement dreams recede in the distance. The middle class now faces the same impossible choices the poor have always known. For eight long years they waited for the rich folks' tax cuts to trickle down, but the ground is hard and dry. Fear, real fear, has trumped hate.

God? God has never been under serious threat. His name adorns every courthouse wall and Jefferson nickel (Jefferson would vomit); you can't open a new Bass Pro without an invocation. Guns are pretty safe, too; nobody is trying to repeal the Second Amendment. (One of the many Supreme Court decisions Sarah Palin never heard of is the recent District of Columbia v. Heller, upholding the right of individuals to own handguns without belonging to militias or police. Doesn't she even read her NRA magazine?) In fact, over the past 35 years every attempt to amend the Constitution has come from the far right, who want it to outlaw abortion, sacralize the flag and "defend" the institution of marriage. Speaking of which, last week the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the state's same-sex marriage law, and nobody noticed. Where were Fred Phelps and his clown posse? Dodging the sheriff in Topeka, I wouldn't be surprised. When the basket is passed at the Westboro Baptist Church, I'll bet it comes back light.

The old phantom fears no longer seem to "energize" even the most base. "Our message...isn't connecting," laments Saul Anuzis, the Republican chairman abandoned by the McCain campaign in Michigan. What message? There's a different one every day. "I have character, I was a POW, I love America" is not a lifeline for the desperate but a statement of entitlement. Even the conservatives are drifting away. National Review columnist Christopher Buckley has endorsed Barack Obama. George F. Will, who wants us to know he reads, has compared the GOP ticket to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, a mad old man and a cunning but ignorant peasant. David Brooks feels personally let down, though he hasn't crossed the page yet. Of course, Brooks still has a job.

Beyond "the base," nobody seems to care what Bill Ayers was doing when Barack Obama was in elementary school; the Weather Underground now seems as quaint as the Anti-Saloon League. Beyond "the base," Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee are now equally irrelevant. Retailers hoping to survive until Christmas don't want to know if The Audacity of Hope was ghostwritten, or for that matter, how many houses the McCains have accumulated. Most people couldn't tell you what ACORN stands for. There are bigger monsters under the bed than Osama bin Laden or the Iranian nuclear program. People who never imagined they could vote for a black man are concluding that they have no choice. I think they will. I believe we will be surprised.



Blogger Quacko said...


4:39 AM  

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