Birth of a Metaphor
But no, I started to say, it’s not “the same people”. Since the Bush years, the GOP has been infiltrated by the Tea Party types, who spent many years as outsiders but were able to massively assert themselves after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010 opened the floodgates of corporate money backing them. And the Tea Partiers loathe the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush Era almost as much as they do the standard practices of the Democrats. This has produced today’s schizophrenic GOP, riven by schisms within its own ranks. However much I may have disagreed with Bush’s neo-cons, they were at least willing to advance reasons for their policies, engage in discussions, and consider alternatives. The new breed wants none of that.
I began to point out that, during their years in the wilderness, the Tea Partiers lived in self-imposed isolation in a large dark cavern, where the only sound was the echo of their own voice, and this produced a destructive feedback loop that drove them deeper and deeper into their own internal world of obsessive paranoid delusions and persecution complexes, leading eventually to a dissociative break with reality, characterized by constant compulsive hand-wringing behaviors and repetition of rote phrases with special meanings only to them.
Then I found myself thinking “Hmmm, this is vaguely familiar. Where have I heard this story before?” And then it dawned on me, and presto! A metaphor was born.
It’s perhaps illuminating to see where Tolkien took his story from this point onward. His little creature, after years of isolation, falls in with a small group of adventurers who are literally trying to save the world. Forced at last to deal with others but not strong enuf to break free or to dominate the group, he relies on craft, guile, stealth, deceit, trickery, and sheer persistence to pursue the object of his obsessive monomania. All the while, his former personality keeps trying to reassert itself, ultimately to no avail. His dark side prevails, and it cares not a whit for the welfare of those around him; indeed, he’s oblivious to his own safety as he skulks over the brink of Mount Doom to his own destruction.
It’s unwise, of course, to push any analogy too far, but it will be interesting in the months and years ahead to see whether it’s the Smeagol wing or the Gollum wing of the Republican Party that comes to the fore. Unfortunately, this isn’t a mere academic exercise or a work of fiction, so “interesting” is perhaps not the right word to describe what’s at stake.
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Frodo: I wish [this evil] need not have happened in my time.
Gandalf: So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
— J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings