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Grand old jesters

BY CHRISTOPHER PATTON | MARCH 13, 2009 7:30 AM

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Mike Strawn has a new comedy routine that he’s taking on the road. Filled with ironic self-deprecation, the act is bound to be a hit.

“We don’t need to change who we are to win elections,” the Iowa Independent reported that Strawn said during a March 10 appearance in Cedar Rapids. “I’m proud to stand up for the three legs on the Republican stool — pro-family policies, fiscal responsibility, and a strong national defense that includes secure borders.”

I didn’t attend Strawn’s performance in Cedar Rapids, but just reading that joke made me laugh so hard I nearly fell out of my chair. Regardless of the quality of his delivery, he obviously has a promising future on the standup circuit.

What, you don’t get the joke? That’s too bad, because it’s really funny. Let me explain it to you: Each leg of Strawn’s “Republican stool” has a name that means the exact opposite of the GOP’s actual position on that issue. His doublespeak is so blatant that he can’t possibly expect anyone of intelligence to take it seriously.

Let’s consider each of Strawn’s three “legs” individually.

First, there are what he calls “pro-family policies.” What he really means by this is “Christianism,” which is the politicization of Christian doctrines. Iowa’s Republicans don’t care about the well-being of families. They care about using the coercive power of the state to enforce their sectarian religious precepts. If these bigots really cared about families, they’d be in favor of gay marriage — or at least civil unions. There’s no excuse for leaving families headed by gay parents out in the cold. Refusing to recognize the legal validity of such nuclear families hurts the gay parents, but it hurts their children even more. And most Iowa Republicans couldn’t care less.

Next, there’s the issue of “fiscal responsibility.” According to Iowa Republicans, this primarily entails complaining about the waste involved in subsidizing minority welfare queens in big cities while simultaneously holding out one’s hands and demanding equally wasteful and even more pernicious farm subsidies that are nothing but welfare for rural Americans. It also involves objecting that increasing domestic spending on infrastructure development and maintenance is irresponsible after having insisted for years that alternately building and blowing up such projects in Iraq is a good use of American tax dollars. Really, all “fiscal responsibility” means to Iowa Republicans is bleating like sheep that President Obama is a socialist after having dutifully followed George W. Bush to our collective economic slaughter.

Finally, advocating for “a strong national defense that includes secure borders” is just another way of saying that the best way to protect the United States is to squander all the blood and treasure it can spare in establishing neoconservative colonialist fiefdoms in the Muslim world while at the same time pursuing a puritanical prohibitionist strategy in the all-important “War on Drugs” to the point of destabilizing Mexico enough to risk pushing it into failed-state status. Because that way, we not only have no money or troops left to actually secure our borders, we also create as dangerous a situation as possible along the entirety of our border with Mexico.

However, Strawn, who grasps the importance of using new media tools to be competitive in modern politics, is obviously a sharp guy. Thus my conclusion that his stale talking points aren’t actually talking points at all. No, he is up to something big here.

Having recognized that the troglodyte core of his base would have difficulty absorbing new buzzwords, he has chosen to keep using the old ones — but in an ironic way. If successful, this strategy will bring in new voters while at the same time maintaining the support of those too obtuse to notice the absurdity of claiming to be pro-family, fiscally responsible, and strong on national defense while pursuing policies that undermine those values.

But what demographic is Strawn aiming to bring into the Republican fold with his edgy new approach?

Hipsters, of course. These young, urban sophisticates may be solid Democrats now, but they’re suckers for ironic, self-deprecating humor. Strawn’s standup comedy may just be too wryly absurd for them to resist.


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