COST vs BENEFIT

Posted in Rants on October 28th, 2015 by Ed

Recently I overheard on public transit two twenties/thirties Frat Bro types praising Carly Fiorina's appearance. I listened for a while and thought, well, they probably wouldn't do the same thing to a male candidate, although I could just as easily picture them making path of least resistance cracks about Trump's hair or Christie's turkey waddle and girth. In the end I contributed only "If you think she looks good now, you should have seen her when she was alive" before exiting the train. Should I have asked them why they were focusing on appearance with the only woman in the GOP race or suggested that they think about her issue positions rather than superficial factors? Probably. But here's the thing. I was tired, and ultimately talking about what Carly Fiorina thinks ("thinks") is about as interesting or relevant as talking about her face.

Imagine the following set of options for how you can spend the next hour of your life. You could push a round stone the size of a minivan up a steep incline. You could run up a staircase that never ends. You could read the user manual and instructions for a selection of pop-up toasters. Or you could explain at length, point by point, why Ben Carson is insane or Carly Fiorina's ideas are not good ones.

Take your time.

I understand on an intellectual level why making cracks about the candidates' appearance or other superficial characteristics is, in the grand sense, Wrong. It makes me and anyone else who does it, by the most literal definition, a Bad Person. The reason I do it sometimes, and the reason I don't get as bent out of shape as a lot of people do when I hear someone else do it, is that there is nothing I can imagine at this point in my life and in American politics that is more tedious, more of a waste of effort, or less engaging than explaining why the "ideas" presented by these candidates are stupid. I'm going to be honest; if my options are to point out that Chris Christie looks like an unemployed pipefitter from Bayonne, NJ or to explain, point by point, why his stale, thirty year old set of Republican talking points rephrased as policy positions is wrong, I'm going to pick the former more often than not.

Think of it this way. If I devoted this space to explaining that supply side economics doesn't work, starting wars is a bad idea, or opposition to gay marriage is hypocritical, Constitutionally unjustifiable, and ignorant, how interesting would that be for you to read? In the last 15 years how many times would you estimate you've read those arguments? How many times have you made them or explained this to someone unwilling or unable to understand them? How many sentences into that post would your eyes glaze over and your mouse begin poking around for something more interesting?

It's just too much effort to continue to take these people seriously. The leading GOP candidates are an actual reality TV troll, a clinically insane man who hears voices from god, a woman whose entire resume is a series of staggering failures in the corporate world, and George W. Bush's dumber brother. There are only so many times you can say "Hey everyone, I don't think cutting taxes on the wealthy is an effective economic strategy!" or "The things these candidates say seem incorrect and outrageous most of the time!" Their barrage of stupidity and falsehoods is too constant for anyone with a normal attention span to keep shooting down for very long. We get it. I get it. You get it. These people are all goddamn insane, and the ones that aren't insane are dangerously stupid, and the ones that aren't insane or stupid are bloodless, craven sociopaths who will say anything if they think it will make morons vote for them. Pointing that out over and over again is tedious and pointless. To engage them on the merits of their "ideas" – not a single one of which is of more recent vintage than about 1990, excepting the occasional new and completely insane theory they cook up for attention in this cacophony of monkey howls – adds as much to our intellectual lives as Chris Christie fat jokes, which is to say not a goddamn thing.