Saturday, August 27, 2011


The bogeyman is a monstrous imaginary figure parents and other care givers evoke in order to threaten children. The figure is archetypal, and takes various forms in the different cultures. In a famous print Goya depicted him as el Coco. Once, when I liviing in Rome, the distinguished archaeologist Massimo Pallottino told me that his mother had threatened him with a visitation from La Donna Olimpia, a formidable lady who actually lived in the seventeenth century.

The expression can also be used in an extended sense. During the 1990s, when direct mail solicitations had not yet been overtaken by the Internet, I would receive urgent funding appeals by our two major parties. The meme was always the same: you don’t want THAT/THOSE people to get in do you? Since we know you don’t, you better send us heap big wampum, pronto. As I recall, the Republican solicitations would often feature Reps. John Conyers (once a “card-carrying” Communist--gasp!) and Charley Rangel. Since Rangel, my own congressman, had once been very helpful to me when I ran into a problem with my telephone service, I wasn’t going for that one. Democrats would hammer away at the likes of Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove.

Now we have a new form of this ploy in the denunciation of the leading Republican candidates. Admittedly most are dismal, to say the least. Bachmann is weird, and Rick Perry can’t seem to establish a stable connection between his brain and his larynx. Santorum is still troubled by the obscene meaning that Dan Savage gave his name. And Ron Paul is ignored as much as possible, by both sides--probably because he is the only antiwar candidate.

The problem with all this scolding is that it provides an easy our for Obama in relation to his leftist critics. He is counting on the prospect that they will hold their nose and vote for him, so that one of THOSE doesn’t get in. This means that Obama can swing as far to the right as he wants to--and sometimes it seems pretty far. Harping on the Republican bogeymen makes this strategy possible, and so--from the point of view of progressive politics--is counterproductive.



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