Crazy Like a Fox

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I was trying not to go here, but here we are again, right in the thick of a political discussion. Although I would argue — perhaps you would not — that this moment has transcended politics and is now in a different realm. One that could be divided into Reality and Unreality.

We are not at a tidal wave yet, but the number of Republicans in, say, the last week who have come out in vocal support of Joe Biden is certainly well beyond the trickle it was earlier. Others are not yet stepping up, and probably won’t be, but instead of making an appearance at the national convention they are busy, hopefully out looking for their spines — so, so busy campaigning or fly fishing that they don’t have time to be seen near a president they dare not defy but don’t want to be anchored to.

While several Democrats are busy trying to welcome the fleeing refugees from the tatters of the Republican party (retired members of Congress, 70 former national security officials, a former national chairman– the hitters are getting heavier by the day), we should all understand one basic fact: these folks are not abandoning their lifelong principles; what they want is a return to basic decency.

We are united on one basic, urgent need: the return of decorum and function. Then, perhaps, although this is the pipe dream part of my theory, we could debate policy in a civilized and thoughtful sort of manner.

Although one of the men fleeing this cult of awful personality, strategist Stuart Stevens, is making the rounds with his new book (It Was All a Lie), and his theory is that the Republican party as we know it is a thing of the past.

I haven’t seen any numbers lately, but Mr. Stevens says that while the president is still enjoying a high level of support from the members of his party, it’s not as high as the president thinks, and there’s the part where the number of members are dwindling. A party speaking almost exclusively to older white men (well, and their “suburban housewives” as seen on The Donna Reed Show) doesn’t really have a way forward, Mr. Stevens says.

[Interestingly, he seems to think the momentum hinges on health care, and despite being a lifelong member of a party that has never seemed interested in providing insurance to people, Mr. Stevens anticipates that the future of American politics becomes two wings of the Democratic party arguing about how to deliver this — because being the only first-world country to not offer some sort of universal health care is no longer tenable.]

But policy discussions, for many of us, are beyond November 3. The focus is foremost on restoring morality. Then we can argue all we want, preferably while using the same, or at least similar, sets of facts.

I have read I’m not sure how many columns in the last few days remarking on Fox News’ culpability in all this, providing a bubble for the “president” to revel in an alternate reality where everything is great and it’s all because of him.

Never mind, I guess, that his bestie Sean Hannity has reportedly taken to calling the president “batshit crazy” when out of earshot, and never mind my own supposition that the second he is no longer in the White House, assuming various legals arms of the State of New York don’t have their claws sunk deep to the bone in him, the “president” will take to presiding over his own network, dumping Fox as unceremoniously as he has dumped anyone who no longer meets his needs. (“Fox? Never heard of it. I don’t know anything about it.”)

And never mind that the originator of the concept of “alternative facts,” Kellyanne Conway, has fled what could — we hope with all our might — be a sinking ship. (I am sort of inclined to believe this one instance of “focusing on my family” since her husband and daughter seem to be taking a similar time-out from the public eye, even if the timing is certainly interesting.)

Hoax, a book by Brian Stelter, whose credentials with CNN and the New York Times at least suggest the possibility of liberal bias, lays out a theory that Fox has suffered mightily in the realm of Reality ever since Roger Ailes, overt serial misogynist, left the helm in 2016.

No one is ever asked to check or prove their facts these days at Fox, according to Stelter who says this is according to people either currently or formerly associated with the network. Which is why members of the current administration can refer to Corona in the past tense even as not quite 1,000 Americans continue to die daily from this fictitious virus that is entirely the fault of China and has nothing to do with the complete and total lack of a federal response in this country.

[The other day Vann showed me a Tweet with the day’s stats: European nations had two deaths here, five there, three, then seven, totalling perhaps up to 30 among 100 million people more than the U.S. population. The U.S. total that same day: 947. That certainly seems past tense to me.]

As something I read this morning noted, it’s very difficult to try to reason with anyone when we are not operating from the same set of facts. It’s quite possible to see the same problem and react with a variety of responses — that would be politics. But when the argument becomes existential — is there really a problem in front of us? — it becomes very difficult to even start any sort of conversation that doesn’t immediately devolve into a shouting match over who is the bigger idiot.

Columnist Eugene Robinson yesterday called for “a common chronicle of events and a common encyclopedia of facts.” While they might not use this same terminology (although I found it very stirring), that’s what all these Republicans and former Republicans are asking for as they start to speak out in larger numbers.

They are not advocating for the Democrats, nor should we expect them to. They are not rushing to embrace policies espoused by the Biden-Harris ticket. (Which at least has policies beyond: Keep the Cult Alive. How can a major party emerge from its convention without a platform? I guess it’s not needed, is it, when the “party” stands for only one thing, idolatry.) We should not expect this, nor should we ask this.

What we should expect is that these are decent people, dismayed by a monster, perhaps even of their own creation, intended or not, who are trying to reclaim a realm that has totally receded from their party, that realm being reality.

No matter how hard anyone wants to try, America is not returning to a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) way of life that was always an illusion. It’s impossible to return to somewhere we never came from in the first place.

That is what these Republicans and former Republicans are stepping forward to acknowledge. I, for one, welcome their assistance in ridding our country of a bloviating narcissist who is literally killing a lot more people than the one he said he could shoot on Fifth Avenue during his last campaign.

But I’m not going to hold them to anything other than the courage of their newfound convictions of decency once the delusional blight has been eradicated from the White House. There should still be room to agree to disagree, but it would be really great if we could all be in the same reality as we did so.

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