Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why So Serious, Bill Kristol?

Wanna Know How I Got These Scars?
There's a sequence in The Dark Knight when Bruce Wayne is discussing the Joker with Alfred. The Joker, originally hired by the criminal powers of Gotham to kill Batman, has spun out of control and proved to be uncontrollable and a far greater menace than anyone imagined, threatening both the city and the very men who unleashed him. Alfred, speaking of the crime families, argues, "You crossed the line first, Sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand." We imagine a similar conversation is currently underway about Christine O'Donnell and the Tea Party Movement as a whole.

See, it was all fun and games when the GOP thought it had the Tea Party under it's thumb. For two years the T.P. was just a valuable nuisance to unleash on Democrats, stir up useful yet unseemly topics that the GOP didn't want pinned directly to them, and "energize the base." Well mission accomplished - the basest elements of the right are gruesomely energized. You've frothed them up better than a Starbucks barista. Don't let the lack of clown makeup fool you, they're every bit as crazy, spun up and out for blood since the GOP helped convince them that their way of life is in danger. They weren't energized by reason; they were energized by emotion. So if Bill Kristol, Karl Rove and Co. think the Tea Party can be calmed by reason now...well, good luck with that.

The challenge of wooing populist, fringe politics in any age is not allowing it to overrun you. It's a bit like building a fire in your living room: its comforting and lovely to look at when it's snapping and crackling in the fireplace, but best keep an eye on it lest a hot ember leap onto your deep pile shag carpet. Exit picturesque hearth enter bonfire in your house. But that's the danger of courting the extremes of any ideology, lend them your legitimacy, boost their ego, pander to their delusions and they may discover that they don't need you after all. They may just discover that they've outgrown and outpaced you and you need to burn, too. Did you really think that you could wink, wink and smugly cover for them when they yelled "nigger" at Rep. John Lewis, and then neatly rein them in when election season rolled around?

Truth is, populist movements aren't controlled, they're ridden - ridden the way fleas ride an elephant. You fool yourself into thinking you're in control until you try and steer, and only then you realize that the reins are just for show. Now you're on the back of a crazed, pissed off elephant that knows you're there and wants you off. Did you entirely miss the end of the French Revolution? You know the part where Robespierre et al. got a taste of their own guillotine? How are those necks anyway? So in the immortal words of Gandhi as he sensed he was losing control of his movement, “There go my people. And I must hurry to follow them. For I am their leader”!

Do These Glasses Suit Me?
Ordinarily we like to have people die in a fire around here, but it's feeling a wee redundant this morning since the GOP is surveying the charred remains of Mike Castle's candidacy, and their chances of winning a senate seat in Delaware. We think that's enough arson for one day so we'll just point out that perhaps the GOP have turned to a movement that they "don't fully understand." That a week of attacks on O'Donnell from serious, thoughtful members of the party had about as much effect as a Justin Beiber sleeper hold. And remarks from Kristol such as, "I know Sarah Palin. I respect Sarah Palin. And with all due respect- Christine O'Donnell is no Sarah Palin" reinforces not undermines the legitimacy of her candidacy. Doesn't it indicate that the Republicans have become the Tea Party's enemies too? Not as much fun now, is it? They've unleashed yet another grinning clown on American politics, and with all due respect to Bill Kristol she is Sarah Palin, it just took her much, much longer to get her college degree.

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