Paul Krugman had an interesting op-ed in the Times yesterday about the nature of fear and elections. I promise I’m not going to link to and comment on every Paul Krugman op-ed, it’s just so novel at the moment since the Times has finally dropped its stupid paygate that I am giddy, restless, and filled with happiness and excitement about it. Also, he’s just a damn good columnist, and I can’t help that, now can I?
At any rate, I think he makes some great points about fear and the history of fear in politics. You really ought to read the article because Krugman is a tad more eloquent than I, and because it points out a major shift in American politics, especially among Republicans. Fear is now a major campaign strategy, rather than something more concrete and useful like establishing a campaign platform and supporting it with action.
Essentially, a lot of the candidates are running campaigns that are based on fear. “Vote for me or the terrorists will win,” and that sort of thing. Maybe this is because that tactic worked so well in 2004, or maybe it’s just because most of the candidates are unimaginative pussies who don’t want people to actually pay attention to their politics, voting records, or abilities. Therefore, they are trying to cow us with fear.
They are also trying to win a war of language, with talk about Islamofascism, Eurabia, and other such nonsense. This is about rhetoric, about grossly simplifying concepts and exploiting our natural desire for safety and security. It is also, in some senses, an election debate about color and religion. An us vrs them mentality has been created, complete with a huge divide which cannot be crossed.
As Krugman points out, this would be funny, and kind of ludicrous, if it wasn’t so scary. There’s a lot of “crazy talk,” as Krugman calls it, among Republicans; but I think it’s also present among Democrats as well. Fear is paralyzing our government and political process, to the great detriment of greater society. Instead of being rational, practical, mature people, our government is running around like a gaggle of geese without gizzards. Or something. And we’re buying it. Eating it up, even, like a delicious chocolate cupcake with a mild marzipan frosting and a fruit garnish.
What we should be afraid of, as Winston Churchill once said, is fear itself. And I think this gives us cause to be very, very afraid at the moment, because fear is being used to manipulate us, to force us into acquiescence with insane policies, to dictate the terms of the election. The question is; are we going to stand for it, or are we going to fight back?