10.26.2008

Fear and Loathing, revised and updated 2008 edition

"Richard Nixon represents the dark side of the American spirit." Hunter S. Thompson quoting Robert Kennedy

I'm waiting for the movie Gonzo to play at the Savoy, the trailer mentions that HST in his prime would have had some pertinent things to say about the current mess we're in (crowds at Palin rallies chanting "Drill Baby Drill", "We want Fox" [?!], and worse things), I tend to agree. A side note: HST gave a lecture at Vassar while I was a student there, of course I didn't go... in many ways my life is succession of missed opportunities. But I heard he was totally incoherent (higher than the proverbial kite) at the event so maybe I didn't miss much.

What the modern Republican party doesn't understand, is that in my own twisted way, I'm a "values voter" too, and the more the GOP conflates the Bible and the flag, mocks science and education, conducts whispering campaigns about the origins and religious beliefs of Barack HUSSEIN Obama -- which, I have discovered, has launched a trend on Facebook, of people listing their profile as First_name HUSSEIN Last_name -- and carries on about side issues like William Ayers -- the less interest I have in their platform and candidates. David Brooks, among other commentators, has noted how the Republicans have become a party of rubes, appealing to a small, mostly white, mostly scared, and less educated segment of an increasingly polyglot country, a party where sophistication has become a dirty word.

I think that the Republican Party is stuck in the past and is unable to move past the legacy of two disparate Presidents: Nixon and Reagan.

Tricky Dick in a skirt? Is Sarah Palin a less sophisticated, less worldly, (hopefully less corrupt? -- it would be hard to trump Nixon in this department) version of Nixon, with her embrace of the 'silent majority' and unsubtle comments about a 'real America'. And now John McCain has made "Joe the Plumber" -- largely a fictional creation -- a centerpiece of his campaign....demagoguery and nonsense. "Jeff the Recruiter" is not impressed.

The other figure who looms large over the present-day Republican Party is Ronald Reagan, who has been deified, and like other gods in the Greek and Roman Pantheon (at least Reagan was not an enthusiastic churchgoer), seemingly assigned supernatural powers, specifically in the area of cutting taxes and reducing the size of government.

This blog, it's just a diversion, not a dissertation, but it can be argued that Reaganism may have been (or perhaps not) an appropriate response to the situation in the 1980s... but how relevant is it today? This idolatrous relationship with Reagan's legacy means that the Republican party has only one answer to all sorts of problems:
  • Fighting wars abroad? Cut taxes.
  • Collapsing worldwide financial markets? Cut taxes.
  • Infrastructure crumbling? Cut taxes.
  • Need a coherent energy policy? Cut taxes.
  • Schools failing? Cut taxes.
  • etc.
It plays like a stuck record and betrays a lack of flexibility and willingness to deal with the real world, it's time to move on, the 1980's are over, and Ronald Reagan is dead.

I think Barack Obama has run a decent campaign -- both in the sense of 'competent', and also 'upstanding' -- less appealing to the dark side -- than his opponent. I don't expect miracles, nor does his oratory particularly excite me (unlike Chris Mathews), and I certainly have fond memories of the heyday of the Bill Clinton era -- booming job markets, balanced budgets, discussions about the 'end of the business cycle' & no more recessions, etc., it seems so long ago. Here's hoping...

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