There is a Monty Python sketch where two ladies are talking with each other while watching TV. One of them says “People on television treat the general public like idiots.” Upon which the other one says “Well we are idiots.” The lady who thinks the public are idiots then goes to prove that at least she is an idiot and, needless to say, that’s when things get truly absurd. The US presidential election this year will be another test of whether the public are idiots.
Four years ago, there was talk of George W. Bush being different. He was supposed to be a “compassionate conservative”. I never understood what that was supposed to mean. When I watched his behaviour as president and took the two different parts of that term it didn’t make any sense. For example, somebody who is compassionate does not pump his fist and says “feels good” when starting a war (especially not if he tricked the public into going to war); and somebody who is a conservative does not treat his country and the rest of the world like the equivalent of a gigantic landfill, to be used to take a really big dump.
But people can always claim that they had “no idea” what they were getting into by voting somebody like George W Bush - if we ignore the overwhelming evidence that already four years ago indicated what kind of person he was and still is. Now, four years later, people will not have that kind of excuse any longer. Democrats have said the president doesn’t have any achievements but that’s not true. The country’s finances in utter disarray - the country is very deep in debt, and the trade deficit is widening -, and the standing of the country in some parts of the world, especially the Islamic world, resembles that of the former Soviet Union. Just think about it for a moment: A superpower invading an Islamic country and then trying to fend of an increasing resistance movement while paying billions and billions for that… Doesn’t that sound uncomfortably familiar? Those are achievements - albeit ones that no sane person would be proud of.
And so we have been watching or at least following the Republican Convention, which turned out to be the big exploitation of 11 September that cynics had predicted it would be (that’s another achievement of the Bush administration: If you listen to the cynics you get very good predictions for their behaviour. It’s almost like Bush wants to show the world that all those very bad stereotypes are really true!). There was that one day of honesty, the third day, when the Republican Party showed the face that it had been showing for a long time now: The face of hatred. But that’s not what you’ll hear in the media who, as the Monty Python ladies observed, are treating the general public like idiots. There is talk of “compassionate conservatives” again.
We’ll see whether that will work. But, I think, it’s a fairly good test whether or not the public are idiots. Will people after these four years still believe in all that talk about the “compassionate conservative”?