Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I agree that it’s not fair to pick on Republicans these days. They’ve fallen on hard times and kicking them while they’re down is … well, the kind of dirty fighting that only a Republican would resort to. And certainly I’m not going to stoop that low. No GOP-style cheap shots for me! (That was a joke, folks. Laugh it up. Thank you.)
So, with my introductory comments out of the way, let’s get right to the central question of this week’s column, which is:
The Republican Party: Circus or Freak Show?
Good question. Let’s stop that Volkswagen and see how many clowns climb out.
The GOP’s Celebrity of the Week last week was a 14-year-old whiz kid, who delivered a rousing speech and drove a convention of the conservative elite into a barking frenzy.
Now I am certain that this young man is an absolute whiz. I am certain that he could reduce me to a quivering wreck in any kind of serious political debate. But I still find it hard to believe that a 14-year-old, no matter how wizardly, is really the person you want to have fronting for the philosophical wing of your party.
After all, once you start playing fast and loose with the qualifications for a political celebrity, you’re going to wind up with a keynote address delivered by a beagle who can bark the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
And that’s hard act for anyone to follow. Especially anyone who wants to maintain any semblance of political dignity.
In any case, peering into the soul of today’s Republican Party, you have The Kid as the fresh face of the intellectual elite and for your other defining choice, down there at street level, you get Joe the Plumber.
Don’t blame me. I thought he’d disappear without a trace immediately after the election, his dreams of being named Secretary of Plumbing in a McCain administration shattered.
But the Republicans have chosen to keep him in the limelight. A couple of weeks ago, he was called in to give a pep talk to a roomful of Republican Congressional staffers. And the troops ” the party’s best and brightest ” rallied enthusiastically to hear him. (Slogan: His name’s not Joe and he’s not a plumber … but he’s a god to us!)
This is not Babe Ruth batting clean-up behind Lou Gehrig. (Note to editor: I have no idea whether Ruth ever actually did bat clean-up behind Gehrig. When you’re dealing in iconic stereotypes, facts are irrelevant. Image is everything.)
Now I admit that this could all be a stunningly subtle long-term political strategy.
The Kid is the tip of the spear (they love that phrase, those warrior elephants) in the campaign to capture the nerd ballot in 2012, when today’s 15-year-olds will be ready to vote.
(And that appeal, by the way, is what you might call a “gateway drug” to the cult of Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal ” the Southern Governor as played by a Nerd. The Kid delivers the Nerd vote to the Über Nerd and stands back to wait his turn. Devilish.)
And with the nerds safely in the GOP column, it’s time for the other half of the political pincers, Mr. Joe the Plumber. Exactly what slice of the market he delivers is an interesting question. I guess he stands up for the Proudly Ignorant. Another key demographic, if you stop to think about it.
Between the nerds and the proudly ignorant, they’ve got a pretty good base going.
So maybe it is brilliant strategery ” but I still think they qualify as the Freak Show, outside the Big Top of the full-on Political Circus at the heart of the Republican Party itself.
Because when you step up one level from the curbside raree show (note to editor: “Raree” really is a word. Trust me. I’m showing off.) of Joe and The Kid, you get to the GOP Celebrity Catwalk.
And up on the catwalk strut the likes of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
It’s fascinating to watch these people, who deeply believe they have debunked and disproved Global Climate Change ” and the Theory of Evolution, for that matter ” as they try to debunk the current recession/depression. Or “Recess-Oppression” (which you may consider hereby trademarked). (Note to editor: Take care of that, please. File some forms or whatever.)
Call it what you will, I’ve heard Mr. Hannity proclaim ” just a week or two ago ” that unemployment is down, housing prices are rising, the stock market is recovering … and this whole little recession thing is fading away on its own. See! No need for any of Obama’s Socialism!
And then there’s Princess Coulter’s obsession with beautiful women ” a group which she evidently considers herself a member of (the evidence to the contrary she sees in her mirror every morning notwithstanding).
Her constant insistence that conservative Republican women are hot, while Democratic women are “hirsuite … hippie chick pie wagons” seems risky to me. It’s a clarion trumpet for the political philosophy that brought us ecstatic cries of “Sarah is Hot!” following the Palin nomination.
And so here we are, with a party whose political philosophy can be expressed in all its deep wisdom by a 14-year-old and embodied by a make-believe plumber ” a party led by a former beauty queen who, despite her obvious lack of qualification, still keeps the stalwarts trembling in fits of ecstatic lust.
Now let’s be very clear. I deeply believe that everyone is entitled to their own political philosophy. That is one of the blessings of our democracy.
But stop for a moment and imagine you are driving through the mountains on a narrow winding road. Suddenly your passenger turns out to have a political philosophy that consists of grabbing the wheel and steering the car off a cliff.
At the very least, you have to make him sit in the back seat, where he can scream his incoherent rage but not get his hands on the wheel.
And if he’s still screaming when you get into town, you sell him to the circus and move on.
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.