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Staggering Idiocy

Panicky progressives struggle for reasons to support Obama.

Oct 22, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 06 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
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Reading the posts from all these writers and artists over the last two months has reminded me of the chasm that separates the talent for creative work from the talent for making a whole lot of sense, rationality-wise. “I have noticed something in Mitt Romney’s name, which I think speaks to what he is about,” writes the movie director David Lynch (Los Angeles) in Reason 52. “If you just rearrange a few letters, Romney becomes R MONEY. I believe Mitt Romney wants to get his mitts on R Money.” 

A musician and surfer named Jack Johnson (Oahu) says: “I’ve met President Obama twice, and both times he gave me a hug, not a handshake.” This is Reason 55, and Johnson knows his line of argument is shaky: “Maybe that’s not a good enough reason to vote for him but it sure makes me trust him more.”

The hug logic works for Jim James, who came all the way from Louisville one time to play music at a White House function and got to wait in a reception line to meet the Obamas. “When I reached the end, the pomp and circumstance seemed to fall away, and there were two real people there, real people who reached out, gave me a big hug, and said thanks for coming,” he argues. “They were REAL. Somehow in those three minutes they made me feel at ease and conveyed the truth of the human experience: that no one is any better or worse than anyone else.”

The truth of the human experience turns out not to include Republicans, however, for in the next paragraph James notes that George W. Bush is an “evil robot” who did not “have a real relationship with his wife.” Robotics is a common theme among the Reasoners, particularly as it applies to Mitt Romney. According to David Cross (New York City), Romney is “a craven, out-of-touch capitalist robot.” Reggie Watts, who’s a musician (Brooklyn), reasons that we should vote for Obama because “he’s not a robot, like Romney is.” Also, “He’s not an asshole.”

Yes, I know: Our counterestablishment suffers from a bad case of potty mouth. The bassist for the Foo Fighters (Los Angeles) says that corporations are “assholes.” Judd Apatow (Los Angeles) worries that his young daughters, when they grow up to leave home and get jobs, will not receive “equal pay for equal work.” 

“If this was the case,” he says, “it would be f—d.” He adds: “I don’t think I can think of a better word,” and I believe him. Apatow writes screenplays for a living. 

But he has a serious point to make! President Obama, he notes, deserves reelection because he “created the White House Council on Women and Girls,” which will go some way to solving the “equal pay for equal work” thing. Here Apatow employs another line of argument that has sadly become common to the Reasoners. An urban planner (Los Angeles, which must be an awful place to be an urban planner) wants to reelect the president in part because he began the federal government’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities. A man who has a son with autistic children (San Francisco) will vote for Obama because he has created “programs” for autistic children—a “shit-ton” of these, he says. 

For the counterestablishmentarians, “program” and “funding” are words with talismanic power. President Obama will “fund programs” or “not cut programs” that will rescue the environment or curb domestic violence or teach civility or help the disabled or train the jobless. The proper program can do everything but play canasta. And it can be advocated without wondering how it might work or whether it would work or what other programs would not be funded so it could be.

As they’ve piled up on the website the last couple months, I’ve found this kind of Reason oddly dispiriting, precisely because it’s so conventional—it’s the kind of thing you might even hear from a Republican. From a counter-establishment, I expect more reasoning like Jamaica Kincaid’s (Vermont). “I am a woman,” she writes. “From the time I was 14 years of age until I was 57 years of age, every twenty-eight days or so, I had a menstrual period.” She concludes, after several long paragraphs of logic-chopping, that Obama’s “simple, firm, clear support for a woman’s right to choose .  .  . is what makes me committed to his reelection.” QED.

But such arguments are increasingly the exception on What a strangely conventional thing Eggers’s hipster counterestablishment turns out to be! Why, in my day, sonny, a lead singer for a band with a name like Death Cab for Cutie wouldn’t be caught dead endorsing a Democrat, especially one who’s busy convincing the country of his pragmatism and moderation. Counterestablishments simply lived outside categories like right and left and Democrat and Republican. And they were never suckered by White House commissions and federal initiatives.

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