The Fear Factor
Yes, it's another cartoon from David Horsey, and, once again, it was chosen because the blog post appended to it is a pretty perspicacious analysis of the GOP campaign in South Carolina. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are basing a great deal of their pitches to conservative voters on the fear factor.
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are reading from the same script as they vie to be the “not Romney” champion of the frightened right. Monday, both candidates roved around this city of deserted beach resorts warning conservative voters that the reelection of Barack Obama would bring an end to America as we have known it. ...
Santorum was up first. He talked about American exceptionalism; about how, in an age of kings and emperors, the founding fathers created a Constitution that declared an individual’s rights were derived from God, not granted by government.
“Any rights a government gives you, they can --” Santorum paused and the tea partiers responded in unison -- “Take away!” ...
When it was Gingrich’s turn, he made precisely the same points. “We are the first country in history to say that power comes from God to each of you personally, and your rights are inalienable,” the ex-speaker of the House said. And, as for pursuing happiness, “Happiness in the 18th century meant wisdom and virtue, not acquisition and hedonism,” he said.
These remarkably similar tutorials on America’s foundational ideas set up the crowd for identical campaign pitches: All that is good and unique about the United States is threatened by Barack Obama. Only a man with unflinching conservative convictions can evict him from the Oval Office. And only if South Carolina’s conservatives unite around one candidate as an alternative to the disturbingly moderate Mitt Romney can Americans be saved from a future of servitude and dependency.
The one point on which Gingrich and Santorum diverged was who that candidate should be.
As the cartoon illustrates, Americans have learned to love being frightened by boogey men, real or not. The seeds of this fear had been carefully tended for decades, but they certainly came into full bloom after 9/11. What else could have provoked the speedy passage of the Patriot Act and the cheerful giving up of centuries old civil rights, including habeas corpus and the Fourth Amendment? Now the perceived threat is from a Kenyan Muslim Socialist President and an octupus government reaching into the pockets of Americans.
Fortunately for Mitt Romney, the Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of the current campaign line-up will split the fearful vote, thereby making his job ever so much easier. Horsey's conclusion nails it:
As I was exiting the tea party convention, I got into a conversation with Joe Klein, Time magazine’s veteran political columnist. I said the problem for apocalyptic conservatives is that they love more than one man. Klein corrected me.
“They like more than one,” he said. “Their problem is they don’t love any of them.” [Emphasis added]
Why, yes. I think that gets it nicely.
[Note: click on the cartoon to enlarge.]