Pursuing and Crafting the Republican Id

I’ve developed a new way of watching Republican debates. First, I forget that they’ve already started. Then I fail to remember that they’re being carried exclusively by a cable news network I watch so little that I’ve forgotten where it resides on my remote control. After I finally tune in fifteen or twenty minutes late, I feel compelled to move far away from the screen, meaning to an adjacent room or out on my patio. At this point, I can technically hear the audio if I strain my ears and concentrate, but I’m actually following along on Twitter. If I hear some rowdy audience reaction or something being said on Twitter piques my interest, I may wander back towards the television and stand there shifting my weight from foot to foot impatiently as I struggle to overcome my impulse to flee.

I think I can accomplish approximately four interrupted minutes of viewing before something in my brain insists that I stop and go do something else.

This isn’t because I don’t feel an obligation to watch so I have the information I need to understand this campaign. It’s baser than that and really amounts to something like a worn out pancreas that has just seen too much bullshit for one life.

I might need an organ transplant to get to the point where I can again spend three hours listening to those loons do their thing.

Now, when it came to the Kiddie Table debate, I completely spaced that it was on until it was well over, so I just went to see what Ed said about it:

And speaking of crazy, the “J.V.” debate revealed the id of the conservative movement on full display in a way that only occurred sporadically in the main event. Bobby Jindal is rapidly perfecting and radicalizing what I’d call his Trumpism Without Trump pitch, which mainly involves shrieking at congressional Republicans for not taking the most extreme strategic and tactical approaches available on every subject. That means, inter alia, shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood; using the nuclear option to pass a resolution of disapproval on the Iran Nuke Deal; defying the Supreme Court over same-sex marriage and Obamacare; you name it. Just as interestingly, the candidate who kept schooling Bobby on the counterproductive nature of such tactics, Lindsey Graham (us lawyers particularly enjoyed his patient explanation of Marbury v. Madison to Jindal as though he was a backward child), then spent the balance of his time trying to establish a litmus test whereby all candidates where required to promise to send tens of thousands of American ground troops back into Iraq, and maybe Syria and Iran, too, to “kill as many of the bastards as we can get our hands on.” Republicans are lucky the J.V. debate probably didn’t draw that high a viewership; it was like a bad episode of True Blood.

I don’t watch True Blood, either, but I think it has something to do with vampires. Personally, I’ve begun comparing these folks to the Manson Family, but choose your own analogies.

Somehow, all this pandering to the Republican id reminded me of an episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine Benes discovers that she’s suddenly irresistible to the Jewish gentlemen in her life.

ELAINE: Rabbi, is there anything I can do to combat this Shiks-appeal?

RABBI: Ha! Elaine, shiks-appeal is a myth, like the Yeti, or his North American cousin, the Sasquatch.

ELAINE: Well, something’s goin’ on here, ’cause every able-bodied Israelite in the county is driving pretty strong to the hoop.

RABBI: Elaine, there’s much you don’t understand about the Jewish religion. For example, did you know that rabbis are allowed to date?

ELAINE: (About to leave) Well, what does that have to do…?

RABBI: You know, a member of my congregation has a timeshare in Myrtle Beach. Perhaps, if you’re not too busy, we could wing on down after the High Holidays? Elaine? ‘Lainie?

Why did this particular scene come to my mind?

Because the way these Republicans compete to attract the lowest common denominator voter by appealing to their basest instincts is almost a parody of the right-wing American voter. I don’t think the average conservative American is any more interested in following Bobby Jindal’s deranged plans than he is in killing every last bastard in the Middle East, although, unlike Elaine Benes, they’d probably take that Rabbi up on his invitation for a time share in Myrtle Beach.

But every able-bodied Republican candidate for the presidency is going pretty strong to the hoop in their effort to woo these (mostly) fictional voters.

And I’ve said this before, the result of all this pandering is to send a message that this is how people should feel about Congress and Planned Parenthood and Central American refugees and Arabs and Iranians. This appeal to the id actually turns people into worse people who are less tolerant and more fearful than they were before they were exposed to this nonsense.

You can’t keep doing this, as the Mighty Right-Wing Media Wurlitzer has been doing now for twenty years, without creating a demand for your insane policies.

So, who did the best job last night?

I know I have to figure that out, but I just couldn’t watch it in real time.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.