Campaigning on the End of Days

Under The Hood

Image courtesy Pixabay.

An exchange online with congressional candidate Eddie Speir left me wondering at one point heated debate reaches for nihilism.

Speir last year filed against Republican Vern Buchanan and continues to challenge him ostensibly “from the right.” The two candidates face off in an Aug. 20 Primary, the winner a likely favorite in November. Speir claims he’s the conservative choice, and it’s Buchanan who provides lip service to voters. But does that framing cast conservatism as any type of philosophy on its own, or just as an effort to denigrate institutions from the outside while destroying them from within?

The conversation I had involved the apocalyptic nature of Speir’s campaign rhetoric. It started after he posted a photo of a Buchanan sign in front of a psychic shop, a sign he said of "dark forces aligned with political power." Mind you, I don’t think much of psychics, though I consider them more con artist than venders of sacrilege. Regardless, Speir he made a leap tying Buchanan to what he perceived as an unholy business.

“We are in a spiritual war,” Speir posted. “… The enemy of our souls is hard at work eroding our foundational values.”

As I reset my vision from a painful eyeroll, I shared online my own pessimistic forecast for Speir’s campaign based the language he employs. Forgive the editorializing, and one forgotten word I’ve filled in here: “If you see the appearance of a Vern sign near a psychic's existing business as a signal of a coming apocalypse, and (one) that only your GOP Primary victory can stop, I have some very bad news about the impending end of days.”

Speir ultimately offered a detailed response that touched on COVID protocols, Ukraine funding, the Green New Deal and the general failure by media figures like myself to properly share “the truth” with consumers. Feel free to read his post here.

Speir also interpreted my response as accusing him of being a “megalomaniac,” though that wasn’t my intention. Rather, I meant to satirize the seemingly high stakes he assigned to defeating Buchanan. I reject the notion this race represents anything more than a congressional primary. Speir chose to challenge a lifelong Republican and long-time member of Congress, arguably now the most powerful member in Florida’s congressional delegation as vice chair of the House Ways & Means Committee.

Honestly, it’s silly to suggest Vern Buchanan isn’t conservative. Most likely, Speir as a Republican himself agrees with Buchanan on more fundamental questions about government than I do. Sure, Buchanan represents a particular element of the broader Republican electorate. He’s a pro-business, Chamber Republican, not a culture warrior. But he’s also pro-life, anti-regulation and fairly hawkish on foreign policy.

He's also squishy on gun rights and relatively solid on environmental issues. I’d argue that shows he also listens to his entire electorate, even many not inclined to vote Republican. Democrats in the fall will surely argue he doesn’t do that enough. But the moderation he does sometimes draws criticism from the right. That’s the process.

Still, one can’t help but wonder if Speir takes so many positions contrary to Buchanan not because he’s “more conservative,” but because he’s utterly contrarion. I don’t mean he cynically opposes anything Buchanan supports. I mean his anti-establishment viewpoint derives entirely from opposing whatever consensus can survive in Washington these days.

Phrases like “the uniparty” became vernacular in today’s self-proclaimed “hard right,” casting aspersions against anything Democrats and Republicans agree upon as inherently wrong. Sometimes that even aligns so-called conservatives with the far left, though Speir assures voters he hates those heathens as well.

This happens when agendas exist not as philosophies themselves but as resistance to a surely evil status quo. But democracy works best when powered by constructive agendas, not self-righteous demonization of fellow Americans.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor of SRQ MEDIA.

Image courtesy Pixabay.

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