The question more and more is not about the outcome of the November election but about how weird it will be.
Tuesday’s son-of-Ron-Paul victory
fortifies not only Tea Party campaigns across the country, but the ambitions of almost every would-be politician who is passionately aggrieved. It could be that anybody who is weird has just about the best chance in modern history of getting elected in November. It could be that the weirder you are—the angrier, the more self-righteous, the more certain of grand conspiracies and of our current era’s historic apostasy—the more likely it is that you’ll run, and, depending only on the relative badness of economy, win.
Somebody should spend some time trying to measure the size of the opportunity for the nutters. You would have to quantify the inversion of reality. Among the variables: the extent to which the lack of experience is understood to be more valuable than experience; the number of people who question the president’s birthplace; the ebb and flow of the passions of the Sarah Palin faction.
What you define then is not just the level of the dumbing down of the public discussion but the extent of the rise of the emotionally troubled as the guiding spirit of it.
Barack Obama himself seems exactly the wrong sort
to counter the not-so-fringe lunatics. He’s contained, reasonable, unemotional, even unresponsive. In a sense it may be that his very demeanor, his unwarranted calmness (the “no-drama Obama” thing), inclines the collective will to want to shake him. Hence this otherwise inexplicable partiality on the part of so many to the obviously disturbed.
The president is clearly betting on the turnaround. He must believe that if he can stay steady on the course and move the numbers well enough then a goodly amount of voters will, in the time remaining (which isn’t much at all), begin to feel more sanguine and reassured and will then resist the onrush of the crazies. Otherwise, you’d assume he’d be using hysteria—preaching his own version of the end of the world and the breakdown of society (the certainty of bombs in Time Square, or some such)—to fight hysteria.
But at this point does anybody believe the president’s strategy—of dutifulness and constancy and cautious reform—has a prayer against the weirdos and loonies?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
By ever more measures, November is going to be Armageddon for the Democrats. At this point, avoiding disaster would probably take something of the magnitude of a 14,000 Dow and a drop to a 5% or 6% unemployment rate. (If you’re betting, a more likely next chapter is the collapse of Europe, which will put the US back into recession.)