THE RANK SLUDGE OF DEMOCRACY

As one of many people who followed the 2008 election with great interest, one of my clearest memories is of the intense feeling of fatigue that I felt during the last month of the general election period. By October of that year the outcome was a foregone conclusion and we all stared at the calendar like middle school kids stare at clocks, willing it to go faster. There was a point at which I couldn't stomach another analysis of some hypothetical Electoral College scenario, ridiculous campaign commercial, cringe-inducing McCain event, or lingering worry that Sarah Palin would ever be put in charge of something more important than a tank of goldfish. The ebb and flow of the election was interesting for a while but then I just wanted to get the goddamn thing over with. Enough.

This year is going to be different. It promises to be far worse. I want the election over already and it's not even March. I want it over yesterday. Rather than simply chalking this up to Ed being a grumpy old asshole, I have two specific reasons that this is going to be an unbearable form of torture.

First, the GOP's four year long effort to tank the economy hasn't worked well enough to fit their preferred election year narrative that the country is on the brink of complete collapse (see Mitch Daniels' apocalyptic State of the Union response) and only doubling down on Republican economic policies can save it. While the economic situation is not a cause for great celebration, by any metric it is improving (albeit painfully slowly). Most importantly, perceptions of the economy are improving. With the "OMG we're ruined! Ruined!" narrative unworkable and the GOP's savior in 2010, the Teabaggers, nowhere to be found, the party is going to turn 2012 into an endless parade of 1980s-style Culture Wars bullshit. They've spent the past two weeks crusading against birth control. Some nitwit labeled the Girl Scouts a radical group on Monday. We'll get a healthy dose of anti-gay marriage stuff before long, and the GOP House will undoubtedly hatch some dead-on-arrival legislation related to abortion over the summer. Who knows what other Falwell-esque gems they might dust off. School prayer? Creationism? Heliocentrism? Only time will tell. But the Planned Parenthood/contraception fiasco is but a preview. We have nine solid months of these pointless, dead-end spectacles ahead of us. None of it will accomplish anything except to be excruciating to sit through.

2. Back when the decision was handed down, I wrote that we would all live to regret Citizens United for reasons that have nothing to do with questions of fairness or buying elections. We will regret it because it will turn our elections into tsunami of slime that will put previous notions of "mudslinging" to shame. Massive, wealthy organizations beyond the control of any candidate or campaign will be spending billions on advertising and other forms of advocacy, and every cent of it is going to pay for toxic sludge. It will spread misinformation and engage in character assassination on a level that will make the Swift Boaters look amateurish and kindly. Thanks to the Supreme Court, anyone can spend any amount of money trying to influence the election…and they can say whatever they want. It doesn't have to be remotely true or relevant or grounded in reality. It just has to be paid for.

Taking these two factors collectively, today I feel like the candidates are just beginning a swim through a ten mile long trench filled with liquefied human waste, broken glass, and salt. Anyone with enough money to buy a special ticket gets to douse the swimmers with buckets of bloody vomit every ten feet for the duration. Occasionally the media will jump on their backs and dunk their heads beneath the surface to keep the audience on edge. There is no comfort to be taken from the fact that only Obama and (insert GOP nominee here) actually have to swim through it. Watching the spectacle unfold will be its own unique kind of torture.

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27 Responses to “THE RANK SLUDGE OF DEMOCRACY”

  1. Ben Says:

    Goddammit Ed, you fucking asshole

    You just had to include heliocentrism in your parade of horribles, didn't you. Making me wonder if there was, indeed, any conservative craziness regarding theories of the Earth revolving around the sun.

    I did not need to know that there is. My life was just fine without reading the following:

    "It seems clear that it may occasionally be convenient to assume that the calculations of Copernicus and Kepler were mathematically sound. However, for both moral and theological reasons, we should always bear in mind that the Earth does not move. If it moved, we would feel it moving. That’s called empiricism, the experience of the senses. Don’t take my word for it, or the evidence of your own senses, Copernicans. There’s also the Word of the Lord: “He has fixed the earth firm, immovable.” (1 Chronicles 16:30) [etc]"

    I can't not know that, now. That there are fucking assholes plugged into the political system who are crazy enough to make a big fucking deal about the stupidest goddamn fucking shit that was proved four hundred fucking years ago. Godfuckingdammit.

    I'm not a religious man. But I find myself, more and more, praying that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space 'cause there's bugger-all down here on Earth.

  2. Tyler Preston Says:

    Thank you. I'm glad you said that. It needed to be said.

  3. Middle Seaman Says:

    Don't even pretend not to like it! And what is there not to like? The economy is recovering due to the huge output of shit on our political and economical scenes.

    PBS showed this week, the political life of Bill Clinton in two hours, dusting, farting and shitting. For those poor souls that made millions, the millions that got jobs and a modern country with, god forbid, budget surplus, you are all idiots. There was only shit and sex from 93 to 2000.

    We love it; we elect Bush I, II and now III for president. As they used to say in my old neighborhood: if you put the brains of all the Bushes in a dog's head, you'll get a stupid mad dog.

    Enjoy!

  4. A Says:

    I do not care for Citizens United – even if it shows us who is paying for the election. (Yes, there is a positive spin on everything.)

    I am disgusted by the amount of dollars spent in the primaries (& time – luckily Santorum, Gingrich, & Romney are not currently holding office – aka wasting their time by running for yet another office) when there are people in need of food & shelter!

  5. c u n d gulag Says:

    Darwin was wrong.
    We're not evolving.
    And Conservative Religious Christian "morans" prove that every day – when their Sun circles the Earth, and rises in the East, pointing out where Jesus was born to the rest of us.
    And what further proof do they need?

    We in the US have DEvoloved – not evolved…

    Oh, and after looking at our "modern" Conservatives, I'm starting to realize that they're using "The Handmaid's Tale" as an instructional manual.
    Nothing good will come of that, you can be sure…

  6. drunk dog Says:

    1. don't watch TV.
    2. sit back and watch the reactionaries self-destruct.

  7. c u n d gulag Says:

    drunk dog,
    You forgot:
    3. And hope they don't take the rest of us with them…

  8. Hazy Davy Says:

    Less terse than usual, but just as right…

  9. Number Three Says:

    @drunk dog

    I gave up the teevee long ago. It's the Internet that's my problem. If I could just quit reading political blogs . . .

  10. Xynzee Says:

    @Ben: where did you find that horrible tidbit? I live in one of the most conservative diocese in the Anglican Communion, and even here the official view accepts Capernacian theory.

    Unfortunately, we still get our Young Earthers. One I met told me how he was pulled into the Principal of the Bible college's office and told there was serious doubt he'd graduate because of his views.

  11. anotherbozo Says:

    Relatedly, Flackcheck.org has released a video demonstrating how even Honest Abe could have been slimed using typical superpac tactics. In case any of you missed it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3tOFWBhP0s

    I reach for humor with a certain kind of desperation these days. Though Ed's last paragraph was a masterpiece Will Self would have envied.

  12. John Says:

    A) Republicans have spent the last 4 years calling Obama a Kenyan Communist Tyrant™.

    B) Look at what the current crop of Republican candidates have spent the last 4 *weeks* calling *each other*.

    C) Given A and B, I'm going to have to cut off all access to anything political this election cycle, lest I lose the last shred of faith I had in humanity.

  13. Andy Brown Says:

    Could this kill off TV viewership? Imagine, as the networks finance their operations by being the firehouse for all of this, if people just stopped listening. I mean really, who has the patience for six months of this?

  14. bill Says:

    Good morning, sunshine!

  15. Elle Says:

    One thing all of this pro-Gilead dissemination will be doing is co-opting the resources of women's and girls' organisations, and having a chilling effect on some of their work. It will also be having some resonance beyond the US.

    Calling out the Girl Scouts, based on a quick Google search, would doubtless have led to a busy afternoon for the Girl Scouts' comms team, and some strategic-level calls with Planned Parenthood to co-ordinate statements. There'll be some ongoing comms work to mop up the people who saw the original reports, but not the response, and those who were uncompelled by the response. Some local partners will undoubtedly want more information, and might need some hand-holding to keep them onside.

    The Girl Scouts, through their world assocation, WAGGS, do a lot of advocacy work around girls' experience of violence, health inequalities, and access to education. They're around at European-level things, and UN things, and they're effective.

    As bogus as the frenzy over birth control seems, and as completely out of left-field as the Girl Scouts brouhaha is, US discourse on women's rights does send a signal to the wider world. The signal being sent by the Republicans is clear: reproductive health is not health at all, and the state can mandate sexual assault to keep women from exercising lawful autonomy over their own bodies.

  16. Monkey Business Says:

    Does this mean I get to start referring to Obama as "President Dufresne"?

    He's crawled through a river of shit and come out clean on the other side.

  17. kentropic Says:

    Well said. And I see that you're also a fan of Steve Albini's famous early-90s rant, "The Problem with Music" — where I think the trench-swimming trope was born: http://www.negativland.com/albini.html

  18. mothra Says:

    I had that intense feeling of fatigue at the end of the 2008 election season too! But it was because I was working on a dreadful trial which happened to be finishing at exactly the same time. I remember how happy we were Obama was elected…and then how deeply our hopes were dashed.

    But yes, I watched "Moyers & Company" last night with the head of the communications department of the Annenberg Center for Public Policy and she painted quite a grim picture. I have to laugh at her optimism though–thinking television stations will pull false super PAC ads. Bwaahahahahahahaha. Turn down all that money? No freaking way.

    I plan to watch cable or read. But I am in the same boat as Number Three. Must. Stop. Reading. Political. Blogs.

    Oh yeah, did you hear that Santorum says that elderly people are being euthanized in the Netherlands because of the national health care system there? Fucking idiot.

  19. PWL Says:

    I understand that in England, an election campaign is not allowed to last longer than six weeks. If that's so , it's what we need here.

    But rest assured, that will not happen, any more than campaign reform will. There are just too many parties (i.e., campaign consultant, PR people, advert agencies, the MSM, and, of course, the folks who put up the money {read: buy the politicians}), who have a vested interest in long, drawn-out and hideously expensive election campaigns for that to ever happen…..

  20. PWL Says:

    Erm, that shoulda been "campaign finance reform"…..

  21. acer Says:

    The CUlture War crap might help bring out the fringes (who will gladly show up anyway to vote against That One) but it is slow-acting poison for the GOP, particularly if they can't stake out a post-WW2 positon on immigration. If I were George Soros, I'd make a large donation to Santorum right now.

    I was enormously entertained by the depravity of the Republican primaries up until about a month ago and am now experiencing a sensation not unlike a severe Old Granddad hangover. The second half of 2012 is going to be brutal.

  22. Some Guy Says:

    Once again, Ed is pig-bitin' mad.

  23. Lisa Says:

    Hi Ed,

    I'm new here — you've got a great blog. I'd like to request that you contact us @ rangeragainstwar as I have a question unrelated to your posting; my email is on the submission form.

    I could not find yours on-site, but that may be because I'm a Luddite.

    Thanks

  24. Ben Says:

    @Xynzee

    I found that excerpt here: http://blogs4brownback.wordpress.com/2007/05/18/heliocentrism-is-an-atheist-doctrine/

    That post has a link, though, that is just sublime: fixedearth.com

    As long as I'm throwing out links, here are some groups that are trying to fight Citizens United.

    http://rootstrikers.org/

    http://www.citizen.org/

    http://www.movetoamend.org/

  25. Bernard Says:

    i thought the correct phrase was "Kenyan Muslim Usurper"? things change so fast, though. it is hard to keep up with the latest incantation.

    4 more years of Bush III, wasn't the inauguration enough?

  26. unclemike Says:

    Darwin was wrong.
    DEVO was right.

    Imagine that. And don't bogart the flask, boys. Unkie needs his medicine to make it to November…

  27. jjack Says:

    What's really kind of chilling is that, during that time period, Sarah Palin was in command of a National Guard unit. I wonder how many people it took to talk her out of launching an amphibious assault on the Russian far east.