I was never much for Disneyland, and my least favorite theme park in the all-American franchise was Fantasyland. But America’s next election is shaping up to be Fantasyland vs. Obamaville. In other words, do you prefer delusion or illusion?
The last election offered the American people the choice between (what turned out to be) false hope, and necrotic policies. This election offers people the choice between shapeshifting semi-competence, and shameless mirage.
Republican Fantasyland begins with the fiction that “the Federal Government is destroying our lives.” A corollary of blame-the-Federal- government-politicians (it doesn’t seem to dawn on their followers that the same goats scapegoating Washington aspire to its highest offices) is that the American people are taxed way too much.
The American people are over-taxed all right, but not primarily by their government. What really taxes the American spirit, indeed, what has made it increasingly moribund over the last 20 years, is the cultural vortex.
(The lethal Petri dish of narcissism, avarice, and backbiting that now characterizes this culture is deep mire, to which both parties, as well as every other sector of American society, have contributed.)
Will the American electorate vote into office an even more noxious rehash of the same Republican policy septicemia that put us into this sinking political/economic sickbay?
The cliché is that “no one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” Republicans are literally banking on it, and we’ll find out next year whether it’s true.
Repub Fantasyland would be a funny place, if it weren’t so dangerous. Obamaville is a much more intellectually interesting, if aggravating realm. Its underpinnings are belief in the decency and common sense of the American people, and the notion that America can ‘evolve’ into a new leadership role in the world.
What will it take to disabuse American people, and the president, of the idea that the country is still intact, not in decline, and that as the ‘sole remaining superpower’ we have an essential role in the unfolding of human history?
That last illusion, ironically, is the most difficult to let go. Ironic because Americans built this nation largely from a brassy, New World attitude that didn’t give a hoot in hell what the rest of the world thought.
Of course, the same attitude that enabled people from all over the world to build something new on this ‘virgin’ continent, ran roughshod over the people who were here in some semblance of balance with nature and each other. (In another irony of history, the first American empire-builder, “Roughrider” Teddy Roosevelt, became the political counterpart to the first environmentalist, John Muir.
But despite the latest rise of isolationism and know-nothing-ism, Americans now care a great deal about how the world views us. That’s a main impetus behind the cornerstone of Republican Fantasyland: America Is An Exceptional Nation.
Elaboration? “The United States plays a singular and necessary role in the world, providing inspiration, stability and hope.”
Thus Republicans, as a party, live in an idealized, romanticized version of what America was, which is much easier than facing and coming to terms with the country the United States has actually become.
And what is that actuality? A country in which ‘the people’ no longer exist, except as rally-round-our-soldiers, Soft Glo militarism. A country where pre-9.11 levels of political, economic, and cultural dysfunction, which were already enough to gag a rhino, seem like the halcyon days.
Internationally, the difference between the two parties in the United States has long been the difference between America’s iron fist wrapped in velvet glove (the Democrats), and the naked iron fist of the Republicans.
As Obama has demonstrated, when progressive Democrats get into power, they must act tough to disprove the perception that they’re weak on war. But when Republicans get into high office, they sometimes soften enough to have a breakthrough with China or become chums with Gorbi.
Even so, both Democrats and Republicans still believe (openly and simplistically as Republicans, or subtly and idealistically as Democrats) that America is “the indispensable nation” in the world.
In other words, though we’ve utterly lost our way as a nation, our special moral compass is still essential to order and justice in the world. In other words, though this nation is more spiritually moribund than it’s ever been in its two centuries-plus history, we are still the inspiration for the world.
However, to recover, rebuild, and contribute in a new way to the advancement of humanity, we’ll have to get beyond our bygone specialness and glory.
In the final analysis, will the country choose four more years of Obamaville, with a shapeshifting weathervane of a president, or will we go all in for Fantasyland?