It’s a scary time. There’s turmoil in the Middle East. An incurable and contagious disease is going pandemic. Terrorists are threatening to attack us at home and abroad, and the Russians are threatening mischief and occupation in Eastern Europe. The president has so many things on his watch that even his advisers are privately — and sometimes publicly — wondering if he’s up to the task.
Except that’s not today. It’s 1984. Lebanon is in the middle of a civil war and U.S. Marines, sent in to keep the peace, are slaughtered in a truck bombing. AIDS is causing panic in communities around the world, but the White House won’t even say the word. PLO hijackers are blowing up planes. The Soviet Union is trying to keep a grip on its satellites while threatening the West with nukes.
Ronald Reagan was up for re-election in 1984. He could tell us that it’s a dangerous and scary world out there and it’s not the time to turn the country over to someone else. He could sow fear and distrust and reassure his election because campaigns from time out of mind have won by scaring the crap out of the voters.
But his campaign doesn’t do that. In fact, they go in the opposite direction. Ronald Reagan tells us that it’s morning in America. None of those problems are worth worrying about because Ronald Reagan is in the White House. Whether or not he had the ability to deal with any or all of those real-world problems is not the issue. The Republicans were promising a brighter day.
Fast forward thirty years. We have the same problems, just with different names. But now the Republicans are sowing fear, paranoia and doubt because they’re no longer the party in the White House and without them, oh god oh god we’re all gonna die.
Hear it on cable television and talk radio, where pundits and politicians play scientists speculating on whether Ebola will mutate into an airborne virus that kills millions. See it in the black-hooded, machine-gun-brandishing Islamic fighters appearing in campaign ads. Read about it in the unnerving accounts of the Secret Service leaving President Obama and his family exposed.
Republicans believe they have found the sentiment that will tie Congressional races together with a single national theme.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is running ads warning that terrorists are streaming across the Mexican border. “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day,” one commercial aimed at Representative Anne Kirkpatrick of Arizona, a Democrat, says. “Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s back yard.”
It’s pretty ironic that the party that gave us George W. Bush is complaining about a lack competence on the part of President Obama. The people who gave us the worst recession in 80 years, who lied us into a war, and who turned the Justice Department over to political hacks are showing their full-blown talent for chutzpah, not to mention the brass-balled cynicism that it takes to think their base is so stupid and short-sighted to fall for it. But chances are they will.