My friend Kerry Howley heroically tried to find something nice to say about the conventions now mercifully past; I'm made of cheaper stuff and have written a piece for Foreign Policy that's a little less enthused by all this cultish, hagiographical absurdity. Sadly the editors removed the line: "Perhaps every aborted fetus perishes for Jesus" but, well, as you can see, if you dig beneath the surface the Democratic party is pretty much as repugnant as its Republican counterpart.
My, how each party is doing its best to make the other seem strangely electable. If Republican arrogance grates, Democratic smugness is just as aggravating.
[...] no sentient person can possibly watch these pep rallies and think he or she wants to have any part of either party. By their nature, parties are cults, but their creepiness is never better displayed than at their quadrennial conventions. The theme of this week, always present in the background and sometimes stated quite explicitly, is that the United States and, hell, the world too, is lucky to have Barack Obama as its savior and protector.
If no one has yet quite plumbed the depths George Pataki reached in 2004, it's not for want of trying. Eight years ago, Pataki told the world: "Ladies and gentlemen, on this night and in this fight, there is another who holds high that torch of freedom. He is one of those men God and fate somehow lead to the fore in times of challenge. And he is lighting the way to better times, a safer land, and hope. He is my friend, he is our president, President George W. Bush." People actually cheered this. (To be fair, it might be said that if the United States could just about survive eight years of Bush, the republic can probably endure four years of Mitt Romney.)
If the Republican National Convention had one small saving grace, it was that there was a whiff of apostasy in the air. Granted, that's an unavoidable consequence of nominating Romney, but compared with past conventions and the Democrats this week, the GOP's reluctance to give its heart to Romney seems a model of prudent skepticism. There was plenty of hagiographical nonsense in Tampa too, but the Democrats' slavish enthusiasm for their candidate is something to behold. In primitive people, you'd consider it a kind of madness.
More, much more, on the idiocy of "economic patriotism" and the weirdness of seeing a political party treat abortion as some kind of coming-of-age rite-of-passage over here.
And because it's an article about American politics, I felt duty bound to quote Mencken (the Sage of Baltimore being to American letters what George Orwell is to British journalism):
If the Republicans demonstrated their unfitness for office in Tampa last week, all one can say today is that, on the evidence put before the court thus far, the Democrats are determined to give the Republicans a run for their money. No matter how pundits dress it up, this election is a contest between two political parties that deserve one another. Yet again, let H.L. Mencken be your guide: "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." Nor, he might feel like adding today, a Democrat.
Don't bet against America by all means, but don't risk any wager on its political parties either.