one is not supposed to enjoy watching a train wreck in progress,
I must say that the Arizona gubernatorial debate between
Gov. Jan Brewer and her Democratic opponent Terry Goddard
was a special moment. It made for satisfying entertainment.
Brewer’s conspicuously long moment of silence—not in remembrance
of someone who died, but because there was nothing in her
brain –seemed to last for an eternity.
the funny thing is that in that backwards state, it’s likely
that she’ll still win.
has decided not to do any more debates because she sucks at them, and she
only did this one in order to claim “$1.7 million-plus”
of “public funds” for her campaign. Besides, as she said,
“I don't believe that things come out in proper context
in an adversarial atmosphere.” And when she was challenged
post-debate by reporters about her unsubstantiated, no false,
claim that decapitated bodies were being found in Arizona,
she couldn’t take the heat and walked away.
blame Janet Napolitano for this mess, partly at least.
When she quit as governor of Arizona to head Obama’s Homeland
Security operations, she created a gaping hole in Arizona
politics, allowing the dumbness to fill the void. Brewer,
Arizona’s not-ready-for-primetime secretary of state, was
next in line because, unfortunately, Arizona doesn’t have
a position of lieutenant governor.
don’t get me wrong, everyone has a bad day now and then—a
brain fart, forgotten lines, thoughts cut off in mid stream.
Chalk it up to lack of sleep, stress, stage fright, what
have you. However, I would argue that in Gov. Brewer’s
case, her reticence was due to the exceedingly low storage
capacity in her mind. Simply put, she has very little to
work with. After all, this was the person who could not
answer an important question that gets to the heart of S.B.
1070, the anti-immigrant bill that she signed into law.
Regarding the law—which essentially authorizes police to
stop and arrest people who are suspected of being “illegal”
immigrants—Brewer was asked what an illegal immigrant looks
like. She did not have an answer, but assured that “the
law will be enforced civilly, fairly and without discriminatory
points to it,” whatever in Sam Hill that means. Perhaps
she should have consulted the white supremacists, prison
profiteers and lobbyists who wrote the bill.
even more, I blame people such as Sarah Palin, and Bush
before her, for making ignorance acceptable, fashionable
and even virtuous in politics. On the campaign trail in
2008, Palin refused to speak to reporters, and in that regard became the worst
of role models. In this year’s midterm elections, we’ve
witnessed the same behavior with Nevada Senate candidate
Sharron Angle, and Rand Paul, the GOP Senate candidate from Kentucky.
And candidates such as Angle and Senate hopeful Ken Buck of Colorado have given their websites
a makeover to remove their troubling tea party positions.
For politicians, and specifically for the new breed of rightwing
hopefuls, media attention is a fabulous thing when things
are going your way. However, when
things don’t work out—for example, when a candidate makes
a gaffe, receives negative publicity, is judged to be an
extremist, or cannot speak in full sentences—these politicians
silence themselves. Or even worse, they feel that they
are accountable to no one, including the public. In the
end, they are mere front men and women for powerful interests, and the money speaks louder than
words if we bother to listen.
no means would I suggest that this dumbing down of political
discourse is a new phenomenon. However, in the present-day
context, it is very selective. And I dare say that if Barack
Obama had possessed the underwhelming intellectual capabilities
of a Sharron Angle, or the deficient oratorical skills of
a Jan Brewer, there would be no president today named Barack
Obama. In any case, it boggles the mind that this class
of conservatives, however bold and self-assured, is unable
or unwilling to articulate and defend their atrocious viewpoints—policies
which will surely destroy this nation, or at least come
closer to it than even George Bush ever could have hoped.
big part of the problem with today’s political discourse
is that we do not have honest, thorough debates on the issues
that educate and inform the voters. A properly functioning
democracy begs for an informed populace, and America enjoys
neither. And the tea party movement, the engine of excitement
in the GOP, is anti-intellectual, as lynch mobs tend to
order to understand the way things could be in U.S. politics,
I urge you to check out the legendary debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley
at Cambridge University, a university where a decade ago
I had the pleasure of giving a lecture to students on human
rights in the U.S. The Baldwin-Buckley debate, titled “The
American Dream is at the Expense of the American Negro,”
took place on October 26, 1965, 45 years ago. Yet the debate
is timeless in its truth telling, particularly as far as
Baldwin’s contributions are concerned.
be sure, my political beliefs bear little resemblance to
the ideological leanings of the late Buckley. And while
I disagree with him on almost everything, he was a conservative
public intellectual worthy of respect, and there are few
of those these days. Today’s conservatives surely would
have shunned him, as they would have marginalized their
standard bearer and quasi-deity Ronald Reagan. Tea party
folks are far too extreme for old-time conservatives who
mostly cared about their money. (Come to think of it, for
all of their so-called Christianity, the tea party conservatives
wouldn’t have thought much of Jesus for that matter—a hippy
man of color who spoke out against the rich and powerful,
and hung out with the sick and the poor and the prostitutes.
But alas, I digress.)
selectively reticent, ultra-conservative public figure is
a danger, a dishonest player in a game where people deserve
to know where you stand. A true debate on the issues would
keep all of us honest by forcing us to think about our stances
and that which undergirds or fails to undergird them. But
the self-serving silence of Brewer and those of her ilk
does not bode well for this increasingly failed state called
America. They do not express or defend their positions,
perhaps because they are ignorant, or because they simply
refuse to speak, or because they are patsies for oil tycoons
who do all of the talking and sign the checks. Maybe it’s
all of the above. And I don’t know which is worse.
Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights
advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to The Huffington Post, theGrio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily
Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.