HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

October 27, 2008
Implication for the Long Run

Developments Last Week

John Turner


Life's Purpose
October 22, 2008

It seems that now there's going to be a flap over the Republican National Committee's spending $150,00 to buy clothes for Sarah Palin. And they didn't come from Wal-Mart.

Come on! Is it fair to make a fuss about this? We have to remember that Sarah Palin is a Republican, so it's only natural that she would want to live out the Republican dream. You might even say she's modeling Republicanism for the nation, teaching people what it is.

What is it that Republicans stand for? Isn't it getting rich, spending money the way you want to, for yourself, no matter how much, and not having to share it with anybody? Isn't that John McCain's most recent theme, about the evil of wanting to spread money around? Isn't wanting everybody to have enough for decent life socialism? And doesn't everyone know that using government to help people towards that goal the most terrible thing anybody ever dreamed up?

Remember the scorn heaped on Joe Biden lately for saying that it's patriotic to pay one's fair share of taxes?

We have to recall that the latest Republican apotheosis, Joe the Plumber, that font of real American wisdom, says that a person who makes millions a year shouldn't be taxed at a higher rate than the head of a family who gets $20,000. That's because the guy who rakes in millions has earned it. Some might find that a peculiar use of the verb "earn," but what do they know? They're certainly not Republicans.

Consequently, I'm surprised that Ms. Palin has been as restrained as she has. There's something un-American about her holding back. Half a million would be little enough for a genuine American hero to garb herself for speaking to the small town heart of the nation. The RNC ought to get its checkbook back into action.


Rotten Politics
October 23, 2008

As we approach election day the McCain campaign becomes ever more rancid. That's because he and his advisors recognize that the number of rational people they can attract fall into fairly restricted groups. They know they have the racists, the fascists (yes, in every country there is a certain proportion of the people who are fascist in temperament), the neo-con military imperialists, and those who believe that accumulating vast amounts of money provides the meaning of life.

Those four groups make up about thirty percent of the electorate. So, where's the other twenty-one percent to come from? There's only one answer: crazy people or their equivalent, people so ignorant they might as well be crazy. We have to face the bitter truth that there are millions who meet that standard. They probably vote in lower percentages than other groups do, but if they could be activated, they might just do it for McCain.

Obviously, such voters can't be reached by factual analysis. Only lies and, then, lies ever wilder, can get through to them. Hence, the nature of the campaign we see coming from the GOP. We have already reached depths we thought were safely in our past, charges of communism and socialism pitched to people who have no idea what those terms mean but nevertheless froth when they hear them.

It's a calculated gamble. If you read newspapers, you know that a large majority of the people who write about politics are sickened by McCain's strategy. But, the people he wants to reach don't read newspapers.

The campaign now lies between those who are nauseated and those who have been driven nuts by idiotic rhetoric. Which is the stronger motive in bringing people to the polls? I tend to think that when a politician has become nauseating, as McCain has, he's in trouble. But when you're in trouble, what can you do -- if you have the character McCain has -- except keep on tossing garbage to those with a taste for it?


GOP Future
October 24, 2008

There has been much speculation lately about whether Sarah Palin will be the leader of the Republican Party if John McCain loses in the upcoming election. But not many commentators seem aware that her leadership role will depend on what the party is going to become.

It's obvious that Sarah Palin cannot head a party which aspires to national hegemony. She doesn't have the qualities needed for that role and she can't develop them. Some say Ms. Palin can learn, but she has given no indication of that ability.

If, however, the Republican Party is descending towards a cult-like minority, then Sarah Palin might be just what they need. If the so-called Republican base, meaning religious fanatics, bigoted white nationalists, and grumpy, elderly reactionaries, becomes the whole party then it wouldn't be surprising to see them adopt Sarah Palin as their representative figure. They could then content themselves with their self-conceived purity as the only remaining real Americans and play whatever spoiler role they could unearth.

I don't know the direction the party will take. But it's pretty clear that its existence as an alliance between greedy money-market mavens and those who despise scientific evidence is over. The wonder is that it has held together as long as it has. Each side got some rewards, or, at least, thought it did. But each now sees the other for what it is, an enemy in shaping the nation to its own vision.

I do think we're in for serious political realignments. I have no crystal ball to tell us how we'll come out. But it seems unlikely that we'll have anything as dangerous as the old Republican Party was, whether or not it's headed by Sarah Palin.


Useful Byproduct
October 25, 2008

Lately, I've seen numerous expressions of regret over how nasty the McCain campaign has become as we approach the election. It's understandable that people are sickened by McCain's tactics. Still, I don't think we should be sorry to see them. They are a powerful educational force for the nation.

It's healthy for us to be forced to face the exact nature of the people who are supporting John McCain and the national Republican Party.

An image that has returned to me over and over during the past two weeks is of the man waiting in line to attend a McCain rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, who waved a toy Curious George with an Obama hat on its head. This man was immensely pleased with himself, convinced beyond any doubt that he was being clever and cute. He's the sort of person I would like to see fade out of American life. I don't want him to experience any personal misfortune, but I do want us to stop producing persons of his nature. They dirty our public existence. They keep us from turning our attention to the issues that most need to be addressed if our children are going to be able to lead meaningful lives. Let's help him simply to go away and console himself by sucking on his bigotry.

Consider Christopher Reed. He's the Republican senatorial candidate in Iowa who is running against Tom Harkin. Because Senator Harkin has been critical of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Mr. Reed says that he's "the Toyko Rose of al-Qaeda and Middle East Terrorism." In other words, Harkin is, in Reed's eyes, a traitor to America. We need to summon to our minds the kind of America that is betrayed by critical thought, the kind of America Christopher Reed and John McCain want to create. Think what it would be to live in an America controlled by men with their attitudes.

Call to your thoughts Jeff Larson. He's the head of FLS-Connect which produces McCain's robocalls. He's also the guy who bought Sarah Palin's new wardrobe. Eight years ago, he designed the robocalls that told lies about John McCain as he contended in the South Carolina primary.

Remember Randy Scheunemann. He's McCain's foreign policy advisor, who to this day continues to spew out the nonsense that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists. A while back he acted as a shill for Amed Chalabi, who had a big part in lying us into the Iraq war.

Then there's Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Ashley Todd and on and on.

The people who support a candidate tell you more accurately than anything else who that candidate is. We need to concentrate on McCain's supporters if we want to know what we would be getting in a McCain presidency. So, don't be quite so bothered that they're revealing themselves.


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