“What must I do to win salvation?”
“Above all else, never lie to yourself.”
—The Brothers Karamazov
One shouldn’t indulge in Schadenfreude. That’s the official policy. But sometimes, one can’t help oneself. I last indulged in the Big S on America’s Election night (or rather, the morning after, given the time difference between the US and the UK), when Obama’s second term was secured, and Mitt Romney and his supporters conceded defeat. Yes, I’d not lived in America for over twenty years, but its welfare is still of interest to me. And for all of Obama’s faults, I never once believed that its welfare would be better served by Romney, a clueless dipshit with all the consistency of a Magic 8-Ball and the social conscience of the Monopoly game mascot.
But as I caught Romney’s concession speech, and saw the reactions of his supporters, my Schadenfreude wilted like a bridegroom getting a call from his mother while in flagrante. The extent of the disbelief and anguish had moved from the laughable, to the inexplicable. This wasn’t just the grousing of sore losers, it was the wailing and gnashing of teeth, horror and devastation from people:
“Now there is no hope for America, and the World.”
“I can’t stop crying. America died.”
“Start learning Chinese, Russian or Farsi, you’ll need it soon.”
“Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble… like never before.”
“I’m moving to Australia, because their president is a Christian and actually supports what he says.” (My favorite, ‘coz Australia has a prime minister, not a president, and she’s a woman, and an atheist. They also have same-sex marriages, abortion, and strict gun control. Still want to go, you Yahoo?)
And not all of these quotes are from anonymous Twitter morons or brain-dead celebrities (I’m looking at you, Ted Nugent, you addled asshat). There are also ones from politicians, correspondents, analysts – people who should know better.
Not that I’m counting Fox News among people who should know better. They know nothing. Their brains are so small that when molecules near the edge of them form ionic bonds, their brains lose half their mass. They operate with all the professionalism of goats on meth, all the independence of marionettes, and all the sincerity of a hooker with an overdue Visa bill. But then we all know that. Unfortunately, they forgot that themselves, and on Election night, they prolapsed. Utterly prolapsed.
At one point, one of their actors (I will NOT call them journalists, because I truly believe that this word can still retain some integrity, so long as we keep it away from these Murdoch Muppets) left her comfy desk and journeyed down onto the bowels of the building to find the nerds responsible for producing the exit poll forecasts. This actor simply refused to accept what she was being told; I don’t think she could have been more dumbfounded if it had been reported that a flock of griffins were feces-bombing Washington. I felt sorry for the nerds, and hope they don’t face the fate of all messengers of bad news to tyrants and idiots – but enough of Donald Trump…
Meanwhile Karl Rove, a dimwit beloved by the GOP who has carved his assprint into a chair on Fox News as a ‘specialist’, insisted against the hard face of reality that Romney still had a chance, acting like the guy refusing to vacate his restaurant table at midnight, adamant that his 8:00 date could still show up. Meanwhile all of Romney’s supporters in various convention halls throughout the country stared up at the monitors looking like they just witnessed puppies in wheelchairs being thrown into woodchippers. It was a disaster to them. A genuine disaster.
Before moving to England I lived for several years in Northern Ireland. The Loyalist faction there had spent generations in control, given carte blanche by successive British governments to run things as they saw fit. In that time, they had built up a mythology, inextricably blending politics with religion, manifesting itself in annual triumphalist parades through Republican/Catholic neighborhoods to celebrate ancient victories over their ancestors. They were God’s People, with a divine right to remain in charge.
But the latter half of the Twentieth Century brought civil rights movements, the IRA, and decades of what would be called The Troubles. The Loyalists remained intransigent – No Surrender was their motto – and while this stance was officially supported for decades, in time both the terrorists and the British found that their war could not be sustained. Secret peace talks took place, and eventually treaties were signed and accepted by all. Well, nearly all. The Loyalists felt totally betrayed, their self-generated worldview shattered. Their paranoia made them believe that their enemies were the Devil’s own, that they would soon be sold to the Irish. They talked of seceding from Britain and becoming an independent state, even of taking arms and attacking the British for their betrayal. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed, over time, and while there’s still much anger and bitterness, and many fringe elements are still locked in armed struggle, it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be.
I see echoes of this collective self-delusion among the American Republicans now. US politics isn’t about Left Verses Right. It’s about Center Left Versus Center Right, with both sides possessing enough common ground to make the machinery function through bipartisan cooperation. Or at least, it used to be that way. In another country, the Tea Party would be a fringe movement that might garner a couple of votes in local elections. But America has inexplicably embraced it like a man in drag in some bad farce. Then there is the Christian Right, who have convinced millions that America is a religious (for religious, read Christian) nation, despite many of the trappings associated with this belief (One Nation, Under God) not coming into prominence until the Cold war against the godless Commies in the 1950s, and that this means Washington and Jefferson surely would have wanted abortion illegal and Intelligent design taught in schools.
Conservatism has evolved into a faith-based self-sustaining siege mentality, one which rejects anything which might question their skewed view of reality. The phantom menace of a socialist dictatorship hangs like the Sword of Damocles over their heads, and the Republic’s very life seemingly hangs in the balance. And in such life and death situations, there must be no compromise, no mediation, no objectivity (American culture is filled with heroes who stay strong and never back down from their principles). And the enemy can’t just be an ordinary guy with a differing opinion, he must be a threat to their very way of life.
Obama is no Socialist. In fact, he’s not all that left-wing. Indeed, he has received more than a little criticism from his own side for policies such as Guantanamo and the use of drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hell, Obamacare wasn’t all that different from what the Republican Party espoused 10-15 years earlier. But that won’t serve the forces now influencing the Republicans. They have to paint Obama as a modern day Manchurian Candidate, a closet Kenyan out to topple America from within, and no one should cooperate with some dirty Socialist like him (They love that term, because it’s more acceptable to label Obama with the S-Word than the N-Word, though the veneer hiding their racism is very, very thin).
Given this, it was little surprise that the GOP focused more on obstructionist strategies in Obama’s first term than on cooperating to help the country. As Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell said famously, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for president Obama to be a one-term president.” It’s like trying to trip up the doctor performing a heart operation on your mother, in the hopes that he’ll botch the job and no longer be Chief Surgeon. And there’s no indication as yet that they won’t repeat this nonsense in Obama’s second term.
The party painted a picture of America for themselves, an America filled with old rich white Christian men, and so made policies for old rich white Christian men, and ignored everyone else as few and irrelevant, thinking that they were all probably too lazy to go out and vote anyway. And the Tea Party and the Religious Right convinced everyone around them that their views were in the majority with America.
And such is the self-contained worldview at play here, the lies they spread amongst themselves so often they believed them, that when analysis began about how Romney was defeated by an uppity colored man and his entitlement-obsessed supporters, rather than point the finger at their self-delusion, most of the blame went on Romney being too… moderate. The man who would piss on 47% of America if he could was considered too moderate. Which goes to show how far into a corner the party has painted itself, putting itself on the fringe and thinking it was still right of center. Ronald Reagan is today considered like some minor god among the Republicans, but by today’s standards he wouldn’t get anywhere near a nomination. Even Nixon might have some trouble, and he’s like Voldemort to older liberals.
They need to pull back and face reality, not just for their own sakes, or for America’s, but for the Democrats. Without a credible but cooperative opposition, established ruling parties either grow corrupt, or stagnate in constant partisan stalemates. That’s not good for anyone.
©2013 Derek O’Brian, Image via SodaHead
Derek O’Brian is an awesome hybrid American/British writer living in Manchester. You can find his rants and raves about horror films over at Anything Horror and follow his assorted bon mots and fascinating insights on Twitter. He’ll be back again soon and next time with a piece on the complicated racial politics of Quentin Tarantino’s contentious Django Unchained.