Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Never Underestimate the Desperate

One of my favorite movies of the ‘80s was Ghostbusters.  I thought it was Bill Murray’s finest moment (no it wasn’t Caddyshack; Rodney Dangerfield stole that flick).  Among the more memorable lines was this little often forgotten gem, which took place as the third member of the Ghostbuster crew was being interviewed for the job.

Janine Melnitz: “Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?”

Winston Zeddemore: “Ah, if there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say.”

Right there, two simple sentences in a comedy film, nailed the entire human experience and wrapped it into one rather neat and sad little package, complete with a bow and ribbon.  Give somebody a paycheck – especially somebody who hasn’t had one in a while – and they’ll believe anything you say.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how so many people can be deaf and blind to the outrageous comments and tactics of the GOP over the last two and a half years, especially when that very same party got the hell beat out of it in two consecutive election cycles.

It’s quite simple, really.  People – a lot of them – are getting desperate.  Not only isn’t the economy “recovering,” it appears to be sliding backwards.  That tends to scare people, even those who have jobs and are actually doing quite well.  After a while you get an avalanche of negativity and despair.  People not normally given to rash judgments start thinking the sky is falling in on them.  In that moment of vulnerability and desperation, where reason fails, people tend to do stupid things, like listen to and agree with policies that only a short time ago they thoroughly rejected as being ridiculous.  Snake oil salesmen begin looking like miracle workers, and the inane looks like the greatest thing since sliced bread.

That’s why I am not overly optimistic about Democrats’ chances in 2012.  It’s not because I don’t think they have the right positions, it’s because, at the end of the day, fear and ignorance may very well end up trumping sanity and reason.  In the end, it’s never about whether one actually believes in UFOs – or supply-side economics – it’s about whether they can put food on the table.  Ultimately, that’s the deciding factor for many voters.  To get the security they lack, most would gladly join a three-ring circus.  And if they’re given the opportunity next fall, the Republicans will be more than willing to oblige them.

Who ya gonna call?  Right now it ain't the Dems.      

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