Mad Humans 

The curse of GOP spongiform encephalopathy

Gather 'round. I have a new theory, it won't explain everything, but it may make sense of the Idaho GOP convention over in Idaho Falls last week. Possibly even Fox News and Sarah Palin. In fact, it could conceivably provide everything we need to know about the modern Republican Party, including why it is the modern Republican Party sees nothing wrong with itself.

When did you first hear of Mad Cow disease? As I remember, the phrase became common in the '90s, along with those ghastly films of afflicted Holsteins flopping and flailing about like bovine zombies. The notorious episode on which Oprah forswore any future consumption of cow flesh was in 1996, but by then, it's safe to assume the awareness of Mad Cow was well established in the more informed circles of American society. (Damned elitists! Why is it they always seem to know stuff before anyone else? Some of those pansy-pants nerds can even tell you that a close relative of Mad Cow was described among the cannibals of New Guinea as far back as the 1920s. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. And who needs to know crap like that, anyway?)

But listen, what if Mad Cow had been creeping up on America's stock of beefly edibles long before we became aware of it? What if it had actually been introduced into the country's brain matter as far back as, say, the '50s? Back when Richard Nixon was vice president, know what I mean? What if in reality, Mad Cow made its way into human nervous systems by way of those meats that come in cans—the kind with their own openers glued to the top? I suppose we have to assume the government was testing that substance for things like anthrax and fecal matter, but were they looking for Mad Cow germs?

Or franchise burger joints! What hell have those poor patties been through? And I can name at least one burger joint that was opening drive-thrus from coast to coast during approximately the same time frame in which the more informed Americans (them again, those know-it-all bastards!) became aware of the John Birch Society. Or as we called them back then, "the bozos."

(If you're one of the elitist, informed Americans, it's likely you will have guessed by now where I'm headed with this. But if you're one of those who—in line with my theory—is a victim of Mad Cow, I'll keep explaining. Though I doubt any amount of explaining will help you. I expect that at this very moment, you're glued to a television set, watching Glenn Beck outlining his latest theory.)

Then has Mad Cow been with us since the Eisenhower years, insidiously working its way through the citizenry? Spreading out? Infecting? Moving through the populace with the same rate of growth as those crazy conspiracies the old Birch bozos were always coming up with? Coincidence? And what if the first section of the brain it attacks is that part which would normally let a person know he is sick? Mad Cow is characterized by lots of little holes in the brain. What if the first holes show up in those lobes that help us learn from history, predict the consequences of our actions, or simply, make any sense when we talk?

For example, last week Fox's Brian Kilmeade commented on President Barack Obama's inability to stop the abomination in the Gulf. "The president took ... hours to pick a commander in Afghanistan, so why is it taking months to plug the leaking oil?" Now tell me, how could a person say something that stupid unless he has lots of little holes in his brain?

And what about the Idaho Republican convention? Do you know they actually called for dumping that part of the U.S. Constitution that allows you and I to vote for our senators? Uh-huh, they want to repeal the 17th Amendment, which would put the selection of senators back into the jurisdiction of state legislatures (as it was prior to 1913) and they also took the position that state politicians (meaning in large part, themselves) should take management of U.S. Forest Service and BLM land away from the federal government and hand it over to ... (take a wild guess who) ... state politicians!

Obviously, to you and I, this would be like hiring an insane cannibal to babysit our children, but just as obviously, they are incapable of understanding the absurdity of their own ideas, being as they are, the insane cannibals in this metaphor.

So there's my theory: For 60 years, the scourge of Mad Cow has spread from Republican to Republican, eliminating first any self-diagnostic systems by which they might have sensed something was dreadfully wrong, then eating away any and all vestiges of logic, judgment, classiness, even common decency. It would explain much, wouldn't it? ... the total disappearance of moderates from their number, the spoiled child-like naivete with which they approach even the most complex issues, how bozo John Birch principles could have shifted from their fringe to their very center, Ronald Reagan. Truly, it is difficult to name something the GOP has done in the last few decades that Mad Cow wouldn't account for.

But why haven't you and I been afflicted? We've gnawed through many of the same ground-up animal parts as they, certainly.

Clearly, out there somewhere, is an antidote to Mad Cow. Something you and I and liberals in general would have ingested that conservatives didn't. Arugula, perhaps. Or that steady diet of wine and brie. Maybe it comes from seeing a foreign film now and then or watching PBS. I don't know what it is, but accident or not, we must thank our lucky stars we came across it. Or we, too, could be flopping and flailing about like bovine zombies.

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