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Beinhart's Body Politic: The Land of Dead Ideas 

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I'm not fond of the sort of cultural analysis that equates the creation of Godzilla with atomic fears.

And yet, yet, how else do we account for the repeated resurrections of right-wing Republicans and the overwhelming popularity of zombie dramas. Metaphor? Causality? Spontaneous concordance? Jungian synchronicity? They are the party of killed ideas. They've had several opportunities to put them into practice.

Tax cuts create jobs. But the more we cut taxes, the more persistent unemployment and under-employment become. The rich are job creators is another Republican idea. Income inequality has taken off. The rich are richer than ever. Therefore jobs must be cascading from their presence the way water spouts from urinating statuettes. Well they're not. (But you can get your own little version of Brussels' Manneken Pis, or, if you prefer, a statue of peeing dog, both quite inexpensive. All is not gloom and doom in consumer land. The town of Nowa Huta, Poland, has a bright green statue of a urinating Lenin. It sounds ripe for commercialization.)

Deregulation creates prosperity. Since deregulation began, crashes and bank failures have returned as regular features of the landscape. Don't let facts or history alter the policies. Fight re-regulation and demand more deregulation. Bankers are responsible people who will regulate themselves. Hedge fund managers, too.

Government health care programs must die! Because, after all, before the US had Obamacare, the free market produced the most expensive health care in the developed world, mostly about double the going rate, with some of the worst outcomes. So we must return to that.

Unions must be destroyed. Because they are job killers. Never mind that the lower union membership gets, the fewer jobs the country has, the worse those jobs pay—especially in relation to the profits their labor earns.

We need more coal, more oil, more gas. Solar and wind power is for sissies. Conservation, clean air, clean water, are all debilitating. Climate change is a myth.

So, for that matter, is evolution. It's called the "Theory of Evolution." So it's just a "theory," see!

It is impossible to believe that these ideas still live. They have been slain, again and again, by facts. We have seen stakes driven into their hearts, or whatever metaphorical instrument is supposed to kill demonstrably wrong ideas in whatever manner that actually happens, over and over again.

Yet over and over again, they rise. They march. They bite at everyone they encounter and whenever their [metaphoric] teeth break [mental] skin, they spread their infection. The infected embrace their new found, or refound, or possibly just newly focused, mindlessness and march.

The question is, why?

And here, I warn you, the metaphor is about to switch. It might even become a simile.

There are three ways to look at a disease, even a plague—the virulence of the agents of infection, the weaknesses of the hosts, and the environment in which both exist. With the common flu, which kills many more people than Ebola, at least in the West, most of the deaths are due to the weaknesses of the hosts—the old, the debilitated, the already damaged. With Ebola, on the other hand, we look to the strength of the virus. However, when we compare the effects of Ebola in America and Africa, we look to the environment, and even more than the natural environment, to the manmade environment of sanitation, health care, physical and social infrastructure, wealth, and even inequality.

So, zombies. Animated by the virus of they-should-be-dead ideas. Are the ideas so virulent? Are the hosts so weakened as to be easily susceptible? Or is it the environment?

Let's go with environment.

Why? Because there's little point in killing the ideas again. They're already dead and it doesn't matter. They're not only animate, they're more virulent than they were when they died the last time. I expect it's a form of evolution. In the manner that this version of the Ebola virus is more dangerous than the one we encountered some years ago. The hosts? The infected? The zombies? Can they be made less vulnerable to ideas that are not good for society as a whole, that are not good, for the most part, for the people who believe in them? Probably not. Especially as there is a very rich and powerful segment of our elites and our establishments that is making a major investment in keeping them vulnerable. I am, of course, speaking of the people like the Kochs, Murdoch, Fox News, the Republican Party. But it's also the fear mongers and hysteria creators in the media that turn every snowstorm into something that will kill you right after bedtime. Or at dawn. Or day after tomorrow. As long as you're afraid, very afraid, and stay tuned. But don't connect your fear to climate change. Or having the city get more snowplows. Or improving the health care system. Or whatever it takes to fix things. Don't even mention that stuff. Just be afraid. And in a state of fear you will believe a bumper sticker! Yes you will! Security! Jobs! Terrorists! Lazy people of color stealing your jobs and using your taxes for undeserved welfare!

What can be changed, is the environment. In this case, it consists of ideas. Democrats, the Liberals, the Left, seem devoid of ideas. The last Democrat who had a visible idea was Bill Clinton. It was to be more like a Republican. It worked. It got him elected. He even had enough Democrat (Left, Liberal) remaining in him that he presided over eight years of peace and prosperity. But it was destructive in that it set a tempting precedent. It established that the easiest, and likely most successful, move for any Democratic aspirant was to take a few more steps in that same direction. As they all moved further and further to the right, and into the arms of big money, ideas about how to make society work, that did not include embracing the rich, the richer, and the super-rich, ceased to exist.

To switch metaphors yet again, it is as if there is no landscape left back there. To the Left. The land of sanity and the gardens of service have been abandoned. What's not dust and weeds has been overgrown by invasive species. Until it's cleared and replanted with new and sustaining growths, even dead ideas, from the right, will have more power than no ideas, on the Left.

  • Why do discredited Republican ideas continue to spring back to life like zombies?


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