What drives so many of us to vote for the paranoid ticket? I don’t have any answers. I just have questions.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. America went through the red scares of the 1950s. We interned Japanese Americans during the . And it isn’t exclusive to Americans, or to this era. Europe engulfed itself in a quest to find and to burn witches in the Middle Ages. There seems to be something about the human psyche that lends itself to a fear that shuts off reason.
Politicians are perfectly willing, even eager, to use this fear, and we’ve seen it countless times in the last few years. Proposals for health care reform, for example, were advanced during the 2008 presidential campaign; and the very people who made those proposals, only a few months later, hysterically proclaimed their own proposals to be threats to the very foundation of our Republic. Likewise with the Islamic community center being built in Manhattan; a few months ago, it was a monument to American tolerance and to our willingness to embrace the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims throughout the world. Now it is a slap in our national face, it is a symbol of the terrorists laughing at us.
That politicians use such tactics knowingly and cynically is not new, either. A few years before he died, celebrated segregationist revealed he had never believed the hateful racial rhetoric he used to advance his political ambitions. It had all been a calculated strategy, playing on the southern white power base. He spent his last years desperately trying to repair the damage he had done.
So neither our fears, nor the coldly cynical willingness of politicians to use those fears for their advantage, are new. It is clear that Boehner and Cantor and McCain and Gingrich don’t really believe much of their own overblown rhetoric; they’ve flip-flopped so many times, and played the fear card so very often, they often seem to be mere parodies of themselves. Yet there are Americans who seem, for all the world, as if they buy the rhetoric, and are willing to vote for the most absurd policies, simply because they’ve been told to fear.
Allowing the Bush tax cuts for the extremely wealthy to expire will make you lose your job. Reining in the abuses of the insurance industry is a threat to your freedoms. Spending money on American infrastructure, with the side benefit of creating jobs, is taking your money away from you. Creating a sane energy policy that makes us less dependent on imported oil, improves America’s ability to compete in the world market for alternative energies, and stops damaging the environment, well, this is a bad thing because – well, not sure why it’s bad, but it certainly harms your liberties.
As I said, it’s pretty clear the politicians who take these positions often don’t believe a word of them. Why do so many Americans allow themselves to be manipulated in these ways? I seriously don’t get it.