Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Counting Coup with the Tea Party

I suspect things are going to get very ugly in the upcoming presidential election. Uglier than we've seen up to this point in our history, I think. There is a division, a pair of battle lines, the Maginot and Siegfried political trenches being drawn, that I've not seen before. Yes, there are always dirty politics at work, name-calling, sneak attacks, scrambling for the moral high ground, but nothing like this year.

As usual, the Republicans will start it because, well, they're Republicans and that's what they do. But the Democrats will very shortly be forced to wrestle in that mud, too. In years past, I've sort of enjoyed, in a 'wreck on the highway' sort of way, the coming political skirmish. This year, not so much, because I know how ugly it's going to get. Most of it will fall squarely on the shoulders of the Tea Partiers, but not all. For whatever reason, I've noticed the Democrats aren't as good at slinging shit as the Republicans. They just don't seem to have the stomach for it. For one thing, for as far back as I can remember, the Republicans just don't have many smart candidates. And I mean that literally. The guys they nominate are usually a bit challenged in the smarts department. The one exception may have been McCain, but once he became the front-runner, his campaign was pretty much hi-jacked by the GOP leadership and even though he, himself, was a fairly bright individual, his platform became dumb.

And then you have the Tea Party, fueled by the Christian Right. This is a whole new bottle of piss in the fray. These guys rely on the inexplicable party line of, "Yeah, so?" It's maddening. Not to mention an intellectual quicksand of sorts.

"There is evidence, incontrovertable, that the earth is NOT six thousand years old, but rather about five billion years old."

"Yeah, so?"

"Not taxing the very wealthy is not only counterproductive, it's inherently unfair and self-defeating."

"Yeah, so?"

"Destroying Social Security will destroy our very civilization."

"Yeah, so?"

"We must maintain separation of church and state. It is the very reason we exist as a Republic in the first place."

"Yeah, so?"

You see, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to have any sort of reasonable dialogue with these people. It's like trying to talk a gangbanger out of killing you, raping your wife, and torturing your children at three in the morning on the south side of Chicago...can't be done. Civility is thrown to the wind. Reason itself is dead. These folks, these Tea Party pirates, are a very dangerous lot. Not because they're introducing anything new in the world of politics but because they are incapable of logic, of reason, of intellectual give and take and most importantly of compromise on any level. For all of America's braggadocio about doing things 'our way,' the truth is our very foundation is compromise. It's how our government works. Compromise is the bedrock of who we are.

But it's even deeper than that. The Christian Right hates those who differ from their beliefs. They hate them. Do you understand how powerful that is? They hate people that don't agree with them. It's almost impossible to get one's mind around that. In this year, 2011, we're dealing with a sizable political faction that not only refuses to bring debate to the table, they want their opponents to die. Because they hate them. It's mind-boggling. The historical parallels to 1932 Germany are so clear and recognizable as to be beyond belief. One only has to do a tiny bit of research to see this. Not even a lot of research. Just a trip to your local library and about an hour of reading. And the response to this?

"Yeah, so?"

I think this election will prove to be a savage turning point in our political process. It will be akin to a chapter in the old testament, when the Luddites have to finally take a stand against 'evil giants from the mountains.' Never before, not even in the early seventies when Vietnam hovered gargantuan over everything political, will there be such malignancy in our process. One only has to look at the group of Republicans scrambling for position; Perry, Bachman, Palin. It's truly shaping up to be a playground, gradeschool fight with the third grade bully. It's a horrible thing to say, but the Democrats have to go back to school. They have to learn to play dirty. They have to accept the idea that drawing blood is not only desirable, but practical. They have to learn to kill, not just wound.

I have read about the first white men the American Indians encountered as Manifest Destiny reared its ugly face in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in this country. The Indians would meet the interlopers, the white men, on the field of battle and attack. Only instead of killing, they would 'count coup.' That is to say, they would touch the surprised white settler or cavalry soldier on the back of the neck with a stick rather than kill him. The rules of combat would then demand that the white man excuse himself from battle for they had been touched, eliminated from the field of skirmish. Human life was too valuable to waste on actual physical conflict. It made perfect sense and the Indians had been settling their disagreements for centuries this way. Only the white man, intent upon their Manifest Destiny, didn't understand this. They shot to kill. They took the debate to a level previously unimagined. They slaughtered an entire people in their ignorance and greed.

I think this is a good metaphor for what's about to take place in this upcoming election. The Democrats have to understand that the Tea Party folks and the Christian Right are not counting coup. They're shooting to kill. And the political left has to understand this before going into battle. There will be no prisoners, no mercy and no quarter. Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin and their ilk don't want to steer our nation to a new ideology, they want to destroy their desenters, eliminate debate, kill those who might engage them in civilized debate. They want to lead a political manifest destiny.

Sad as all of this is, I don't think we can avoid it. Politics will not be business as usual this time. It will be sick and ugly and stupid. And confronting stupid is far, far more dangerous than confronting a division of opinion. War, poverty, diversity, economic crisis, distrust, anger, moral outrage...these obsticles can cripple a nation, but they're as old as communication itself. But stupid? Therein lies the death of all things.

The left cannot count coup with the far right this time around. If they do, they'll be massacred. The left has to learn to fight and kill with a heretofor unimagined zealousness. They have no choice. The nation will not survive another Christian Right Chief Executive. It is that dire. We would no longer be who we were.

See you tomorrow.