A Crowd of True Believers?


Everyone who really wants to understand the mind set of a true believer needs to read the late Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer. Written in 1951, the analysis he brings to the issue of mass movements might have been written about the Tea Party today. For instance:

At August 11′s GOP presidential wannabe debate in Iowa, every single one of the GOP candidates on the stage agreed that they would reject a budget deal that gave $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. Even Fox News’s Bret Baier couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. He asked again just to make sure the assembled candidates had understood the question.

One of the most astounding parts of the debate for me was when the moderators polled the candidates and asked if they would oppose a deficit reduction package that included government spending cuts to tax increases by a ratio of 10:1. Every single candidate on the stage raised their hand in opposition. No tax increases under any circumstances.

This puts the candidates out of step with the realities of America today, and American public opinion. As a CBS/New York Times poll from last week showed, a majority of Americans — in both political parties – want to see tax increases on the wealthiest Americans in addition to spending cuts. By taking the no-new-taxes-pledge the candidates are even in disagreement majority of the Republicans – the very people who will choose the nominee.

- Juan Williams Essay

But these are politicians, you say. You can’t hold them to the promises they make to get elected. Andrew Sullivan points to the inflexible Christianist character of the leading candidates, Bachman and Perry:

And it is this fundamentalist mindset – in which nothing doctrinal can be questioned, and the real world must be bent to the shape of a rigid theo-ideology – that defines these candidates.

Andrew Sullivan, “The Christianist Takeover,” The Dish

But a democracy is built on compromise. Only in a dictatorship does someone always get everything they want. A refusal to compromise your position, treating your position as doctrinal, is antithetical to democracy. So each of these candidates, in effect, is saying they refuse to accept a fundamental tenet of democracy. And you want to elect them president?

Alternatively, these presidential wannabes don’t really believe the positions they espouse, and are saying what they do purely to get votes. That’s classic pandering, and Dante reserved the 8th Circle of Hell for them.

A pound of feathers or a pound of lead?

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