Oh, woe is us. Whatever shall we do? The first 2024 Republican Presidential Debate is scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. tonight, and our deadline falls before that! Heavens to Murgatroyd—how will we ever manage this?
Oh, yeah, that’s right: we’re supported by local, independent advertisers, and by subscribers. We need not concern ourselves with the stodgy expectations of advertising reps for national corporate behemoths.
As for our alleged peers in the news racket, the Nation’s Oldest Newspaper™ does not follow the example of others—it sets the example. So there.
Having freed ourselves from any perceived obligation to pretend anything substantial is likely to come out of Wednesday evening’s ritualized buffoonery in Milwaukee, what is there to say about the Republican attempt to come up with a plausible candidate for President—bearing in mind, of course, that as a family newspaper striving to avoid the use of language that some might deem offensive, we must abjure curses, obscenities, &c.—regardless of how appropriate they might otherwise be.
That last stipulation narrows down our task considerably. Let us also rule out ad hominem attacks. That, too, should make a big difference, expecially in such a target-rich environment.
What, then, are we left with? Eight individuals vying for a single position at the very apex of an institution which they uniformly profess to distrust, if not despise.
That, in itself, is a pretty weird internal contradiction. If this were true of only one of the candidates, it would seem to be a personal matter—one in which therapeutic intervention might be indicated. That is not the case, though.
None of them has any choice in the matter. “Government is Bad” is the central tenet of Party doctrine. It has been since the dawn of the era of its previous Big Executive Personality, more than forty years ago. Every Republican president since Reagan, whether he be dim or grandiose, has done his level best to prove that government is bad.
Judging by that metric, they have all succeeded remarkably well—which is to say, the nation has suffered terribly. Under Reagan, under both Bushes, elected and selected, and under The Former Guy, job creation has lagged and the national debt has soared.
Our point here is not to say that deficit spending is bad per se. No, the point is that, never mind what they do, that is what all Republicans say.
By their own measure, their presidents consistently fail. That, however, seems not to matter.
This blatant disconnect drives nit-picking non-partisan citizens crazy—for a while, when they first notice it. Eventually, though, like everyone else, they succumb to outrage fatigue and just get used to it.
For Republicans it’s easier. They simply pretend that isn’t true. If some obstreperous journalist—were there any such creatures left in the White House press room—pointed it out, in response they’d get a diversionary reply which was carefully crafted by a well-funded think tank to bury the simple truth in bushels of bafflegab.
Despite the transparency of this chicanery, the Republican party has been allowed for decades to strut around as if it were wearing the ermine mantle of fiscal prudence.
That’s just money, though—let’s look at a more important measure of national health—namely, national health.
Democratic presidents since Harry Truman have tried to pass a national health insurance plan. The Republican response has invariably been, “Universal health care? Over your dead body!”
At the time Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign—which somehow happened, strictly by chance, of course, at the nearest available campground to the site of the murders of civil rights martyrs James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—U.S. life expectancy at birth was only slightly below that of 20 other high income countries. By the end of his second term, we were near the bottom of that group.
At the beginning of the George W.[MD] Bush administration, we were the bottom; by the end of it, the bottom had dropped out.
Now, a person who has made the personal choice to inhabit a body of the species Homo sapiens might find this fact alarming. For a Republican, though, this is a success story.
The important thing isn’t how long any individual person may live. The important thing is that the government has been effectively prevented from standing in the way of a business making a profit as it determines how long a person lives.
To hear Republicans tell it, the Commandment God forgot to issue is this: “The government hath no business doing that which any random capitalist might choose to do.”
One of the consequences of adherence to that Commandment is playing out over our heads right now.
NASA—which was putting people on the Moon back when we were still fighting to keep the Viet Cong out of Long Beach—has since been reminded of its place in the greater scheme of things, to wit: as a procurement agency responsible for rubber-stamping lunatic schemes put forth by billionaires.
When NASA sends astronauts to the International Space Station, it books flight through Space-X, a company belonging to a super-annuated South African teenager with a taste for ganga and ketamine.
That arrangement may not last, though. Half the satellites in orbit are his. If too many of those little StarLinks go haywire, like some of his heavily-subsidized Teslas, they could crash into each other and form a shell of debris, making future space travel difficult if not impossible. They are already degrading visibility enough to have a deleterious effect on astronomy.
That would be what’s called a Low Probability, High Consequence event. Civilization—or what’s left of it today—is far more likely to end through a High Probability, Drastic Consequence event—any one of these Republicans—including the one who’s not on stage—getting into the Oval Office.