HONOLULU, Sept. 21, 2015 – Elections are like a bad case of the shingles. Like the varicella-zoster virus, aspiring Republican politicians can remain silent and inactive for years, ensconced in the nervous system of America’s government or even “the most successful businesses” before unexpectedly erupting with a spectacular new campaign.
Shingles can be extremely painful and annoying, but thankfully, it (usually) doesn’t kill you. There’s no known cure for shingles; you just have to “deal with it” when you get a breakout. In much the same way, conservatives and right-leaning libertarians like me know that you can’t (permanently) rid yourself of the politically entrenched two-party system, so we’ve learned to grin and bear it when a rash of “new” Republicans break out, full of the dichotomies of ivory tower idealism and annoying idiosyncrasies. They’ll sting, they’ll even make you cry sometimes, but, thankfully, elections don’t last all year, so the pain goes away just like a shingles attack.
I won’t bore my readers with the obvious and commonly known facts about Republicans. We all know they want to “build the economy” and “help the middle class.” Yeah, yeah. We all know they stand for “leadership” — or, at least they say they do. We know they give great campaign speeches that attract great men and women as supporters, from the bulwarks of institutions like the U.S. military, police forces and the civil service.
We also know that Republicans — over the long term — perform poorly in elections against Democrats because those who survive the culling of party primaries just can’t handle getting into office without running the country into the ground faster than you can say Bear Stearns. All of this is common knowledge one need not repeat to average, ordinary American voters who pay attention to politics and, at best, limit their exposure to campaigns to watching TV debates or donating $25 online to make them feel that they played a part of the “process.”
What most Americans don’t know is what private life is like personally knowing an incumbent public officeholder or an aspiring Republican candidate. Real life is hardly as optically sterilized as the polished 30-second smiling campaign ads or smooth as the $50,000 per focus group-tested talking points you hear embedded in a speech. For those who know professional Republican candidates personally, voting in an election is a brutal exercise of cognitive dissonance where one must often separate the public “strong leader” persona with the reality of a deeply flawed, sometimes immoral individual.
Ends Justify Means, People Are Always Expendable
In my recently released collection of fictional short stories, “American Kiss,” nearly every U.S. character featured in the book is hinted to be a Republican, and every single villain in each of the vignettes is a Republican candidate or a Republican public personality. Despite all having great ambitions and only the best intentions, they routinely engage in wanton acts of sexual manipulation, ruthless careerism, mercenary moneymaking and political intrigue to exact by force what they desire from ordinary people.
Republicans can make great short-term (crisis) leaders because of their often pragmatic, task-oriented approaches to problems. “Leadership” for most Republicans translates not so much to arriving at a good solution, but taking bold, decisive action to get something done quickly. Republicans also know what looks good — often self-conscious, they strive to project perfected images like masculine strength or feminine beauty, which is why some observers have commented that conservatives “look” more handsome or attractive than liberals.
Unfortunately, in my personal experience with Republicans, I’ve found these are precisely the kind of public traits that make them most disposed to being the most immoral and difficult friends to get along with in private life. The rise of the 21st century’s “anything goes” zeitgeist and the Millennial Generation only serves to worsen the moral decline of professional Republicans.
Many so-called “natural” Republican leaders are often bossy rather than authoritative and superficial rather than charismatic (and knowing the difference between these is important), getting support from friends, family and the general public by manipulation rather than actual leadership, though to them, the two often mean the same thing.
During one campaign, a certain business here in Hawaii donated a large and very expensive banner to a prominent Republican candidate. When the banner was damaged by weather, the candidate’s campaign simply told the donor, “Go get another one.” The donor, shocked by the way his generosity was rewarded with a demand for more, refused — and stopped donating to Republicans altogether. As far as the offending candidate was concerned, the rude act was completely overlooked and no apology was ever issued. And why should it be? Aren’t they “a god” who deserves offerings? If you’re (legitimately) offended by a wrongdoing, “you’ll get over it.”
In the mind of many Republican candidates, they are Superman manifest in the flesh. Their time has come, they possess superior knowledge, skills and abilities, and all persons and things around them are expendable in their quest to get elected. Crocodile tears, Pan Am smiles and brutal betrayals are all game.
Of course, Republicans are so shameless as to use on their friends the same canned lines that they sell to the public as justification for their behavior. “We’re going to make history” (translation, do it for me for free). “This is for the good of the country. When I win, we all win together” (I should take highest priority, everyone else can go to hell). “The people are counting on us” (I have to win, it would hurt my ego too much to have to lose).
Now, there are those GOP white knight apologetics who say, “What you describe is common to politics.” Wrong. As much as I hate the often Marxist socialist doctrines of modern Democrats, never once in my private relationships with liberals and progressives have I ever met a candidate who didn’t become a lifelong friend, both in and after election season. When we disagreed, we were willing and readily able to focus on the aspects of our relationships that shined the brightest.
In fact, I trust my Democrat friends so much that whenever I need letters of reference, I always ask them to write them for me. Because Democrats are usually collectivist natured compared to Republican individualism, they tend to view personal private relationships in terms of maintaining equilibrium rather than a zero sum game of extracting benefits and asserting dominance.
The opposite can be said of my Republican friends, who one minute will invite you to dinner with their family and the next minute will throw you under the bus with a scorching press release (that they didn’t even have the courtesy to talk to you about in advance). Republicans also have a nasty habit of believing every lie told by third parties as Gospel truth, seizing upon it and repeating it to all without even verifying the rumor first. (After all, in the 24/7 media cycle, who can stand to wait?) But when it comes to asking you for donations for the latest ad campaign, voter education fund or exploratory campaign, everyone is your dear brother who is here to help.
When you, however, need someone to help you move a refrigerator, pick you up at the airport, or — God forbid — ever decide to request a polite political favor, suddenly their laundry must be dry cleaned, kids must be taken to Disneyland, “work” is too stressful and no one is available to do anything for you. Phones are set to voicemail. Text messages suddenly never get delivered due to “problems with the service provider.” Everyone is deciding to go to the spa twice a day for “health reasons” and leaving their phablets and e-mail at home. Don’t even ask them for advocacy assistance, because they’ll “need to discuss this first with their media guy.” Whatever.
Yet if I so much as forget to retweet on Twitter a conservative public personality whom I know in private, if I fail to click “like” on a public Facebook profile, if I do not pay regular obeisance by serving as a rent-a-mob for the latest (absurd and shrill) press conference over something the Democrats are doing wrong, I am persona non grata, a thankless traitor who isn’t a team player, ignored and cast like Satan from the balconies of lofty Republican heaven, targeted with passive-aggressive whisper campaigns and expelled from polite society. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, you still owe campaign contributions, you still need to show up for signwaving, and you’d better write op-eds praising a Republican candidate, or else.
Good grief, is this political campaigning or is it junior year of high school? And then Republicans want to know why “the base” is so angry? To quote the famous song by Phil Collins, “You have no right to ask me how I feel.”
So say what you will about the “morality” of liberals, athiests, feminists, gays and the radical environmentalists on the left. At least all it takes with them is one act of kindness and they’ll be your bipartisan friends for life. Democrats will charge uphill to defend their friends to the death, even if they don’t really know what they’re fighting for. Republicans need to hire a think tank to study the feasibility of being loyal before wasting their time on friends.
Many conservative volunteers, activists, fundraising bundlers, and even professional political consultants experience Republican burnout as a result of the rampant narcissism, greed, megalomania, and sociopathy among candidates. This culture of corruption limits the Republican Party to a system that exists only by having a chain of strongman personalities to organize and squeeze supporters enough to stay in business, rather than a way of life that sustains itself through a sense of identity, belonging and shared experience.
Some state committees have even gone so far as to create “memorandums of understanding” which give parties the power to defrock party officers who fail to donate or support party candidates. This is the ultimate example of a corporatized, self-centered, rogue capitalist system gone wrong. I thought Republicans were supposed to be about God, duty, honor, country — just like the troops they support.
I suppose if you have no sense of self-respect, if you’re one of the “beta orbiters” that the alt-right movement writes of, and if you just want the thrill of being seen at a $2,000 fundraiser dinner now and then with a “rising star” (who really isn’t a star at all) then helping candidates in their hour of need might be the thing for you.
A couple of people have asked me if I’d like to run for the House of Representatives as a Republican as part of a “targeted group to win this year.” No, thank you. The economy is bad enough without me having to squeeze donations out of people struggling to make ends meet just to satiate my sense of history. Others have asked which candidates I will be “backing” this year. I’m not backing any individuals. I tell them that I’m backing conservative voters and building up the community support for conservative values, because that’s where loyalty and long-term brand value exists.
The candidates themselves as individuals aren’t the kind of people I’d like to “sit down and have a beer with” — lately they’re the kind of people who would steal your life vest on a sinking ship and then be angry at you for noticing it was missing. With respect to GOP founder Abraham Lincoln, thank you, but no, I do not want the solemn pride of having left any more costly sacrifices upon the altar of Republican elections.
According to Jack Warner, when he learned in 1965 that Ronald Reagan was considering a run for California governor, his reply was, “No no, Jimmy Stewart for governor, Ronald Reagan for best friend.” That’s extremely revealing. If Ronald Reagan is truly the epitome of conservative and Republican values, their present-day candidates need to work on their personality flaws.
I suspect that the American people, as honorable and compassionate as many of them are, are likewise beginning to suspect that something is wrong with the “saviors” the GOP is offering this year, even though they haven’t gotten to know them personally. If Republicans want to be more than a blowback re-election party on the years that the voting populace is tired of Democrats, they need to work on their people skills – or perhaps recruit fewer gold diggers and sociopaths for office.
This is Part Three of a series exploring the long-term intellectual, cultural, political, and economic implications of U.S. decline as explored in Dr. Danny de Gracia’s new novel, “American Kiss.”
Dr. de Gracia is a political scientist, an ordained minister, a former elected official and the author of the new political thriller “American Kiss,” available now from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other major bookstores. DISCLOSURE: Danny de Gracia is an elected Republican district chairman, but his opinions are expressly his own and do not reflect the official opinion of any organization.