Myth and Madness
Christine O’Donnell is in a fantasy world. Literally.
“We’re rowdy, we’re passionate,” she told the enraptured crowd. “It reminds me of the C. S. Lewis Narnia books, where the little girl asks someone about Aslan the lion, who represents God, and she says with a little concern over such a fearsome lion, ‘Is he safe?’ And her friend says, ‘Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.’ ”
She’s right that there’s an untamed beast rampaging through American politics. But this beast does not seem blessed; rather it has loosed a kind of ugliness and wildness in the land.
We the People in the Ruling Class Elites do think O’Donnell comes across as alarmingly loopy. But maybe she’s smart as a fox in doing a Single-White-Female, Fox anchor makeover to look more like her queen-maker, Sarah Palin.
She’s also smart to think of politics in terms of passion and myth — two elements Barack Obama was able to summon during his campaign that are sorely missing from his presidency.
She might have gone a broom too far, though, when she once told Bill Maher that she had “dabbled into witchcraft” and went on a date with a witch that included “a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.”
Obama’s bloodless rationality has helped spawn the right’s bloodletting of irrationality. His ivory tower approach to the nation’s fears and anxieties about the economy gave rise to a tower of angry babble. Tea Party is basically a big tent for anger.
The president’s struggle to connect and inspire passion is a dispiriting contrast to, as Yeats said, the worst, full of passionate intensity.
The first African-American president, who wrote in his memoir that he trained himself as a young man not to let his anger show in a suspicious white society, now faces anger on an unprecedented scale from a mostly white movement.
He seems weary of crisis management, conveying the attitude of the hero in “The Incredibles” who has to keep saving the world: “Sometimes I just want it to stay saved!”
The president seems put upon and impatient with reality while his foes seem happy to embrace fantasy.
Obama can connect with policy. He just can’t connect with the objects of policy. Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice.
He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed “bitter” during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them. That’s how Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his job, despite D.C.’s progress on schools and crime.
The insane have achieved political respectability while the sane act too good for it all. The irrational celebrate while the rational act bored and above-it-all.
When Rahm Emanuel leaves to go run for mayor in Chicago, all the blood will drain out of the White House. And Obama can go to Ben’s Chili Bowl for lunch every day and it won’t matter.