BLOG #11, SERIES #7
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
THE 2016 PRIMARIES
WHAT THEY REVEAL ABOUT AMERICA
March 16, 2016
As an historian of ideas, I have very mixed emotions about what I’m seeing of today’s political process. Those who keep up with our blogs may remember that, several years ago, I reported the conclusions reached by a high conclave of church leaders in Europe. Most significantly, their expressed fear that since Americans were no longer a literate people (the average home featuring home libraries of books and current magazines and newspapers), which is resulting in an increasingly ill-informed electorate that bases their election-related voting on 15-30-second sound-bytes on television rather than thoughtful analysis of more extensive data—then it was considered axiomatic that democracy in America might very well not survive at all.
Do their conclusions not sound prophetic given all that we see and hear?
But, on the other hand, look at the millions of people who tune in to the primary debates—especially the GOP, which fielded 17 strong candidates gradually being winnowed down to three or four. That is encouraging. At least many people care enough to watch.
But now let’s turn to specific areas of grave concern to anyone with high hopes for America’s future:
Terrifying to me is the return of Huey Long politics. Students of American history will remember that infamous governor of Louisiana who rose to power by character assassination. In short, he had goon squads who used detective-based research in order to unearth incidents of character flaws in each politician who stood in his way. Especially necessary to his preservation of power was finding little-known or not-known-at-all moral slips (and all of us make them), then publicizing them so as to destroy those individuals. Movie-buffs will remember the great 1949 film, All the King’s Men, based on Robert Penn Warren’s powerful novel (same title). In the movie, Broderick Crawford, as Willy Stark, a Huey Long prototype, portrays a man who, while appearing to have the best interests of the people in mind, is instead a ruthless and corrupt politician who systematically (much as Hitler did in Nazi Germany) destroyed one by one, those who stood in his way (He won Best Actor that year). Mercedes Cambridge won Best Supporting Actress for her role as the aide who mercilessly implemented the governor’s commands. The film also won Best Picture. In real life, eventually Huey Long was assassinated.
I suggest that each of our readers pay careful attention to our 2015-2016 primaries, and ascertain for yourselves whether or not anyone is substituting character assassination, character ridicule, or otherwise landing punches below the belt, rather than providing positive, well thought-out reasons why his/her candidacy for President ought to be voted in over all the other candidates. In other words, which current candidates ought to be taken seriously by voters (because they provide serious, thoughtful, specific, accurate, substantive reasons for their being the eventual nominee, and which do not). We’ll continue next week.