Tuesday, April 18, 2006

John McCain: It's Shiller Time!

Item One: McCain presses the flesh with Katherine Harris.

Item Two: McCain's to speak at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University; he didn't have much to say when (previously) Tim Russert questioned him, and he's got scarcely more to say to Jon Stewart. Notice, however, his repetition of the same, lame talking point about schools that disallow military recruiting. Note to Sen. McCain: there's a difference between speaking someplace where you disagree with a single policy (don't we all disagree with at least one policy of any given school?), and speaking at an institution whose entire raison d'être is promulgating fundamentalist offal.

But of course, both of these events are merely symptoms of McCain's infection by a single deeper disease: the virulent sickness of the modern Republican Party, which marries corruption, fundamentalism, and autocracy into a veritable holy Trinity of political evil. Americans (and especially the press) find McCain appealing in part because his existence appears to tell a particular fictional story that resonates with Americans: that of individual integrity, wherein (cue the deep-voiced movie-trailer voice-over and portentous pseudo-symphonic backing track) one man's struggle to overcome enables him to transcend all labels or institutions. People like McCain because this fairy tale permits them to indulge in an illusion of government without or beyond politics --- politics being, of course, that grubby business whereby groups of people bang out actual law that actually influences people's lives.

(Actual politics and policymaking is distasteful to pundits in particular because (a) it involves messy compromises among competing interest groups, (b) it requires serious thinking, often involving attention to detail and some mathematical competence, and (c) one can only devise coherent policy when guided by some coherent set of ideas about what animates and justifies social relations, i.e. an ideology. And, of course, the vast majority of pundits (a) hate any compromise involving concessions to interest groups other than fiscally conservative upper-middle-class professionals like themselves, (b) hate having to think carefully about anything other than the scintillating intricacies of their own self-important insights, and (c) hate any ideology other than the dominant center-right consensus, which pretends to be non-ideological.)

So, then, McCain's behavior of late merely demonstrates the truism that effective institutions are greater than individuals. And, of course, the Republican Party is an exceedingly effective institution, from its ruling clique's point of view. Deep structural features of modern Republicanism --- the admixture of influence-peddling, toxic ideology, and willful ignorance that knits together the Party of Reaction --- hammer aspirants to national office upon the hard and ruthless anvil of national politics, molding them into ass-kissing panderers to the worst tendencies of Homo americanus. McCain would not be where he is today if he hadn't conformed to the Party's needs when it really counted, and he will rise in power to the extent that he continues to deform under the blows of that same chastening hammer. Anyone who believes otherwise is deceived.

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