It’s the unanimous candidate opinion that funding and arming Israel with the same discretion as a bartender pouring comped shots for a customer who was overserved two beers ago is vitally necessary to every American citizen’s interest in staying on the good side of the mortality coinflip.
It’s Donald Trump speculating about whether we start killing the women and children to discourage the men with the guns in their hands already, which is the sort of thing we used to send people to Spandau Prison for. It’s a legitimately smart man like Ted Cruz calling for saturation bombing of the Middle East in contravention of its history of ineffectiveness in WWII and Vietnam and the last 13 years of our failing to blast our problems away.
It’s Marco Rubio saying we are in a “civilizational struggle,” as if every post-teen dead-ender in a Middle East riven with crushing generational unemployment and staring at a future with a blacker ending than the post-credits roll on a VHS tape is actually thinking, No, my real problem is the Banana Republic at the Silver Sands Factory Outlet Stores in Destin, Florida. Where can I get a dirty bomb? Fuck it, fuck them, they’re all the same. They hate us for our freedom and hate you in particular for literally whatever you’re doing while reading this.
And it’s hard not to think that brutal note was directed at an audience of one, especially when conservatives’ vying for his fundraising endorsement is already called The Adelson Primary and when candidates sought ahead of the debate to make sure he didn’t stack the event with his partisans and control the topics chosen. If the candidates already believe that his whims carry the day on foreign policy, we might as well spare ourselves the effort of divining their motivations.
You can’t find a better metaphor for the current state of the Republican Party than the Adelson debate — a spectacle held in a mall’s vision of high civilization, where a fastidiously designed attention-consuming apparatus siphons millions upward to a billionaire on the statistically rigged improbability that every average schmuck is one spin of the wheel away from joining the One Percent. Then that apparatus’ beneficiary dictates policy to people ostensibly contending for control of a democracy of over 300 million souls.
That Sheldon Adelson can overspend for a newspaper to add another megaphone to his voice is almost beside the point. The man already does what he wants, up to and including lecturing the judge and opposing counsel when he’s being accused of bribery and money laundering with elements of organized crime. Giving orders to people looking for a handout is comparatively much easier. This is why every one of us needs to be convinced that we are on the verge of explosion or immolation at any given moment. Democratizing the risks obscures the purse strings and the narrowness of the interests the responses to them serve.
The moment we stop worrying that we are all in imminent danger is the moment we notice that a dozen people are all speaking to a wisp of shoe-shine dye-job hair garnishing a face like a half-blowtorched Jason Voorhees mask, pull a Scooby Doo and rip that sucker off, and reveal the person in charge of scaring us all was that crooked amusement park owner all along.