What a Bunch|of Characters

     All ideologies sooner or later degenerate into cynicism, and are defended by hysteria.
     That’s as clear in today’s right-wing jihads, from the Republican Party, Vladimir Putin and ISIS, as it is from the pitiful remnants of the left, such as in Venezuela.
     None of these jihads have anything to do with shaping the future; they are futile efforts to rewrite the past.
     Such crusades are essentially medieval. They are appeals to a presumably perfect state that never existed, but that surely can be brought about once the Party gets the power to whip everyone into line – into right thinking.
     Any ideology – be it liberal democracy, Marxism, fascism, whathaveyou – is merely a lens through which to view the world. Political parties, inevitably it seems, end up worshiping the lens – warning us about people with other lenses, sooner or later trying to make it illegal to hold another lens, and punishing people who do it.
     These ideologues sooner or later make themselves irrelevant. But while they’re doing so they can be dangerous, particularly in their hysterical phase. I give you as an example, the twentieth century.
     Whatever remains of the U.S. left today is not dangerous because it has no power anywhere, except on a few select boards in Vermont. But I know those people – nothing to worry about, really.
     It’s the hysterical people who hold power that can be dangerous. Such as the Texas attorney general, who called the U.S. Supreme Court “lawless” this week, and told judges and town clerks they could ignore the marriage law because he didn’t like it.
     And Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who wants to be president, who demanded a constitutional amendment so we can throw Supreme Court judges out of office if we disagree with them.
     If these government officials believe what they said, it’s hysteria. (It’s also ignorant, if they have read the Constitution, as I presume they have.) If they do not believe it, it’s cynical.
     Yet it’s just the tip of today’s Republican jihads: against federal judges, against the Supreme Court, against science – against anything that suits its peculiar moods.
     These are not just ideological failures, they are personal failures.
     This is fair game, because Republicans make a big deal about personal values, even claiming that government officials – the ones on their side – should be allowed to violate laws if the laws conflict with their personal values.
     Let’s consider what we want in a public official.
     I should think we would want that an elected officer, in his or her official life, will represent, or at least know how to represent, all the things the office stands for, or once did: public service, faithful execution of the laws, respect for the Constitution, and so on.
     Let’s call a government officer in his or her official capacity A.
     And let’s call such a person in his or her personal capacity B.
     The closer B is to A – the closer a person embodies the ideals upon which our nation was founded – around the clock, in office or out of it – the better off, presumably, all of us will be.
     The problem for us today is that far too often, B minus A equals nothing. I could name names, but I am running out of space.
     That’s why despite all the understandable and well-founded criticism of our endless campaign seasons, they do serve a purpose. They generally manage, sooner or later, to reveal something about a candidate’s character. And that, as any Republican will tell you, matters.

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