AS I've mentioned here and elsewhere before, I've kept an eye on the American Right since 1964, when I was ten, and a billboard across from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway suddenly sprouted an American flag with "Impeach Earl Warren" beside it, and "John Birch Society" underneath. I was a moderately precocious child, and my father had instilled the habit of reading the morning paper in me (the rest of my kneepants political worldview came courtesy my older cousins, who taught me to read Mad magazine.) We were a Republican household (because Lincoln won the war, as John Prine said). But the damned thing bothered me no end.
This is not to say I was politically savvy, but 1) I knew who Earl Warren was; 2) I knew from the context that impeachment could not be a good thing; and 3) I knew I didn't much care for the usurpation of the flag for partisan politics. My understanding has probably improved slightly in forty-five years, but my feelings about that flag shit haven't changed.
Fluoridation, commies under every bed, Quemoy and Matsu: it's been difficult to convince someone of my age that today's wingnut differs qualitatively from his forebears. The distinction seems to be that in the interim the Sixties added Backlash, Nixon added modern communications, Reagan added Madison Avenue amorality, and a lifetime of watching teevee and videogame screens--and an all-volunteer military--removed what little reality was there to begin with.
And yeah, okay, there was the demise of the Great Bugbear, the Soviet Union, which was never the existential threat it was portrayed to be, and was barely a military threat for the last three decades of its existence, not that that mattered. Yes, the Right had to come to grips with that. And, yes, not surprisingly, it chose to pretty much go on the way it had been, regardless.
The Right is full of it, as always, but while the PR department was busy relocating the Overton window, ignored reality kept moving by its own lights. Where the Wingnut of 1946 had an argument--not a good one, or a rational one, but one which could be connected by a reasonably straight line to some defendable view of the world--today the goddam thing is an unholy (and not terribly photogenic) alliance of Nationalism and Advertising, neither of which has anything but contempt for the truth. It'd be one thing if the Republican leadership was playing brinksmanship because it thought the fate of the world was at stake; it might even count as something if it actually thought it was offering some sort of economic solution, magical or otherwise. The utter cynicism of the thing may mirror that of the Reagan Revolution, but with hair dye, fake conviviality, and simple greed replaced by the bland fascism of loyalty to the Brand. It may not be anything new in our politics--it may, in fact, be no more than Business as Usual--but it's being perpetrated by the loudest pretenders to Patriotism, our supposed Exceptionalism, to our founding documents, and to creative problem solving, and you can't find a single trumpeter of that shit who'll object in public. Not only that, you can't find anybody who seems even slightly disturbed by that turn of events; the closest you got was the sublimated unease that expressed itself in a desire to see Mitch Daniels elected President (I ask you). And somehow the primary cause of our great national dilemma--the Budget Deficit perfectly mirrors all those religiously-motivated Republican tax cuts over the past thirty years--is the one thing we're not permitted to discuss.
This is the goddam United States of America. It's one thing to be dyspeptic enough to refuse to swallow all the Exceptionalism bullshit, all the Entrepreneurial and Military Colossus bushwa; it's another to ignore the fact that it's a talented, smart, and creative land we live in which has been manipulated into confusing duck paté and goose shit to the extent that many of our fellows can no longer taste the difference. I do not understand why. I'd appreciate it if everyone would go get th' fuck laid, for once.
[By the way, anyone believe there's nothing comparable to Murdock's purchase of the British constabulary at work on this side of the Pond?]