Return to Normalcy

One can’t help reminiscing these days, and lately we keep wandering back to the long ago year of 2016. In retrospect is was a pretty good year. Unemployment was relatively low by historical standards, the economy was growing at a slow but steady pace, and people walked through public spaces to attend sporting events and public festivals and churches and bars without wearing uncomfortable face masks. Yet for some reason it was a very angry year.
Meanwhile, everyone to the left of that certain point was feeling betrayed and disillusioned. Just eight years earlier liberals saw Obama as a messianic figure, a “light giver” whose charisma and brilliance would at long last deliver the socialist utopia that generations o progressive thinkers had so
longed for.
Both sides, of course, overestimated the man. During the first two years he had the support o sizable majorities in Congress, and was able to pass a health care reform law that angered everyone on the right but was far short of the fully socialized health care system that the left wanted. After that he was constrain by the Constitution and a gridlocked government from passing any significant legislation, which of course furthered the anger on both sides.
Which in turn made for a weird presidential election that will surely befuddle historians for centuries.
Despite its many successes in retraining Obama much of the Republican party had come to blame “the establishment” for not destroying an opposition it no, routinely referred to as “satanic.” By “establishment” the party firebrands meant the professionals, and anyone with any claims to expertise in a given area, apparently on the logic that such people had wrought such devastation on America that only complete amateurs with no credentials whatsoever could repair the damage. A reality television show star named Donald Trump, an oft-bankrupt and thrice-married businessman who shared the populist disdain for pointy-headed types seemed the man for the moment.
Somehow all of Trump’s myriad flaws came to be seen as selling points. Yeah, he was a liar and a cheat and bully, but that was what it would take to defeat the damned Democrats, and he’d be lying and cheating and bullying for America. He was crude and vulgar and preferred to answer criticisms with a schoolyard taunt rather than a counterargument, but Senators John McCain and Mitt Romney had been perfect gentleman, and what good did that do? Trump was clearly a racist and sexist, but it turned out that more Republicans than we had suspected had no problem with that, and his supporters argued that any Republican nominee would face the same accusations.
The Democrats had their own sizable “anti-establishment” faction, which wanted to go full-blown socialist with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but the party was more concerned about four years of Republican and placed its bet on the very establishment former First Lady and Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Clinton. Clinton had the credentials, but those were of little use in 2016, and she also had decades of scandals big and small to explain, and was a uniquely awful campaigner. Between the two, they offered America it’s worst choices in the history of American politics.
Clinton wound up winning the popular vote by some three millions, but razor-thin victories in four states handed the electoral college and the presidency to Trump, Which has done little to diminish the polarization and hatreds of the American people. The upcoming election will surely make it worse.
We’ve largely forgotten all of the dystopian details that the Republicans were sure would come about if Trump weren’t elected –something to do with Christians being rounded up behind barbed wire, we seem to recall — but at this point it’s hard to imagine how four years of Clinton could have wrecked the country more thoroughly.
The right will nonetheless throw around words like “satanic” and paint a Heronymous Boschian portrait of the hellish American landscape if the Democrats aren’t thoroughly vanished. The Democratic ticket of former Vice President and California Sen. Kamala Harris will respond accurate accounts of daily COVID-19 deaths and the number of unemployed and the unprecedented contraction of the economy, and hope that America has gotten over its msg aversion to experience and expertise.

At this point only the most idealistic fool holds out hope for a brave new world in the next four years, and we suspect most Americans will settle for what Warren Harding called a “return to normalcy”..</

— Bud Norman

Farewell, Michelle

Minnesota’s Rep. Michelle Bachmann has decided not to run for a fifth term in Congress, and she will be missed. Those on the right will miss her courageously outspoken defense of conservative principles, while those on the left will even more dearly miss hating her guts.
Perhaps some day psychiatry or one of the social sciences will provide a explanation for the red-hot hatred that Bachmann has long provoked among her ideological opponents, but for now it remains a baffling mystery. The vile and vulgar vitriol directed at Bachmann was always inordinate to her political influence, which peaked with a win in one of those pointless Iowa straw polls during her short-lived presidential campaign, and even her national fame was mostly a result of the obsessive coverage by her adversaries in the press. She was the unapologetic sort of conservative that always draws the wrath of liberals, but no more so than any number of lesser-known congressmen who sat beside her in the back benches of Congress, and there was nothing noticeably hateful or otherwise remarkable about the way she articulated her more or less mainstream beliefs.
Only Sarah Palin has been more thoroughly ridiculed, reviled, and rudely cussed than Bachmann in recent political history, though, and the comparisons between the two point to possible reasons for the hatred directed at them. Both are women, and according to liberal orthodoxy they are therefore traitors to the cause of feminism for daring to think for themselves. They’re both physically attractive women, too, and that only compounds the offense. Worse yet, they’re happily married, baby-having, unabashedly middle class women who have retained old-fashioned notions of femininity even as they availed themselves of the career opportunities that modernity had provided. Both were so outrageously indifferent to the contemporary pieties that they even embraced a common cause with the so-called Tea Party, the most ridiculed and reviled political movement of modern times, and that probably proved the ultimate affront.
There will be much gloating among liberals that they have at last forced Bachmann out of office, but they might be giving themselves too much credit. The congresswoman says that she’s acting in accordance with her belief in a four-term limit, which is precisely the sort of the populist principle that she’s always adhered to, and it’s also believable that she sees opportunities to serve her causes more effectively outside of government. Bachmann’s opponents in her reliably Republican district were always well-funded by out-of-state donors, and the relentlessly negativity of the national press offered an even more substantial in-kind contribution, so her last race was uncomfortably close, and a minor scandal concerning some campaign finance rules during her short-lived presidential campaign would have been given far more attention than Benghazi or the Internal Revenue Service’s harrassment of the Tea Party and any number of other Democratic scandals, but Bachmann has never seemed the type of women who would back away from such a rowdy fight. Given that the Tea Party has gained a newfound respectability from its persecution by the IRS and that Obamacare and the economy and a slew of scandals provide a more favorable next time around there is no reason to believe that Bachmann couldn’t have kept her undefeated streak in Minnesota politics going for at least another round.
Whatever the future holds for Bachmann, we wish her well. Anyone who can drive the liberals so thoroughly crazy must be doing something right.

— Bud Norman

Turning Up the Hate

A short time ago at a local tavern we were quietly conversing with a friend about the nation’s politics, but despite our best efforts the conversation wasn’t quiet enough to avoid the attention of a nearby eavesdropper who interjected herself into the dialogue to announce that she hated Mitt Romney. The way she spoke the word “hate” suggested that it was a very deliberate choice, not meant in the hyperbolic way that someone might say they hate broccoli or a certain sports team, and she spat out the Republican nominee’s name with such salivating disgust that her hatred was moistly palpable.

Although it seemed odd that anyone would muster such a sputtering hatred for Romney, who strikes us as a rather pleasant fellow, and not nearly extremist enough for our tastes, we weren’t so curious that we encouraged any further conversation with the woman. Such emotional political outbursts are all too common these days, and we’ve seen enough of them to know when there’s no point in talking.

There are those on the right who regard their political opponents with a similar hatred, and we can think of at least a couple of them who host national radio talk shows, but in our experience a red-hot political hatred is now far more common on the left. Most of our conservative friends and acquaintances will freely state that they hate what they see as the results of Obama’s policies, and some have gone so far as to admit that they don’t share the favorable personal opinion of the president that so many people keep expressing in polls, but we can’t recall any who have come right out and said that they hate the man. The prevailing sentiment on the right seems to be an ardent wish that Obama will soon be enjoying a happy and uneventful retirement.

Certainly the left is more unabashed about its hatreds. During the Bush years a carefully cultivated hatred of the president was downright de rigueur, to be exhibited with the same smug satisfaction as when flashing a new tattoo or three days’ growth of facial hair. Politicians, pop stars, moviemakers, late night television comics, reality show performers, and anyone else needing to cultivate a cutting-edge public image felt obliged to shriek their hatreds, and no one in the more respectable quarters of liberaldom felt the need to apologize for it. Hating Bush remains a popular liberal pastime to this day, although the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, rich people in general, the Catholic Church, churches in general, and various industries and occupations are also widely hated. Here in Kansas the governor and the secretary of state are popular objects of liberal hatred, and we suspect that every state has it own demonology of the left.

We’ll leave it to the social scientists to explain why the peace-and-love crowd has long been so hepped up on its hatreds, but we suspect that it has somethng to do with their apparently sincere belief that the right is the only thing preventing them from creating a utopia. We’re quite sure the hatred of Romney will be deliberately encouraged by the Obama campaign because it won’t have anything else to run on. “A prominent Democratic strategist aliged with the White House” bluntly admitted to Politico’s reporters that they intend to “kill Romney,” a choice of words that would be considered shocking if it came from a Republican campaign, and it is already clear that the incumbent would rather talk about his opponent’s personal finances than his own public record.

Thus far Romney seems determined not to respond in kind, sticking instead to the kindly criticism that Obama is a nice guy who’s not up to the job, and we hope he’ll continue to do so. Hatred might prove a winning electoral strategy, but governing will prove easier if Romney wins without it.

— Bud Norman