Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vote for Me! Why? Uh, Oh! Because I'm Delusional and Incompetent!!

With the election just days away, debate season is in full swing.  As difficult as they are to watch, they are providing us with insights we've been unable to gain previously, particularly into the mind of the Teabagger candidates and the affirmative reasons they believe they should be elected to statewide or national office.  Up until this point, they commonly provided their messaging only through friendly news outlets, social media and paid advertisements.  As such, there was no demand or requirement that they state their qualifications for office or provide any insight into their policy agenda.  They were able to make their case on the basis of vague generalities and platitudes (smaller government, low taxes, free markets, the constitution) and negative statements about their opponents and their opponents party leadership.

But now they find themselves on the dais, at the mercy of debate moderators who prefer that they answer the question that was actually asked, in some detail if possible.  Now it's true that it's very difficult, even, in some cases, impossible to make them provide an actual policy position, but you can draw some conclusions from their dogwhistle responses.  Privatization?  No, no, certainly not.  Personalization.  Not just health care repeal, but repeal and replacement with something even better.  Something unspecified, but something, for sure.

Things become clearer, however, when they start to talk about their core beliefs.  Not just clearer, but frightening.  Frightening because virtually ALL their core beliefs are demonstrably false, and belief in them is delusional and often paranoid.  Not a single Teabagger candidate believes global warming science.  Every single last one thinks it's natural, cyclical, sunspots or some other natural process.  Many state fearlessly that it is a hoax, perpetrated by thousands of scientists and researchers from every corner of the globe, for vague but nefarious purposes of world domination.  Or something.  They all believe some version of the theory that reducing tax revenue actually increases government revenue.  This process goes broadly unexplained, except that it's predicated upon incentives and economic growth.  Sure, a second grader could easily demonstrate that the math doesn't work, but they solve this problem by avoiding any discussion of the math.  They tell you they'll cut the deficit by reducing "non-defense discretionary spending", without mentioning (or even, in some cases, actually understanding) that this amounts to 15% of the Budget, a little over $500 Billion, and includes things we really don't want to cut like the FBI, NIH, Centers for Disease Control and NASA.  They'll tell you that government regulation unnecessarily impedes private enterprise, without apparent concern for consumer, employee and environmental health and welfare.

But by far the most egregious, and paradoxically the most broadly accepted at face value, is the statement that they are not politicians, not "insiders", not experienced in public policy like the elitist technocrats that have brought us to this precipitous point.  If only people would spend some time thinking about how stupid and incoherent this actually is.  The claim is, essentially, that your primary qualification for the job is that you are entirely unqualified for the job.  No doubt a key part of the general anti-intellectualism so common among American movement conservatives, this feeds into a classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" allegory, a widely believed fiction that a "regular guy" can go to Washington with nothing but good old common sense and set things right.  In no other endeavor is this a persuasive argument.  You certainly wouldn't select a doctor on this basis, or an auto mechanic, or even a landscaper.  Companies screen candidates carefully in order to determine their true qualifications for a position.  Why would we assume that professional politician is a job that requires essentially no skills?  No understanding of economics, of law, of policy?  No negotiation, conflict management or managerial skills?  No experience in project management, arcane procedure or budgetary processes?  Why on earth would we allow a candidate to claim these were the fundamental basis for his or her qualifications for office?  It's not just insane, it's absurd.

But that's what they're telling us.  They're telling us that they don't actually have a plan, but trust them.  They're telling us they believe ridiculous, incoherent and impossible things but that shouldn't disqualify them from election.  And they're telling us that the fact that they are utterly unqualified for the office they seek not only shouldn't disqualify them from being elected, but indeed is precisely the reason they SHOULD be elected.

Between Senate procedure and the Teabaggers, American politics has become something approaching farce, a laughable circus of idiots and charlatans.  I'd be lying if I told you it didn't make me fear for my future, but even so, I can't help but laugh at their antics.