Yesterday was a good day for crazy.
Last week I asked if it wasn't time for Congress to ask -- and not entirely rhetorically -- Is the president mad? But yesterday, the somewhat more widely read New York Times took a double-barreled survey of the psychiatrically troubled recesses of the conservative mind, and crazy, hands down, was king.
First, in asking if Mad Ludwig will "manage to leave office without starting [another] war," the Times' editorial board felt justifiably compelled to pepper its musings with the following, uneasy terms: "a ghoulish guessing game," the whimsical futility of "bank[ing] on sanity," a reference to "fantasy," and -- of keenest and simplest diagnostic value -- "the crazy American government."
Hey, Messrs. Editorialists of Record, don't sugarcoat it. Give it to us straight.
Meanwhile, adjacent to the Times' diagnosis of the contemporary conservative mind was columnist Paul Krugman's, which, as well, included an examination of the "crazy talk" coming from the Republican Party's leading presidential candidates -- some only slightly "saner" than others.
But Krugman's musings on the psychiatrically dark and abnormal were also historical in nature -- using, as he did, the recent past as an explanatory platform for the dubious present.
"In the wake of 9/11," he noted, "the Bush administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy." That screwing-with-our-minds strategy was, as we know, a boffo success.
But despite the continuity of fear-mongering with which the administration labored, "most Americans," Krugman further noted, "have now regained their balance." And that, of course, is well and good and likely true.
On the other hand, Krugman posited that "the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up.... And the base is looking for a candidate who shares this fear."
Being happy to oblige, "many of the men who hope to be the next president -- including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination -- have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns." Thus, concluded Krugman, an "unreasoning fear" -- shorthand note: "crazy" -- "has taken over one of America’s two great political parties."
And that's where I must part company with Paul. Not in the fundamental diagnosis of crazy, but in its underlying cause.
With absolutely no psychiatric training whatsoever -- but with, at least, some considerable schooling in the authoritarian mind -- I would posit that the Republican base isn't wallowing in party-induced fear at all. They harbor no real, gripping panic over impending terrorist attacks, or dark-skinned bogeymen, or any of the other commonly spread hysterias used to degrade our governmental system of laws.
They know, instead, that it's a hoax -- a political tool -- employed merely in the realization of that singular dream that lies closest to their little authoritarian hearts: the Strong Man as Leader; the suppression of constitutional impediments; the virtual obliteration of checks and balances on He Who Rightly Rules, and properly alone.
The dedicated right finds comfort in such simplicity. It's clean, it's linear, it contains no frustrating obstacles to decisive action; it is infinitely reassuring. The right seeks a John Wayne government, oblivious to its ultimate George Armstrong Custer realities.
It's crazy, all right. But the condition isn't grounded in fear. It's grounded in hope.
to kindly support p m carpenter's commentary -- and thank you!