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Many of us saw and were mightily amused at the antics at the recent Democratic Party presidential primary debates.
Two incidents that stand out for me as absurdist gold are former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro advocating—in the vein of Eric Idle’s character in “Life of Brian”— the right of biological males to have female reproductive organs and Marianne Williamson’s certifiably loony babblings every time she opened her yap.
Now if we lived in another time or in a nation with above average cultural and intellectual standards, they would have been laughed off the stage and into public obscurity. But we don’t.
We live in a time and place where the line between outright lunacy and acceptable discourse is thin. A time where there is seemingly no bottom to the abyss of irrational twaddle no one will take issue with, where adults can get away with channeling the emotions and wisdom of 13-year-olds, and many on social media can’t tell the difference between parody and news.
So I think the pertinent question that comes to mind is how far can it go before we reach heretofore unforeseen barmy levels of government and politics? How long before the candidate of a major party shows up at a debate in Zouave pantaloons and a wombat mask and is praised for his sartorial acumen and sensitivity to the needs of red-trousered marsupial voters?
I venture, not much longer. Williamson did the verbal equivalent with her “Hey, girlfriend” line about calling the prime minister of New Zealand and is enjoying a bump in nationwide donations from 50ish first wives with ’70s-era hairstyles.
Now, this is a societal trait not limited to the Left, as I see non-sequitur reader comments on my articles for various other conservative publications all the time. Mostly, no matter what the subject, responses that are entirely composed of “Trump 2020.” I could write a 10,000-word essay on Hobbesian trends in 19th-century Bosnian literature, and more than half of my populist-conservative readers would respond “MAGA!!!” Though the severest outbreaks come from our classic red pals.
I was able to experience this personally several years ago at a corporate dinner not far from Washington, D.C.
An establishment liberal firm invited those who they termed “community leaders.” How I got invited to a cocktail and meal repast at a rather tony Washington eatery I’ll never know—unless they meant leading in bourbon consumption. There were a couple of hundred people there and for some reason, they seated three of us, all men of Latin American ancestry, at the same table. Perhaps in their guilty white event planning, they thought we could start our own colorfully authentic barrio.
The three of us noticed this, were amused, and, being Latin males, headed for the open bar. To our surprise when we returned to our table it was filled out by five nice women of the past-40-and-gray-hair-parted-straight-down-the-middle variety. They were, appropriate to their likely lefty ideology, attired in semi-countercultural apparel and symbols. About 10 feet from the table, spying these ladies, one of us whose parents hailed from Ecuador whispered to the other two, “You guys want to have fun? Follow my lead.”
When we sat, he said in his best rendition of Ricardo Montalban Spanish, “Do jew know, een Ecuuuador thee childrrren hab tails?” Now this guy was born here in the States and had no discernible Latin accent. He decided to see how far he could push the nonsensical ceiling by making patently idiotic claims and seeing if he’d get called on it. He gambled right. The ladies oohed and ahhed and told us their own ethnocentricity was to blame for their ignorance on the subject.
Imitating my Colombian cousins, I added: “Een Colooombeaaah, do jew know eees against the law to marry an oogly wohman?” An eyebrow raised here and there, but no pushback and general acknowledgment of the superiority of Latin culture. The game was up when the third guy opined that from a certain Andean peak you could see, under the right atmospheric conditions, five continents. Two of us laughed out loud at that.
At that point, we switched to our normal voices and everybody acted as if our Cheech Marin impersonations had never happened.
Such is modern America.
And it isn’t just too-tolerant ladies at dinners, as we discern on a daily basis the malady reaches into the highest levels of government.
The president doesn’t quite go the absurdist route. He prefers hyperbole, at times straining credulity, akin to a duck in water. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, as my political regard for him dictates, I think this is generally used by him to bait his Democrat opponents into fits of their own inanity. If so, this has been a highly successful effort on his part.
From Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison of border facilities to Treblinka to the constant intoning, as we saw at both debates, of the incipient fascism allegedly inherent in the Trump Administration, the president has done to the opposition what Inspector Clouseau did to Chief Inspector Dreyfus. He has driven them barking mad.
It does not strike them, aside from one or two of the more cynical contenders, that if fascism was imminent they would not have the bully pulpit of a national stage. It fails to faze emotionally driven cretins that staged photo ops at border area parking lots probably would not be considered a fun day at the beach by Heinrich Himmler types and those other wacky sidekicks of an upcoming totalitarian regime.
You’re saying, oh c’mon. They are manipulating the message and playing to their crowd in the same way the president and the GOP does.
Nah, there is a big difference.
A Republican would be pilloried by the Democrats, the popular culture, academia, the news media, late night talk hosts, and so on. So, to escape the heat, not to mention the disdain of their own base, they rarely go full Kafka.
The Democrats know they can get away with a smorgasbord of illogic and preposterous statements before being called to the carpet. That being said, various Democrats like AOC, Castro, and Williamson I believe have, in their ideological fervor, broken through that barrier and sometimes have been mocked by the plethora of usually reliable liberal mouthpieces.
Nevertheless, those Democrats keep up the insanity because they actually believe what they’re saying, which is my guess, or they know they will have to go as far as a Williamson, completely outside the political solar system of craziness, to pay a price. Either way, the boys in the white coats and big net can go home. What were once the confines of Gregor Samsa are now the leftist norms of cognition.
So, the answer to “how far can it go” is what pilots call “CAVU”: ceiling and visibility unlimited.
With declining educational standards, social media devotees willing to believe anything that fits their prejudices, and public figures straining at the leash to be the Chuck Yeager of ridiculous pronouncements, the outlook is bright indeed for unintentional humor and virulent schadenfreude continuing well into the foreseeable future. It will culminate on that great and glorious day when, shorn of all mortification and thrilled at the prospect, we can address the chief executive of this country as “Madame President Williamson.”
I’ll get the popcorn.
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