The Republican Alternate Universe of Paranoia


Paranoia will destroy ya

W.J. Astore

I watched last night’s Republican debate so you wouldn’t have to.  Leaving aside the usual mugging by Donald Trump, the usual jousting over side issues like whether Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen, I thought I’d take an impressionistic approach to the debate.  You can read the debate transcript here (if you dare), but here is my admittedly personal take on the main messages of the debate.

  1. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are coming to take your guns. So you need to elect a Republican who will allow you to keep your guns and to buy many, many more guns while carrying them openly in public.
  2. Related to (1), ISIS is coming to these shores. In fact, they’re already here.  That’s one big reason why everyone needs guns – to protect ourselves from ISIS and other terrorists out to kill Americans on Main Street USA.
  3. America is weak. Obama has gutted our military.  The Iranians and Russians laugh at us.  To stop them from laughing, America needs to rebuild its military, buy more weapons, and use them freely.  In fact, all the next commander-in-chief needs to do is ask military leaders what they need to win, give them exactly that, then stand back as our military (especially Special Ops troops) kicks ass.  Victory!
  4. America is weak (again), this time economically. The Chinese are kicking our ass.  They’re tougher than us and smarter than us.  We need to teach them who’s boss, perhaps with a big tariff on Chinese imports, combined with intense pressure on them to revalue their currency.
  5. The American tax system is unfair to corporations. We need to lower corporate tax rates so that American companies won’t relocate, and also so that American businesses will be more competitive vis-à-vis foreign competitors.
  6. The most oppressed “minority” in the U.S. are not Blacks or Hispanics or the poor: it’s the police. Yes, the police.  They are mistreated and disrespected.  Americans need to recognize the police are there to protect them and to defer to them accordingly.
  7. The only amendment worth citing in the U.S. Constitution is the Second Amendment.
  8. The National Security Agency, along with all the other intelligence agencies in America, need to be given more power, not less. They need broad and sweeping surveillance powers to keep America safe.  Privacy issues and the Fourth Amendment can be ignored.  People like Edward Snowden are traitors. “Safety” is everything.
  9. Bernie Sanders is a joke. Hillary Clinton just might be the anti-Christ.
  10. Immigrants are a threat, especially if they’re Muslim. They must be kept out of America so that they don’t steal American jobs and/or kill us all.

What I didn’t hear: Anything about the poor, or true minorities, or gender inequities, or the dangers of more war, and so on.

My main takeaway from this debate: Republican candidates live in the United States of Paranoia, a hostile land in which fear rules.  Think “Mad Max, Fury Road,” but without any tough females about.  (I have to admit I missed Carly Fiorina/Imperator Furiosa on the main stage.)

Only one candidate struck a few tentative notes of accord through bipartisan collaboration and compromise: Ohio governor John Kasich.  In his closing statement, he spoke eloquently of his parents’ working-class background.  He’s also the only candidate with the guts not to wear the by-now obligatory flag lapel pin.  I’m not a Republican, but if I had to vote for one, it would be him.  Why?  Because he’s the least batshit crazy of the bunch.

Yes, it was a depressing night, one spent in an alternate universe detached from reality.  In the end, old song lyrics popped into my head: “paranoia will destroy ya.”  Yes, yes it will, America.

11 thoughts on “The Republican Alternate Universe of Paranoia

  1. I did not watch the latest Republican Party primary-election food fight. Nor did I watch President Obama’s last (thank goodness) State of the Onion speech. Pointless nasty bellicosity and aimless rhetorical irrelevancy do not interest me. I feel like I just woke up from a bad dream I seem to have lived through eight years ago, only to discover that my country seems hell-bent on seeing to it that I live through it all over again, even with some of the same bad actors reprising their — or especially, her — roles in the demented production. Looking back at the present, then:.

    For Whom the Moving Finger Writes

    Omar Khayyam said something much, I think:
    Who from iambic couplets did not shrink
    To say in verse that each relates to all
    As all relates to those of us who crawl
    Beneath that huge inverted dome of sky
    Which rolls, indifferent to you and I;
    Which writes with moving finger and moves on
    From twilight through the dark until the dawn
    Regardless of what piety or wit
    We beg to live again a word of it
    Nor with our tears wash out a single line:
    The poem of our past we can’t refine

    John Donne wrote also of a clod of earth
    From off a continent defined at birth:
    An island in itself, as is no man
    Who yet connects to all the human clan
    So that which we of others would compel
    Ourselves must suffer and endure as well
    For we and they can not identify
    A reason why yet one more soul should die
    To mark with tolling bells its passage plus
    The knowledge that its passing lessens us
    So let us not ask what fate’s finger writes
    For it but chronicles our pointless fights

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2007

  2. Well, let me thank you for keeping it together watching this display in insane propaganda. I get enough of their crapola thru the ether waves and that is enough for me. However, let it be said how important it is for people to know what these guys are promoting.

    What is most scarey to me is the amount of control over the media which has complied in pushing this country far to the right. Who was who wrote last week that Eisenhower today would be seen by people as a wild liberal!!!! And it is why I so support Sanders who has the courage to speak out on populace issues that really affect people’s lives.

    Sanders is weak on racism which is more than disappointing. As someone who presumably understands the need for structural changes in this country, it is impossible not to understand the structure of racism and how it was and still is used to control the public mantra and economic functioning of this country. Unfortunately, as a white male he has never studied racism and white skin privilege. Not to do so means his argument and political decisions will always avoid the real issues.

  3. The American tax system is unfair to corporations???!!! The Republicans skew the issue by focusing on the top statutory rate rather than the effective (or actual) rate. U.S. corporations pay a similar or lower effective tax rate than corporations in other countries. The same dishonesty, by the way, is applied when they discuss individual tax rates (we know how that works with regard to capital gains, social security tax cap, and loopholes). But back to corporations:

    — G.E., Boeing, Verizon, and 23 other Fortune 500 firms paid no federal income taxes from 2008-2012. In fact, G.E. got 3.1 billion in refunds with 27.5 billion in profits during this time frame. Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, and other notorious examples can be cited along these lines.

    — the corporate share of federal tax revenue was 32% in 1952 and 10% in 2013.

    — U.S. corporations hold 2.1 trillion in profits offshore, much of it in tax havens.

    — U.S. corporations also dodge 90 billion a year in taxes by shifting profits to subsidiaries (more tax havens)

    — corporate profits as a percentage of GDP hit all-time highs recently, while worker pay as a percentage of GDP is bottomed out

    — economic growth over the past 60 years has been stronger when corporate tax rates were higher, and there is no correlation between cutting corporate tax rates and job growth


    • Just to add a little juice to the last point….Fortune 500 companies with the highest effective tax rates from 2008-2012 added 200,000 jobs while 30 of these companies that paid little or no taxes during this time frame shed 51,289 jobs.

      • Thanks, Greg. Well, these politicians are very good at repeating talking points prepared for them by — you guessed it — lobbyists working for corporations.

  4. I take cordial issue with the phrase: “side issues like whether Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen.” The Constitution doesn’t demand much in the way of qualifications to hold the office of President, only two things: (1) that a person shall have been born in one of the United States or have been a resident of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution and (2) that a person has reached the age of 35 years. Not much, indeed hardly anything to ask. Yet, if Ted Cruz or one of the other candidates for President this year had only reached the age of 34, would that constitute a “side issue,” or would it demand that the country and its political leaders abide by the clear and unambiguous language of the Constitution? I mean, if a candidate can’t even meet the two absolutely minimum requirements for election to the presidency, what hope can the nation have that he or she will respect and abide by any other provision of that “worthless scrap of paper,” as I believe George “Deputy Dubya” Bush once described our nation’s founding document.

    As another recent example of “elite” disdain for the clear provisions of the Constitution, John McCain’s mother gave birth to him in Panama — not one of the United States — and therefore he did not qualify for election to the Presidency. Yet for those Republicans who aspire to political power in service to the corporate oligarchy, the Constitution means absolutely nothing when they wish to evade its provisions.

    In a similar vein, the Constitution clearly states the a President and Vice President cannot reside in the same state, yet Deputy Dubya and Dick Cheney both resided in Texas before Dick Cheney selected himself Dubya’s vice presidential running mate an suddenly had someone in the state of Wyoming grandfather him into “residency” in that state, even though he had not resided there for years. Again, so much for what the Constitution prescribes when those who lust for power wish to abide by no rules other than their — very flexible — own.

    I do not dispute that the Constitution has — in reality — become an irrelevant “side issue.” It clearly has. As Glenn Greenwals has written is his book With Liberty and Justice for Some, the U.S. now has a two-tiered system of “justice,” wherein the corporate elites need obey no law whatsoever, while the rest of the people face ruthless, draconian vengeance for the slightest of transgressions. I would simply like to see a forthright statement of this regal impunity by those claiming absolution from any and all Constitutional provisions. Something like an amended inaugural oath to the effect that “I swear to preserve, protect, and defend every loophole and excuse that the wealthy may exploit for not living up to the Constitution and its founding principles, whatever those silly things may be.”

    I can’t stand the blatant hypocrisy and widespread, eager desire to misread even the clearest and simplest English.

    • Mike: I’m obviously no expert on this, but I believe “born in the U.S.” has been interpreted (or re-interpreted) to allow for overseas births involving American citizens. So, for example, I see no reason to disqualify a person for president just because he or she was born to American parents while they were stationed in Germany or wherever. Hence the “exception” for John McCain, born in the Panama Canal Zone to Navy parents.

      Or you can imagine American parents on vacation overseas — they have a baby in Italy — and now their child is forever ineligible for president because of an accident of birth?

      I’m certainly no fan of Ted Cruz, but under past precedent I believe he is eligible to run.

      • Professor,
        Just checked my copy of the Constitution and the wording is not “born in the United States.” One must get the big ones right.

  5. I only saw a smallish chunk of Thursday’s sad affair. But there appeared to be unanimity that the US has the “highest” corporate tax rate on Earth. But, accuracy or any semblance of truthfulness cannot be expected of these bozos. And as my own father (an admirer of Capitalism, by the way) pointed out to me decades ago, “Corporations don’t pay taxes, they collect taxes [from the end consumer of their goods or services].” I confess I haven’t consulted the Constitution on this (alleged) requirement that a candidate for POTUS have been born on US soil. Sure, McCain may have been born on foreign soil (I have no recall of this ever having been raised as an “issue” with him), but to full US citizens, yes? Is not one of Cruz’s parents a Canadian? While the other was a Cuban “refugee,” yes? I find Cruz personally revolting, so I’ll sign on to any Constitutional bar to his ascension to the presidency! But then again…didn’t I hear someone on TV claim nothing could be done about the situation until AFTER he (hypothetically) was elected? Via impeachment, I suppose. Isn’t it more than a tad absurd if there really is a Constitutional bar to a Cruz presidency but no MECHANISM to disqualify him from running???

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