Watching the collection of fools and grifters that are competing for the Republican presidential nomination this time around, I couldn't help but think of Slovaj Žižek's trilemma of communism.
There's a pattern that can be found in powerful institutions whose daily rhetoric and legitimacy rest dishonestly on a bankrupt and abandoned ideology. Žižek described the kinds of people who were drawn to the Communist regime:
Of the three features – personal honesty, sincere support of the regime and intelligence – it was possible to combine only two, never all three. If one was honest and supportive, one was not very bright; if one was bright and supportive, one was not honest; if one was honest and bright, one was not supportive.To the extent that these institutions are powerful and wealthy, they draw to themselves clever (but immoral) careerists -- and to the extent they still keep talking like they care about their ideals they draw in (honest) fools. But all of those who are both clear-sighted and honest are repelled or dismissive.
The modern Republican Party is exactly such an institution. Conservative stalwarts stridently enforce the pretense that they are the party for small government, the patriotic nation, and the common man - even as every policy they enact operates in direct contradiction to those stated goals. Their power and influence has become ever more solidly welded to serving the needs of a multinational plutocracy who's rapaciousness shows every indication of killing off the nation it has parasitized. Yet the party's electoral viability still requires that millions of voters remain oblivious to this fact that the Republican Party works directly against their interests.
When the hypocrisy and lying becomes too obvious for a normal, even inattentive person to ignore (as it did in the latter days of Communism and as it has in these days of the dysfunctional GOP) you are left with this awkward alliance between the most shameless of the grifters and the most stubborn of the useful idiots. And so we have this slate of con artists and fools - one of whom might stumble into the White House if Obama continues to fade.