Bumper sticker crops even more obnoxious than the one chronicled in this classic Success is Overrated shortread are too common in hip parts of Oregon to be worth mentioning, but today I saw one in Salem hat blew the prevailing liberal layer of smug the fuck out with a countervailing smugfront from the sniveling hard right, including:
–Scott Walker for Governor (Oregon tags, so yeah, some real authentic Wisconsin values right there);
–“I have noticed that everyone who is against abortion has been born.” Ronald Reagan;
–Restore the Constitution, a Hillsdale College project;
–Some shit from Reagan about liberty being forever only a generation from disappearing because we stop defending it and stuff (written next to a portrait of Chief Sundown, in any event, but too trite to be worth confirming attribution):
–I Support Our President/God Bless the USA.
I didn’t take an exhaustive inventory, but that was the gist: two governors whose actual political records are at nearly total cross-purposes, one of them having since erased her own record to go on wingnut welfare; a campaign to defend the US Constitution by aggressively subverting it on behalf of religion by means of positive law; a cowardly, servile profession of structural Lewinsky towards a head (heh) of state and government whose very title was meant by those originally conferring it to humble its holder, literally the presiding executive, with a reminder of his office’s tenuousness; some happy horseshit about liberty from a bullshitter who would legislate it away for nothing more than a few dozen electoral votes captured from Mr. Peanut; and, from the same shamblingly ill-concealed Alzheimer’s case whose production of war movies had convinced him that he’d actually gone to war, a dimwitted gradeschooler’s moral logic about abortion.
Faux-conservative, i.e. lying reactionary, elements have had most of a lifetime to erase Reagan’s record as Governor of California, which included not only taking the guns away from the colored folk and incidentally removing a number of them beyond the pale but also signing the most liberal laws on divorce (hence the future White House astrologer, Air Force One dispatcher, and drug scold) and abortion, which Reagan supported even though he’d never been one. The reactionaries have had a bit less than my total time of political awareness to date to fabricate their old boy’s presidency so that it now excludes some of the most active and gracious diplomacy in US history and also Ollie North’s little Hispanopersian thang, to which Visions of a Sunset pleaded psychotic instead of guilty or justified. His heart told him that he dindu nuffin vis-a-vis the assault rifles and the beards and the hostages and the death squads, but the facts told him otherwise. #TheMoreYouKnow. Sarah Palin needed only a few months to convince the same constituency that she had not possibly governed Alaska from the left with the lockstep support of the entire Democratic Caucus and over the fuming objections of most of her fellow Republicans. Mama Grizzly didn’t take shit from the oil companies, unless by “shit” we mean billions of dollars of extra royalties. In the Simpsonian parlance, she made them give the state its fucking stuff.
Rolling #TCOT doesn’t admire these two for having done anything halfway sensible or productive or competent or accommodating of bickering factions. It admires them for talking all bogus on the boob tube and throwing red meat into their lion pit. That’s how Reagan and Palin end up on the same Jeep panel (nicer and newer Jeep than it looked, I suspect) alongside Scott Walker, who is an absolute, unrelenting antisocial piece of shit. Battle Bob, pray for us. You or I can give countless hours of reflection to the moral and practical nuances of abortion, only to see it undone in the public discourse by some opportunistic shitbird from the movies splashing into the fray with scripted comments that are borderline retarded for an adult. I’ve given more thought to abortion just by stumbling across some Chesterton one-liners on Facebook than Twilight in America betrayed during his presidency, to judge from his loyal survivors.
That motherfucker didn’t give the appearance of giving a shit. Instead, like the Big Dog a few years later, but more subtly and behind the scenes, he put a wet finger to the wind (*Big Lewinsky Voice* Hey baby, need to wet it again?) and sussed out a triangulation strategy that allowed him to peel a few states’ worth of authoritarian godbotherers away from Jimmy Carter (whose appeal to a very broad swath of evangelical Christians, especially in the South, has been smeared out of the popular histories) and then successfully double down four years later by not fucking up in the face of a generally improved national economy and an increasingly hapless Democratic Party. Pretty effective for a guy who visibly sundowned during a televised debate in 1984, I have to say. Some liberal media not to point that out, too, but look at how little they’ve actually pointed out about the Donald, including the possibility that he has a negative net worth and the verified truths that he is not a successful businessman and that his book about his dealmaking prowess is vanity press bullshit that he paid a not particularly self-respecting publishing industry mercenary to ghostwrite.
In what otherworldly dimension is this collection of lying, amoral, inflammatory shysters respectable? What the hell of anything that they do is worth supporting? Donald Trump won’t even stick to his guns when a solid majority of his constituents agree with his avowed gut feeling that it’s past time to leave Afghanistan to its own devices. Then there’s his increasingly shrill and provocative commentary on Confederate apologist imagery and those who publicly cherish it. He’s pandering to the neosecesh and fellow-traveling violent trash because they’re his target market for MAGA merch. This fuckhead is willing to literally provoke the start of a civil war because that helps him sell his line of ball caps. The Russia stuff is the liberal Benghazi, but his catering to his own personal brand in the face of imminent threats to public safety and order is an obvious impeachable offense, a turducken of public corruption, dereliction of duty, and deliberate endangerment of the public for profit. Meanwhile he’s bleeding the Secret Service dry and running its agents into the ground even harder than usual by making them fly all over hell with him and his horrific coterie of spouse and spawn, every one of them working some sleazy profit angle at great public expense.
Trump has a history of vicious public bigotry dating back decades, or at least a public appearance of bigotry (the hang-the-bastards invective he published about the Central Park rape suspects was reprehensible), but he probably believes the Night They Drove Old Dixie Down horseshit as wholeheartedly as Reagan believed whatever crap the Moral Majority wanted to hear from him. Maybe these guys believe their own bullshit; maybe these are method acting performances gone totally out of control. This is more likely with Many Sides, who lacks the breadth of experience and training in professional acting that Goodnight Simi Valley enjoyed and used to such political benefit. There is a suite of self-disciplines that Reagan cultivated as a screen actor and Trump, who simply played himself, did not. Reagan discharged the public speaking responsibilities of their office using his long-honed craft; Trump simply discharges all over the place.
So what does that bling-flashing Queens bullshit artist actually think about Marse Bob and Stonewall and that whole gang? Probably not a hell of a lot, in any sense. Jefferson Davis was savaged by his own Confederate planter contemporaries as an intractably disagreeable piece of shit, but that’s the last thing a blowhard like Donald Trump knows about the Recent Unpleasantness. He latched onto the Lost Cause nonsense almost out of nowhere over the summer, probably because Chad Wealthingrape and the boys down at UVA were giving him shout-outs (shouts-out?) and buying his hats. His declaration of common cause with the postindustrial underemployed, by contrast, feels ancient. (Gin and Tacos has a strong counterpoint, very much worth reading, here.)
Many would argue that the difference between Trump and Reagan is that Reagan had principles to forsake, but they’re both so deep in the bullshit that I don’t feel like trying to conclude anything about this. The idea that Reagan had a Road to Damascus experience coinciding conveniently with his campaign for national office during a time of increasing establishmentarian revanchism isn’t awfully plausible, but he was far too skilled and confident a communicator to get tripped up by his being a divorcé remarried to a doofus whose fascination with dime-store occult nonsense was too trippy for the New Age Democrats, not just too heretical for the positive-law godbotherers taking over the Republican Party. Similarly, or maybe more so, the idea of Trump suddenly developing a personal interest in the mail-order statues on the South’s town squares in his seventies right as a bunch of aspiring Klansmen were ramping up their rally schedule doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.
The real question may be just how much of the American public actually believes any of this garbage, and how reliably this portion votes. The crazy reliably jacks up turnout, so there’s definitely some amplification. The Republican primary electorate is neither representative of nor very much of the electorate at large, but just look at the floaters it churned up last year who barely lost to Trump. And I’m not trying to imply that I’ve stopped considering the Democratic Party a smoldering trash barge in its own right, or Hillary Clinton its terminally grandiose captain.
Either way, to quote Richard Nixon, perhaps verbatim: Christ, Bob, we’re fucked.