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Musings on Politics, The Tea Party, and America's Rampant Electile Dysfunction

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Table of Contents

Introduction--March 15, 2011

Week 1: Taking a Stab @ It

Week 2: Lacking Klout

Week 3: Welcome to the Party

Week 4: I Believe in Me

Week 5: Listing to the Right

Week 6: Twitterdreams

Week 7: I Blame Aristotle

Week 8: Electile Dysfunction

Week 9: You Can't Keep a Down Man Good

Week 10: Manifesto Destiny

Week 11: Shames People Play

Week 12: Tweets and CHiRPs

Week 13: Beck and Call

Epilogue: The Perfect Tweet

« Don't Stop Believing | Main | America Needs Its Bad Guys »
Tuesday
Oct042011

The Rick Santorum Ephiphany

 

The following is an excerpt from "Week 12" of my recently released book, Chasing Glenn Beck.

 

Sometimes a metaphor slaps you in the face so hard you just have to pay attention.

I’m sitting on the couch next to my wife, having my first cup of coffee and watching Good Morning America. On one side of a split screen Sam Champion delivers weather-related banter from somewhere in Times Square, while behind him members of the crowd hold up signs scribbled with forgettable sayings. There’s something about Ohio on one of them but the rest of the message remains partially hidden behind what looks like a grandmother-granddaughter combination waving furiously at the camera.  Another sign further extends an already overused trope by insisting that Geena, Maria and Alice love Good Morning America.

From her studio couch Robin Roberts smiles and says something cute, words she’s likely said umpteen times before. Sam giggles and then kicks it back to Robin who immediately shifts into her now-for-something-serious voice before passing the verbal baton to George Stephanopoulos, formerly the White House Communications Director under Bill Clinton and now Robin’s co-anchor. George introduces his upcoming story, a live interview with former Senator Rick Santorum.

Santorum, yet another extreme right member of the GOP parade with his sights set on the Oval Office, stands in front of the courthouse in Somerset, Pennsylvania. He’s dressed in a blue blazer and a light blue open-collared shirt. The location is symbolic; it’s where his grandfather immigrated to after fleeing a fascist Italy back in 1935. Santorum stands with a smile on his face while listening to the same thing we do: Stephanopoulos’ brief and bland review of an ordinary political career. Behind the former Senator the courthouse steps are in the early stages of decoration, a sanctum Santorum in preparation for a formal press conference scheduled later that day.  To no one’s surprise Rick Santorum is officially getting into the race and, in keeping with the latest trend (and having previously announced to announce), he’s now sort of announcing while not really announcing until his upcoming announcement.

Over Santorum’s left shoulder we see an artistic grouping of American flags positioned in a flowerbed. Up the middle of the courthouse steps runs a railing; though currently unadorned I imagine the bunting that will wrap it by the time the press arrives. The most prominent display is a group of red, white and blue balloons off to Santorum’s right, running along the edge of the steps, scores of balloons organized into stripes, bound together and framing the scene with a tapestry of patriotic color. At the top of the steps the balloon wall is tied to a pole standing in a weighted container.

The trite intro complete, Stephanopoulos starts the interview with a couple of softball questions that Santorum lofts easily into the seats, saying nothing anyone doesn’t expect him to say.  Yes, he’s “in it to win.”  Yes, he sees “a path to the nomination” despite the trouncing he took in his last Senatorial contest. And, yes, he’s “very excited about this opportunity.” Stephanopoulos gets slightly more aggressive when he reads a couple of questions from viewer emails, but Santorum stays with his talking points, all of which sound like the same pabulum any candidate feeds the electorate these days.  He answers each question with aplomb, the smile never leaving his face. He even adds a little fist pump at one point, though it appears timid, like he’s not quite sure the gesture is appropriate.  I imagine Jessica, the Republican Club guest I met several weeks back, sitting at home with a genuinely wide smile, watching as her chosen candidate manifests her dreams.

I start to offer my opinions aloud, but when I look over at my wife it’s clear that she’s struggling to maintain her patience.  I’m pretty sure she wants to flip over to The Weather Channel and would, too, if it weren’t for my recently spiked interest in all things political and her unwavering support.[1] She takes another sip of coffee and invites Zoe, our mixed-breed rescue, over for some gentle ear scratching.

As we listen to the innocuous back-and-forth between Stephanopoulos and Santorum, a slight flutter at the side of the image draws my wife’s attention. She stops the ear rubbing (much to Zoe’s dismay) and taps me on the leg.  One end of the balloon decoration has worked itself free and is starting to drift loosely in the breeze. The breeze becomes a gust and the balloons do more than flutter; they now begin to float away.  My wife starts laughing and I quickly join her.  We watch as a woman hustles up the steps, attempting to grab the runaway balloons much the way a teacher’s aide might try to corral little Jimmy before he wanders off into the cloak room. Now we’re laughing even harder.

The interview continues. 

The woman finally manages to herd the decoration and for the next few minutes we can see only her white-strapped sandals peeking out from below the recalcitrant display, like those of some guilty lover hiding behind a curtain in a 1930’s screwball comedy.  All of this happens with Santorum blissfully unaware that, off to his far right, carefully crafted plans are proving unruly. 

For a few moments nothing more happens.  Santorum and Stephanopoulos continue to chatter away but my wife and I aren’t even listening. Our eyes are riveted on that poor woman whose career aspirations undoubtedly never included miming a pole on national television. My laughter re-infects my wife and she starts laughing again, which only serves to get me going even harder.  Slowly the recursivity wears off and we’re just about back under control.

Then a balloon pops.

My wife and I totally lose it. Two other people—another woman and a man judging by the shoes we can see rushing in from off screen—quickly imitate additional poles. Rick and George act like nothing’s happened, but there’s no way they didn’t hear that balloon pop.

Santorum continues to babble and I continue to laugh, but now the laughter is mixed with a touch of disdain as Santorum rolls right along, talking now about the sanctity of life, Obama’s socialist agenda, and the need for prayer.  The smugness and surety leak from him like rusty water from an old faucet as he continues pretending that everything is just fine, thank you, despite the barely suppressed chaos going on around him.

I’m uncomfortable in the same way that I was a couple of weeks ago when I watched Jessica, a Santorum volunteer, stand before a small group of fourteen Republicans at a local meeting and lay out Santorum’s bona fides.

Santorum can say all the right words, but underneath it all what he’s really saying are all the far right words. Santorum, like most of the GOP field today, looks to motivate through emotion rather than convince through logic. He’s more interested in getting us angry that giving us answers. 

The ex-Senator continues to pound away at his themes and his voice begins to rise slightly, both in volume and pitch. He’s ruled by his own ideologies rather than by any rational view of governance and his disconnect from reality has never been so obvious to me as it is at this moment. He’s an extremist who has decided somewhere along the way that winning means riling up more people than the next guy.  There’s no way we should ever allow such pretenders into leadership. I would so much prefer to hear from those with responsible and compassionate ideas, people who marry the best of fiscal intelligence with a growing social empathy.  A bit conservative, a bit liberal—and a whole lot quieter. These people must be out there, and there must also be enough of a constituency to elect them. They need finding.

Another balloon pop, anyone?

 


[1] Some might say “indulgence.”

 

Reader Comments (1)

Well written. In regards to your last sentence i would say there are people out there that share most of your idea - do i need to say I'm one's of them? - but there is a big BUT: we are a minority. It doesn't look like there many to want equilibrium. The idea of picking one party and keeps our loyalty to it worked more or less for all people. The system was called Democracy but the system was replaced by something that keeps its shape but not it substance and get approved until we the people do as the corporations does: most if not all; embrace both party at the same time.

May 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Editor

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