Americans are heating the tar and gathering the feathers
You can feel the vibes. The energy being created—a contradiction to the first law of thermodynamics, I admit—with the intense interest in the campaign and the surge of voters participating in the caucuses and primaries is astounding. In 2008, democracy is the comeback kid.
For Democrats, it is the dawn of a new era, not seen since FDR in 1932. For Republicans, these times are trying their souls. Yesterday’s dream of their permanent majority status is suffering a similar fate as Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. That hubris, the belief in the permanence of any movement, is invariably crushed when it runs into the wall of reality. As nature abhors a void, the American people abhor one-party rule.
On the Right, there is despair and finger pointing as the progressive voices and forces surge to power. The wheels are falling off its wagon. The movement is being unmasked for what it has evolved into: a cabal of overlapping, power-seeking interest groups—old-line corporatists, down-home fundamentalists, and recently arrived neo-cons that collaborate with old-school internationalists in flexing American nuclear hegemony.
George Will, generally a sober-minded fellow, has put the collapse of conservatism on stage with a recent apoplectic piece titled “Profiles in toxic populism.” On the surface, it is a rant, but deeper, it’s a wail of desperation, of fear and of anger, that two populists, one Democrat and one Republican, might just garner their parties’ nominations.
John Edwards and Mike Huckabee hearken back to the Roosevelt cousins. It was under Republican Teddy, the Trust Buster, that reforms such as child labor laws and the Food and Drugs Act were enacted. Democrat Franklin, the New Dealer, furthering the cause of the people with programs such as Social Security, took on those he called “economic royalists.”
George Will who very much admires economic royalists—known to us lesser folks as fat-cat super rich—has morphed from being simply an apologist for the uber-wealthy into an outraged shill. A master wordsmith, whose touch with word and phrase is admirable even to those who disagree with him, Will leaves no inflammatory word or phrase unturned in his attempt to disembowel two candidates on the economic side of angels.
Aficionados of hyperbole and alliteration would delight in his verbal shock and awe. He begins by stating that Edwards and Huckabee, “flaunting their histrionic humility in order to promote their curdled populism, hawked strikingly similar messages in Iowa, encouraging self-pity and economic hypochondria.” Note the “hiss” sound.
Edwards is the “synthetic candidate of theatrical bitterness on behalf of America’s crushed, groaning majority.” As Will gets worked up, Edwards evolves into an “angry paladin of the suffering multitudes, to whom he shouts, ‘Treat these people the way they treat you.’” He interprets that as a call to treat the rich badly. Others might see it as a call for economic justice. It depends on, one supposes, who butters your bread.
Drawing on literary and historical allusions, he calls Huckabee “a compound of Uriah Heep (although he’s unclear as to whether it is the character in Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield” or the English rock band), Elmer Gantry and Richard Nixon,” and frets over whether “someone so delusional should control nuclear weapons.”
Ironically, Will doesn’t seem to be worried about the Current Occupant and self-acclaimed Arm of the Almighty controlling nuclear weapons. His approbation apparently is relative to the delusional fool’s economic philosophy.
Will fulminates, “Each would aggravate its (Washington’s culture) toxicity. Each overflows with and wallows in the pugnacity of the self-righteous.” They would expand “the regulatory state’s reach and enlarging its agenda of determining the distribution of wealth.” Better, Will believes, that the distribution of wealth be concentrated in the hands of unelected corporatocracy.
While living in the first, Mark Twain coined the term Gilded Age and in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” created the tale of the Royal Nonesuch, an apt allegory for the Bush regime. It is carried out by two imposters, the King and the Duke, who lure in the gullible by appealing to their prurient side. However, once they realize they have been suckered, the townspeople tar and feather the two and run them out on a rail.
King Bush and Duke Cheney may be beyond being tarred and feathered, but their minions are fair game for the spit. And that is what has the controlling powers and their media mouth pieces in a dither.
Will wraps up by declaring Barack Obama “the un-Edwards and un-Huckabee—an adult aiming to reform the real world rather than an adolescent fantasizing mock-heroic ‘fights’ against fictitious villains in a left-wing cartoon version of this country.” Ah, villains! Here’s where we’re expected to join in with a chorus of “boo-hiss!”
Will is correct in sensing anger; his error is ascertaining its source. It’s not Edwards’ and Huckabee’ anger; it’s that of the people in their realization that they have been played for suckers in one of the greatest shell games any circus has provided. In that light, it’s easy to understand the “con” in conservative.
The villains are not fictitious and what has been done to the people, who are seeing their national honor and treasury squandered on an illegal war and their standard of living stagnate as they are forced into Wal-Mart types of jobs, who are living one paycheck away from disaster because of health care system that provides only for those who can afford to pay its outlandish prices, and who are watching their land, their earth, be degraded in the name of corporate profit, is no cartoon.
Americans are heating the tar and gathering the feathers, and the Right is freaking out. Mark Twain would have loved it.