It’s been a rough stretch for all sorts of political commentators of late, most especially for those who do so with pen and ink and try to bring a touch of humor to what they have to say. But last Thursday brought respite…
You gets what you deserve when you were the Worst. President. Ever. Including the ignominy of have a Big Dick more the focus of the well-earned contempt than you were.
The true problem, as yet unaddressed by any Republican standard-bearer, originates in the ideology of modern conservatism. When the intellectual authors of the modern right created its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery, above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun. This is not to say conservatives today share Calhoun’s ideas about race. It is to say instead that the Calhoun revival, based on his complex theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of the electoral majority.
This is the politics of nullification, the doctrine, nearly as old as the republic itself, which holds that the states, singly or in concert, can defy federal actions by declaring them invalid or simply ignoring them. We hear the echoes of nullification in the venting of anti-government passions and also in campaigns to “starve government,” curtail voter registration, repeal legislation, delegitimize presidents. There is a strong sectionalist bias in these efforts. They flourish in just the places Kevin Phillips identified as Republican strongholds—Plains, Mountain, but mainly Southern states, where change invites suspicion, especially when it seems invasive, and government is seen as an intrusive force. Yet those same resisters—most glaringly, Tea Partiers—cherish the entitlements and benefits provided by “Big Government.” Their objections come when outsider groups ask for consideration, too. Even recent immigrants to this country sense the “hidden hand” of Calhoun’s style of dissent, the extended lineage of rearguard politics, with its aggrieved call, heard so often today, “to take back America”—that is, to take America back to the “better” place it used to be. Today’s conservatives have fully embraced this tradition, enshrining it as their own “Lost cause,” redolent with the moral consolations of noble defeat.
NOTE: This post first appeared on Facebook in slightly different form. See the post which will appear above this one when I get around to posting it for an explanation.
It’s just after 8:00am on October 16th and President Kennedy is being told that the Soviets have secretly delivered nuclear missiles to Cuba. That was fifty years ago today, and the next thirteen days would mark one of the most tense international standoffs in history. Foreign Policy provides a day by day look at the world’s most dangerous nuclear standoff.
From Dave Pell’s Next Draft newsletter, to which you should subscribe immediately inf not sooner: NextDraft Landing Page.
Leave it to Charles Pierce to provide a perspective on Neil Armstrong’s place in our psyche and history which is close to poetry…
For at least a time, there literally was only one other person in the history of man who knew what Armstrong knew — how that sandy soil feels when you walk on it, the exact places where the shadows fall, the precise geometry of the mountains of the moon. Today, there are only eight of them left, all of them in their 70’s. What will happen when the last of them dies? It’s very likely that there will not be a living human being who knows what Neil Armstrong knew. It will all be for videotape and digital libraries, for historians and, if we’re very lucky, for poets, as well. But there will be nobody alive who actually knows. Not a single one of our fellow humans, anywhere on the Earth. That knowledge will be as dead in the world as Columbus is. One fewer person on the Earth was able to look up at the moon on Sunday night. What he thought when he looked at, night after night, is a perspective lost to all but eight old men. Sooner or later, there will be none of them left. On that day, like today, we should mourn for what we once thought we were. From that day forward, I fear, it is all going to sound like myth and magic, and the tales that the old men told around the ancient fires.
…Neil Armstrong stepped onto the face of the moon and took “one giant step for mankind.”
That was back when we were dreamers, living in the Can-Do America that the Post War generation had created. The moment was not only historic and celebratory, it was also poignant in that it was the martyred JFK who had promised that we could achieve what seemed impossible to many before the decade of the ’60s was done.
Kennedy’s election was understood to signal the passing of the torch to a new and younger generation before the end of the Camelot presidency in Dallas revealed–a message not entirely grasped in the horror of the moment–that the center of the American dream was not going to hold. Then the Vietnam War brought down his successor, but not before LBJ pushed the Civil Rights Act through the Congress and gave one of the greatest speeches in Presidential history. That too marked a giant step, one marked in blood and pain and heroism by ordinary citizens around the nation.
In the White House on July 20, 1969 to bask in the glory of the moment which rightfully belong to his greatest political foe was Richard M. Nixon, a touch of irony to prove that the gods will have their laughter at our expense. His presidency would crash on the rocks of Watergate a little more than five years later, setting in motion forces which shaped the shattered body politic and deep divisions of the 21st Century.
Can-Do America was yesterday and is long gone. Today we are a nation that dreams no dreams and takes baby steps if it take any steps at all.
I just posted this as a comment on a thread about that famous rum drink over at Balloon Juice and figured you folks might enjoy it as well:
I have a Dark & Stormy story you all might enjoy. Many years ago, when the world was young and so was I, I vacationed in Bermuda with my wife’s family at a very exclusive locale, a huge house and waterside cottage nestled high in the hills above Hamilton. This place was owned by a family who had, in the day, lent money to Henry Ford to start his auto company. Old money and you had to know somebody who knew somebody to stay there. There was actually a security check on all guests and you could have your reservation cancelled up to the last week should a family member decide he/she wanted to stay there rather than one of the family’s other and similar places around the world.
So the second day there, I was looking through the guest book we were invited to sign and, right below (honest) Princess Grace of Monaco, was “Richard M. Nixon.” I asked the butler who ran the place (theoretically, the large female chef, a Bermuda native, truly did) If it really was Tricky Dick. He assured me that it was and that the staff marveled that he would dress up in coat and tie and explore the beach every day with a metal detector (we had a path down to the water and the guest house where wife’s parents resided and we had lunch every day).
To get to the point, most people signing the guest book left a message. The one from Richard M. Nixon was “Pat lost in Dark and Stormies, going to the beach.”
Additional Fun Fact: back home, we lived right around the corner from David and Julie Nixon Eisenhower and whenever her father came to visit, we’d see him walking the road with Secret Service agents in tow and, yes, always in suit and tie.
Be really nice, and I’ll tell you about the day the Secret Service almost shot my cat.
“… JFK somehow sensed that discretion was not my middle name. I mean, I assure you if anything had gone on between the two of us, you would not have had to wait this long to find it out.”
RIP Norah Ephron.