March Madness: It’s Not Just About Basketball
What is it about the month of March that brings out the whackadoodle in otherwise competent creatures? “Mad as a March hare” refers to the frenzied mating antics of lusty lagomorphs as spring rolls around. But apparently the madness isn’t confined to the rabbit tribe.
Maybe our collective emergence from the doldrums of winter overheats our brain circuitry. In the U.S. at least, the stress of gathering a year’s worth of tax records while following the college basketball playoffs (affectionately known as “March Madness”) can strain susceptible nervous systems to the limit. But whatever the cause, March 2016 has been a banner month for showcasing our species at its maddest and worst.
In Brussels, that usually sedate European capital, Muslim terrorists linked to ISIS detonated two explosions that killed over 30 innocent people and injured at least 200 more. Coming in the wake of last year’s Paris massacres, and coupled with the news that a few hundred more ISIS operatives have infiltrated Europe to wreak future mayhem, it’s clear that the Continent is under siege by murderous medieval lunatics.
Europe’s ghettoized, often hostile Muslim neighborhoods have become spawning grounds for militants, and it only makes sense that several nations have finally halted the influx of Muslim refugees from Middle Eastern war zones. It’s easy for liberals to condemn nativism while rhapsodizing about diversity and humanitarian values, but — at least in Europe — non-assimilating, sharia-abiding Muslims are a bad fit at best and potentially treacherous at worst. Unfortunately, it’s too late to stuff this genie back inside the bottle. Europe will be reaping the consequences of its well-intentioned but ill-advised open-immigration policies for generations to come.
I’ve been waiting for moderate Muslims to lash out at the fanatics and de-legitimize them, but it’s no more likely to happen than American Christians rising up to shut down the KKK. So much the worse for Western civilization.
In Washington, stiff-necked Republican representatives are proving once again that they refuse to accept the mandate of the American people who twice elected Barack Obama as president. It’s one thing to reject a president’s Supreme Court nominee after a fair hearing, but that senescent snapping turtle Mitch McConnell and his outlaw gang of GOP obstructionists insist on ignoring the existence of that nominee (a respected moderate, as it turns out) until Obama shuffles off into retirement.
The Republicans’ obsessive hyperpartisanship, a thorny issue from Day One of Obama’s presidency, has morphed into blatant dereliction of duty. Call it Obama Derangement Syndrome, covert racism or just plain spitefulness, the obstructionists are asking us to believe the nonsensical argument that “the people” must guide the process by electing a new president (preferably a Republican) who will nominate the next justice.
Hello! “The people” already chose that president — in 2008 and again in 2012. Last I heard, he was still occupying the White House.
Meanwhile, establishment Democrats have been pulling out all the stops to block the Bernie Sanders insurgency. Former First Lady / Senator / Secretary of State / Wall Street darling Hillary Clinton has picked up endorsements, massive media coverage and tons of cash from the elite corporate potentates and plutocrats who would love to rule the known universe for at least another four years. The mainstream media coverage of the Sanders campaign amounts almost to a blackout.
A Bernie Sanders presidency would hit the ruling class like the bucket of water that snuffed the Wicked Witch of the West and destroyed her “beautiful wickedness.” Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats even tilted the results of several state primaries by using reliable party insiders (a.k.a., “superdelegates”) to override the popular vote. They may be Democrats, but clearly they don’t trust the people enough to believe in genuine democracy.
Of course, the ongoing Donald Trump juggernaut has caused many of us self-styled rational folk to question the virtues of democracy. I don’t believe that Trump is Hitler or even Mussolini, and I have to confess that I’ve enjoyed the spectacle of establishment Republicans scurrying madly to thwart his nomination. But I have to wonder how such a hefty plurality of garden-variety Republicans could fall under the spell of such a consummate flim-flam man.
Trump’s supporters are, of course, mad — angry mad as well as deranged mad, but mostly the former. The bulk of them are members of that most despised and neglected American tribe: older, less affluent, white Christian males. To be old, white, Christian and male in America is a sorry enough fate: you belong to one of the few remaining demographics that your fellow countrymen (and women) can mock with impunity. But to be all those things and struggle financially — while irate people of color call you out for your presumed “privilege” — well, let’s just say the inner furies mount ominously and cry for revenge.
Trump is the instrument of their revenge. He’s a populist demagogue unlike any other in recent American political history. Pugnacious Alabama governor George Wallace paled by comparison; you’d have to go back to someone like Huey “Kingfish” Long to find an apt parallel.
Like Long, Trump is smarter than he sounds; and he knows he has to sound brash, crude and defiantly ignorant to win the hearts of his constituency. His blunt, unscripted, shoot-from-the-hip style lends this particular demagogue the panache of a maverick.
Unlike Long, Trump can claim no actual political experience. He made his reputation as a high-rolling dealmaker, although (as establishment GOP veteran Mitt Romney gleefully pointed out), many if not most of his business enterprises have come to grief. Trump just seems to have a genius for winging it, saying whatever pops into his mind and talking trash about his rivals. His followers can’t get enough of it.
Believe me, I’d love to see a genuine maverick assume the presidency — a principled maverick who would overturn the tables of the money-changers, chastise the special interests and restore some semblance of sanity and balance to our beleaguered, bewildered nation. Trump is not that maverick. For me, he’s simply exploiting H. L. Mencken’s conviction that democracy is a self-limiting disease.
Here’s what Mencken meant. Given enough freedom and opportunity, smart people typically abandon the small towns that nurtured them and seek their fortunes in the big cities. They acquire the tastes and values of the urban elite, and they mate with other members of that elite. They produce elite offspring; they become a natural aristocracy.
Meanwhile, the small towns and rural hamlets across the republic languish in sad neglect, reduced to impoverished gene pools of frustrated left-behinds who enjoy little respect and fewer prospects. Where once their communities could boast scholars and men of vision along with the sturdy, sensible yeomanry, all that remains is a forlorn, resentful white underclass. They’re mad, they love guns, and they’ll be voting for Trump.
Rick Bayan is founder-editor of The New Moderate.