Scott Horton looks at the succession of conservative sweethearts in "A Snapshot from the Age of Distraction":
It’s not unusual for a political candidate or two to rise dramatically and then melt beneath the lights of the public stage—this happens in almost every election cycle. But it is unusual for so many candidates to rise and collapse in such rapid succession, while still at an early point in the elections. It may tell us something about the quality of the candidate pool. Or it may be revealing of the fickleness and immaturity of the voter group the populists are competing to capture. Or both.
In any event, however, it is characteristic of our current political process. We have created an environment in which scrutiny of political candidates is superficial, and in which candidates can get away with knowing only enough about critical issues to fill a three-by-five-inch filing card. Illiteracy about key economic issues is widespread, and vacuous, simplistic formulations are put forth without being challenged or parsed. Bogus claims about history are made without shame or correction. That would be a fair summary of the televised debates, which offer little actual debating and are often packaged to resemble a television game show. Is America going about picking presidential candidates the way viewers choose their favorite contestants on “American Idol”? America today faces the very real prospect of a double-dip recession, and is deeply enmeshed in two land wars in the Middle East (one of which marks its first decade this week) that are unpopular but that our political elites don’t want to discuss. It faces the prospect of a “lost generation” of un- and underemployed youth. But our political culture continues to avoid vital issues. Instead, we are treated to political tragicomedy. The rapid rise and fall of candidates in the Republican contest is a telling sign of our Age of Distraction.
Charles Pierce has joined the already excellent Esquire political team, and his ire is provoked by a silly Hill piece claiming that Herman Cain's success proves that observations about racism in the conservative movement are overblown. As Pierce writes in "The GOP Is Not Giving Up 50 Years of Bigotry for This Guy":
Jesus God, man, read some history, will you? Or, otherwise, some conservative might come up to you one day and you'll trade him your car for a bag of magic beans. If you don't want to read, at least Google "Harry Dent" or "Southern strategy." Republicans made a conscious choice to abandon the traditions that began with Lincoln and produced Edward Brooke in order to profit politically from the backlash against the accomplishments of the civil-rights movement and the remnants of white-supremacy, especially in the South. This wasn't an accident. It was a shrewd — if amoral — calculation. That is how black voters came to be attached to the Democratic party; hell, it's why Martin Luther King, Sr. stopped being a Republican. If you think that party is willing to surrender 50 years of profitable bigotry for the political phenomenon that is Herman Cain, well, you should take it up with the future of the GOP, Congressman J.C. Watts, or former chairman Michael Steele, who also represented the new multiracial party for a while. I also wish you luck with your beanstalk.
For more on Cain and his appeal to conservatives, I'd recommend checking out the many posts on the subject at We Are Respectable Negroes. (See also Adam Serwer and Matthew Yglesias.)
Roy Edroso writes sympathetically about "the end of the affair" between Sarah Palin (who declared she is not running for president) and the conservative faithful, who didn't recognize the scam and truly believed:
...the salt-of-the-earth types who are now left standing at Palin Central, waiting on a train to Galt's Gulch and glory that will never arrive.
I note this with some sadness, and not only on my own account. Most of Palin's retinue will peel off without many tears to the Perry and Bachmann bandwagons, where their thirst for blood and bullshit may be slaked. But I spare a thought for those who actually believed in Palin -- who thought this venal con woman was the real deal, their mama grizzly, their wingnut messiah -- someone who, though swimming in unearned wealth and privilege, understood their underwater double-wide lives and, though incredibly averse to responsibility, would bravely take up the Old Standard and be the backwoods Boudicca of their redneck resurgence.
She was as close to a new Reagan as the Tea Party people had -- simultaneously sunny and impenetrable, a great grinning billboard behind which they could safely wreak their bitter vengeance on the hippies, ethnics, and paupers on whom they blamed the modern world. How long will it take for them to move on, and where to? And -- here's a strange thought, coming from someone who expected to see her crowned -- whether they did or not, are there enough of them that anyone will notice? Or was the whole idea that battalions of backwards-looking, flintlock-shouldering patriots marched with her just a scam as well? That would seem the cruelest thing for them to find: that they were doomed all along, and had only seemed close enough to victory to yearn for it because hucksters found profit in telling the world that they were.
Finally, Driftglass is holding a fundraiser and has been blogging up a storm (and podcasting). Make sure to stay for the prose, but I'm particularly fond of this picture, which until recently was on his masthead (click for a larger view):
As I wrote over at his place, it occurs to me that this creature is the conservative version of the Krell monster. The difference is that it didn't emerge from noble if misguided attempts to increase knowledge and intelligence; the Republicans chose to plunge directly into the lizard brain instead, and what they unleashed was a violently incurious, brutally rapacious and recklessly nihilistic Id that has destroyed civilizations in the past and is hungry to do the same again.