Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Strange Victories

When you are faced with this headline in a newspaper that isn’t The Onion, you have no choice but to shrug philosophically and move on. And by you I mean me. The fact of Schwartzenegger’s victory is just too full of horrible truths about politics, Americans, and public perception. And if I think about it for too long, the dark side of American Democracy seems very, very dark.
So what bothers me about the recall vote and the ascent of Arnold Schwarzenegger is that if anyone were to devise a route out of democracy and into a tribal, vengeful savagery, this melding of the world of entertainment, which satiates our most primal wishes, and the world of politics, which is supposed to moderate and rationalize our worst wishes and sublimate our ideals, looks like a pretty good route. Movies are the great persuaders. Their power is much greater than the power of reason, and that is what bothers me. The passion of politics must be tempered by reason. How much difference is there between electing a savage action hero and electing a Mussolini? I don't think Arnold is a fascist. But it is the worship of strength and charisma themselves that I find alarming in a democratic system. I think once the electorate acts from its own troubled id, we are vulnerable to the election of untold numbers of scoundrels, one of whom or a series of whom, could spell the end of democracy.

So hasta la vista, baby. Alabama looks pretty good right now.

Strange victories make for thoughts like these. They also make for disillusionment, scape-goating, tuning out, and caving in. This is the stuff of nihilism and Green Party conversion. This is exactly how we can’t afford to think. So read it and weep, then have a couple of drinks and sober up fast.

For one thing there is a bright side.

It hasn’t been the best year for Ward Connerly and yesterday California refused to retreat deeper in to denial about race. So I haven’t lost faith in the state altogether.

And let’s not forget that we have bigger fish to fry.

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