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:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail