Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rage and Sock Puppets

by Bernie Quigley – for The Free Market News Network, 9/27/2006

This morning The New York Times reports: “Republicans and Democrats began showing at least 30 new campaign advertisements in contested House and Senate districts across the country on Tuesday. Of those, three were positive.”

The battle is highlighted by the Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, conspicuously defending her husband (who holds no political office) against Condi Rice (who does).

We enter today the third phase of acrimony between North and South since post-war. Historian Dan Carter well describes the first phase in his provocative and brilliant book, Politics of Rage, From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, a political biography of George Wallace.

Carter wrote that the entire Wallace rise and fall was a reaction to the new initiatives of the culture of the 1960s, of the Freedom Riders in the South, the integration decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the hippies and so on.

“Journalists might greet this growing counterculture with curiosity, even approval. But Wallace knew – instinctively, intuitively – that tens of millions Americans despised the civil rights agitators, the antiwar demonstrators, the sexual exhibitionists as symbols of a fundamental decline in the traditional cultural compass of God, family, and country.”

Wallace invoked images of a nation in crisis, Carter wrote, a country in which thugs roamed the streets with impunity, antiwar demonstrators embraced the hated Communist Vietcong, and brazen youth flaunted their taste for “dirty” books and movies. “And while America disintegrated, cowardly politicians, bureaucrats, and distant federal judges capitulated to these loathsome forces."

After 49 states voted for Ronald Reagan, the country entered into a kind of stability. Phase two came with the election of Bill Clinton to the Presidency. The South had an immediate and visceral response against Clinton, which I gauged as starting the moment quite shortly after his inauguration when he stopped Air Force One at the end of the runway to wait two hours for him while he paid $175 for a haircut by a famous Hollywood hairdresser.

The climate change was palpable in Tobaccoville, North Carolina, where we lived, worked and reared our kids on our farm. Red state/blue state alienation would begin to rise. Within the first years of his Presidency both the House and the Senate would be lost to the Republicans, allowing right wing extremists to grow within the party unhindered.

The Christian Right would rise with the Southern economy, and the common people of the South throughout would clearly define who they were and who they were not. And where they would go and with whom, and where they would not go. As the Clintons vacationed yearly in Nantucket, the conspicuous playground of the Liberal Very, Very Rich, the Sixties theme of which as Carter writes, which originally alienated the South, came to acculturated the whole of the Democratic Party – fab Sixties pop culture figures like Carly Simon would greet the President at the Airport. Today editors of The New Republic and the liberal publishing houses in New York and even England’s Gordon Brown who hopes to follow Tony Blair, vacation in Cape Cod. It is the vortex of Clinton Democrats.

Today we go to Phase Three as it begins to become clear that Senator Clinton and her husband will continue to dominate the political atmosphere. A reader asks “what does a dollar for Hillary is a vote for Bush” suggest? Money is power, and each dollar sent to empower the Clinton Party will have an equal and opposite counterforce in the red states, further alienating the regions.

But a fight between Clinton and Rice, as representative of contention between Democrats and Republicans, brings to mind the old Sherlock Homes presented on public television years back, in which the series ends with Holmes and Moriarty horns locked in battle, going over a waterfall. The image kept coming to mind at the end of the millennium.

Both parties today seem spent forces; the Bush Republicans amateurish and incompetent, the Democrats vituperative.

Such talent is kept hidden with the Dems, from Wes Clark, to Tammy Duckworth, to Kathleen Sebelius. But orthodoxy and tradition, writes William James, prevents the spirit from rising and spends its fortune institutionalizing the Old Ways, and keeping it imprisoned.

And the Prudence Pillars of the Republicans – General John Vessey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Ronald Reagan, George Shultz, Reagan’s secretary of state, Colin Powell and others, who today criticize the President, resonate with inherent American integrity. It is unfortunate that the Democrats have no similar Council of Elders. But a party of the aging young, nostalgic for its college days, does not get to have elders.

So in this season of acrimony, who’s doing the work? Arnold Schwarzenegger gets headlines with activist actors George Clooney and Don Cheadle, signing legislation to end California investment in Sudan. Arnold Schwarzenegger discusses climate change. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs bills on carbon emissions. Arnold Schwarzenegger leads Democratic opponent Phil Angelides by 17 points.