Conservative Right Follows Wrong Theatrical Script

Photo by Steve Stearns — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

The US Republican party has become like bad experimental theatre.

You know the kind of black box experience. It’s angry. It’s dark. It’s against everyone and everything that is successful. There might not be a clear story, but there is a lot of screaming. It’s so in love with itself that it doesn’t realize there is no one in the audience.

Republican politicians and their media stars are angry — on television, on radio, in columns, in the capitol. They yell. They scold. They present themselves against the world, against President Obama, and now even against themselves.

Jim DeMint, a Republican senator from South Carolina, is one of the leading shrill voices that wants the party to be more pure. DeMint is not one for complexity or contradictions. He believes the path to success, and to the failure of Obama, is to see the world in black vs. white, understood as one ideology vs. another, and defined as us vs. them. No surprise that subtlety disappears when one is so angry.

DeMint has an easy and clear way of defining his party. As he wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, “Republicanism is about choice — in education, health care, energy and more… a Republican recommitment to freedom and limited government.”

(Hmm. Choice? So then surely there should be no problem with a woman’s right to choose, right? Freedom and limited government? So then surely there should be no reason for the government to prevent equality for gay and lesbian relationships, right? Wrong.)

DeMint’s Republicanism isn’t about what should be done; it’s about what should not be done.

They need to learn from bad experimental art, from the mediocrities of avant-garde. These are the ones who always know better; who know what real art is; who are dismissive of success; who are contemptuous of something that actually worked.

Memo to Republicans: Don’t present yourself as being against what everyone else is for. Don’t argue your work is better by telling us how much worse the other guy’s work is. Don’t define yourself in the negative.

When times are difficult, confusing, unsteady, experimental art can lead the way forward by offering something new, something genuine, something revelatory. Picasso, Joyce, Beckett, to name just a few, did not spend their time putting down others. They spent their time putting something out. They did not run from complexity, they embraced it. They did not yell. They did not scold. They created.

If you want to inspire the next generation of voters, or audiences, don’t berate them for being deaf, dumb and blind. Guess what, no one likes that.

If only the Republicans could be inspired by Picasso, Joyce, or Beckett — that would make for better art and politics.

- Bill Reichblum

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