About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Monday, September 08, 2008
A frightening parallel universe
While the message coming from Obama and company was surely partisan (as in “reflecting the party’s platform), it was one of country unity, of helping people through hard times, of restoring a positive image for the USA in the world, of beginning to end the senseless Iraq adventure begun by the current president-cowboy. One may very reasonably disagree with the specific ways in which Democrats intend to achieve, or even simply move toward, those goals, but it should be hard for anyone -- right or left -- to take issue with the goals themselves.
What McCain and company brought us, instead, felt not only like a politically motivated resurgence of the culture wars, but also like a parallel universe inhabited by a bunch of schizophrenics. Mitt Romney had the gall to tell us that we need to get Washington out of the hands of the liberals, apparently without realizing that Washington has been controlled by the Republicans for most of the past eight years (much longer if one counts control of the two houses during the largely innefective Clinton administration). The whole idea that Republicans can run for “change” should strike anyone with half a brain as ludicrous and downright offensive to one’s intelligence. But judging from the polls, about half of the American electorate isn’t smart enough (or is too ideologically blinded) to figure that out. (Yes, when it comes to stupidity I am an elitist, I don’t like it.)
Then we had Rudi (Giuliani), defending small town values and attacking the northeastern elite -- he who was mayor of the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the United States, who has been married three times, and who has dressed in drag to appeal to those very same cappuccino-drinking liberals that he now so viciously scorns.
But of course the centerpiece of the Republican madness was the odd couple: Palin and McCain. If one forgets for a moment McCain’s very recent cynical change in political positions, which contradicts everything that he has ever stood for, Palin -- and much of the Republican platform -- are as far from McCain as a raging leftist would be in the opposite direction. The two Republicans don’t see (or used to see) eye to eye on energy policies, government spending, education, the role of religion in government, and a woman’s choice in reproductive matters. What on earth are they doing together?
The answer is in the above-mentioned newly found cynicism of John McCain. He is a maverick, all right, but of a Machiavellian streak. He desperately needed a conservative, an appeal to women, and to energize an otherwise floundering campaign that saw him visiting local supermarkets at the same time that Obama was hailed by hundreds of thousands in Europe. He fulfilled all three of these needs with Sarah Palin, and both the media and part of the public are falling for it. “Read my lipstick” should be replaced by “read my record” and see how I have taken pork barrel money when it suited me, or how I tried to fire a librarian because I didn’t like the books being displayed in my small town public library.
Of course, the campaign is still long, and crucial public events like the presidential and vice-presidential debates are yet to take place. There are also some indications that this time the media will not roll over just because they may be accused (by pundits on Fox News, among others!) of being “biased.” Brian Williams of NBC said loud and clear last week that Republican attempts to shield Palin from serious interviews are unethical and will be countered by his news team at all costs. And then there is the largely unknown quantity of how many new young and minority voters Obama will be able to get interested enough in the future of the world to drag their ass to the voting booths in November. But the very fact that the two candidates are currently head to head in the polls is a reflection of how low the political intelligence of a large number of Americans still is after eight disastrous years of right-wing control of Washington. The democratic world will be watching what Americans do with much apprehension over the next few weeks. Let’s not screw it up once again folks. OK?