"Shutter Island" Democrats

Marvin Folkertsma

10/19/2012 12:01:00 AM - Marvin Folkertsma
Strange things can happen when you turn on TV without checking the listings first. Thus, my casual clicking on recently initially spawned charcoal scenes against a background of menacing music, deep, thumping rhythms that pounded into those caverns of imagination where echoes of fear and foreboding dwell. It seems that one of the principal characters was on a mission to foil the evil machinations of those in charge of a secret facility, one created for the purpose of treating incorrigibles from hurting themselves or others, mostly others. An intriguing plot unfolded, revealing spooky, Poe-like scenes filled with lugubrious dwelling places, terrifying rains, sinister caretakers, evil doctors with soul-chilling smiles, and a main character consumed by his fantasy quest. Since I was looking for the vice-presidential debate, my first reaction was that this thing is a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that instead I was watching Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island,” which happened to be showing at the same time.

Switched channels again. The result was just as riveting, more so, in fact. A brilliant performer was on stage, dazzling his opposition, overwhelming observers with his world-class talent. Indeed, those who opposed him seemed helpless against an obviously superior display of unrivaled professionalism. Seems I was wrong again. This was Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander putting down the Oakland Athletics in order.

Let’s see, that blasted debate had to be on one of these channels. The next stop revealed a crazed character with his arms thrown upward, his head pitched back, maniacal laughter pumping from his throat—which confused me a bit. Why would the networks show a scene with the Joker from a Batman rerun on the evening the veep candidates were supposed to debate? Talk about media bias. Enough of this; I gave up.

Tried again, the following Tuesday, October 16, this time for the presidential debate. A brilliant performer was on stage, dazzling his opposition, overwhelming observers with … wait a minute, that was last week. This week, same performance, different set of victims: the New York Yankees.

Ah yes, finally found what I was looking for, a confrontation that ended up being a claw-your-eyes-out, in-your-face, your mama-wears-combat-boots sort of brawl. It seems one of the participants was taking on two adversaries, one of whom seemed quite animated, while the other one sat down and pretended to call balls and strikes. Still couldn’t get Verlander out of my mind, I guess. Nor “Shutter Island.”

Why would that be? Perhaps it had something to do with the “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes” version of President Obama who showed up at the second debate, to complement the first version, who just wanted to get his victory declared before throwing out his first pitch. Both Obamas and their huge media support have seemed to follow a “Shutter Island” script for the past four years, especially during this presidential campaign. Consider the desperate pursuit of Teddy Daniels, the main character in “Shutter Island,” a brilliant and driven FBI Agent who constructed an elaborate fantasy world that submerged a questionable past and legitimated his current mission. Spoiler alert: Daniels created characters, talked to them, believed they were real; and he acted out a narrative that was a complete fiction. Throughout it all, he encountered those who shook their heads in dismay and alarm, like Dr. Cawley in “Shutter Island,” while observing Daniels play out his fantasy, in hopes that eventually he would accept reality.

Call the Obama supporters, media mavens and campaigners alike, “Shutter Island” Democrats, for all their arrogance and enraged commitment, as they constructed an elaborate set of political fictions surrounding a mission to punish their political equivalent of Andrew Laeddis, which is Daniels’ real name. Such fictions involved ascribing to Obama’s presidential challenger all sorts of nefarious characteristics: Mitt Romney is a killer, a liar, a felon, a heartless robber baron. He must be destroyed at any cost!

Indeed, “Shutter Island” Democrats in the media and the Obama campaign seemed to have convinced quite a number of Americans that their sanity-challenged view of reality was in fact true; it took the shock of Romney’s performance in the first debate to convince many in the undecided category otherwise. What about the second debate, didn’t President Obama win that? Does it even matter? Probably not. Because in both cases, too many in the Obama campaign and the media have still refused to accept reality, that Romney is not a “Shutter Island” character and that their own hero represents little more than a bizarre projection of themselves, with either his soporific arrogance or meretricious assertiveness.

The question is whether America’s “Shutter Island” Democrats will ever change, will ever escape their fantasies about themselves, their opponents, and the narratives they’ve constructed. The book suggests not. Its last lines read like a credo for “Shutter Island” Democrats: Teddy asked, “You think they’re on to us?” “Nah,” came the response of his imaginary friend and real-life therapist. “We’re too smart for that.”

“Yeah,” Teddy said. “We are, aren’t we?”