I’ve been thinking of writing a political novel. It will be a bad novel because there won’t be any nuance: the villains won’t just espouse an ideology I disagree with – they’ll be hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels.
In my bad novel, a famous moralist who demanded national outrage over an affair and writes best-selling books about virtue will turn out to be hiding an expensive gambling habit. A talk radio host who advocates harsh penalties for drug violators will turn out to be hiding his own drug addiction.
In my bad novel, crusaders for moral values will be driven by strange obsessions. One senator’s diatribe against gay marriage will link it to “man on dog” sex. Another will rant about the dangers of lesbians in high school bathrooms.
In my bad novel, the president will choose as head of homeland security a “good man” who turns out to have been the subject of an arrest warrant, who turned an apartment set aside for rescue workers into his personal love nest and who stalked at least one of his ex-lovers.
In my bad novel, a TV personality who claims to stand up for regular Americans against the elite will pay a large settlement in a sexual harassment case, in which he used his position of power to – on second thought, that story is too embarrassing even for a bad novel.
In my bad novel, apologists for the administration will charge foreign policy critics with anti-Semitism. But they will be silent when a prominent conservative declares that “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.”
In my bad novel the administration will use the slogan “support the troops” to suppress criticism of its war policy. But it will ignore repeated complaints that the troops lack armor.
The secretary of defense – another “good man,” according to the president – won’t even bother signing letters to the families of soldiers killed in action.
Last but not least, in my bad novel the president, who portrays himself as the defender of good against evil, will preside over the widespread use of torture.
How did we find ourselves living in a bad novel? It was not ever thus. Hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels have always been with us, on both sides of the aisle. But 9/11 created an environment some liberals summarize with the acronym Iokiyar: it’s O.K. if you’re a Republican.