According to Rick Perry’s campaign, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona will announce an alliance of border desperadoes on Tuesday in New Hampshire by throwing in with Rick Perry. It is indicative of the direction of the Republican Party that a lawless thug like Arpaio has been courted by so many GOP hopefuls, including Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and, of course, Perry.
Arpaio’s decision, given his position leading a prominent paramilitary unit will no doubt encourage the right-wing militia and border vigilante types and the Republican base will nod approvingly though it should rightly be a cause of concern for Hispanic voters. If Perry had any cachet at all with a growing Hispanic voting bloc in Texas, this move by Arpaio should burst that particular balloon. Perry, for his part needs the intolerant Arpaio. Like any good Republican he apologized for saying something compassionate when he admitted his desire to educate the children of illegal immigrants was “inappropriate.”
Arpaio, of course, champion of Arizona’s anti-immigrant race laws, runs Maricopa County like a feudal fiefdom, an immigrant-hating strongman whose dungeon is a concentration camp. The Federal government is investigating him for his naked and brutal abuses against the non-white people of his county, abuses he denies even as he continues them. Not only is he not cowed but he is running for a sixth term, proving that the Republican base loves nothing better than a man who insists up is down in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
This Republican marriage with unreality was recently remarked upon by Republican and former Bush speechwriter David Frum in New York Magazine. Frum, standing up for a fact-based world, says that “It’s a very strange experience to have your friends think you’ve gone crazy.” For the rest of us, the problem is watching roughly half the population go crazy, in some cases people we thought we knew and, to be perfectly honest, of whom we had higher expectations.
Frum, having awoken to the problem besetting his party now says that he “can’t shrug off this flight from reality and responsibility as somebody else’s problem.” But Perry embraces this flight from reality, as does every other Republican candidate. As does Sheriff Arpaio. It’s a marriage made in heaven: Rick Perry fantasizes about fighting a new Mexican War and Sheriff Arpaio is fighting it.
There isn’t a lot of depth to any GOP platform; as Frum points out, “The tea party never demanded knowledge or concern for governance, and so of course it never got them.” The same can be said of the Christian right. It’s more about sound bites and less about issue analysis, and less about a sound platform and more about your posse, or in Hollywood terms, your entourage. What luminaries can you attract to yourself? Affirmation is everything in the cult of personality, and Arpaio affirms Perry’s precarious anti-immigrant position. He’s already attracted the hardcore fundamentalists through his prayer fast; the New Apostolic Reformation, American Family Association and other assorted religious zealots.
With his polling numbers down, Perry is, like Michele Bachmann, flailing in dark waters and his status is particularly perilous in New Hampshire, especially in light of Newt Gingrich’s endorsement from the New Hampshire Union Leader, a conservative leaning paper. When nobody wants you, even the illusion that somebody does can provide encouragement. Perhaps Rick Perry can convince himself that he can win the nomination just as he has convinced himself of the truth of every other lie he has uttered or partaken in. Without doubt, Gingrich will do the same, as will every other Republican candidate down to the primaries ,seeking validation of a shared delusion, seeking safety in numbers, comfortable in the concomitant lie that if enough people agree something is true, it will become true.
That is the essence of the Republican race for president in 2012 – smoke and mirrors, the only unifying factor being a shared lie, an insubstantial pretense of truth. Let Sheriff Joe and his Freikorps troop into New Hampshire and smack their jack boots for Rick Perry. Let the New Hampshire Leader form ranks behind the man who drops trou for his country. It’s hard to tell who is the bigger fool, the leaders or those so desperate for lies to be truth that they will throw themselves willingly into the abyss like lemmings over a cliff. And not a shred of coherent thought to be found.