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Political Animal

Just One Thing

By Brian Morton | Posted 4/6/2005

Now that we are well along into our next media carnival and out of our last one, there’s probably not a better time to look at what has just happened, hindsight being 20-20. John Paul II will be buried, amid 24-hour coverage of throngs camping in St. Peter’s Square, and we will be treated to endless analyses of who the next pope may be, where he will be from, and what his politics may be. Although this one man will hold sway over a major fraction of the world’s religious faithful, look backward just a week to see where we have been.

For the previous three weeks we have been held hostage to another media carnival, this one centering over the state of one woman in Florida who was just like some 20,000 people across the nation—people in a “persistent vegetative state”—whose circumstances depend on the decisions of those who love them or, in some cases, the whims of the state.

Don’t forget that in George W. Bush’s Texas, a 6-month-old boy was removed from life support life because of a law signed by that state’s governor, now our president, that allows doctors and hospitals to discontinue life support when a patient's condition is deemed hopeless. Don’t forget that the most powerful man in Congress, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, went along with his family’s decision to allow his father to die in 1988 when, after a freak accident, Charles Ray DeLay’s quality of life had deteriorated past what any reasonable adult would consider worthwhile.

These are the politicians who, in thrall to America’s new theocracy and in complete defiance of the wishes of most of the country, attempted to intervene in the affairs of one man and his wife in Florida, solely because they saw political advantage in it.

These same politicians will change the filibuster rules in the Senate to place on the federal bench judges they feel will agree with them—the so-called “nuclear option.” But come the day those same judges, with lifetime appointments, disagree with them, they suddenly become “the unelected judiciary,” people they consider “activist judges,” who cannot be trusted to uphold and protect the Constitution they swore to defend. If there is anything that can be said of this current pack of men running our nation, it is that they are short on the gene that recognizes irony.

The one thing that emboldens the men behind our recent national shenanigans is their knowledge of the behavior of one thing: the motivations of the single-issue voter.

Currently, the country is in the thrall of papal succession, yet only some 24 percent of the U.S. population is Roman Catholic. This means that, despite 75 percent of the population being not Catholic, the amount of TV coverage devoted to the next leader of one church will dwarf nearly any other news of importance for the next 30 days. Social Security, bankruptcy laws, Tom DeLay’s ethical woes—even Michael Jackson will discover that his alleged scandalous behavior takes a backseat to who’s wearing the hat when the white smoke comes out of the Vatican chimney.

This is the nature of our American beast—that at any one time, one small number of people can take the reins and drive the carriage wherever they want. Sadly, there are a number of political operators who realize this, Karl Rove being a master of the form. Last year, well before the November election, Rove saw that there were enough single-issue voters who—despite their financial circumstances or however many of their relatives may be serving in the quagmire that is Iraq—felt that the most important issue was making sure gay marriage stays illegal. To them, nothing else mattered.

Some days, it’s the fact that, supposedly, someone is trying to “take their guns away.” Due to this, as The New York Times noted this week, terrorists are taking advantage of our country’s weak and inconsistent gun laws. Former attorney general John Ashcroft, right after September 11, saw to it that the suspects rounded up after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were not run through the so-called “instant check” system for gun violations, because that might be a violation of their Second Amendment rights.

This is a classic example of the single-issue voter at work. The clarion call is issued—in this instance, from National Rifle Association headquarters—and the faithful man the barricades against the infidels, be it the media or some unlucky politician unaware of the nature of the sleeping beast.

Michael Schiavo is dealing with the political detritus of this sad, sorry tale. He attracted the attention of the despicable wraiths who would wake the beast of that collective mindless, one-thought organism that intervened in what would otherwise be a quiet story of one family’s sorrow. Pity the next poor soul who gets the creature’s attention.

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Political Animal archives

More from Brian Morton

The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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