Zealotry is in the air these days. The Tea Party needs purity, needs rigid adherence to the line. The trenches have been dug. Hell, there's a billboard on Highway 41 in Oshkosh that proclaims Washington to be a "cesspool of corruption and liars" and demands that "all career politicians must be defeated."
And that's okay. Sometimes well all need to hold hands with Bakunin and sing, "The passion for destruction is a creative passion." It's a charming song with a catchy melody.
But it's a children's song. It's not fit for thinking adults who want to function in the world.
And that's where Reid Ribble comes in. See, it's easy for Ribble to take shots at "career politicians in Washington [who] have let us down." It's easy to go anarchist, to give in to the urge to burn everything to the ground and start again. That's good red meat -- it plays to the base. It's nice and easy, and then we can show a picture of an old man waving a flag, and a tow-headed little boy, and maybe a hard-working mom who just wants her kids to grow up right.
Those are the easy images of the demagogue, the man who has all the right platitudes, bought in bulk at the decaying warehouse in a bad part of town. They're skin deep. And they're easily tossed aside, because they mean nothing. They're tacky signifiers for a man with no real ideas, no path forward, no solutions beyond "burn it to the ground." That sweet apple pie is laced with the cyanide of cynicism -- being everything to everyone leaves no one with anything meaningful.
And the trouble is, Ribble hasn't done anything to prove he means a word of it.
Is this a cheap ad, or what?
The simple fact is that governing -- real governing, not just talking big and patting your constituents on their rhetorical backs -- is a dirty job. It demands sleeves rolled up, it demands attention, and it sometimes demands compromise. It certainly demands a basic familiarity with the way in which government is run, laws are passed, and policy is made. And red meat doesn't get you there.
And that, at the end of the day, is the trouble with Reid Ribble: the words are just right, but there's no demonstration, no action. Just talk.