A Cartoon Metaphor

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Of course I skipped the voting here in Texas yesterday! What was I going to do? Vote for the dark male socialist or the pale female socialist from the party of the donkey? Or the very pale male socialist from the party of the elephant? Or "protest" the whole lot of them by casting a vote for my "choice" of even worse options: an unabashed theocrat or a looney pacifist posing as a capitalist?

Well, I will say that this is, after all, the most diverse-looking election in American history!

Surface appearances are apparently too subtle for this scientist to master, so it was with detached amusement only that I overheard political chatter yesterday, or with mild annoyance that I briefly participated just long enough to say I'd vote for a Democrat later on -- as long as whichever one it was would not support curtailing freedom of speech as McCain has. It blows my mind that people I know were thinking about caucusing! They're all the same damned thing!

And while this morning's election coverage makes me sympathize with the ennui of the Inspector, I did find one story that at once delivered commentary on about the right level for this election while also making what is on balance a profound point. Jeff Greenfield of Slate explains "why voters always choose [Bugs Bunny over Daffy Duck] for President":

... Bugs and Daffy represent polar opposites in how to deal with the world. Bugs is at ease, laid back, secure, confident. His lidded eyes and sly smile suggest a sense that he knows the way things work. He's onto the cons of his adversaries. Sometimes he is glimpsed with his elbow on the fireplace mantel of his remarkably well-appointed lair, clad in a smoking jacket. (Jones once said Cary Grant was his inspiration for Bugs. Today it would be George Clooney.) Bugs never raises his voice, never flails at his opponents or at the world. He is rarely an aggressor. When he is pushed too far and must respond, he borrows a quip from Groucho Marx: "Of course, you realize this means war." And then, whether his foe is hapless hunter Elmer Fudd, varmint-shooting Yosemite Sam, or a raging bull, Bugs always prevails.

Daffy Duck, by contrast, is ever at war with a hostile world. He fumes, he clenches his fists, his eyes bulge, and his entire body tenses with fury. His response to bad news is a sibilant sneer ("Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin!"). Daffy is constantly frustrated, sometimes by outside forces, sometimes by his own overwrought response to them. In one classic duel with Bugs, the two try to persuade Elmer Fudd to shoot the other -- until Daffy, tricked by Bugs' wordplay, screams, "Shoot me now!" [bold added]
Given the lack of contact with reality of most intellectuals and academics today, the fact most political activists are meddlesome and annoying, and that most Americans have their own business to mind, it is understandable that so many are apolitical, and tune in just long enough (if at all) to decide which candidate they like more (or dislike less) come election time. Foolish, but understandable.

Furthermore, most Americans haven't an explicit or coherent political philosophy, and so would be ill-equipped to do a more thorough analysis of the candidates in any given election. And so, they choose their candidates on a gut, sense-of-life level. Americans, being an implicitly Aristotelian people, are confident in dealing with the world, and expect the same of their leaders. He who best projects such confidence will win the election, absent any excruciatingly obvious danger signs.

Ayn Rand once said that, "If America is to be saved from destruction -- specifically, from dictatorship -- she will be saved by her sense of life." But she also once characterized the hippies of the 1960's as, "a desperate herd looking for a master, to be taken over by anyone ... who would tell them how to live". Obama's more cult-like followers seem to have been cut from the same cloth.

Considering that Barack Obama is definitely the Bugs Bunny in this year's presidential election, and that his leftist agenda is so pervasive -- albeit soft-pedaled -- that his notion of income tax reform is for the government to fill our forms out for us, it would seem that we have in Obama someone who can be all things to all people long enough to get elected, anyway. The apolitical, sense-of-life middle gets the projection of confidence it wants, and the hippies get the guru they want.

And McCain is still worse.

For this very dangerous situation, we can thank generations of intellectual descendants of Immanuel Kant, who have managed over time to transform those who should shape our culture for the better into its destroyers, and driven away or disgusted everyone else. Conservative cynics to the contrary, intellectuals have a proper role to play in the division of labor of a modern society. Until America has a large number of rational intellectuals who uphold freedom again, our freedom will be at the mercy of cartoon politics and the criminal competence of the winners of such contetsts.

-- CAV


Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, I liked the cartoon comparisons. I was talking about them with a friend and we agreed without demur that Obama is Bugs Bunny and Clinton Daffy Duck. But then who's McCain? We soon realized--Yosemite Sam. Yep, got'em dead to rights.

Gus Van Horn said...

OK. I'll bite.

Who are Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee, then?

Adrian Hester said...

"Who are Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee, then?"

Good question. Huckabee tends toward Elmer Fudd and Ron Paul is reminiscent of the Road Runner--you know, more than a little hyper and running again and again non-stop for God only knows whatever reason out in the desert. They're not such perfect fits though. But some of the other ex-candidates are clearer: Thompson is Huckleberry Hound and Kucinich is strikingly reminiscent of Tweety Bird. But Richardson? Can you think of any cartoon characters who resemble earnest bureaucrats? I know I can't.

Gus Van Horn said...

Well, with Thompson, you've left the Warner Brothers ... pantheon, just to ram a hot poker in the Road Runner's eye, so I guess any cartoon character would be fait game.

But off hand, I still can't come up with someone for Richardson.

Anonymous said...

Good one Gus.

Huh... Cartoons. Well, after "cartoon riots" became a reality, I suppose I can't be surprised.


Oh and thanks for the link!