14 November 2012
Obamaphobia: a symptom, not the disease
Two disturbing items in the national news. In Arizona, a woman ran her husband over with her Jeep last Saturday because he didn't vote in the presidential election. The wife seems to believe that her husband's vote could have thwarted President Obama's re-election, which she believes will cause her family to "face hardship." Romney carried the state by more than a quarter-million votes. In Florida, a tanning-salon owner is apparently one of the rare Americans who carries out a threat of departure depending on election results. After telling friends before the election that he wasn't "going to be around" if Obama won, he was found dead of an overdose last Thursday, leaving behind a living will with "Fuck Obama!" scrawled on it. His business will be subject to tax increases under "Obamacare." Sensitive observers will be quick to insist that both these people were sick before any political provocations, not driven mad by politics. That doesn't get politics off the hook. Something is wrong with the country when elections can serve as triggers for violence from such people. Something more than partisanship is at fault; Democrats, if less violent or self-destructive, were no less hysterical following George W. Bush's re-election in 2004 than many Republicans are now. The nation remains at an impasse; neither side can or is allowed to destroy the other. Despite the belief of extremists in each party that the other party is out, consciously or not, to destroy the country, neither can be stopped definitively without violating our identity as a pluralistic, classically-liberal democratic republic. The electoral war cannot be fought to a finish; neither party yet seems likely to die the way the Whigs did in the 1850s. Whatever keeps both alive is something the Framers didn't anticipate -- they didn't anticipate forming parties themselves -- and something self-evidently subversive of the workings of government planned by them. Bipolarchy is a national madness and a national straitjacket; while it persists, we shouldn't be surprised if more individuals go mad.