The State Of The Union: When The Going Gets Weird

Occasionally when attempting to apprehend some very general approximation of the state of the nation in which we live, one is confronted by a confluence of newsworthy developments that cause the appearance of the world around us to resemble a celebrated Duchamp painting. This is one of those times.

Hunter S. Thompson famously said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” which seems an apt assessment of many of the players currently displayed prominently on the national stage. For instance, if you’ve had the misfortune to encounter the Tea Party either in its already hazily passé heyday or since, you may have assimilated an impression of President Obama as a perverse (asinine) conjoining of Hitler and Stalin, crypto-authoritarian, friend of international bêtes noires, either passively allowing them to have their way with the world or actively cheering them on.

Then there’s the actual Barack Obama we are familiar with here on planet Earth, the one whose efforts led to the elimination of uber bad dudes bin Laden, Al-Alwaki and Moammar Ghaddafi, not to mention al-Qaeda’s succession of #2’s and #3’s in al-Qaeda’s always imperiled hierarchy. The right excels at adopting dialogue from classic Eastwood spaghetti westerns and posturing from John Wayne and former Governator pics but Obama takes care of business… and without the conspicuously unpersuasive macho rhetoric coming from Republicans.

In fact, when it comes to foreign policy generally, and in particular the security component of foreign policy, Obama may be the most effective president since FDR: intelligent, tactically bold, innovative and cost-effective both in human and monetary terms. But of course since Republicans have only had two or three actual lines of attack for the preponderance of their modern history: Democrats are socialists; Democrats are soft on communism/terrorism, and Democrats are overly friendly with America’s diverse minorities one can’t expect them to diverge from their Obama “pals around with terrorists” shtick in 2012. Whether the disjunction of one of their standard themes from reality occurs to them before they use it no one know, though I have my doubts about its potential effectiveness this time.

On the economic side of the weirdness ledger, as various Republicans accuse the Democrats and Occupy Wall Street and other eminently sentient beings of “class warfare” we learn the median wage in the United States has sunk to $26,000 a year. If that isn’t prima facie evidence of the thirty year triumph of the class war against the middle class I don’t know what is. If you need evidence of the Dadaist reality we inhabit note that there is an actual controversy at the moment over whether taxes should be raised on the top two percent in order to stabilize the budget and to fund government at a size most Americans insist upon, not to mention in order to subsidize a temporary jobs program building much needed infrastructure while employing Americans desperately needing work. This at a time of the lowest corporate and individual tax rates in modern times.

Hope for some future America less hallucinatory comes with the news that in the midst of Republican presidential primary debates during which jobs and health care and foreclosure are rarely mentioned if mentioned at all, income disparity doesn’t exist, and candidates compete for most enthusiastic panegyric on behalf of corporate greed and banks and an indifferent government, Republicans’ last bastion of electoral support beyond their hard shell ideological core, non-college educated whites and non-college educated voters overall agree with the Occupy Wall Street movement by large margins.

That is significant, since this is the group of middle-class citizens likeliest to vote against their own economic interests and empower Republicans who have perpetually stuck it to them economically while calling it love. When the veil covering these economic abominations and radical and irrational politics slip away for those voters the right’s inordinate sway over the terms of public discourse will recede with dramatic results.

I don’t know about you, but at least when it comes to politics and economics I could use a little less of the weird sometimes.

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