Do we Divorce our Past Presidents?Posted: August 20, 2011
Once I happily joined the ranks of the unmarried and no longer had to deal with heavy sighs, eye-rolling, and that persecuted look my ex-husband used to give me every time I bought my daughters new shoes to replace their outgrown ones, or asked one more time when we finally we’re going to get out of that hell hole in Nebraska like he promised before I would marry him, or after I woke him up so he’d stop snoring in the middle of the largest indoor production of Aida that included a live zoo animal parade, I found out that he had already been on the prowl for the next wife.
They’ve been married for some time now and I’m equally happy to say I’ve never met her because she was awful to my daughters among other things. So, I’ll stop blathering and get to my point. Every one I know who has met her says she is the anti-me. She’s got no formal education. She wanted now Doctor Daughter to go to community college. My mother-in-law–who I didn’t divorce–calls her horseface. She gambles and replaced all my antiques with cat statues. Actually, she cashed out the antiques I left there for the girls on ebay and bought cheap, tacky cat statues. Catch my drift?
So, that’s the first thing I thought about when reading Kurt Anderson’s op-ed in the NT today. I have to disclose that I helped a love lorn friend of mine stalk Kurt in the journalism classroom as a sophomore in high school so maybe I also feel a little guilty and want to showcase anything he does now. But, anyway, you’ll see the connection when you read “Our Politics are Sick”.
We have a tendency to elect presidents who seem like the antitheses of their immediate predecessors — randy young Kennedy the un-Eisenhower, earnest truth-telling Carter the un-Nixon, charismatic Reagan the un-Carter, randy young Clinton the un-H.W. Bush, cool and cerebral Obama the un-W.So Rick Perry fits right into that winning contrapuntal pattern. He’s the very opposite of careful and sober and understated, in his first days as an official candidate suggesting President Obama maybe doesn’t love America (“Go ask him”) and that loose monetary policy is “treasonous.” (“Look, I’m just passionate about the issue,” he explained later about his anti-Federal Reserve outburst, before switching midsentence to first-person plural, “and we stand by what we said.”)
Yet the most troubling thing about Perry (and Michele Bachmann and so many more), what’s new and strange and epidemic in mainstream politics, is the degree to which people inhabit their own Manichaean make-believe worlds. They totally believe their vivid fictions.
The heart of his piece is a list of all the vivid fictions which we’ve already covered endlessly over here. As an economist, I cringe every time one of them opens their mouth. But, Kurt’s a great writer and he capsulizes their complete fictions wonderfully. So, our politics are sick and I did notice the same pattern apparent in the electorate swinging from one brand of narcissism to another in his opening paragraph. Anderson thinks are politics are like an autoimmune disease. I’m looking at the voters who vote the in-guy in–unlike me whose only winning presidential votes were both Clinton terms–and I think of my ex-husband and how he ran immediately to the anti-me like some kind of reaction formation. This will undoubtedly leave me more cynical than I’ve been in the past, so be forewarned.
Anyhow, I thought I’d put it to you. Do you think we get so tired of 8 years of the same narcissism that we switch to the opposing brand out of some psychological reaction formation that I’ll leave BostonBoomer to categorize?