Sunday, February 5, 2012

Banana Republicans

Mitt's back. By that I mean, he's way back in front again. (Promise to savor the irony of that phrase.) Meanwhile he and Newt have officially become each other's trampolines. Last week we got to see the brown beetle, Mitt, march over the broken weeds of Newt. But Newt claims he's not going anywhere. Whatever happens he will campaign on through the next 46 states. Like the girl in the story of "The Red Shoes," Newtie is stuck in a pair of dancing slippers that won't come off. When last sighted, however, he was seen driving around Nevada strapped to the roof of Mitt's car.

So, while Mitt was serenading verses of "America the Beautiful" to retirees and seniors in Florida, Newt declared that he will have the first permanent base on the moon by the end of his second term, with launch areas capable of launching multiple spacecrafts in a day, like an airport. "Does that mean I'm a visionary? You betcha," he said. (I hate to be perverse, but last time I tuned in, conditions on the moon were not really conducive to human life--but hey, why make a mountain out of a molehill? Flying to the moon could give a boost to the economy, upgrade U.S. prestige, and take care of some pollution problems, says Newt.) By the way, he also wants U.S. presidents to stop bowing to the Saudi king. After hearing these pronouncements, and speaking with great pride and excitement, Herman Cain reappeared on the scene and endorsed Newt.

Not long after that, Mitt Romney accepted the endorsement of Donald Trump, the man who made “You’re fired!” his television catch-phrase. But this week, when Mitt said he wasn't concerned about the very poor in this country, "he jumped in the pickle barrel and went over the waterfall," Charles M. Blow wrote in the New York Times. While "we celebrate this victory [in Florida]," Mitt said, "we must not forget what this election is really about: defeating Barack Obama." So beyond their giddy world of patriarchal privilege and power--beyond the fantasies of building colonies on the moon and "repairing" safety nets for the poor--these guys actually seem to have a plan. Dismissing complaints about his income and privilege as "the politics of envy," Romney has promised "to stuff capitalism down President Obama's throat." Welcome to the world of Banana Republicans, where even dogs have learned not to come too close, and Republicans themselves are not all that happy with their choices. Maybe some of them realize, deep down, though they would never admit it, that (to quote the words of an anonymous reader in the New York Times) "none of them are fit to shine Obama's shoes." You have to love the reverse racism of that!

I wish I could claim authorship of the phrase "Banana Republicans," but I stumbled across it by chance on the Internet--only to discover that it is actually the title and subject of a book written by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber and published in 2004. "Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America into a One-Party State" is about how the GOP maintains its hold on power--by systematic manipulation and gerrymandering of the electoral system and of the courts, through lobbyists and its right-wing media machine, and by relentless demagoguery and smearing. Let's not omit the most current version of all that: the endless, in-your-face LIES. Republicans don't want discourse; they want dominance. They want, according to David Horowitz, a political strategist for the right, "to wipe them [Democrats] off the face of the planet."

It's not just the candidates celebrating meanness and inhumanity as they crisscross the country that is so disheartening and downright chilling. It's also the crowds at these GOP events, who revel in extremism, cheering wildly on cue for the death penalty, the right to torture, the return of child labor, or for letting those without health insurance just die. These audiences salivate with unhinged excitement any time a disrespectful remark is hurled at our "Kenyan-born, terrorist-sympathizing, socialist president," to the point where even Fidel Castro was heard to say, all the way from Cuba, commenting on the U.S. GOP primaries: "The greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been."

The only bulwark I can offer in this depressing election year are some spiritually enlightened words uttered by the Dalai Lama, a man from whom the self-aggrandizing religious fanatics on the right could learn a thing or two: "My religion is kindness."

Kindness! Could it really be that simple? "Sure," says Virgil, but sometimes, you just gotta let Rome burn."

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