Like a moth to the flame, I am inexorably drawn to this presidential campaign, not to the interesting tussle of ideas and vision between Hillary and Bernie, but to the ghoulish horror show on the other side. Each day, I search the news in fascination, finding some new reason to be appalled. Yesterday, it was from Ted Cruz: “We [the southern states] should build a nuclear bomb and use it to defend our right to believe in God as our one true Father.” (Actually, this quote was from several months ago, but I just came across it.)
I am amazed, not that someone thinks this way, but that such a person would be a leading candidate for the most powerful position on the planet. But it is not just Cruz; others are almost as frightening. Their policies concerning climate change vary from outright denial to a complete unwillingness to do anything about it that might “hurt the economy”, meaning hurt the vested interests who are funding their campaigns. Their attitudes toward our civil liberties are totally skewed: they worry about “religious freedom” for Christians, by which they mean they want the freedom to discriminate and practice their religious rituals at government events, but seem totally unconcerned about the Constitutional rights of Muslims. None of our civil liberties are safe with these guys, except our gun rights. When it comes to foreign policy, they want America to lead the world, but they think the way to do that is to be belligerent as possible. As Rand Paul said in the recent debate, responding to one of the supposedly more moderate candidates, “Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate.”
So, I am not so much in favor of Bernie or Hillary as I am totally opposed to the rabid reactionaries. I have succumbed to what John Chait calls negative partisanship.
“Incomprehension” is not quite accurate in describing my own feelings. Having grown up in the South, I find some of this all too familiar. “Loathing” might be more accurate, but it does not convey the fear. This sense of fear is actually something I share with the reactionaries, it is just that I fear entirely different things. We each fear exactly what the other seems to hope and dream for, for our country and for the world.
This identity politics, driven by fear, is unhealthy. It means that the political party that I choose is largely unaccountable. Even if I find my party falling short in honesty, integrity and good government, I will continue to support them so long as the they protect the country from this band of misguided ideologues. As long as the Tea Party threatens to win elections, I am voting Democrat.
My older son tells me I’m “nostalgic for those days when a reasonable person could contemplate voting something other than a straight ticket.” He’s right. Long ago (2014), I endorsed a set of candidates from four different parties for the state-wide races in Ohio. That was before the Donald, the Cruz, and their fellow maniacs scared me straight.