Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mere Triumph

For the past week, I've indulged in a Spurlockian diet of news and blogs. And like the sad, paunchy Morgan gulping his umpteenth fillet-o-fish, I've watched my metabolism and mental health plummet as I wolf down another Hitchens column or Sullivan post. So I'm writing this to purge myself of all the angry speculation blogging my arteries. Call it Denver Detox. Or angryoplasty.

God, I wish I had a sport to follow instead. But who needs that when you've got CNN's Ballot Bowl '08 traveling to Mile High Stadium, followed by a Hail Mary pass from McCain? I suppose we should expect Chief Justice Roberts to douse the winner with Gatorade on inauguration day.


Let me begin with a funny piece of right-wing bitchery that followed Obama's acceptance speech:
We were thrilled by his speech in front of the Greek columns, which were conscientiously recycled from the concert, “Yanni, Live at the Acropolis.” We were honored by his pledge, that if elected president, he will serve at least four months before running for higher office.
Ha ha! The rest of that David Brooks column is a hilarious sample of white resentment. He tries to make many jokes but can only pound his fist against the logo. Like most angry crapitalists, he thinks the best way to attack someone is to mock the brand name they're wearing. Brooks hates pretty much everything, from Frappuchinos to Coke Zero to the Acela train to beauty, achievement, M&Ms, etc. That little sample above was the only shard of genuine wit I could find. Because let's face it: it is pretty funny to imagine Obama leaving office in 2010 to serve as Secretary General of the U.N. At the rate he's going, he could be High Prefect of Alpha Centauri before his IRA matures.

But if Obama's rise follows a scary singularity curve, then my calculations show that Sarah Palin is only a heartbeat away from becoming Lord Protector* of the Milky Way. Of course, one quick way to embiggen your constituency is to count the unborn children spawned by rape and incest. Palin's own family census has rapidly expanded between drafts of this very post!
  • Mayor of 6,000 for 6 years.
  • Governor of 600,000 for 2 years.
  • VP of 300,000,000 for 1 year -- at which point McCain will croak but not before making abortion illegal so she can be ...
  • President of 500,000,000 for one trimester -- at which point the planet will explode from one catastrophe or another.
For all the tactical questions flying around, we should add the following reverse-hypothetical and then be done with the whole mess: Would McCain have picked Sarah if Hillary were Obama's VP? Everything about the Palin choice smacks of demographic calculation, stagecraft and mere reaction to the Obama camp. McCain met Palin once six months ago. He reached out to her and began vetting only after Obama tapped Biden as his VP. If McCain wanted a young, dynamic governor who appeases the Limbaugh-Coulter set, he could have chosen Bobby Jindal -- an effective "identity politician" with experience both national and local, legislative and executive. And since Palin was only on the radar about as long as Hurricane Gustav, why not pick the guy who's been on TV saving the poor masses of New Orleans?

I know there are a lot of cynical answers to that question -- or answers that try to make McCain look cynical. But with all the resumes on McCain's desk, Palin basically shakes out as Romney without Romney's debate baggage. Unfortunately, she is also Romney without Romney's economic experience -- the other gaping hole in McCain's platform and the issue Obama rightfully owns.

The general election may be the biggest game show on television, but let's remember that the Vice Presidency is not a runner-up prize. It is not White House! The Board Game! The job has two important components and a trillion trivial ones, none of which suit Hillary's gifts or Palin's qualifications. So what's the real game here? Barack Obama lent some of his change (and Change) by selecting Joe Biden. John McCain has lent all of his experience by selecting Sarah Palin. Obama countered McCain's Experience Charge with Joe Biden, and now McCain is countering Obama's Change Charge with Sarah Palin. And back and forth and back and forth. Like two lone kings inching into the stalemate corner of a chess-board, both men have succeeded in canceling out or deadening the potency of each other's catchphrases and criticism. All that remains is the tenacity of the players. In American politics, that means the dollar and decibel count of their supporters.


Bush-Cheney revolutionized this relationship in a couple of ways. Instead being a back-up copy of Bush, Cheney was Bush's back. Rove was the brain, Cheney the spine, and dad had the keys to the house. Cheney wasn't a "force-multiplier" -- to borrow a now-popular army surplus term -- he was the only purposive force in the Bush Administration. Biden may add heft and horsepower to Obama, but there's no doubting that Obama's vision governs the whole enterprise. This odd compact worked well with Bush-Cheney because we were in a state of permanent emergency anyway. It will work for Obama-Biden because the two men complement each other's talents without inverting the chain of command.

Palin, meanwhile, cannot fulfill the first and simplest VP duty: to manage the executive branch during an emergency and become President at a moment's notice. This might not matter if McCain didn't happen to be a 72-year-old cancer survivor. Of course his age and health don't disqualify him from the most stressful public service job in the universe, but they do require some responsible backup in the VP slot.

This might matter even less if McCain and Palin were correct about the major economic, international, and social issues of the day. But because she hews to the Jesusland shock doctrine -- and because McCain still proudly apes the Bush-Rove-Cheney legacy -- a McCain-Palin ticket brings nothing new to the game except a desperate descent into identity politics where, at best, they may collect some stay PUMAs. So be it.

*Lord Protector Her anti-abortion, anti-envrionmental, anti-gay, pro-Intelligent Design platform certainly has a Cromwellian feel to it, don't you think? But hey: he was a reformer!

- - - - - - - TEAR HERE - - - - - - - - - - TEAR HERE - - - - - - - - - - TEAR HERE - - - - - - - -

If you've read this far, maybe you'll indulge me on a little craft project for the rest. Blogging makes me anxious because I feel like I'm writing on water. And yet, that's not slippery enough. I'll go back to the digestive metaphor from above by comparing blogging to toilet paper: an infinite cyber-spool of single-column commentary, made to be ripped off and disposed. The content, more often than not, has an emetic quality to it. It is scatology perfected. We go to Facebook for connection, we go to blogs to throw poop. We gorge at YouTube. We pray at Google. We forage through eBay and Amazon. If Obama seems like the oracle of our times, it's because he's mastered this medium while his opponent has yet to learn e-mail. Like Moses, he can cause whole memes to part and make passage for his people.

So here's my project.
  1. Print this post.
  2. Tear at the dotted line above.
  3. If you disagree with the preceding analysis, I invite you to burn it or wipe your ass with it. No hard feelings.
  4. If you agree with the preceeding analysis, I invite you to recycle it or better, eat it and forget about it.
Either way, the whole McCain-Palin VP-stakes armchair tactics thing should be forgotten so we can move back to the mere triumph of ideas.

You see, I'm tired of being a prisoner of my own indignation. I'm tired of last-minute Republican lightning rods. We knew that the 2004 Gay Marriage Amendment was never going to pass. We know Palin is manifestly unqualified to be McCain's VP. So why do we waste our energy and breath on them when we know that their only purpose is to stoke the cockles of fundamentalist Christians? Because McCain's own campaign chair has declared that this election is about personalities, not issues. Because they know Obama wins on both counts and it's easier to smear and pander than pave over the horrors of the last eight years. Because they're counting on us to cave to our anger, forget the past and forswear the future. Because it's worked before.

So let's not give into our own smug detachment -- Palin will guarantee that Tina Fey never goes hungry. But I say it's worth sparing a few hours of farce for a generation of goodwill and prosperity.

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it. For over two decades -- for over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most, and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the ownership society, but what it really means is that you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck; you're on your own? No health care? The market will fix it; you're on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots. You are on your own.
Well, it's time for them to own their failure.
There is a radical idea buried within that piece of classic Obama rhetoric. The Ownership Society gives its members one moral imperative: thou shalt consume. As Bush was quick to say before the ashes of 9/11 had settled: the consumption must continue, even and especially in times of crisis. Get fat, get debt, get angry. Eat, gorge, buy. Fuck, burn, kill. We can buy the troops we don't have and do retail therapy when they die.

The ownership imperative frees us of the need to create anything but zygotes and receipts. It makes the mouth the dominant erogenous zone of the body and the body politic. It makes an erection something you buy and an orgasm something you eat. It means there is no reward for a nation that works harder and harder to produce more and more. Because even though the productive force of America's working poor has increased year after year, they have lost wage value, union rights, health care, retirement, and Pell grants for college.

The Ownership Society has been given a long and scenic test drive. It's time to take this lemon back to the dealership. I won't buy it from a war hero and I won't buy it from a sharp babe with a machine gun. This jalopy simply has shitty mileage -- even after you inflate the tires.

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