Ted Cruz especially. Yuck. There’s enough oil sloughing off that motherfucker to set the Cuyahoga River on fire anew. I have to appreciate Donald Trump now, just because Cruz has that creepy-ass Elmer Gantry thing going on and Trump doesn’t. Daddy found Jesus at (did I hear this correctly?) the Clay Road Baptist Church, forsook the bottle, and caught the next flight home to his wife and little boy. What is it about Houston and the Elmer Gantries? Cruz makes Joel Osteen look like the aftermath of the Spindletop blowout, and he obviously has experience self-administering extreme unctuousness in his own right.
I’d never listened much to Cruz’s rhetoric before the GOP presidential debate tonight. Holy shit. He’s as bad as the lefties have been saying. The Canadian-born Baptist son of a preacher man, he appears utterly ignorant of Tommy Douglas. That would be politically inconvenient for a good little Texas shitbird, of course. Having family from Cuba, which fucked socialism up most vigorously by leaving it in the hands of a couple of gunslinging brothers and their cadres, gives one serious Republican street cred; also having family ties to Canada, which did socialism right by keeping it in the hands of accountable elected officials, is an embarrassment.
The Donald, to his minor credit, understands Canadian Medicare, up to a limited point, the main limit being that he romanticizes Canada as a place where socialized medicine magically works, in contrast to the United States, where it magically does not. It’s something to do with illegal immigration, if I heard him correctly, not anything to do with our politicians being too liberated of their own balls to even try. By Fred Reed’s reckoning, Mexico is doing much better at socialized medicine than the US, and it’s the primary origin of the illegal immigrants currently living in our country. Maybe we’re still best in class if the rest of the class is limited to countries in Central America other than Costa Rica; I know less about these countries’ medical systems than their recent histories of coups, civil war, and gang violence that might as well be civil war, but it might be worth examining. If Costa Rica has poor outcomes from overly market-driven healthcare, it accomplishes this inequity at a fraction of the cost stateside. Of course, Trump isn’t interested in what Mexico is doing right, or in what is being done right in the Great Whitey North, but rather in what Mexico is doing wrong and how he can best spin that to his crudest psychosexual and political advantage. Likewise the talk about how a Canadian-style expansion of Medicare wouldn’t work south of the border: he’s just making shit up again to cover for a record that is too moderate and sensible for the Republican Party.
In accordance with modern Republican standards, the debate field tonight featured a grab bag of shitheaded Go Galt zealots and moralizing religious kooks. Mike Huckabee, who only looks oil-free, combined both kinds of crazy into one ugly demagogic shtick. He defended what he calls the “Fair Tax” on consumption by saying that the current income tax system allows (I’m not making this up) illegals, prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers to evade taxation in the underground cash economy. Last time I heard him dogwhistling to the sexual resentniks, he was complaining about “Uncle Sugar.” This time, he’s sore about hookers and their undeclared, untaxed cash transactions, and he’s also upset about the illegitimacy of a payroll tax system that “steals” the hard-earned income of American wage earners every paycheck. But isn’t this unfair system exactly the one that prostitutes and pimps and freeloaders are evading by not declaring their income, and has Huckabee ever heard of 1099 filing? Don’t ask. None of this is about moral logic. It’s about these assholes who get more action than you do and more free time with which to enjoy it. If Huckabee followed hooker blogs, he might be aware that one reason why pimpin’ ain’t easy is that it often involves office management duties including tax compliance, but like hell he cares. Black-market whoring is just something he throws out there as a bone for the crazies to chew. Ben Carson, for his part, proposed imposing a flat tithe of ten percent, in accordance with biblical principles, in lieu of progressive income taxation because God did likewise, and Cruz carried on about how God gives him instructions every day because he spends time in the Word. Megyn Kelly actually asked several of the candidates a viewer question on the topic of divine visitation concerning policy, and all of them answered it earnestly.
Idiocracy is closer than we’d like to imagine. Of course, it’s carefully stage-managed behind the scenes by various religious and business power players. Scott Walker is an illuminating example here, a man whose combination of hardline unionbusting and supplication to Israel is closely coordinated with the Koch brothers and AIPAC. All these low-church political and cryptopolitical memes keep resurfacing as Republican policy positions: obsessive tithing, personal revelation, transcendent fealty to Israel in its current incarnation as a nation-state, various sexual and parasexual hobbyhorses (abortion is often one, although not always). There’s an outside chance that the United States will elect its first Seventh-Day Adventist president next year. Jefferson would have found the very existence of the Seventh-Day Adventists no less astonishing than the prospect of a black man becoming a pioneering neurosurgeon and then a presidential candidate. He would have found the outsized political influence of these extremist denominations and nondenominational umbrella organizations troubling. So would Roger Williams, the founder of the Baptist Church and of Rhode Island, the latter of which he established as a refuge for religious dissidents seeking freedom from clerical interference of the sort prominent in early colonial Massachusetts. These kooky memes aren’t the sense of any Quaker-style meeting. They’re Astroturfed into the congregation. They’re crafted by cynical bigshots who do not want the little people thinking for themselves. Of course, social controls of roughly this sort predate the Declaration of Independence. Hard establishmentarianism is why we have Rhode Island; what we have today is soft establishmentarianism, in which right-wing candidates stumble over each other to say the craziest shit about their own religious convictions and how these convictions must be imposed on the entire country.
About half of tonight’s field is too hobbled by quasireligious nuttery to attend to the actual business of the republic. One of the few who isn’t, Chris Christie, got into a shouting match with Rand Paul over the Fourth Amendment, Christie’s position being in favor of trashing it because 9/11 #NeverForget. This religious fervor has helped draw these guys far too deep into the running standoff with Iran. Scott Walker is the most openly entangled of the ones I heard on the subject, saying that when he visited Gulf Arab leaders, they kept telling him that they feared “American disengagement.” This is Weaselese for the United States refusing to bomb Iran at the behest of the Arabs so that the Arabs can keep their fingerprints off the operation. The very last people one should believe about the character of Persians are Arabs, and vice versa. The bigotry is hilarious, and consequently notorious in that part of the world (“Three that God should not have made: Persians, Jews, and Flies”). It was Gulf Arab officials who tried to persuade their US counterparts to “cut off the head of the snake,” i.e., assassinate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Americans keep falling for this sort of shit, apparently for geopolitical reasons worthy of a roaring drunk game of Risk. This is why our leaders keep siding with some of the most vicious hereditary autocracies on earth against a partially self-governing republic with strong civil society, a generally increasing tendency towards political reform, and a reasonably good human rights record by regional standards. Also, Scott Walker still remembers tying the ribbon around the tree until the mullahs sent our boys home. I’ll have to watch the first half of the debate, which I missed, to see if anyone mentioned Iran-Contra.
More on this horseshit later, if energy and focus permit. We’ve reached the point at which Marco Rubio looks positively good for being nothing worse than an earnest fool who won’t think for himself on matters of education and economic policy because he was taught to let his betters at the think tanks think for him. We’ve reached the point at which Donald Trump looks admirable for being a raging coarse-grit abrasive blowhard because at least he isn’t a religious maniac with batshit crazy objectivist economic dogmas.
Tell the stewardess to restock the airsickness bags.