Republican Reality TV







As you know, I believe we are experiencing a national mental breakdown–a Crack-up. Last night’s night’s Iowa Caucus only reinforced the idea that our politics is getting separated from reality. Tom Friedman pointed out this morning the dialectic of the Republican race.

Two things have struck me about the Republican presidential candidate debates leading up to the Iowa caucuses. One is how entertaining they were. The other is how disconnected they were from the biggest trends shaping the job market of the 21st century.

But when truth and fiction become indistinguishable, certain insights can still be drawn. And these insights are not without their power to elucidate the greater facts of our current economic and spiritual crisis.

Take the coming battle of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Is it not the climax of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street? Is Mitt Romney not Gordon Gekko, lion of the leveraged buy-out, destroyer of jobs? And isn’t Rick Santorum the working class Martin Sheen character who will fight Gekko with every fiber of his soul.

But most of all I draw parallels to the petty jealousies of the reality show genre. Take the last 24 hours. First you have Michelle Bachman in her finest Queen of Denial act last night; acting as if she was somehow relevant to the conversation with her pathetic 5% of the vote.She is the clueless singer on American Idol who doesn’t even acknowledge that she can’t keep a tune. You can bet as soon as she got offstage, her accountant gave her the bad news. No Dough, Michelle. She stopped singing immediately.

Then comes Rick Perry, looking down in the mouth and still filled with painkillers. When he first entered the race three weeks after spinal fusion surgery, I told a friend Perry was going to be loopy on the campaign trail. I’ve been through spinal fusion with a friend and can promise you that Percocet has a pretty strong effect on the brain. The brain freezes I had seen in my friend for months after the operation. It also has a bit of an upper in it, so you think you are smarter or more creative than you really are. So last night I figured that Rick had folded the tent and gone back to the good life in Texas. But just like Real Housewives of Austin, Rick’s wife gave him a talking to and convinced a couple of buddies that Rick had helped make fortunes for over the last decade, said they would stay at the table for the next two weeks. So he’s thrown back in the ring for classic “family pride” issues, probably against his better judgement.

And then there is the true final episodes of Survivor, in which the wounded Newt Gingrich vows revenge on Mitt Romney, no matter the cost to his carefully reconstructed “Nice Newt” persona.Newt will surely be thrown off the island in subsequent episodes by the Republican establishment, but he won’t go down without a fight.

Next is the Ice Road Trucker, Ron Paul. He and his son Rand are adrenaline junkies.As I have said before, I think Ron Paul is a flawed messenger, but I cannot fault his courage in waging the battle against crony-capitalism and the military industrial complex that is plaguing our politics and cutting off the possibility for the amazing future our creativity could give us. He will never be the Republican nominee, because the whole party is in the bag to Northrop Grumman and Boeing and the members of MIC Club. I believe the Democrats could pick off the anti-war and the anti war on drugs Paulites easily against a Mitt Romney (or any Republican), in the same way that Lyndon Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater.

So here is what troubles me the most about last night. I listened to every speech. Nobody conceded that they had gotten beaten. And everybody used the phrase “We are going to take back our country”.

What the fuck does that mean?

Take it back from who? This Black Interloper who somehow got elected President? (by the largest plurality in years).

Take it back from the Liberals? Those people who make you conservatives uncomfortable because they actually love freedom enough to allow gay people to marry?

As I said at the outset, we are in a reality distortion field. The middle class has gotten totally conned by a Koch Brothers funded propaganda campaign that America is a wonderfully economically mobile country. It’s a lie. The possibility of moving from making $20,000 a year to making $200,000 a year is lower in the United States than in France or England. Only Obama is willing to have this battle now. Will the country be ruled as a plutocracy or a democracy?

There is only one way to assure that democracy wins. That is to return voter turnout numbers closer to the 75% level it was in the early 1900’s (the last period of true progressive reform).

Just how we are going to get 3/4 of the voting population to the polls next November is really a customer service issue from my point of view. In the face of all the Republican attempts to lower voter turnout, the Democrats have to make sure every single person who wants to vote will have the right ID long before the beginning of November. And then create some sort of buddy system on election day to get people to the polls. Every fair analysis has shown that the true gains over the last 30 years, since the supply side economic theory was introduced by Reagan, have gone to the top 1 %.

This can change.


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22 Responses to Republican Reality TV

  1. Roman says:


    Wow, quite a post, on…Iowa’s results?!

    You’re making far too much of this farce; the election is Barry’s to lose. Barring a black horse – late arrival like Marco Rubio, who somehow manages to spark up the Rep base while also appealing to the independents, the current crop of Rep candidates virtually ensures Barry’s victory. Mitt & Co. are simply going through the motions. The RNC does have bills to pay after all.

    I sense your profound disappointment with the current field’s ability to generate more than a yawn. Pundits and political junkies’ aside, NO ONE’s paying attention to the Rep primaries (most “get it” – there’s a strong sense that the “fix is in”, and have turned their attention to bigger issues like smartphone apps and K cups). And with all the references to reality shows, I also sense a real yearning for political drama (Herman who??).

    How about this? In the interest of ginning up a little political drama, not to mention the need for “accountability” (a novelty, I know), what if Barry was actually “challenged” during the primaries? Not like 2008 and “the longest campaign”. What if Barry were actually challenged by someone who called him out on, hmm…where to begin, well for starters, how about his non-handling of the financial crisis and its aftermath?

    IMO, there’s Nov’s “wild card”. What if the Rep nominee presses the “right buttons”, and God forbid, after winter break, OWS doesn’t spontaneously ignite – again, and we don’t go to war with Iran or make peace with Al Qaeda?

    How will the “economically challenged” (chronically under employed & forever unemployed), those with a “misplaced American Dream” (underwater mortgagors, renters & suburban homeless) and “401K victims” (vaporized retirement accounts) react to promises of “justice and accountability”?

    “Katy bar the door!” I don’t think there’ll be any shortage of “election day buddies”. Guess whose button they’ll be wearing? Anyone’s but Barry’s.

  2. Jon Taplin says:

    @Roman- I am amused that all the folks calling for Obama’s head on a platter are unwilling to come to the defense of any of the Republican alternatives. An election is a choice and my guess is this morning’s unemployment numbers show that the economy is on the mend. Obama took the hard decisions in 2009, while the Europeans dithered. This is now going to pay off.

  3. len says:

    Obama signed away the Constitution with apologies. That makes him less than a stellar guy. This will increasingly affect his ability to portray himself as a man of the people or a defender of democracy. In effect, the man is spineless. This is making the serious democrats shiver because they now know nothing they’ve been told about the man can be trusted.

    The Republicans aren’t offering anything worth worrying about so far although you are a bit off on Michelle Bachmann. She walks away from this with more cred and power than she went into it and the smarter analysts understand that. It doesn’t mean she is a contender but she is a shaper of things to come. It’s not enough to win; you have to be able to govern and Obama has shown an inclination toward pussy-willow in that aspect.

    the whole party is in the bag to Northrop Grumman and Boeing and the members of MIC Club

    We now have a TIC as well: Terrorism Industrial Complex. Obama is in bed with these folks and so are most of those who are beholden to the Agencies as he is.

    Sometimes an election is a choice to stay home. That will be Obama’s biggest challenge. If he pulls out the race card again or it is pulled for him, it rings hollow and people are tired of it. If he pulls out the fear card, then his whole message falls apart. If he continues to hold his chin up and look down his nose, then the charge of Harvard elitism sticks and a good ol’ boy with the right VP wins. As one talking head put it, the Manhattan blind spot is working against the Democrats this time and all you seem to have to counter it is black solidarity while at the same time not reckoning with the Hispanics who tend toward the conservatives.

    It isn’t a matter of defending the Republican alternatives. They suck. The problem is this is turning into a Karl Rove kind of election where division by muliplication favors whomever gets enough pieces of increasingly smaller slices of a pie as Santorum just proved in Iowa. Time to buy Obama new running shoes because when an election goes as this one is going, it goes all local. Whoever does the best job door to door wins.

  4. Morgan Warstler says:

    “What the fuck does that mean?”

    You think at the depth of Hollywood scripts?

    I cannot for a second figure out how you go from “localization” and “distributed power” to little or no acceptance that in a localized system, ALL THESE TYPES + MORE, will be allowed to flourish.

    The difference is that the power at the top won’t be as important.

    The celebration of liberal weirdos in San Fran vs. the ones in Malibu vs. the ones in Iowa is the very best part of localization – even for a conservative.

    Live and let live, localized power isn’t something you can do while sneering at everyone not like you.

    Just like Freedom of Speech, you have to take ALL OF IT… or stop pretending it is what you care about.

  5. len says:

    @Morgan Warstler
    Morgan, localized systems tend to conserve homogeneity, another way of saying, they punish the different. The global labels are the misnomers. For example, right leaning Democrats in Alabama would be centrist Republicans in Massachusetts. Right leaning Republicans in Alabama would be Nazis in Massachusetts. That is why the parties are becoming irrelevant globally and the neo-cons and nutjobs are holding Congress and the country hostage.

    Localization helps in the sense that it becomes a local responsibility to reign in the outliers when they screw over the game for the rest of the locals. The reality is one of power sets in mixed locales globally. It’s a pachinko game of spoils. It is exactly this nasty outcome of the feedback of wealth to policy (say campaign financing) that enables the mobsters who now control our government to solidify that control. There is almost zero chance that a cohesive opposing force can emerge from the systems they deliberately keep chaotic by financing a lot of little “let’s you and him fight” games. That’s the role they pay you for: you keep the pot stirred and people at each other. It’s pure Rovian.

    That is why anyone who goes to the Beltway without their own tight machine in place a priori fails. Either Obama failed to understand that, or was too arrogant, or was put in place to ensure nothing would change. I haven’t figured out which but he is going to have to make a case that he can do more in the second term and sadly, once in, he doesn’t have to. It will be trying to find someone who actually can that will occupy the occupiers and while doing that, they have to shut the pot-stirrers like yourself out of that conversation, which is precisely what the Occupy (pick one) folks are doing.

    Money isn’t speech. Money can’t make the message. Money is fear a la mode.

  6. Fentex says:

    I am amused that all the folks calling for Obama’s head on a platter are unwilling to come to the defense of any of the Republican alternatives.

    Citizens opinions and ambitions are not a zero sum option. Citizens are not required to support one side simply because the other is disgraceful.

    The Republicans are insane, and Obama is a traitor to U.S ideals of liberty and respect for individuals rights.

    Knowing both of these things and knowing one might have to choose between them does not compell a person to pretend either isn’t true. It seems certain U.S citizens will re-elect Obama as the lesser of two evils, they don’t have to pretend it’s anything more than that when making the choice.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Jonathan, I loved reading your post… Very insightful.

  8. Morgan Warstler says:

    len, it is this simple: when you are allowed to set your own laws, your own rules, and most of the power to be held over you is local, then you STOP being conerned with what happens elsewhere.

    I don’t care what happens in France. And I’m totally comfy not worrying about California.

    The sole reason we are all at each others throats is because EVERYTHING has been nationalized. Every little issue, every little thing, so now you have to worry not about your congressman, but EVERY congressman.

    Bossy nosy people should be silenced on both sides of the table, and we should simply tell people unhappy with the kind of community they find themselves in to MOVE because we aren’t going to govern from the top down anymore.

    It only gets uglier. Politics shouldn’t be Texas Hold ’em on every dame issue.

  9. len says:

    It seems certain U.S citizens will re-elect Obama as the lesser of two evils, they don’t have to pretend it’s anything more than that when making the choice.

    Problem is, Fen, when he signed the NDAA, he became the greater of two evils. The other side is stupider. So it’s greedy stupid vs arrogant evil. I’m not sure the liberal side of the argument gets that yet. That’s the problem of the so-called Manhattan blindspot. Jon sends us off to read a blog about Niebuhr that translates, “be pragamatic you silly patriots” and in so doing, kissed off any pretense to understanding just how serious the NDAA is. There is now a full-court campaign to convince folk it isn’t that serious yet, but it clearly snaps posse commitatus and weakened habeas corpus to the point corpseness. There are lines, the lakshman rekka, that one dare not cross and he crossed it. So even for those of us who believe the Republicans are dumb as rocks, Obama is now a non-starter. Can’t vote for the guy. Can’t even consider it and those who pretend this can be overlooked can no longer be trusted.

    @morgan: I get it but I also live in a State that had the US government not stepped in, some of my friends would be my property. What you are talking about doesn’t work once you size up the really evil and really stupid people out there operating in organized groups. Dilemmas like this are what cause people to go live in caves stocked with lots of ammunition.

    Get our country back from who? Well as it turns out somewhat surprisingly, Tap, from you and them. A helluva problem really: no good choices, no decent leadership.

  10. Morgan Warstler says:


    len, I’m 100% willing to take the chance. Not even 1% of me worries about slavery.

    People have to demand their own rights. If Alabama goes twisted, I’ll enjoy watching the state die with fleeing population, and overwhelming senior costs.

    The most important thing is states rights, precisely because you can’t GUARANTEE the federal side stops at ending slavery.

  11. JTMcPhee says:

    Too bad there’s so little chance of an “organizing principal” that’s homeostatic and humane ever developing, the “spiritual change” that I yak about, when you have Breitbart shills like Worgon, and various apologists for selfishness, busily beclouding the discourse (which itself is a sickness and symptom and threat to common action for everyone’s benefit.) We all are convinced we have mastery of our little bits of reality (or we are cynical dipshits with other motives entirely,) and maybe it’s in the nature of the cosmos that all systems tend eventually to maximum disorder. So my physics teachers told me, way back when, though in the realm of quantum strangeness, who knows what Strange Attractors lurk?

    The Wrongs may be dumb as rocks, at least the ones that show on the top of the pile, but they sure seem to have organized themselves into another unfortunately massive and increasingly durable bit of masonry.

    I wonder if Worgon the white boy, who doesn’t worry even 1% about slavery, has been to Arizona lately? Or toured one of Texas’s opportunistic privatized prisons, and related industries?

  12. len says:

    Or seen those deportation camps for illegals, or noted that here in Alabama, we bust the illegals, put them in prison, then rent them back to the same farmers they were working for prior to being incarcerated except now, the money goes to the state. Neat, huh? As observed, the law is working although tossing the Mercedes Benz exec into the clink was a bonehead, but hey, he broke the law and the law is the law.

    Flee? You bet they are fleeing. Alabama is emptying hispanics faster than Breitbart empties his paper shredder.

    I’m at work here at 7:30PM Saturday night right where I was last night and will be tomorrow. Slavery? Not exactly but pretty dammed close. Anyway, I can’t get to the link from a PBS web site that asks the question “are we a police state yet?” and then gives examples that suggest, “yeah, pretty much, we are.” Even the most die hard libs on FB are saying Obama has done us in although some believe he must have been coerced. Some folks aren’t going to wake up until they are schlepping toward the gulags.

  13. JTMcPhee says:

    Anybody know if Breitbart pays Worgon on a piecework basis? Might explain things. “Mabel, get off the table! The two bits was for beer…”

  14. Roman says:


    “…Obama has done us in although some believe he must have been coerced.”

    It does beg the question, which “Barry/Berry’s” running the show?

  15. len says:

    @roman: US Presidents haven’t run this country since JFK demonstrated how dangerous that could be. Even LBJ became disillusioned trying to fight the cabals. The real trick is to watch the votes in the Senate and determine who usually is co-sponsoring or voting for the same linked string of bad bills. Then figure out who benefits. I doubt it is a very large group. Contributions aren’t as interesting because they buy both sides of the ticket. What will is interesting is to see how these cabals absorb and use the military players (say officer class) as they come home and retire into double dipping. Heroes and heroines need jobs too. Follow the contracts.

    @jtmc: At least Morgan has a job. Mabel can’t even get… paid. Besides, through all the generational bravado and invective, there is a grain of truth in what he is saying. He doesn’t see the really big picture yet. That comes with age as we both know and then it doesn’t matter because we don’t really care. We got ours. Let the little buggers bugger. :)

  16. woodnsoul says:


    Do you really think with Geithner and Summers still running the show along with the Wall Street folks, I’m not sure how you can say that Obama is taking on anyone or anything that would stop the Plutocrats???

  17. JTMcPhee says:

    Paulson and Blankfein have “jobs,” too. And all those scurrying little worker bees developing whole new vistas of death-dealing technology, paid for by your taxes and mine or just “on spec” in the hope of landing that Big War Racket Contract. On the spectrum from saint to taint, I wonder where each of them lies?

    woodnsoul, what I like is the argument that these guys are “experts,” and the assumed notions that first, they both know how to, and can, and will, “fix things” for the good of the ol’ General Welfare, and the second, silent assumption that many have, the one about how “it takes a thief to catch a thief.” Which of course is the romantic plot framework for all those blind-the-dopes TV shows like “White Collar” and “Leverage,” that so many of us turn to for our catharsis, which if it were really to be something other than a feel-good denouement at the end of 34 minutes of “content” and a sucker-bet invitation to tune in to the next “show,” ought really to be that emotion that comes when, oh, say, Gadaffyduck was being given that last ride on the back of that truck. People in suits are not going to bring to a stage or screen or courtroom near you the functions that are supposed to be served by the criminal law, deterrence, restitution and retribution (and “re”habilitation of people who are mostly never “habilitated” in the first place.) “We” are pretty much on our own, to stay alive and out from under the elephants’ feet as best we can.

    How many trillions in “notional value” counterfeit “dollars” that the rest of us will have to create real wealth to back up and repair the damage from were pouffed into the Funny Munny balloon today?

    Remember, these folks have no notion of exposure to any consequences for their predations and parasitism. They all expect to moon us as they drive or float or fly off just ahead of that Deluge thing, and to live out their lives (prolonged by the best medical care on the planet) in comfort and ease. Even if the average pay, AVERAGE, at Goldman Sachs is reported to be cut for many of the little cancer cells by nearly 50%, so that some of them are having to “borrow money from their employers” to “maintain their chosen lifestyles” or, G_d forbid, “SELL one of their houses… Or maybe a hotel or three, or maybe even their derivative-leveraged interest in Boardwalk… As I used to say when I was four years old, “No Fair!”

  18. len says:

    The simple problem is a very small group of people and families have managed over time to acquire so much of the money they can afford to control the game. Feedback has produced a lock. They can buy the votes, manage the media, move the ball against anyone and there is very little chance that an election can change it. (Sorry for the sports metaphonrs but the Alabama LSU game is on as I write.)

    Does anyone here have ANY idea of how to snap that feedback loop short of real violence?

    Creative thinking required. No one wants it but if we continue on the path we’re on with the wealthy essentially laughing, Obama punting and the lock accelerating even as law after law is passed to cement our now de facto police state status and more money is being poured into the Terrorism Industrial Complex to ensure the lock can’t be broken, we are headed straight toward an honest to goodness shooting civil war. And this in a country armed to the teeth. Time for ideas.

  19. JTMcPhee says:

    Different kinds of hard action. There was the Terror, and the Roundheads and their “Protectorate,” , and whole big chunks of middle eastern history. “Money,” as an element of “power,” exists now only significantly as data.

    Makes you wonder if all the really competent coders and systems folks all work for comfortable wages for the Waylessthan1%ers. And whether some massive dislocation of that rootofallevil “system” might be unthinkable. It’s not like the human swarm, the ordinary people that obviously God loves since (S)He made so many of them, don’t seem to be able to re-create a structure of interrelations and start re-filling the drained coffers of Real money, after they have been shot in the belly by a different kind of cyber-attack on “the economy.”

    Lookie here, voters! Unemployment (U-3 at least, per those trusted organs of Government) is under 8.65%! Re-elect them all, for doing such a good job! Or at least for being against Sharia Law in our Great Free Nation…

  20. len says:

    Again I say,

    @JTMcPhee , Money can’t make the message. Take a look at this:

    Newt Goes OWSER.

    Not that I believe him or trust him, but it is notable that he is latching onto a national trend to take the money masters to task. Now why the right seems to be the ones to always get to this stuff first is beyond me, but there they go again. This isn’t a message of their making. This is the proof the OWSERs are having exactly the effect they intend.

    And yes, most of the really competent folk do exactly that. It’s a Chinese finger puzzle. The people who had the most monetary success in my life while enjoying a reputation as iconoclasts were the ones who only pretended to buck the system while privately giving it everything it asked for the bucks. The world of comp-sci is full of faux revolutionaries. A topic for another time because naming names is unhealthy but yes, that is precisely so.

    A question for you Oh Contentious One: if you’d written a piece that you are sure will piss off pretty much everyone, be misinterpreted instantly and might even get you killed, would you release it if you were also pretty sure that despite the bad taste it leaves, it is the awful truth, iow, an ugly about uglyness? I’m sitting on a song that fits that description and I’m asking myself just how much I want to risk to say what I want to say, think needs to be said, and so on, not for the thrill but the reality that someone must.

    Money can’t make the message. On the other hand, they do have a reflex to club and pepper spray and if the crowd goes along with that, game over. Self-immolation can start a revolution but the candle won’t be there to see the sunrise.

  21. JTMcPhee says:

    Hard question: Who’s depending on you, day to day? Millenia of St. Stephens have maybe or maybe not changed the course we all took to get to where we are, and who knows in which alternate universes things are better or worse than our present? I tend to shout out, without much thought to consequences, my little notions of truth and connections and what I think could and ought to be. Knowing that it’s a drip in the geometrically growing bitstream and unlikely, even as a butterfly’s wingbeat, to have much effect on the net flow vector. Speaking out, telling truths, is a personal act of faith — some get sainted, some just disappear into the gulag, along with their messages, which may be bits from the Divine or from that other force. All we got is what our so very fragile and flexible consciences and consciousnesses tell us is the right balance of harms. And the notion that those who might be prowling for and shoring up weaknesses in the Matrix don’t far as I can see, really have a great deal of skill.

    Morality is a very local phenomenon.

  22. Martin Pitts says:

    In a Charlie Rose interview the other night, Rep. Barney Frank bemoaned the majority politicians in the present House of Representatives. “Nobody parachuted in through the dome. They all got elected by these people…” The people who vote prove your premise of the crack up. The deranged fringe of the body politic has created our present House. To help this maybe the nation should consider what our dear neighbors down under use for their elections. Australian elections have a simple rule that all citizens must vote. If you don’t vote then you get fined. It works like parking tickets. If you don’t show up and vote you get a twenty-five dollar citation in the mail. If the fringe want to protest they can do a “donkey” vote meaning they leave the form blank. I heard from a friend down there that “donkey” votes are trending downward because people take the vote more seriously since they are required to be there.

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