Richard Cohen, "Party Like It's 1964". October 21
...the GOP, under Rove and his disciples in the McCain campaign, has not only driven out ethnic and racial minorities but a vast bloc of voters who, quite bluntly, want nothing to do with Sarah Palin. For moderates everywhere, she remains the single best reason to vote against McCain.
For all the talk of plumbers and investment bankers, populists and elitists, Patio Man is still at the epicenter of national politics. He is the quintessential suburban American, the service economy worker, the guy who wears khakis to work each day, with the security badge on the belt clip around his waist.
EVEN with Life's minor marvels it can be one thing to believe it and quite another to actually feast your eyes on it.
Let's take, to use a randomly-selected example, local teevee news. Now, my local teevee news sucks. It has sucked for thirty-some years, and even at that it has managed quantifiable leaps of suckiness which were frankly shocking to the young adult of the 1970s who imagined, when all this sucking began, that it could get no worse. And I'm going to assume that your local news sucks, too, on the grounds that either your Market is smaller than Indianapolis, in which case it is most likely peopled with even denser, even less talented, and probably even-more-desperate-to-move-on-to-anywhere-else career teleprompter readers, or your Market is larger, with better readers and more teeth, and maybe individual theme music, but in that case you are the Model these lesser markets are based on, and that, really, cannot be good.
Now, we hate to keep bringing this up, but the airwaves belong to YOU, exclamation point, and they were sold out from under YOU by, three guesses, the Reagan administration, on the grounds that if there was a big profit in it for wealthy people it must be a really great idea. The astute Reader may have noticed a quick jump of a decade (whaddya tryin' to pull, Riley?), but not to worry: the "market" had, as its idolaters like to point out over and over and over, already done the mule work on its own, like magic; by the time Reagan was in position to sell your birthright, Capitalism, despite its New Deal fetters, had managed to bring you Happy Talk News, wherein the old-fashioned idea of a summation of the day's events as read by knowledgeable reporters was replaced by empty bullshit as sounded out phonetically on air by empty bullshitters. And this was followed, perhaps inevitably, by Barbara Walters, wherein the very concept of news was subjected to cruel mockery, and where, for that matter, cruel mockery didn't fare much better.
But even the sour-stomached long-time observer could only watch in wonder as rising gas prices and falling home values at the tail end of the Naughts meant the long-forgotten real world slapped the second generation of these talking coiffures into speaking about real news. The results, predictably, were what you'd expect if, near the end of his life, Elvis had suddenly been required to run an Army obstacle course. Not good, and not pretty. The truly entertaining thing, if you're big on schadenfreude, is watching people who've been conditioned to two facial responses, dour for murder, child abuse, and tax increases, peppy as a high-school cheerleader in her 16th birthday BMW for everything else, try to arrange themselves around a suddenly complex world where survival, not Survivor, was the Top Story.
I grant that some of this is a personal, or chemical reaction on my part; I wouldn't be caught dead shilling something unless a) I was paid some ghastly amount to do so, eliminating the requirement that I ever do so again, and b) I was as goddamned enthusiastic about it as I was paid to pretend to be. And here are, roughly, twenty-five people per night (it takes a team of three just to report the weather for ninety-minutes now, and that's assuming it's cloudless and mild) per channel who do so for a six-figure salary, or the potential for a six-figure salary, and recognition at the local bistro. Which right off the bat puts them on one side of an argument which we not only refuse to have in this country, but which their side tries its damnedest to avoid even acknowledging.
It hasn't just been limited to a simple matter of how to compose one's face, either. The locals haven't quite been able to completely shake the vague suspicion that they ought to be selling global financial market collapse as a swell entrepreneurial opportunity for the aspiring repo man or soup kitchen operator. The same week the Bush administration was pushing the Paulson plan as a Take It or Leave It and Die proposition, Channel 8 offered tips for the aspiring buyer of foreclosed mortgages (#3: Don't back over any widows or orphans on your way out of the driveway. Everybody's got a camera these days.).
So you'll simply have to forgive me if I don't believe Richard Cohen is unaware of this, or if I think David Brooks is too fucking callous to care, or that either of them really believes in, let alone imagines he speaks for, some sort of über-majority of the Mild Suburban Reaganite Mind. It's another argument which pretends there is no argument. It's the pretense that Middle America as painted by Norman Rockwell, Ronald Reagan, and cadres of television news producers cowering from right-wing hate mail for forty years is the real Middle America, and it's told here by a couple of guys who have no frickin' idea what it's really like, nor feel any compunction to learn, even as they write columns--and books!--explaining it to people who do. Richard Cohen is old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement, meaning he's old enough to remember Bull Connor's attack dogs ripping at children. Whether he chooses to remember is not our problem. David Brooks is at least old enough to remember Willie Horton, and "liberal" enough to have objected, it's said, at least, to his party's gay-bashing for votes. And they're both old enough to have earned paychecks for bashing Bill Clinton, and later paychecks for supporting the Iraq invasion and denouncing Irrational Bush Hatred.
So I suppose we might note the sort of good fortune each man is blessed with in that America agrees with him, only for less money. You make your own Luck, as the saying goes. But we're a little less convinced by this Sarah Palin, OMG! How Did These People Get Into The Republican Party? routine. Because, y'know, we actually walk the streets of Middle America, where they're hardly a surprise. What we'd really like to know is: is it not time that these two, and every other impacted pundit harrying the national gums, were yanked out? Do they really have anyone left to lie to? We keep returning to Lenin's famous dictum about Capitalism selling him the rope it'd be hung with; we keep thinking that had he lived into the modern era of man-made fibers he would have added, "and they'll keep insisting the damn thing is silk when it's obviously cheap-ass polyester, right up until it strangles 'em."