I was all geared up to write a long think piece about the gay marriage decision in California and its implications and blah blah blah barf, but then I decided that even the thought of typing that out made me want to bathe my eyeballs in lye. And if I don’t even want to type it, I don’t see why any of you would want to read it. I’m pleased with the ruling and that’s about that.
Instead, I want to leave you with a thought about politics, which is that I think the real fault lines in politics today do not lie along the traditional conservative/liberal lines but along rational/irrational lines, and the real war in politics these days is along the latter rather than the former. This is why, for example, I’m far more comfortable with some conservatives than I am with some liberals, even though my own positions tend more liberal than not. I’m rather more comfortable dealing with someone whose politics I disagree with, but I can see how they got to where they are, than someone who politics are in line with mine but who appear to have arrived at those politics without an intermediary step of, you know, thinking about those politics.
The real tragedy of politics today is not that we have a conservative in the White House, but that we have an irrationalist there — someone whose policy positions can’t be seen as divorced from reality, if only because that would imply they had ever been based there at all. Bush’s irrationalist tendencies have fundamentally little to do with his conservative tendencies, which is to say that the former are not spawned from the latter. God knows irrationalism lies on both sides of the conventional political spectrum; the irrationalists of the left who tried to expunge “dead white guys” from curricula back when I was still in school to my mind walk arm and arm with the irrationalists on the right who are now busily trying to expunge evolution. An irrationalist liberal in the White House would be no better than Bush, that’s for sure.
There’s a more common name for irrationalists in politics: “wingnuts.” But I think that particular word is both inaccurate and falsely comforting, since it suggests that irrationalists are marginalized on the edge of political discourse. A hint for you: When an irrational politician sleeps in the White House, irrationalism is not exactly marginalized. Irrationalists aren’t wingnuts; they’re not even the wings. They’re the damned fuselage of political discourse at the moment, and I think that’s pretty damn scary.
The big problem with irrationalists is that they expect rational people with the same surface politics as them to fall into line, and get confused and angry when they don’t. The delicious irony of the judge in the California case being a Republican, appointed by a Republican, isn’t irony at all when you look at it along rational -irrational lines. Of course the judge ruled that California couldn’t bar same-sex marriages; rationally speaking, there’s no good reason to do so. That the judge happens to be Republican is immaterial to this sort of rational line of jurisprudence. When you’re irrational, you don’t get that, and so you become angry and enraged.
The big problem with rationalists is that they continually underestimate the irrational, assuming, in that charmingly smug way of theirs, that no one really thinks like that when it’s rather blatantly obvious that they do – and there’s a lot of them. Rationalists get stuck inside their own echo chambers and forget that outside the echo chamber there’s a whole bunch of people who are all-too-easily swayed by the ambitiously irrational. At this particular moment in history the really busy irrationalists are on the right, but it wasn’t that long ago that they were on the left, and no doubt they’ll be there again before I die.
Irrational politics are dangerous; I don’t need to recount my general litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s policies to make that point. Rational conservatives should be aware that the irrational conservatives are not your friends; rational liberals, the same (rational moderates, rest easy; for some unfathomable reason, there don’t seem to be very many irrational moderates). Indeed, the rational all along the political spectrum should realize they have far more common cause with other rationalists, in terms of effective governing, than they do with the irrationalists who ostensibly share their politics.
I mean, I know it won’t happen. But wouldn’t it be nice.