The good folks at Balloon Juice have been righteously mocking Andrew Sullivan and other professional contrarians who rashly jumped on the Ron Paul bandwagon when the old kook’s campaign suddenly gained a pulse in Iowa. Sully walked back his endorsement after being hammered for issuing it to a candidate with such a troubling history of publishing racist, homophobic rants. But he’s still lamely attempting a post-hoc justification by citing random un-offended black folk and posting inane Paul supporter comments such as this one linked by Mr. Cole:
“I voted for Obama in 2008 but we need a change. Dr Paul is consistent and honest, which is very hard to find. He is not just telling us what we have heard before,” - Samantha Dunn, a 28-year-old teacher in Iowa, to the Daily Telegraph.
This is the kind of shit that makes me want to snort Wild Turkey with a Neti pot. It’s not just the sheer tonnage of stupid packed into those three sentences; it’s the horrific realization that these are the people who will decide the 2012 election.
I’ll wager Ms. Dunn is not particularly stupid—just ignorant of how politics work and clueless about what constitutes valid criteria for making political decisions. I also suspect she is sadly typical of our electorate. Dunn supported President Obama in 2008 because she sensed that we needed a change in direction. Fair enough.
But the fact that she could turn around four years later and support someone like Paul indicates that either Dunn has no idea what the two candidates’ basic political positions are or doesn’t think that sort of thing is important. It reminds me of the people who transferred their allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin in 2008. For the subset who operate strictly on the basis of identity politics, it made a kind of sense: Both candidates possess a pair of boobs and a vagina, and by god, that’s good enough in some quarters.
But most who made the Hillary-to-Sarah whipsaw wouldn’t cop to such a narrow litmus (titmus?) test. Instead, they attempted to disguise the utterly superficial and frankly dumb calculus it took to make the switch by attributing views to both candidates which neither woman would recognize, contorting themselves into pretzels trying to pass off the floridly anti-choice Palin as a stealth champion of women’s rights.
My guess is that something similar is going on in the noggin of Ms. Dunn and voters like her. If she’s aware that Paul got his notions about capitalism from Ayn Rand’s master-race bodice-rippers, if she knows that he is the darling of the racist goons at StØrmfront because he thinks restaurant owners should be able to hang up “Whites Only” signs if they damn well please, she must believe that this is less important than Paul’s “consistent,” “honest” crackpottery.
I don’t mean to pick on Ms. Dunn—I cite her to illustrate a wider and more disturbing phenomenon: the casual political shopper. Of course, it isn’t anything new at all: People have been voting on the basis of who would be “fun to have a beer with” since John Adams ran against Thomas Jefferson. The dawning horror attendant upon the realization that the 2012 election is in their hands is just one of those bits of knowledge that are always in the background but are nonetheless capable of making one queasy when contemplated directly. Like the knowledge of one’s own mortality.
Anyhoo, the good news is that even if Paul carries off the prize in Iowa, there is virtually no chance he’ll become the Republican nominee. Romney will almost certainly win the nomination, and I can’t think of anyone on earth less likely to inspire casual shoppers at the Crackpottery Barn than Willard M. Romney. Whew?