FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Banality of Hyperbole

by THOMAS KNAPP

You know the quadrennial refrain: Americans are politically “polarized.” Half of us are ranting right-wing Torquemadists, the other half are raving left-wing Jacobins, and by implication the country faces a stark binary choice between those two approaches to government.

It’s caricature, of course. Most Americans — and I say this as a hardcore fringe radical! — are mired in the muddled middle, and this November’s presidential election presents those Americans, as usual, with a choice between two timid, ever-so-slightly right of center, non-entities whose only bankable promises are to not tinker much with the status quo.

No, you say? Obama and Romney are nothing at all alike? Well, let’s dispose of that in one swell foop and with one word: “Obamacare.”

“Conservative” Republican Mitt Romney beta-tested “Obamacare” as governor of Massachusetts — a decade and change after “conservative” Republicans proposed and backed its main feature, the “individual mandate” in 1993 (following 12 years of a Republican White House and right before the GOP’s first re-seizure of congressional control in 40 years; not exactly a timeframe in which Republicans could be reasonably described as playing defense, but rather a time when they were most apt to be out front with exactly what they really wanted).

“Liberal” Obama rammed the Romney 2006 / Gingrich 1993 proposal through Congress at the national level … and that makes him “the most left-wing president in American history.” So he must be replaced. By Romney. Some stark choice there, huh?

This alleged “polarization” between America’s major political parties is pure hooey, but it’s necessary to keeping the game interesting. After all, if the game gets too boring, people might decide to take away the Democrats’ and Republicans’ ball and go play something else.

Enter hyperbole. Whether it’s LBJ’s 1964 ad with the little girl getting vaporized in a thermonuclear explosion if Goldwater won, or Chuck and Gena Norris’s suggestion that Obama’s re-election might cue the extinction of freedom and “thousand years of darkness” which Old Testament prophet Ronald Reagan warned of, wild exaggerations about the existential importance of this year’s presidential beauty contest are the only way to “keep the skeer up.”

The hype has gotten so outrageous that it’s frankly becoming a huge tiresome bore. Every Democratic administration is “the most left-wing in history.” Every Republican administration is “trying to drag us back to the Middle Ages” (or at least to the pre-Martin-Luther-King era). But on even cursory examination, there’s so little light between the two offerings that Kate Moss would have a difficult time squeezing between them.

The prime directive for Republican and Democratic politicians — and for that matter, increasingly even among “third party” candidates” — is to not rock the boat. They’re all auditioning for the role of William F. Buckley’s archetypal conservative, seeking the job of standing athwart the train tracks of history yelling “stop!”

At 364 years of age, the Westphalian nation-state is a doddering, senile institution. It’s on its last legs. It no longer aspires to great new things, but merely hopes to hold on to what it has for as long as possible before it strokes out or just dies quietly in its sleep.

In terms of everyday exercise of power, it’s mostly been reduced in recent years to shuffling out on its front porch and yelling at the neighborhood youngsters — non-state peer networks actually doing everything the state has always claimed to do but failed miserably at — to get off its lawn.

Its elections, and the attendant hype, are the equivalent of waving its cane at said youngsters in a futile attempt to scare them out of knocking it down, breaking its hip and forcing it to listen to that new-fangled “jazz” music while it waits for an ambulance to pick it up and transport it to the nearest hospice facility.

The real question is not who runs the state for the next four years. The real question is what comes after the state. Everything else is just vaudeville, badly performed as a distraction from that question.

Thomas L. Knapp is Senior News Analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail