Saturday, April 05, 2008

Of One's Own Feet, And The Shooting Thereof

As of this moment, I declare a temporary suspension of my "no politics" rule. I don't know how long this suspension will last, but it's something that simply must be done.

As to why I am now suspending my own most important rule, I feel I must first explain a little something about the genesis of this blog, and to do so I must consult an utterly unimpeachable source: me. Turn with me now to the book of Headcrash, Chapter 13, Verse 55:
DON_MAC stopped abruptly, before a virtual door, and I almost collided with him. "Ah," he said, "the Ranting Room. Do you ever visit the Ranting Room, Max?"

I screwed up my face into a distasteful expression, licked my lips, and tried to find some way to be polite about it. "Well, I, er, uh—"

"It's Fruitcake Central," DON_MAC announced. "Home to the most idiotic, hare-brained, addle-headed thinking on the planet. For example, tonight," he touched the menu card next to the door, and it glowed to life, "the Church of Vegentology will be conducting a memorial service for the Australian wheat harvest, followed at 0100 UTC by the PPLF." He paused, looked at the menu card slightly cock-eyed, and thumbed the card until supporting data was displayed. "The Portly Persons' Liberation Front will issue a call for aspiring terrorists to help them with their campaign of radical door enlargement. Then after that we have a meeting of the FWRA—the Future Welfare Recipients of America—who are splitting their time with Men Victimized by Vasectomy, and following that the president of Scatophiliacs Anonymous will give a talk on, 'Getting Your Shit Together.'"

DON_MAC considered that last one a moment, grimmaced, and released the menu card. It faded back to darkness, and he turned to me. "Do you know why the Marketplace sysops continue to maintain the Ranting Room, Max?"

I shrugged. "Cheap laughs?"

DON_MAC slowly shook his metallic head. "It's a safety valve, Max. Any open society must offer its members a safety valve—a way to vent any idea, no matter how looney—without fear of retribution. Take away that safety valve, and the only viable alternative is a police state, where all ideas are rigidly controlled."
And with that essential but rarely stated information out there, we can at last get to the crux of the biscuit.

I have just left—make that, escaped from—the 4th Congressional District Republican Party Convention. I was not actually a delegate; Karen is an elected delegate, and I a mere alternate, to be seated and given voting rights only if the specified number of elected delegates failed to show. We got there shortly before nine this morning; got signed-in, paid our fees—Republicans always want cash from you, and at this level I felt I should at least have gotten a tote bag and a souvenir mug, and not merely a styro cup of blah coffee, a crummy Danish, and plenty of tinder for the fire tonight—

But eventually we got into the hall and rendezvoused with the rest of our delegation, and the convention was called to order. We sat through a performance of the Pledge of Allegiance—the extended version, with the drum solo—a decently rousing reiteration of Senator Norm Coleman's stump speech, which is definitely getting better each time I hear it. (Three times, so far.) Then another speech by a lesser dignitary, and another speech by an even lesser dignitary, and another speech... And finally, at about quarter past ten, we finally got around to the official seating of the delegates and appointments of designated alternates.

And that's when the cat-fight erupted. In one of our neighboring delegations, there was a challenge to the credentials of one of the elected delegates. It turned out the chairman of that delegation had discovered that the woman in question was—gasp!—a Ron Paul supporter! More damning, he had proof—proof, I say!—in the form of printouts from the Internet, that that woman had participated in a Libertarian meetup group and had frequently posted on libertarian-oriented web sites! And by God, he had not devoted forty years to the Republican Party to let it be infiltrated like this, by a bunch of kids who had not paid their dues! (Hold on, I thought those were dues we were paying right before we got that lousy coffee and Danish.)

Thereafter followed about forty-five minutes of heated discussion, during which the chairman of our neighboring delegation presented a succession of overdressed party hacks to testify against that woman, interspersed with others testifying that this whole thing was a stupid waste of time. Right about the time I was beginning to wonder how Mister By God there would react if he knew that I'd once attended a meeting of the Communist Party (I was young, in college, and the meeting was being held by a professor who I really wanted to give me an A on the term paper I'd just turned in), the convention chair finally allowed the call for a vote. Then, after the convention decided by an overwhelming majority that that woman did not weigh the same as a duck, we finally got back to the business of seating alternate delegates.

And blessedly, by this time one of the missing members of our delegation had finally turned up, and I was able to yield my seat to an Earnest Young Libertarian who still wanted to stay to catch the rest of the circus.

Giving in to retrospection for a moment: unremembered years ago, I attended my first Republican Party conclave, at which we were to endorse a candidate for our Minnesota House District, which is the level of professional politics ranking right above that of dog-catcher. We had a long-established incumbent in the office, who was such a nullity I can't even remember his name now. He was what we call a Moderate Republican—in other words, a dependably Democratic vote. He got up before the crowd in that hall and gave a singularly soporific speech about how important it was for Republicans, as the minority party, to go along to get along, and about how valuable all his years of seniority were, because of all the committees it enabled him to sit on, and in some cases even co-chair.

And then, just as we were all about to surrender to ennui and re-endorse this guy for the umpteenth time, a pretty young woman in blue jeans, Reeboks, and a baggy sweatshirt got up and said she couldn't believe conversatives had to settle for this kind of lackluster representation. Then, speaking purely extemp and from the heart, she made an argument for an assertive sort of conservatism that doesn't back off on its principles, doesn't just "go along to get along," and doesn't try to pretend it's merely a slightly more fiscally responsible Democrat. The moment she finished speaking she was nominated from the floor, and for the first time in years we had an actual contest for the endorsement in our district. When the voting was over, our so-called representative took his ball and went home, with enough bitter parting shots at us delegates to ensure that his bridges were not merely burned but irrevocably blown, and knowing what the vote tallies were, and knowing that my ballot was the last one counted, I know beyond any doubt that it was my vote that gave Michele Bachmann the endorsement and put her on the road to Congress.

It's amazing what young and idealistic people can do, when the old geezers don't go out of their way to make them feel unwanted and irrelevant.

Your thoughts and comments?