Staring into the vortex of insanity (and Open Thread)

Crazy person in vortexPardon the delay in posting today, but I spent a significant portion of the day meeting with a committee of Republican women. To a woman, they were wonderful: intelligent, mentally well-organized, reliable, committed to Israel, and committed to the intelligent advancement of the conservative cause in America. And to a woman, they were disheartened.

What had them so disheartened wasn’t the state of the nation (although they weren’t thrilled about that either). No, what really made them sad was the state of Republicans. They noted that Republicans like to get together in kaffeeklatches.  Once gathered, they’re always happy complain about the status quo, but they won’t do anything. They pay lip service to conservative causes and candidates, but will not donate money, give of their time, proselytize to others, or even bother to vote. The adjectives about Republicans flew: sluggish, lethargic, disheartened and, the best I thought, shell-shocked.

My contribution was that it’s no surprise. What we see is a nation going to hell in a hand basket, but one in which partisan politics are so insane that the road America travels doesn’t seem to matter anymore. John Hinderaker, I think, is on to something with a post he calls “Barack Obama, The Teflon President.” The original “Teflon President,” of course, was Ronald Reagan. The Left liked to say that he was Teflon because nothing stuck, ignoring the fact that nothing stuck because they were slinging charges as weightless and ephemeral as soap bubbles at a president who presided over a thriving economy, raised America’s status around the world, and restored American pride at home.

Barack Obama, however, is a different matter. He too is a Teflon President, since he routinely garners a 40%-45% approval rating, despite presiding (1) over the longest recession since the Great Depression (barring those rich folks getting richer, thanks to quantitative easy and crony capitalism, especially “green” crony capitalism); (2) a perpetually demoralized labor market; (3) the breakdown of America’s southern border; (4) the loss of all of America’s gains in the Middle East; (5) the rise of ISIS; (6) the abandon of America’s allies (from Poland to Israel); (7) the regression of race relations in America; (8) America’s retreat from the world stage; and (9) a general, demoralizing malaise, greater even than Jimmy Carter envisioned.

Given all the awfulness that is the Obama presidency, how did he get reelected (discounting fraud for the moment) and why is he still able to keep his approval rating above 40%? Well, that’s were Hinderaker’s Teflon theory comes in:

I think what is happening is that America’s politics have become so tribal that large numbers of people lie to pollsters. We have seen this throughout the Obama administration, when African-Americans have told pollsters the economy is doing well, more than any other demographic group, even as they have been hammered disproportionately by unemployment and wage cuts. American politics have become so polarized, and the Democratic Party has whipped its followers into such a frenzy, that 40% of us would purport to approve of a Democratic president if he burned down the White House, disbanded the Navy, and spent his evenings howling at the moon.

Barack Obama really is a Teflon president: for close to half of Americans, the facts bounce off him. Because they really don’t care about the facts; either that or they are cashing government checks and are indifferent to anything else. This does not bode well for our democracy.

There’s another possible theory, of course, one that occurred in England back in 1990s: “The Shy Tory Factor“:

Shy Tory Factor is a name given by British opinion polling companies to a phenomenon observed by psephologists in the 1990s, where the share of the vote won by the Conservative Party (known as the ‘Tories’) in elections was substantially higher than the proportion of people in opinion polls who said they would vote for the party.

In the 1992 general election, the final opinion polls gave the Conservatives between 38% and 39% of the vote, about 1% behind the Labour Party – suggesting that the election would produce a hung parliament or a narrow Labour majority and end 13 years of Tory rule. In the final results, the Conservatives had a lead of 7.6% over Labour and won their fourth successive general election, though they now had a 21-seat majority compared to the 102-seat majority they had gained in the election five years previously. As a result of this failure to ‘predict’ the result, the Market Research Society held an inquiry into the reasons why the polls had been so much at variance with actual public opinion. The report found that 2% of the 8.5% error could be explained by Conservative supporters refusing to disclose their voting intentions; it cited as evidence the fact that exit polls on election day also underestimated the Conservative lead.

In other words, Americans could be lying to pollsters.  After six years of hearing the word “racist” in response to every criticism of the Obama presidency, people may have been conditioned to keep their opinions to themselves.  When a pollster calls, they’re not going to tell even that bored, anonymous voice (or robo-pollster) that they disapprove of America’s first black president.

Frankly, though, I don’t think we’re dealing with a “Shy Conservative Factor” here.  If this was the case, we would already have seen it play out in 2012, and Romney would have been president.  Instead, we really are looking at a president who could get half the country’s votes even if he stood in the White House rose garden foaming at the mouth and barking like a dog.

While Hinderake’s Teflon theory explains the president’s continued — and, to conservatives, bizarre — popularity, it still doesn’t touch upon the malaise that’s characterizing conservative voters.  Isn’t this the time when we should be revisiting the Tea Party fervor we showed in 2010?

This is where my “staring into the vortex of insanity” theory kicks in.  My contribution to the discussion is that conservatives look around them and see insanity.  Insane politics are different from politics with which we disagree.  We may disagree with socializing industry, but that’s because we fundamentally disagree with the political theory behind that move.  Likewise, we may disagree with a city’s decision to make its main street a pedestrian mall because we value the ease of vehicles over the charm of walking past shops.

What I’m talking about is what really seems to be insanity.  Take my home state of California, for example.  California is broke, but we’re still paying for a high speed rail that links two towns in the middle of nowhere, and that has already far exceeded the price promised to voters.

That’s insane.  But how about this one:  Remember all those illegal aliens we were worried about just a few weeks ago?  The tens of thousand of them, a mix of unattended children, adults, gangbangers, people with debilitating and contagious diseases last seen in America decades ago, and possible terrorists and pedophiles?  And remember how Obama, rather than sending these tens of thousands of people back to their home countries opened our borders to them, and promised to grant them amnesty, along with another five or six million illegals?  If you remember all that, you can certainly argue that doing this is crazy, but it’s equally possible to argue that it’s a calculated move to shift the United States to a permanent Democrat majority.

If you want real crazy, though, look at California.  Remember how I said California is broke.  Despite that reality, Gov. Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown has smilingly announced that illegal aliens are welcome here.  That’s pretty crazy.  But not crazy enough.  To get the real feel for a country that’s run off the rails, check out what’s also going on in Sacramento regarding those recently arrived illegals:

Young immigrants poised to flood California’s courts could get extra legal help under a bill offering $3 million to bolster legal services.


The newly announced bill would set aside $3 million that would be distributed to nonprofit organizations that offer legal services. Many of the immigrants pressing their cases could be seeking refugee status.


“Helping these young people navigate our legal system is the decent thing to do and it’s consistent with the progressive spirit of California,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.

As an urgency measure included in a budget cleanup bill, the legislation would take effect immediately and could make money available within a few weeks, according to Atkins’ office.

It would not require Republican votes to pass.

Meanwhile, also in Sacramento, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto arrived to a loving greeting from Jerry Brown and fellow California Democrats. One of the things that Nieto couldn’t praise highly enough is the way in which California treats the citizens who find life in Mexico so awful all that they can do is run away:

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto lauded California on Tuesday for its relatively favorable treatment of undocumented immigrants, telling a joint session of the Legislature that the state has taken the “ethically correct” position in a national debate over immigration.

Meanwhile, neither Jerry Brown nor Barack Obama can bestir himself to plead the case of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been languishing in a Mexican jail for months after he got lost, ended up on a no-exit, one-way road to the Mexican border, and told the Mexican border guards that (a) he was not trying to enter the country and (b) he had legal American weapons in his car.

The above narrative is insanity writ large. My motto in life has always been “never argue with the crazy person.” It’s a good life motto when some crazed mother erupts at a PTA meeting or when someone with a screw loose challenges you over a parking place or something equally negligible. Crazy people do crazy things. You think you’re talking about bake sales, and they think you’re trying to kill them, so they’ll beat you to a pulp first. There’s no mileage to be had in arguing with a crazy person.

But what do you do if your country has gone crazy? What if it’s abandoned self-interest, embraced self-loathing, thrown itself into the arms of the world’s dictators, turned its back on its own citizens, and is throwing money out the window as it drives a fast car to local and national bankruptcy? How do you argue then? With whom do you argue? And moreover, what do you do if you know that almost half of your fellow citizens couldn’t care less about the craziness, even when they’re its victims. What do you do if they’d rather stand alongside the drooling, screaming, ill-kempt crazy man beating the living daylights out of you, then step forward and help you put a stop to insanity run amok?

There’s your despair, malaise, shell-shock, and torpor. It’s not just that things are bad. It’s that we look at our fellow citizens and realize that they too have gone around the bend.

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  • JudithL

    I really hate to say this, Bookie, but you have expressed my thoughts to a tee.

  • Mike Devx

    I believe these are “The Mad Years”, to quote Robert Heinlein. Collectively, we in America have abandoned all pretense towards common sense. It’s a party, spun all out of control, and normal inhibitions are erased.

    And we’ve elected the crazy people who have their hands firmly on the steering wheel. or gripping the joystick, and we’re all stuck along for the crazy ride.

    I’ll continue to vote, but i don’t really think I can affect things. It’s full speed ahead with no headlights on the darkest road with no moon, careening wildly across the center line, out of control. So far we’re surviving it, meaning that at least we’re still alive and breathing.

    If things continue to get much worse, maybe our fearless crazy leaders will just close their eyes tight, jam their feet to the accelerator, and just ROCKET. Eyes closed, hands gripping the wheel tight, engine roaring like a howling demon, down the blind road, until…

  • Wolf Howling

    Has post-modernism won then? There is no objective fact, only subjective truth – or socialist truth, to be more specific. The problem with that is nothing the left champions is ever an intrinsic failure. If their plans fail, as they inevitably must given that they are never based on economic or human reality, then 1) move the goalposts; and / or 2) it is a fault of the right, which of course can be corrected by giving more power to the left. Heads the left wins, tails the right loses.

    To fight back against this requires confidence and militancy. Breitbart had it. He’s dead. Gingrich had it, but he is and was damaged goods – and his campaign was done in by a deeply cynical Romney borrowing the utterly disingenuos arguments of Nancy Pelosi.

    Who else is there on the national stage to actually energize the right? Soft words and reasoned argument in the face of the take no prisoners, wholly unreasonable left won’t do it. The second coming of Reagan would not even be of any help today.

    Reagan did well, but he didn’t fix any of the systemic issues beyond taxes – and that only temporarily. It is going to take someone far more militant than him to capture the imagination of the right and lead the charge not just against the left, but far more importantly to dismantle all of the systems they have put in place to perpetuate and grow their movement. Until and unless, socialist truth will prevail until it is too late to turn back the clock without an actual revolution..

  • gspurlock

    This is an interesting article and it definitely has some merit. But I think it goes back to an analysis I completed n 2009. People are just experiencing living in an oligarchy which is not accountable or answerable to the people. We no longer have self-government, but they have not identified that as the root cause. They are overwhelmed by the symptoms but don’t know what to do because they don’t know what the problem is.

    Repeal the 16th and 17th amendments and revoke the rule limiting the House to 235 members. These are the 3 changes to constitutional intent that started the demise of self government. It’s like taking a slow acting poison, by the time you feel the symptoms, it is so far removed from the consumption of the poison that you don’t know what the problem is.

    I’ll keep beating the drum, but even the tea party leaders aren’t willing to look at cause and effect. The leaders have this need to use the malaise to get people to participate in their activities and those activities are more important to them than the result. It would really be quite easy to get those 3 things done if the right had a common mind about it. Instead, they seem to want to imitate the liberal democrats in getting loyal followers. Conservatives aren’t natural followers, so they are working against our greatest strength in following the liberal activist model.

    Stay in good cheer. As Winston Churchill observed, “The Americans always do what is right after first exhausting all other alternatives.”

    • biancaneve

      I like your idea of increasing the House of Reps. A few months ago I read an article urging the same thing, and it’s been on my mind ever since. With more congressional districts, it would be harder to gerrymander those districts and we’d get a more representative House. Also, with more Representatives, Congressional power would be diluted in more hands.

      I think it’s time to discuss expanding the House.

  • Navy Bob

    The bad news is there will not be a new Republican white knight to save us by putting forth an action plan the majority can support because anyone who is a leader and has Republican principles does not go into politics. They look to the private sector to make their mark in the world. If a bright and shining star rises with Democratic principles they look to government for a career. Therefore we always end up with our JV team playing their Varsity team.

  • Libby

    Well said, Book!
    I feel like I’m looking at insanity every time I read the comments section at progressive leaning sites or even the more “mainstream” places like the Washington Post. Might as well be from a different galaxy.

  • raymondjelli

    I don’t like blaming Republicans for the issues with the Republican party. That’s like blaming Burger King for the American tax system.

    If the Republicans were responsive to their natural constituencies there wouldn’t have been a tea party.

    If Republicans appreciated an emotionally engaged electorate they wouldn’t preach electability and moderation.

    If Republicans candidates cared to unite after primaries and actively support the presidential nominee we might not have lost the votes we did during the election. Instead they run right of each other in debates then disappear and cut deals with the Dems after the election.

    Try going to a Republican meeting and you’ll find out how clubby they are. In Brooklyn NY for example there are 2 Young Republican organizations. Two party orgs, etc. Why? Because Marty Golden State Senator is suing Craig Eaton Party Chairman who had been picked by him previously. Why are they feuding? Does it really matter? Why volunteer when what little money there is in the coffers is going to internal lawsuits. This is what demoralizes Republicans. The fact is Republicans should be demoralized. It means they are paying attention to what the party actually is.

  • lee

    Living in Marin as a Republican is disheartening in and of itself–you know nothing you do will amount to much. You may have a FANTASTIC senate candidate come to speak–but s/he will NEVER win in California. You may have a truly EXCITING candidate for the assembly–an erudite, intelligent, friendly MINORITY woman–and she will NOT have a ghost of a change at winning. You know that given the Democrat candidates for congress are Flaky, Flaklier, and Flakiest, and one of them WILL get the set, no matter how crazy they are.

    One reason I am glad I left.

    (BTW, I met some WONDERFUL member of both the Marin and the Novato Republican Women’s Federation. I found that Novato’s still had some ultra-stuffy members, however.)

  • Ymarsakar

    “And moreover, what do you do if you know that almost half of your fellow citizens couldn’t care less about the craziness, even when they’re its victims.”

    Now you know what I was thinking of years ago.

    Americans need to suffer a lot more and atone for a lot more things, before forgiveness and redemption will come, let alone victory and prosperity.

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  • phillips1938

    Good blog.

    I will write my own blog on this point. I not only have noticed this, but I feel it myself,

    My hypothesis is that the social fabric that holds our society together was rent by the one party vote on a major legislation, Obamacare that created the Tea Party and again with the IRS abuse.

    I know that Romney was defeated by the low conservative turn-out.

    This is an important issue. Social fabric is fundamental to our society. The woof and warp are necessary for our survival.

  • qr4j

    Weary. That is the word I use to describe my state of mind re the GOP both state- and nation-wide.

    One the one hand, the GOP has all-or-nothing voters. If a candidate’s views don’t align with this type voter’s views, the voter won’t vote. And consequences be damned. These folks could use a lesson on the lesser of two (or more) evils. Go with the least evil if evil is all you have to pick from.

    On the other side, the GOP has establishment types who are more interested about going along to get along. This only reinforces the all-or-nothing voters in terms of numbers and convictions. To the establishment: Grow a friggin’ spine! Consult with expert public image folks if necessary to avoid as much negative fallout in light of the Left. But grow a friggin’ spine.

    As far as I am concerned, I vote in almost every election from city council member to POTUS. Very rarely have I missed an election. But I grow weary about being involved in the actual GOP organizations. The grassroots have souls; the leadership appears not to have souls.

    So I am weary. I am ashamed of my president and my governor. I am ashamed of the Illinois General Assembly and at least one of my US Senators from Illinois. I won’t fly the American flag in front of my house as I once did proudly.

    I am sick of the Obama, tax-and-spend, socialist bullshit. Rather than get frustrated, I do good works through volunteerism at church.

    I am weary.

    • March Hare

      Dear q,

      I understand your weariness and shame–I live in the Bay Area. But please fly the flag. Why? To honor the vets, old and new. To remind the next generation of where they live.

      The pendulum WILL swing back–it always does. In fact, based on what I’m hearing from my children (young adults now) and what I’m seeing around me, the shift may have begun. It’s subtle and I hope it’s not just wishful thinking on my part.

  • JudithL

    The best lack all conviction,while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    We’re not quite there yet. I do think that the best retain conviction, but the intensity of the worst distorts and drowns out the implementation of those convictions. Or in some cases, even the consideration of them.

    • Ymarsakar

      Unfortunately, America’s best isn’t at the top. They are being ground up at the bottom. In 2008, Cash for Junkers was intended to Crush Republican car dealerships, transferring those dealerships and their client lists to Democrat replacements. And nobody did a damn thing to stop it, all they did was talk about politics and felt good on it.

      In war, politics is what people talk about for entertainment.

  • Charles Martel

    Lee, I quit the Marin GOP in disgust when its metrosexual chairman decided a few months ago to come out in favor of gay marriage. I wouldn’t have minded him stating his personal belief, but to align all of us without consultation behind his silly attempt to mainstream the GOP in Marin was just too much.

    I wrote him a polite letter, which he never answered, telling him that his move was both cynical and inept. No self-respecting (is that possible?) Marin liberal would ever fall for his tactic, so he managed in one fell swoop to make the Marin GOP a “me too!” laughingstock and drive people like me out of the tent.


    Is it just me who has noticed that we haven’t had a two-party system in ages, unless you define the elected as one party and the electorate as a second tier party, who has been deemed not party worthy? I understand why voter turn out is so abysmal – it’s like voting to be ignored.

    • Ymarsakar

      The last Loyal Opposition party was Republicans in WWII against Roosevelt. The Democrats were snakes in Civil War I. Snakes that led us to WWI. And covered up all kinds of corruption and military failures in WWII. Then Vietnam war, and so forth.

      Democrats haven’t been a Loyal Opposition since they were constructed.

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