Ever since Reagan, Republicans have chosen Presidential candidates the same way an ad agency might cast a beer commercial. Literally. Remember all the talk about who voters would want to “have a beer with” when attempting to sell a slow-witted, overprivileged ne’er-do-well who didn’t even drink, back in 2000? They never bother to find out what might be in the head, but they’re very particular about the hair on it; just as they don’t care what someone says, as long as he (or she, that time…), says it pithily and with a dazzling smile. (Bonus points for a folksy accent, however contrived…). Seriously, there’s more “vetting” of beauty pageant contestants than there is of Republican aspirants to the nation’s highest office.
Paul Ryan’s smarmy and repellent performance must have been anticipated; TIME magazine published the photos above on the day of the debate, so people would see that although there isn’t much upstairs, maybe voters will be focusing on the staircase (especially those with the ladyparts). Good luck with that. A forty-something with a baseball cap on backwards and earbuds? Really? The contempt for the intelligence of the electorate, not to mention its perceived taste in men, has clearly reached new heights, or lows, if you want to get technical. My only hope for democracy is that the people at TIME were snickering under their breaths as they rolled out that blue backdrop, and urged a reluctant Ryan to turn the cap around. I doubt this, though.
The problem Republicans have is that their experience outside their own bubble is so limited: partly because normal people avoid interactions with them, and partly because they think their bonkers ideas are so wonderful that it doesn’t really matter who’s selling them. The media, always trying to be “balanced,” blandly portray their absurd obsessions as, well, legitimate, when they’re not. Biden’s guffaws were entirely appropriate: anyone who listens to Ryan for 30 seconds can plainly see he’s a dimwitted huckster selling utter nonsense, and ought to laugh in his face.
Perhaps the most classic moment, of many, was when Ryan confidently asserted that huge tax cuts for the rich “have worked before.” When? Much to his credit, Biden asked just that. A stymied Ryan was left muttering “more than once,” although everyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that’s the opposite of the truth. Huge tax cuts for the rich aren’t a means to some rainbow and unicorn festooned end, they are the end. The money all goes to buying politicians like Ryan, which leads to more politicians like Ryan, and on and on. Meanwhile, everyone but the rich can just go die in a fire.
Understandably, this program hasn’t been too successful when sold honestly, hence Romney and Ryan’s repeated, flat refusals to say what they intend to, well, do once elected. We’re supposed to be so besotted with their hair, biceps, and what have you that we don’t notice that they are dangerous sociopaths enslaved to an aggressive and petulant overclass, and dumb as rocks to boot.
Ryan’s little pantomime last night wasn’t just an embarrassing failure, although it was that; it was the predictable culmination of thirty years of playing politics as though it were a medicine show. Anyone who fell for it would probably also fall for Franklin Mint commemorative plates, gold coins, UN black helicopter stories, time shares, and fad exercise programs… Oh wait, never mind.