Wednesday, August 17, 2011

GOP Candidates and Hot-Button Concepts

Political candidates could not live without hot-button concepts: buzzwords that tend to set the adrenaline running (while blunting the critical faculties) of friends and enemies alike.  The GOP primary field seems to be setting out early this year to explore the limits of the strategy.

Here's Rick Perry, for example,using the name "Ben Bernanke" and a form of the word "treason" in the same sentence.  I haven't the least idea what it is about Bernanke's conduct counts as "treasonous" for Rick Perry although in fairness I will grant that Perry probably doesn't either;  in fairness I will also grant that Perry probably knows he doesn't know what he means although I  am not sure it would be fair to say the same about his audience.

I do see that Perry has caught some flac for his remarks from inside his own party, though I wouldn't get too excited about that little sideshow; I am sure it has more to do with long-forgotten (by the rest of us) hurts and slights inside the toxic swamp of Texas Republican party politics than it does with anything that might really matter to anybody,  What interests me more is his notion of "treason."  Never having been particularly strong in my criminal law course, I'm a little shaky on the notion of "treason," but I gather it's got something to do with a direct offense against the state--somehow I hear an echo of Henry V repeating "why, so dist thou," as he sends his former friends away to meet their doom ("Get you therefore hence,/ Poor miserable wretches, to your death"),  I don't know about you, but this seems to me to call for something more contentious than QE2.

What, for example?  Well, here's a suggestion: tax evasion.  Honestly, can you think of any offense that strikes more directly at the lifeblood of the state than to try to starve it of its very sustenance?  Will Governor Perry avow that he will carry his analysis to its logical conclusion, and commit that a Perry administration will prosecute tax evasion as treason--with, I should think, the death penalty, and to satisfy originalists everywhere, I suppose the death penalty in whatever  ugly and disgusting form was prevalent during the time of Henry V?

Here's another hot-button concept: slavery.  Michele Bachmann has offered a number of insights into the nature and history of slavery lately, including the suggestion that black children were better off under slavery.

Again, the issue might be how far she wants to push the point.  If slavery was "a good thing," as the books used to say, would a Bachmann administration undertake to reimplement slavery, as a means of enhancing the public good--at lest, e.g., for black children?  Or short of that, would Bachmann want to offer herself and her family up as potential slaves, so that they might enjoy the blessings that the peculiar institution appears to confer?

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