There are plenty of frustrating things about this year’s presidential contests. I’ll probably write more about some of them soon. Goodness knows, I’ve been writing enough about them on social media. I should formalize my thoughts on the matter somewhere.
For today, though, I want to talk about “crazy”. I want to talk about this habit we have of looking at politicians who say things that don’t conform to reality and writing them off as “crazy”. Mostly, of course, I want to tell people to knock it off.
If you’re among the people telling the world that Sarah Palin or Donald Trump or Ben Carson is “crazy” for saying what they do, why do you need to stop? Really, it comes down to many of the same reasons people need to stop calling religion a mental illness. It’s wrong. You don’t have the qualifications to diagnose someone, and that’s not how diagnosis works anyway. And it stigmatizes people with mental illness.
So let’s go through how this works in this case. Yes, calling these things “crazy” is wrong. Sarah Palin isn’t crazy. No, her words don’t make any sense if you want speech to map cleanly to the real world, but that isn’t what her people are listening for. The fact that what she says is one layer removed from reality isn’t a bug. It’s a feature.
The same is true for Trump. He isn’t saying anything real, but he’s telling his audience what they want to hear. It’s working too, because he’s still the front-runner in a race that was thought to belong to someone else. Anyone else. But there he stays. Carson? He was in second place when his “crazy” words were being reported regularly.
Beyond that, this is a strategy for the GOP. It has been for ages. This isn’t a bunch of people who’ve wandered away from reality at the behest of a neurological malfunction. These are people doing what has been proven over the last twenty-five years to work with their voting base.
That’s painful to acknowledge, but if we’re going to be about hewing to reality, we’re stuck with it. It’s ugly, but this is smart behavior from a Republican hopeful, not “crazy”.
I, on the other hand, am crazy. These things my brain does to me? They don’t help me. They’re not going to get me a party nomination for president or chosen as a VP candidate. They’re not going to build my political power.
They’re going to torture me. They do torture me. They get in my way. They make it necessary for me to fight cold, hard, painful battles to get reality back. Someday, I might lose.
So stop telling me and the rest of the world that the problem with Sarah Palin is that she’s like me. Stop saying the problem with Trump and Carson is that they’re like me. The things they’re saying are going to sell their books and their television shows and get them treated like serious contenders to hold world power. They don’t have to worry that they might die because of what they have to say.
They and their audience are perfectly capable of finding and embracing reality if they care to. They don’t care to. So stop saying they’re bad because they’re like people like me who work desperately hard to find reality and hold on tight. All you’re really doing is telling me that I need to stop existing. I already get enough of that.
Find a better word than “crazy” to say what you mean.