Favorite

Lyons: The gullible, paranoid Tea Party 

click to enlarge Ted Cruz image

"It's easier to fool people," Mark Twain apparently never said "than to convince them that they have been fooled." You can find those words all over the Internet attributed to Twain, but I can locate no credible source.

Too bad, because it's absolutely correct.

Twain probably did say something similar, because it sounds like an opinion the acerbic author of "Huckleberry Finn" would have endorsed.

Think of the hilarious episode of "The Royal Nonesuch," a mangled Shakespearean farce performed by a pair of riverboat scamps called the King and the Duke for the befuddled citizens of a Mississippi river town.

"The duke said these Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakespeare," Huck says. "What they wanted was low comedy — and maybe something ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned."

And low comedy they got. The plan was to pocket the cash and float off downriver before the yokels got wise.

I thought of that scene watching Sen. Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin outside the White House recently, protesting the very government shutdown they'd fiercely championed — a Confederate battle flag fluttering in the background, the emblem of disgruntled losers everywhere.

Is there no scam so transparently farcical that millions of American lunkheads won't fall for it? Evidently not.

As you read here first, anybody with an eighth grader's understanding of the U.S. Constitution knew that Cruz's mad quest to destroy the Affordable Care Act could not possibly succeed. And was politically self-destructive as well, if not for Cruz, then for the Republican Party.

Of course millions of gullible voters lack that understanding. Meanwhile, the Texas senator and his allies continue to bombard the faithful with emails promising imminent victory and soliciting cash. They're like the most shameless televangelist faith-healers.

Except now the enemies list doesn't feature only Democrats like President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, but prominent Republicans such as Paul Ryan, John McCain, Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham.

Anyway, here's Huck Finn's daddy, America's first Tea Party patriot:

"Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why, looky here. There was a free n***** there from Ohio — a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that town that's got as fine clothes as what he had...They said he was a p'fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain't the wust. They said he could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn't too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that n***** vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote agin."

Sound like anybody you know? The professor, I mean.

Try to put Pap's racism aside; everybody in the novel, set in slave-owning Missouri around 1840, shares it. Among other virtues, Twain was a great reporter. Besides, liberals calling everybody racist are tedious and smug.

Equally striking are Pap Finn's social anxiety and envy, his anti-intellectualism and paranoia, attitudes that have always run like a dark stain under the surface of American life.

The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik finds another antecedent to today's Tea Party in the John Birch Society:

"Reading through the literature on the hysterias of 1963, the continuity of beliefs is plain: Now, as then, there is said to be a conspiracy in the highest places to end American Constitutional rule and replace it with a Marxist dictatorship, evidenced by a plan in which your family doctor will be replaced by a federal bureaucrat — mostly for unnamable purposes, but somehow involving the gleeful killing off of the aged.

"There is also the conviction, in both eras, that only a handful of Congressmen and polemicists (then mostly in newspapers; now on TV) stand between honest Americans and the apocalypse, and that the man presiding over that plan is not just a dupe but personally depraved, an active collaborator with our enemies, a secret something or other, and any necessary means to bring about the end of his reign are justified and appropriate."

Same as it ever was.

Then it was H.L. Hunt; today it's the Koch Brothers.

But you know what? From the Civil War onward, they always lose. It's powerlessness that makes people vulnerable to conspiracy theories.

And maybe I'm getting soft, because I'm actually starting to feel sorry for them — the Limbaugh and Cruz fans that send me emails calling Democrats "evil." Not simply because they're the pigeons in a giant con game, but because they're so frightened, like children scared of monsters under the bed.

It must be a terribly unhappy way to live.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Tags:

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Blaming Obama

    A couple of months ago, on May 10, President Trump invited two Russian diplomats into the White House to celebrate his firing of FBI Director James Comey.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Megyn vs. Alex

    As vigorously hyped broadcast events go, Megyn Kelly's televised confrontation with internet conspiracy cultist Alex Jones proved something of a dud.
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Not again

    This just in: Nothing boosts circulation or enhances ratings like a sex scandal.
    • Jan 14, 2016
  • Never wrong

    Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself — from whence my people emigrated after 1880.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • No one in charge

    The American president has long been described with the honorific "Leader of the Free World." No more.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • Blaming Obama

    A couple of months ago, on May 10, President Trump invited two Russian diplomats into the White House to celebrate his firing of FBI Director James Comey.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Pay attention

    If anyone thinks that a crisis with the Power Ultra Lounge shooting, then he hasn't been paying attention to Little Rock.
  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Another Jesus

    • IBS, were you there in Benghazi to personally witness all of Hillary's blunders like you…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • If God felt it necessary to replace the ten commandments, he could do it like…

    • on July 23, 2017
  • Re: Football for UA Little Rock

    • He's BSC. Students and tuition-paying parents should be VERY vocal that a football program won't…

    • on July 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation