You Say Nostalgia; I Say Neuralgia
Since nearly all of what passes for Republican “ideas” are invariably sold with laughably improbable predictions of the dire consequences of not adopting them, rather than their relative merit, I seldom bother to pay much attention to them anymore. I suppose it’s psychologically satisfying, on some level, to know that if a sundry Kristol, Cheney, or Fleischer makes an unusually audacious and improbable prediction, the opposite is sure to happen, and just leave it at that. But when the Legacy Project cranked up to say that soon America would be crying in her beer to get George W. Bush back, I felt oddly compelled to find any evidence that such an absurdly unlikey outcome would ever produce even the flimsiest example of such a thing occurring.
Now, I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but Karl Rove was right and I was wrong. I’m nostalgic for Bush. Personally. Compared to the current crop of righties, Bush was a gentleman, statesman, and since the emergence of Palinmania, even a scholar to boot. Thanks in part to such certifiably cuckoo halfwits as Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly, Andrew Breitbart, Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Paul Ryan, and on and on grabbing the ball and running with it, George W. Bush is almost starting to look like some sort of hippie. Worse, the crazy direction in which he dragged the country with regard to war, civil liberties, and secrecy have now become normalized under the new administration, leaving the Right to sputter that even all that horrendous horseshit amounts to coddling the terrorists. Gazing through Overton’s window, the view of ol’ W has gotten much more attractive.
It was clear that big changes had to be made in the new century to make the world safe for Republicanism; years of peace and prosperity had rendered Americans way too uppity, even leading some of them to want to save the planet from boiling and worse, stop spending so much on the military. Losing wars, crippling deficits, and severe austerity programs would be immediately needed to nip those intolerably misguided notions in the bud, but Bush/Cheney were both too smart and too polite to say so, at least in front of the servants. Conservatism suddenly became “compassionate,” foreign policy would be “humble,” and even in the fact of the 9/11 terror attacks, no genocide and/or internments would ever get on TV. ”Islam is a religion of peace,” and all that. Well, in 2010, Republicans have put away Bush’s bong of Peace and in its place grabbed Bill Kristol’s metaphorical (of course) M-16 of Empire to do a little “spray and pray,” and the results are predictably disturbing.
Covertly, of course, Bush and Rove never really left the “Southern Strategy” behind; gay became the New Black, and Christian Dominionists, Randians, barely-reformed white supremacists, and charlatans of every stripe were quietly installed wherever they’d fit, but nobody in the Administration was dumb enough to crow about it. How quaintly demure; call it the Southern Belle Strategy, (eyelashes batting fetchingly), “Whatever do you mean?” Well, Mammy would be horrified to find what the “young Misses” of the Republican leadership are up to these days; rather than so wisely having a light snack before the barbeque at Twelve Oaks, they’re “eatin lak a feel han an’ gobblin’ lak a hawg.”
It started subtly; the right-wing media that had spent years marveling at the gardenia-like scent of George Bush’s stinkiest dumps fled in droves when The Decider tried to sell some port operations to the murderous and perfidious Habibs. They went even more nuts when he uttered the blandest statements about immigration reform, and they wildly applauded his response to Hurricane Katrina, which if nothing else certainly put the Darkies in their place. Republican operatives have their flaws, but stupidity is not among them; and they saw, after creating so many so many catastrophes without any political consequences, that not being racist enough was about the only way they could lose their Fox-addled base. After that, they were off to the races. Gone was Lee Atwater’s admonition that in order to “out-nigger” somebody, you had to at least use a more delicate term. Karl Rove’s pie-in-the-sky hope to rope in some of the growing Hispanic vote with cynical appeals to Family Values ended up tossed like an expired can of menudo, and anybody to the left of, say, Ari Fleischer on “The Arab Question” was bound to end up in Gitmo with a broomstick up their ass, as far as the Republican “base” was concerned. Racism was back, and at least in the amnesiac media, better than ever.
Which brings us to today, where we are in the curious position of looking back at “Smoke ‘em Out” Bush, the Worst President in Modern American History, as paragon of decency and restraint compared to the outright fascism and astonishingly naked eliminationism his disastrous reign unleashed amongst his erstwhile followers. We’re also seeing a lame and hypocritical attempt by Obama and company, who squandered an overwhelming mandate to “refudiate,” and maybe even try to solve, any of the myriad outrages he committed, preferring instead to pursue wonky and nebulous legislative “victories,” none of which have amounted to a hill of beans.
While it may have once been better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt, in the age of Fox News and its relentlessly repeated Obamaphobia, this maxim no longer holds. The Republicans are now the party of racism, militarism, and elite thievery, and they no longer care who knows it.
Yeah, Karl, I’m nostalgic.