January 30, 2010

Barry & the Knuckleheads

Along with most other fair-minded viewers, I came away from Obama's "Question Time" with the National Academy of Nonscientists (a/k/a, the Republican House caucus) with the general impression that the President had cleaned their clock. It put to rest some of the questions I had had about his ability to think and respond on his feet. He slapped these chumps silly, actually. So much so that the Fair & Balanced Network (Faux News) finally cut away from the questioning, much as a Spanish network with delicate sensibilities might cut away from the ultimate stages of a bull fight, I suppose.

"Progressives" are in a state of ecstasy bordering on the priapic, of course. Obama was good, very good. We used to wonder what would have happened if George W. Bush had ever been subjected to a process similar to the British Parliamentary ritual of the "Prime Minister's Questions;" yesterday's American version answered this inquiry where Obama was concerned, emphatically, since even in the British system the Prime Minister's own party breaks up the hectoring with a few soft ball questions. In Obama's situation in Baltimore yesterday, it was 100% opposition, and they never got anywhere with him.

Which leaves me wondering -- why does the O Man spend so much time worrying about these people and their "opinions?" He was, as usual, full of schmaltzy rhetoric about "bipartisanship" and doing the people's work. At the same time, there was no question that Obama "gets" the fundamental dynamic of American politics: the Right Wing plays solely to the home crowd, in Georgia and rural Texas and in the Mormon reaches of Idaho and Utah and in Redneck Florida, and while these Republican Reps might be gushing over their chance to spend so much uninterrupted time with America's Rock Star (and they did seem to be as much in thrall of the O Man as, say, a crowd in Berlin), they aren't going to change their Immediately-Post-Prelapsarian views of the world one iota as a result of this confab. The people in that room (other than Barack) represent the American Theocratic Movement of American politics. They are a cult, and the most extreme expression of their cultist views takes the form of the Tea Party people. Careful polling demonstrates this over and over, although the Tea Party people are often described as if they were a larger, more inclusive cohort of lunatics.

You do not change the views of a cult through reasonable colloquy. One can make this confident statement almost by means of tautological argument: if you could change their views through this method, they would not be a cult. There is a reason that "deprogramming" is such an arduous, difficult, uncertain process. Cults are self-reinforcing. The cult members believe what they believe and are warned forcefully not to challenge the consensus of the group on pain of ostracism, shaming and exclusion. The reward for membership is the feeling of community and strength that comes through surrendering one's rational faculties to obscurantist nonsense.

So Obama was engaging in to-and-fro with people who don't take seriously issues such as climate change (because they see science as a liberal conspiracy), think abortion is murder (because clumps of post-coital cells are injected with a "soul" absent from the sperm and ovum microseconds before), think gay people "choose" their sexual orientation out of plain cussedness, instead of biological necessity, and whole rafts of other happy horseshit.

Since Obama gets this fundamental point so well, and understands that these CultReps have no choice (if they want to remain in office) but to keep spouting this stuff, to keep denying the Copernican Solar System, and the globular shape of the Earth, and the law of gravity, and Newton's Laws of Motion, and the existence of subatomic particles, and the accuracy of carbon dating, and to maintain that the Flintstones are an accurate cartoon history of actual human-dinosaur coexistence within the last 6,000 years because evolution is a "fraud" (propagated by the same Liberal Scientific Conspiracy), one is left with the question: what the hell is he doing?

That part I haven't figured out yet. The only answer that comes to mind now is that Obama is completely aware of the total futility of these feel-good (momentary as the feeling must be) exercises in...talking. And that's the point for him. He is such a pure political animal (as Clinton was before him) that he just likes talking about "issues," and hearing himself talk, and patting people over and over on their shoulders, and beaming big smiles, and joshing, and calling people by their names with his prodigious memory for names, and going on and on in his helpful, hortatory, collegial, nice way because he just likes doing that, whether it gets anywhere or not. And it doesn't, of course. The Republicans all vote alike, en bloc, because they're a cult, and that's what cults do. They subscribe to inerrant belief systems, they never waver, and they're very, very scary.

So have fun, Barack. Keep talking to them, use sweet reason pointlessly, keep "compromising" without picking up a single vote, keep diluting genuine progress with placating sops to your Cro-Magnon colleagues Across the Aisle, but remember one thing: it's utterly useless.

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