No matter how you feel about the election results, you have to admit that Sriracha sauce is incredible, and makes everything taste more interesting. Even crow. Especially crow! I was staying in the hotel the California GOP rented for its victory party, and this morning the buffet was all crow. Even the pastries. Crowssaints! Ha.
Anyway. Did eight hours of radio yesterday - chipping in here and there, not talking the whole time. Snacked from the cold cuts, had too many cigars, felt it all go south with five more hours of the show to go. Got back to the room, ready to put my feel up, have a drink, reflect. Put the key in the door -
Somehow that seemed apt. Although you can't draw a general metaphor from something plastic being suddenly demagnitized.
Well, actually you can, if you thought Mitt was a fake. Heck, everything's a general metaphor.
Went back downstairs, got a new card, went up, and wrote. This is night-of-the-slaughter ruminations, so excuse the roughness.
Ending Election day in my hotel room after seven hours on the radio, ending it as I began: listening to the Jackie Gleason Orchestra on my iPod. Lovely schmaltz. Some thoughts in no particular order:
1. Election morning I woke up from a dream in which Romney lost, which bookended the mood I had went I sank into the comfort of the justly famed Westin bed. I went to bed convinced he would lose, a complete 180 from what I’d felt earlier. It just hit me around 11:23, looking at a cable show with some polls that had the President up everywhere, and I thought "you know, I've been seeing those polls for a long time now. Huh. There might be something to them." Coincident with that revelation I thought about a friend who’s pro-small business, pro-military, pro-religious freedom - of course! This is America! - and she will vote for Obama. She believes that the state should take more property from people who die with X amount of money in the bank and give it to other people, and while she’s not exactly sure about what X should be, this is necessary because of Fairness.
That does seem to be the dominant idea in the land these days, no? The State shall have the power to do X if the objective is Fairness. The details - and the actual result - are less important. If you believe the State should do these things, why, it stands to reason that it can, and and hence any limitation of the powers of the State is a mulish obstruction of a better world.
Good people do not vote against such things.
She also believes, I think, in the following propositions:
The severing of the concept of marriage from the traditional understanding of male-female-children is inconsequential, and that the definition, thus expanded, will hereafter suffer no additional challenges;
Access to abortion is a prime metric for determining the worthiness of a society, but the details - quantity, sex-selection criteria, late-term instances - are relevant only inasmuch as they are cudgels used by those who would ban the procedure entirely, and hence they are a diversion.;
The deficit can be solved by taxing other people;
The financial industry was unregulated prior to 2009;
Inflation is just a thing that happens, like weather;
The State never forces you to do anything. It merely “asks.” The true coercive power in society today resides with corporations.
2. One of the tweets in my timeline: I’m so glad I was finishing up a golden shower just as Mitt conceded! Open up and say AAHHHH MITT
[Note - mostly accurate transcription; did it from memory, since I saw it on my phone and it has since scrolled away]
This was retweeted approvingly by someone who considers himself an intellectual. It’s not the triumphalism - everyone is entitled to that in these moments - it’s the crude, graceless vulgarity of those smart people who still believe it’s bold to shock the bourgeoise. They are the bourgeoise now, and their culture is not only as vapid as the old bourgeoise was supposed to be, it has the added benefit of being irredeemably juvenile and morally banal. They have their conventions, just like the old bourgeoise - except their conventions are nothing more than waving around the bones of the old culture they slew, like apes mimicking the gestures of an orchestra conductor.
3. Deviations from the songbook of the new bourgeoisie are easily explained: hatred of the melody, hatred of the words, and above all hatred of the singer. As another tweet said
(The GOP) has no people of color, hate women & gays, atheists, muslims et al, who’s left?
There is no way to penetrate the adamantine carapace of stupidity with such a person. His politics and his self-identification are dependent on the unshakable belief that the other side is motivated by fear and hatred. One could point out the internal inconsistencies in his assertion - there aren’t exactly legions of rainbow flags flying outside of mosques - but it wouldn’t matter; those groups are virtuous simply by being victims, inasmuch as we’ve all agreed that Wars are being fought against them all in various ways.
Membership in any of these groups is the defining characteristic of one’s existence. The most thrilling expression of individuality consists of surrendering it to the definitions put forth by the group on your behalf. They’re quite dogmatic and remarkably specific: sexual identity, for example, naturally dictates your position on tax policy and foreign affairs. It’s all of a piece.
4. What were the issues? Promising free contraception certainly trumps long-term structural unemployment, and that put the GOP at a disadvantage. What else did they have? Foreign policy? No one cares about Israel. No one is concerned about Iran. It’s laughable to think Russian ambitions have any relevance to our lives, unless they try to take over Facebook or something.
The Middle East? Benghazi was a muddle; any peculiarities in the story told to the American people was the result of a well-intentioned attempt to discern the facts through the fog of war; muscular assertion of American power is such a hallmark of the current administration that they surely would have acted if they thought it necessary; the jailing of a filmmaker for his role in the video was not troubling in the least, and his continued incarceration is a matter for the local authorities. These are all perfectly plausible, and the same considerations of these explanations would have been extended by the press to the Bush administration.
Really, you have to believe that. Otherwise you have to suspect that the press may have been disinclined to go all Abu Graib on the matter because they found the matter inconvenient.
Likewise, the government response to Hurricane Sandy was a masterpiece of can-do, take-charge action, with the Federal blade slicing through the thick ribbons of red tape. (Why would the red tape be there in the first place? Just curious.) When a tape of the president’s speech in, oh, 2007 or so surfaced, hectoring the government for not waiving rules for New Orleans after Katrina, I looked up the rules that were eventually given the Stafford exemption. They were substantial, and gave you an idea how many regulations wrap around the legs of the body politic like the Laccoon in the best of times. One of the edicts permitted the owners of private houses who rented to low-income people rent their property to people who were not technically low-income.
Awfully big of them, isn’t it?
A few nights ago I saw a news report on the people in outer boroughs left in peril by Sandy, people living in public housing. These were people who depended on the State for everything except emotional sustenance, and having been unmoored completely from any other institutions, were furious that assistance was not forthcoming. The camera lights illuminated a room full of women - four generations, the oldest being no more than 50. No men; no fathers. This is perfectly normal. This is beyond criticism, actually. But imagine four women freezing and hungry in a state flat bewildered at what might befall them, unable to conjure a remedy. Imagine how a program of active, concentrated malice could produce a worse result.
But. I see the world through skewed eyes, I know. It strikes me from time to time that this is an exceptional nation, as flawed as any human endeavor, but unique in human history: a society whose foundational concepts are not rooted in blood or clan, or impossibly airy proclamations of transnational brotherhood and human rights granted by, and subject to revision by, a council of our betters who regard the governance of man as a blade that scrapes everyone level. Rather, we were devoted to something rare in human history: liberty. (I use the past tense because the word’s been replaced by Freedom, which has come to mean The Fun Things, and also means freedom from being judged for any reason.) Because I am blinded by this false light I fail to see the rot and filth in the marrow of the American bones, how it’s mostly always been bad until a few years from now, and how perilously close we just came to letting Robber Barons waddle out of their gilded carriages on their gouty limbs, stagger to the gutter, and pee a stream of petroleum on the orphans who sit on the curb with upstretched palms.
We were so close to going back to that. What did the President say in the debate? He believed that Romney wanted to take us back to the economic policies of the 20s, the social policy of the 50s, and the foreign policy of the 80s. All these being bad. (Note: the systemic racism of the 50s - enforced by the State, of course - was an aspect of society so grotesque that it must taint any salutory aspects of the era. Nothing about the 50s was any good, except for some hamburger stands and the rise of youth culture. Otherwise, a swamp of murk and oppression.)
Well, now I’m just tipping into lazy bitchery, I guess.
Hold on, a few tweets coming in: one does a victory dance over the defeat of a Black female Mormon; proof that tolerance and inclusion is the order of the day, I guess. Another from Howard Fineman: “All in all an amazing night for Dems in New America.” To which the retweeter appended: what was wrong with the old America?
Everything, don’t you know. Everything. If Old America had one job, it was this: to get us to the point where we could reject it.
As the banner said: Mission Accomplished!