OFF THE GRID

It’s Not Politics, It’s Bonkers

Feb 23, 10 | 7:05 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Let’s make nuttiness in America the issue.

Forget right or left or any matters of ideology. Why not make the pressing public issue about logic, perspective, rationality, proportion, and even humor?

There ought to be a new political test: If you talk like a nut, if you act like a nut, if you associate with other nuts, you’re a nut.

Joe Stack’s daughter, Samantha Bell, is, like her father, who flew his plane into the IRS office in Austin, Texas, last week, a nut. His suicide and murder of an innocent bystander was, according to Bell, her father’s way of speaking out against injustice. “Nothing will ever be accomplished,” she said, if there aren’t people like her father willing to strike a blow against big government (she also called him a hero, but then, as nuttily, thought better of that and retracted it).

In no time at all, Joe Stack could become part of the discussion about the evils of Washington. Many reasonable people may shortly be engaged in a Joe Stack-inspired debate about the virtues or ills of big government. This is partly out of a certain politesse: We think it’s unfair or incorrect or plainly not nice to call people cuckoo, daft, deficient, around the bend. Political debate, I’d argue, is quite often a way to avoid the real subject. The very impersonal and humorless nature of political discussions—so that even in the privacy of our own homes we can sound like talking heads—means we overlook the real emotional subtext: Many American are truly out-and-out over the edge. (Arguably, the more you talk about politics the more distant you are from your emotions and, hence, the nuttier you are.)

And the problem keeps getting worse.

I would have said the annual CPAC conference, held this past week in Washington, was a pretty estimable collection of people worked up in more or less scary and disproportionate ways. Now Mike Huckabee, the thousand-pound clergyman who went on a dramatic diet and ran, nearly successfully, for the Republican nomination for president, says CPAC is way too reasonable for him. The Tea Party movement, says Huckabee, is where the real soul of his party is.

By this, he means that’s where the nutters are—his base. Nuts fuel instability, which is what fuels upsets, which is what will be necessary to make Mike Huckabee president (to say the very least).

Republicans, once the party of boring sobriety and solidness, are now the party of the kooky, the cracked, the unhinged. Republicans are not conservative in the least. Rather, they act out in the most deranged and dramatic ways.

The Democrats, being doggedly literal, in addition to scrupulously respectful about people’s mental health (a liberal issue), accept these barmy conservatives as having a bona fide, if objectionable, political view. Whereas, they might more effectively be arguing that the real issue isn’t taxes or big government or health care, but drugs, alcohol, loneliness, neglect, paranoia, grandiosity, obsessiveness, and so many other American creeds and conditions.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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