Walter Rhett

Fixing Stupid: Newt, Orange County, Voters Fears

In Ideas, Living on March 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm
Klan Rally

There’s a kind of disfunctionalism that slips off into fantasy. Andy Griffith reprised such a character role in the 1957 movie, “A Face in the Crowd,” directed by Elia Kazan. The movie pointed out the great tragedy of its character’s psychic flaw: the greater the denial and contradictions, the more the character invests in its beliefs. In other words, the greater the falsehood the more the person believes it to be true.

Does this describe Newt? It has a remarkable similarity to his willingness and ability to knit whole cloth about his personal life, his relations with women in and outside of marriage, his role as a statesman, his 1997 censure by the House while he served as Speaker, and his hours spent perfecting his television delivery in after hours speeches televised on CSPAN, with no one in the gallery, to a small viewing audience at home.

But before we delude ourselves and become victims of our own smugness, the real question is why the Republican party leadership is even willing to entertain the idea of Newt running for president. Is he seen as a viable contender? Is the party practicing a form of democracy they don’t apply to legislation – embracing and encouraging all views? Is he a stalking horse proxy? If so, for who and what?

What worries me is even the idea of Newt’s candidacy makes no sense. What am I missing? Or is Newt going to play the grumpy old battle tested, politically incorrect sergeant, leading the legions while knowing his time is done?

What I do know, is that his recent extreme statements about Obama’s raison d’etre (Kenyan anti-colonialism), shows the old, familiar pattern of denial and delusion has not died. Take into account Newt’s cold, cruel treatment and unfeeling indifference toward the women in his life in the most intimate of private relationships, his blatant disregard of House rules as its leader, his eagerness to deploy defamatory labels, his desire to link patriotism to his philandering, and these sorry acts have only increased my loathing of the public and private man. A man who wraps his shortcomings and sins in the flag does not deserve to be President.

2: Why Do I Vote My Pain?

It is the law of all wise faith systems that engaging evil only multiples it, sometimes under the veil of doing good. The irony of this dialectic is the conspiracies being described can never be defeated. Like Topsy, they just “grew.” And grow until everyone outside of the immediate community of believers is a danger and a threat and our helplessness finds its resolution in blame and persecution.

Once it was little green men who harvested fertile human eggs. Before it was civil rights protesters backed by communist cells. It was women whose vote would lead to petticoat rule. Now the harbringers who make good fees sprout conpiracies about terrorists connected to organizations with names that most Americans can’t pronounce who spend their waking moments planning America’s end. This idea is accepted without critical thinking because it feels good. Fear is comfort; assurance, prima facie proof.

Orange County, CA Anti-Muslim Protest

The most embarassing recent act was the Yourba Linda, California rally where a large crowd of numbering hundreds jeered at American Muslims attending a fundraising dinner for a women’s shelter to “Go Home” and chanted “No Sharia Law.” This in Orange County, CA. An elected official proudly proclaimed that the the meeting facility held “evil.” Her impassioned speech offered no facts or incidents, only putting forth fears.

What happened to the time that you could shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye, and discuss ideas openly? What happened to the trust among nieghbors that was a unique quality of American community life? What happened to celebrating the different yet sincere ways that people celebrate their faith?

Recently a Methodist minister and myself attended a local health fair sponsored by Charleston’s largest mosque. The Iman, who once guided a mosque near Bob Jones University, graciously spent 45 minutes meeting with us, although we arrived unscheduled and our request was impromptu. We were greeted pleasantly. But most important that was a tangible spirit of peace and service among those from the thirty nations the mosque served. We meet the prayer crier who was from Ghana. We meet others who we did not know. We came away enriched and with a comfort not based on fear. I urge others to restore community trust by building spoken bridges rather than throwing verbal bricks. Than our differences of faith will remind us of how rich is the tapestry of life.

3: Pass This and Take This!
The business and political leadership who make unique use of blame to exploit consumers and mortgage holders are now going after ordinary Americans with a vengeance that exceeds the economic gain. This willingness to be reckless to the point of putting families in the streets and the attacks on those who would stop it is a dress rehearsal for expanding their absolute seizure of power and wealth in all economic sectors. Social Security and the environment are high on the hit list.

Defeating wage earners, by gaming the family mortgage or banning the unions that protect their wages and working conditions, opens the door to consolidating power on a scale associated with countries whose leaders, ironically, are now being ousted. But in America, Republican political leaders are leveraging democracy to govern by mob and throne. (Witness the Republican amendments to the budget bill (the mob) and the bills that give governors (the throne) absolute decision and regulatory authority without oversight or legislative checks.

Why are the voters permitting this, and why do these immoral and illegal acts gain popular support?

The Canon’s sermon for Lent, webcast from Washington’s National Cathedral, offered an insight into the Republican position, especially what galvanizes its voters. The sermon pointed out how those who bring good news are often accused of bringing bad news. Because the good news depends on bad things no one wants to own.

National Cathedral Pulpit, Washington, DC
Often, we demonize Republicans, and by their actions, many of the party’s leaders richly earn their dressing down. But often, our opinions come after the fact. No Democratic strategist anticipated the governor’s actions in Wisconsin—and Ohio—or education cuts in Texas, or the attempts to ban and restrict public employee unions in the other states that have introduced their version of union-killing bills. Or the bankers stealing homes by passive duplicity. Democratic defense is often a step slow. (The canon spoke about living a step ahead.)

Republican voters do precisely the opposite: they often make up their minds before the fact. (The also canon addressed the difficulties of being locked in the past.) Stubbornly entrenched, Republican voters are motivated by concerns they see as legitimate, and central to their actions is fear. Fear of the country collapsing, fear of their rights being denied (to guns, to legitimacy, to being validated), of their pockets being squeezed, except they shift blame based on foregone conclusions rather than facts. They simply don’t trust those who don’t share their fears.

It is important not to make Republican voters into straw figures that fit a litany of negatives, but to look past the surface and see behind their bravura to their deep fears. These fears tilt truth just enough to ruin its meaning completely.

You can’t win these Republican voters over with the promise of good news or the promotion of facts. They reject every promise if it doesn’t involve blame. So when House and Senate Republican shout of extortion they are telling Republican voters just the subliminal code words they want to hear.


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