Saturday, November 15, 2008

What it means: Part 2

The long-suffering Democratic Party has been vindicated in many ways that go beyond the victory of one presidential candidate, and further than the recent and forthcoming gains in the Senate indicate.
The comic book artist Rob Sikoryak illustrated a great little book called “Joystick Democracy” that suggested that we had effectively two choices in America: Candidates who are pragmatic -but corrupt (the Nixon-Reagan model), or principled -but ineffective (Carter-Kerry). I hated the idea, but there was something inescapably and stingingly true about this reduction in United States politics.
It seemed that in the last two election cycles the Democrats continued to offer and promote various candidates whose experience, qualifications, intellect and force of reason was formidable… and they kept getting their asses kicked against a less qualified, less capable and functionally ineloquent Republican candidate.
The 2000 election shouldn’t have even been close, so I don’t bother saying the Republican Party stole the election anymore. It seemed that the nation repeatedly told Democrats that they preferred a monosyllabic country dullard to a worldly urbane geek. The Democrats kept doubling down on the “smart guy”, election after election just as Republicans kept proffering ever more folksy salesmen and demagogues on the national, state and local levels.

George Herbert Walker Bush, a former CIA director and ambassador, a man of no small intellect with an impeccable grasp of geopolitical complexity and world history was reduced to talking like a hick, in order to combat the “Wimp” factor as it was called in the late 1980s. The guy was a WWII pilot for Christ's sake. George Dukakis was talked into riding in a tank with oversized ear guards that made him look like a little boy standing in an adult’s shoes. It was an era of nonsense that only Bill Clinton was able to rise above...
-but only by talking to the country like he was Elvis.

This Presidential election cycle was a victory for the notion that intellect and reason are valued qualities in a candidate. It was a savage blow to the calculated Republican devolution of the politician from a learned articulator with a grasp of policy and law, down to a reality TV reject who doesn’t know the difference between a continent and a country.

The Republican Party will have to offer intelligent and mentally agile candidates if they want the people’s votes for something other than a Governor’s seat, it would now appear. When the chips are down, I don’t think Americans want their lives managed by a guy who claims he drives better when he’s drunk, or who’s simple and uncomplicated –which is code for dumb and uneducated. Let’s face it, -it was code for George W. Bush.

The smart guy won, finally.

This guy was so smart, it was considered his biggest disadvantage in a national race… after his being Black of course. As Barack Obama stepped over those old world, unspoken racist tenets that maintained that a Black man may as well quit after being Governor in America; that a Black man may as well flap his arms and trying flying to the moon before running for president... he also stepped over a secondary American prejudice.

The hatred of intellectuals and ideas has been a core value in American culture for a long, long time, but this anti-intellectualism might die in my lifetime.
The Republican Party owes the country an apology for Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and the scores of other “shucksy”, “golly gee” pretenders to the sacred trust of representative government in America.

The Democratic Party deserves our deepest thanks, for insisting that intelligence, education, sophistication and reason are the qualifications for candidacy.


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