It seems like when I try to post about national politics here, the words are squeezed out of me as I'm pressed down by the massive ennui I carry daily on my shoulders.
I'm really not all that depressing in real life, trust me. (Or Bil or Jerame or Serena or any of the other contributors who know me personally, I'm sure they'll tell you I'm pretty happy.) I just get bothered by things, like this story Waymon Hudson related here last week. It's nothing I haven't heard before, but it shows a triumph of meta over substance:
With Mike Huckabee’s ascension to GOP front runner, the role of so-called “values voters” are once again at the forefront of media coverage. My disgust with this block of voters was challenged by one of these conservative evangelicals in a recent discussion I was having. His argument was that by allowing LGBT issues to influence my vote, I was doing the same thing I accused his ilk of: imposing my views on others at the ballot box.
It's similar to the argument one would hear over and over in the Reagan 80's about how discussing race is just as bad as being racist, see, because both of them are "agitating". And calling someone a racist hurts their feelings, probably just as much as racism would! (Not that the speaker would know, since s/he is almost always white, but whatever.)
The only way the argument Waymon's friend laid out works is if we all forget that the government is supposed to do stuff and focus instead on the "meta" of politics: the way people speak (not what they say), how people participate (not their goals), how politicians appear (not what they do), and polling, polling, polling. A "good performance" for a presidential candidate at a debate doesn't depend on whether s/he promised to bomb Tehran or create a single-payer health care system, it's whether s/he smiled enough, spoke forcefully enough, or was "attacked" by the other candidates (a total newsie favorite).
And all these only work in a world where politics is just something for the elites to yammer away about, not something that affects the lives of real human beings. The only way that opposing homophobia can be the moral equivalent of advocating homophobia is if policy itself means nothing.
But it does, and us peons have to live with the results, no matter whether an advocate of eliminating social security seems like a good hugger. (Yeah, that's a real one.)
Mike Huckabee also fits in my mythical high school typology. He is the class clown with the weight problem everyone likes, who always seemed to have his heart in the right place. When he runs for class president, you are tempted to vote for him if only because you just know he would make the weekly assemblies more fun.
But that windbag is actually getting paid for his "analysis". And lots of people are reading it. And it's part of how the system "works".
Normally I don't have a problem with adding a meta or another level of abstraction to a discussion. It can be helpful when it's not sophomoric.
But it can also be a distraction, or, worse, a masking of substantive problems and real ways to achieve change. All the while those of us who don't have the privilege of living exclusively in Meta-Land have to deal with whatever a president Huckabee could dream up to ravage America. (But at least the class clown won the election!)
The solution involves seeing electoral politics as a means to an end, not an end in and of itself, and keeping a focus on substance ourselves even when professional windbags give up on discussing policy itself.
Because when someone describes to you a world where fight homophobia is the same as being homophobic or where a fascist can also be a metaphorical class clown, we should be able to call it what it is: rank idiocy.
Speaking of Mike Huckabee and rank idiocy... (good part's right at the end)