Friday, October 1

Recent Discoveries

Matt Taibbi, "Tea and Crackers: How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster". September 29

Steven Thrasher, "White America Has Lost Its Mind". September 29

IT'S difficult to remember, and hard to defend, but I started this blog with the idea (I started this blog believing a blog should have an idea!) of explaining that the Red States, of which I, though a combination of inertia and indolence, am an inhabitant, were not as Red as they were typically portrayed to be, often by people in Blue states whose level of genuine knowledge of Flyover Land approached, but did not surpass, David Brooks'. This is not to suggest they'd love us If Only They Got To Know Us. To the contrary. But I had the notion--still do, despite it all--that much of the default Republicanism in the middle of the country is a product of misconceptions, internal and external.

Now, it may be added, or objected, that this is an exercise in political argument incompletely disguised as psuedo-sociological (but I repeat myself!) observation, David Brooks with more "fucks". Perhaps this is so, and more than a little. Like all men, as Borges said, I have been given bad times in which to live. I was born the same year that Harry Truman announced the first successful test of the hydrogen bomb, the better to thwart the plans of Peter the Great, and just four months after the Reds returned the favor, sort of, if you looked at it just right. (Full disclosure: I was due four months later; in reality it was four months and two weeks, signaling a lifetime's enjoyment of the Womb.)

Born fully cooked. My government, and its Western henchmen, were going to listen to Edward Teller, not Robert Oppenheimer. Its newspapers would defoliate vast stretches to report the latest pearls of ignorance from Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. Liberal Presidents would replace George Marshall with Dean Acheson and give Curtis LeMay the Button.

Did people know? Hard to say. I came of age during Vietnam, often recognized as the tipping point. Left-wing intellectuals in the 50s were certainly aware that McCarthy and Nixon were crackpots and worse, but the threat of global nuclear annihilation was real, as was the sense of having been betrayed by Stalin. I've never discovered a large-scale sense in those days that the US government was lying, baldly and as a matter of course, about matters vital and trivial, for the gratification and financial benefit of a permanent ruling class. After all, FDR had changed government for the good, Hitler had demonstrated what Evil looked like, and Korea had proven that the Commies were bent on global domination. It certainly seemed at the time that the accumulating evidence of our duplicity in Indochina was revelatory, unexpected, of a different order of magnitude from chortling at the anti-communist rhetoric being aimed at the American living room every night.

Whatever, that was then and this is now. Not so long ago educated people scoffed at plate tectonics, believed in a static universe, and used mobile phones the size of grandma's stove. If you wanna feel superior to them by virtue of your having purchased an iPhone you could neither design, repair, or explain to someone who just woke from a coma, then fucking act like you've learned something.

Let's be clear: I agree with Taibbi; the Teabaggers are full of shit. We part ways only in the idea that this is something new, requiring some contemporary elucidation, that it's some nefarious picking of Ron Paul's pocket. Reagan voters were smoking the same shit a generation ago. (The other day Krugman Himself insisted that, unlike Reagan, today's GOP had no pretense of principle, however empty-headed, and its tax-cutting rhetoric would require the complete dismantling of the Federal government, excepting Defense and Social Security/Medicare, to pull off. But the exact same thing was noted at the time about St. Ronnie himself. He just didn't put it in writing, and he faced an electorate which wasn't going to let him wreck things indefinitely for the sake of ideology [there's your change, if any], so he raised taxes, and caved on Social Security.) Nor has this ever been shown to be the Dumbass Philosopher's Stone of America politics: voters have, on a regular basis, shown that they'll support higher taxes, and the concept of higher taxes, when the case is made. But Walter Mondale opened his mouth, and got clobbered, and that was It, as far as our two political parties and our nation's supply of neatly-coiffed newsreaders is concerned. Yet large-scale tax cuts create massive deficits. There's not even enough wriggle room there to pretend there's an argument. And even absent entitlements, and given perfect political will in DC, you cannot begin to slash programs to deficit-reducing levels before voters start screaming like movie extras. Period. And that's without touching Defense, which is our biggest money drain, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary. Taibbi is no doubt correct that the apparent contradiction doesn't bother many Teabaggers because their dedication to balanced budgets is pure sham. But it's axiomatic that these people do not control elections, so if this is some electoral majority based on pure wishful thinking, then when do we start blaming news organizations and Democratic officials for the poor job they're doing educating America? Break up AFTRA!

But Thrasher, now, really.
For the first time in their lives, baby boomers are hard up against it economically, and white boy is becoming outnumbered and it's got his bowels chilled with fear.

Okay, again: I was born at the tail end of 1953, or almost precisely 33% of the way into the Baby Boom. The American economy hummed along mostly unimpeded for the next two decades, high on our economic hegemony after WWII. It sputtered in the late 60s, because we insisted on spending billions on moon rocks and killing Vietnamese nuns. I'm sure there's no need to explain to an expert in Boomer dynamics that many of us actually opposed those things, and went so far as to publicly oppose them at the time, rather than retroactively. Still, I'll accept the tab for Indochina soon as you pick up the tab for Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh, I forgot: that check's still open.

In 1973, when I was a sophomore in college, the Oil Embargo ushered in a decade of double-digit inflation and rapidly descending property values. (I believe that at the nadir, '76 or so, you could've bought the entire Hilton hotel chain for something like $2 million. Though I suppose we'll always have Paris.) After the slight recovery of '80-81, accomplished by the Fed throwing masses of Americans out of work in the name of inflation busting, we spiraled back down again, into what looked at one point to be another gaping maw, somewhat averted when Reagan raised those taxes again. Then the Crash of '87, and the worst recession in post-war history, followed by the boom of the Clinton years, which the youngest Boomers entered already approaching middle age. The the Bush Doldrums (or as we like to say in Indiana, the First Daniels Miracle) followed by the Bush Disaster, followed by the God How Fucking Big Can A Bush Disaster Be? Disaster. Which brings us to today, and the Dawn of that New Fucking Era your generation ushered in in 2008, despite the racist machinations of Everyone Else. So, yeah, right. First downturn I've ever dealt with. Life until now has been one bottomless glass of Chateau Latour '61, and two topless hookers with a merit badge in Breath Holding. And ice cream for dessert. Sorry we seemed to've used that all up. Sorry we're scared of brown people. Why don't you go out and win another election predicated on transcending partisan politics? Or go fuck yourself?


poicephalus said...

Could I take that as your bon voyage to Rahm?


M. Krebs said...

Great post. Really, I'm pretty sure. I'll read it again tomorrow when I'm sober and let you know.

bjkeefe said...

Hmmm. As someone who linked, approvingly, to the same two pieces that set you off, I feel compelled to protest, slightly.

I don't disagree with your take on things, generally. I think you have a better grasp of recent American History than almost ... well, never mind "almost" ... than anyone I've ever read. But I do think you're being a little literal-minded in how you reacted those two pieces. Or, at least, in how you have presented your reactions to them.

When I linked to those pieces, I presumed anyone who clicked would know, as did I, that these pieces were consciously overly sweeping. I saw these pieces, partly, as "rally the troops" kind of over-the-top-ness. I linked to them, mostly, because I thought they were fine pieces of writing, despite this. Or maybe, in part, because of this. Because I think our country is in serious danger of being overwhelmed by the very sorts of people Taibbi and Thrasher are railing against. Sometimes, although we do not like it and wish it could be otherwise, we must get down in the gutter and fight with the same weapons the other side is using.

It is a sad fact of Internet life, and probably the rest of the channels of our discourse these days, that one has to bleed purple (prose) in order to be noticed. While I grant your largest point, which I interpret to be "same old, same old" (if I may be so obnoxious as to reduce it to a bumper sticker), I did want to register my complaint that you picked out these two fine pieces, of all the things you could have, in order to make your point.

As I said recently to another person whose emotions I also share almost all the time, I think we have to be aware of time and place. Right now, we are in a struggle with the forces of darkness, and I don't say that lightly. I think that until November 2, we have to accept the choices we have -- sucky though they are, it is still a choice -- and do our level best to stick together against those forces. You're right about how bad it has been. I think you might be underestimating how much worse it could get.

I am so far off-topic right now that I will just shut up. But, if anyone cares, the above are the emotions that were provoked. Also, I am crabby for reasons for which Mr. Riley should not be held to account.

ice weasel said...

Everyone steps in it once in awhile. This was your turn.

M. Krebs said...

Well, I was right. Great post.

Now... It's silly for gen-x, y, or z kids to portray the Teahadis as a boomer phenomenon. It's also silly to take it personally when they do.

RobertB said...

I got your back, BLTR. :) The Tea Party ain't nothing but rebranded Republicans. It doesn't have as much to do with White Crazy so much as "We ain't in power" crazy.

bjkeefe said...

Care to elaborate, ice weasel?

I'm not looking to pollute this site with a flame war, but if you have something constructive to say, I expect I might learn something from it.

Feel free to harsh on me by email, if you'd rather not say it here.

StringonaStick said...

RobertB nails it nicely; short, sweet and to the point. Rethugs and their avatars (TP's) get truly crazy when they aren't in power, period. The rest of the time they are mostly crazy, but resting up for the next time when they have to go all Judy Garland for the media.