A Beautiful Corpse: Sixteen Sure Signs That the Regressive Right Is Over
Lordy, lord, it's been a mean season, hasn't it? And a long one, too.
We human beings (those bipeds lucky enough not to have been born a conservative or killed by one, that is) have suffered through the endless depravity, stupidity, duplicity and incompetence of the radical right for what now seems like forever. It's been awful, and it's been depressing, and that's putting it mildly. To have had even a fraction of a heart this last decade means to have lived in Hell.
Finally, though, the end is nigh. The signs are all there. The regressive right is cracking up, a complete and utter victim of its own success at winning power and of its own absolute failure in wielding it.
The markers are everywhere, bubbling just below the surface. Here are sixteen of them, sure signs if ever there were that the era of destructive government is (nearly) over:
* Follow the money: If you know anything about how American politics has been played over the last century, you know that the concept of Democrats out-fundraising Republicans is about as likely as likely as George W. Bush getting an honorary degree from anybody besides Bob Jones U. It could happen, to be sure (especially in some freaky parallel universe), it's just that it just ain't very likely. But guess what? It's happening now, and it's a sure sign of the regressive apocalypse (where do I order tickets for that party?). What is even more telling than empty GOP coffers is that even the big corporate money is going to Democrats. Imagine Enron contributing to Al Gore's campaign, and you'd just about have the picture. Is it possible that the healthcare industry had a recent change of heart and decided that guaranteed national healthcare is now more important than corporate profits, after all? It would be possible (though massively improbable), if they had ever had a heart to begin with. A much more plausible explanation is that the lobbyists for these fat-cats who are paid to sniff out power can see which way the wind is blowing, and that it ain't to the east anymore, ladies and gentlemen. Even the finance, insurance and real estate industries are funneling more money to Democrats than to the Reprobatlicans. (Talk about your truly bizarro parallel universes! This is the stuff of science fiction novels.) House Democrats have $28 million in the bank right now, while the GOP has $1.6 million for its congressional races (no, that's not a typo). When did that ever happen?
* Keep following the money: Has there ever been an economy this precarious for this long without throwing a rod or seizing an engine? Given how reviled Bush and his clones already are now, can you imagine how sour the public mood will be if there is a recession or worse in the coming year? When you start seeing stories about roving gangs of furious soccer moms beating up random Republicans caught without their Blackwater guards on K Street, you'll know why. Just watch the American flag pins start flying off of lapels. Stay tuned for more on this one. Gasoline is now selling for five bucks a gallon in parts of California, and that was being headlined by the Drudge Report, that bastion of anti-regressive journalism. I smell a twenty-first century Whiskey Rebellion a-brewin'.
* Follow the leader: Everybody's talking about him on the presidential campaign trail. It's just that they all happen to be Democrats. Republicans desperately want to pretend that Bush never existed (though not as much as they will want to after another year of his follies). So much, in fact, that they don't even mention his name in their debates or on the stump. The New York Times just reported that Democrats mentioned the lil' Bush feller 47 times in their last debate. Republicans? Twice, with one being a critique by Ron Paul. And this is while they're campaigning for conservative, pro-Bush votes, mind you. Did you know that Ronald Reagan (or, more accurately, the myth of Ronald Reagan) was still alive and in the White House? Neither did I, but if you listen to these bozos for more than five minutes you could certainly walk away with that impression (not to mention tinnitus and a whopping good brain hemorrhage as well, but that's another matter). It's a sure sign that your movement is in deep trouble when you can't say the name of the sitting president who so completely exemplifies its principles, for fear that doing so will destroy your candidacy.
* Follow Tucker: Right out the door, in fact. Woo-freakin'-hoo. Was there ever an unctuous little bow-tied twit of a punky spoiled brat that you just wanted to slap silly more than Tucker Carlson? Well, guess what? His ratings are doing it for you. Seems that nobody is terribly interested anymore in what the young master debater has to say, and MSNBC is getting ready to pull the plug on him, bow-tie and all. Bummer, dude. Maybe you could become a liberal now! Or, hey, if you're looking for a job, maybe you could get Bush to appoint you as ambassador to Smarmiland?
* Follow Keith: The reason MSNBC is getting ready to untuck the wee Carlson is because they want to make room for what viewers are actually interested in, which is more progressive politics, like the regular savagings of the rabid right by Keith Doberman. Here comes Rosie O'Donnell into the line-up, with a show that could make Keith look like a nice puppy by comparison. Apparently, even Joe Scarborough - fingers and toes all in the wind - is talking like a liberal these days. What was that Dylan line about not needing to be a weatherman...? You could almost come to love the free market, after all, eh?
* Follow Jon: Stewart, that is. And Stephen Colbert. Every night, incessantly, they do what sometimes seems like the only rational thing imaginable given the inanities of regressive politics in our unfortunate time. They mock it mercilessly. The good news is that for many people, especially young folk, this is their sole source of news about current developments. Is that a pretty serious indicator of the tragic state of the American polity? You betcha. But it could be a lot worse. People could be getting their 'news' from Fox, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, or even CNN or NBC. I think a very serious argument can be made that you learn more about the real world we actually inhabit from Stewart and Colbert than from the more subtle comedy shows presented every day by the mainstream disinformation media in the guise of 'newscasts'. Brian Williams may be a more honest source of information than was Baghdad Bob, but not by much. Until The Nation becomes required reading and Democracy Now! the most watched news broadcast on television, Comedy Central may be the best alternative we've got.
* Follow the kids: Speaking of the young folk, they are becoming as scarce in the Republican Party as a good vowel in Kyrgyzstan. And why not? Who wants to be in the party that's wrecking your environment, spending your future earnings, killing your friends for lies and telling you who you can sleep with? (Hint: You can't sleep with anybody. Unless, of course, you're a television preacher or a blow-hard regressive politician, in which case you can sleep with everyone. And everything. Baaaah.) What a fun bunch to hang with, eh? The even better news is that there is pretty strong evidence that people tend to stick for life with the party affiliation they adopt when they're young. As in so many other ways, therefore, George W. Bush will be the gift that keeps on giving. Thirty years from now, when regressives are an extinct species visible only in dusty museum showcases, we may wonder why we weren't as happy as little clams at a mollusk orgy to have had the Bush Leaguer around, doing a better job than we ever could have of smashing his ideology to bits.
* Follow Dobson: Please. Somebody get this destructive demon of the religious right into the home for doddering Precambrians where he belongs. As it happens, he might be taking care of it himself. It seems that Ol' Jimmy is outraged that none of the Republican front-runners are as obsessed with controlling other peoples' sexuality as his custom bible tells him they should be. He is therefore threatening to run a third-party candidate, thus ripping asunder the GOP, in which case I might just be forced into believing in god, after all. (Even better would be if McCain also launches a desperate last-call shot at the presidency with his own independent bid after losing the GOP nomination. Splitting the Halloween set vote three ways is definitely my version of heaven on earth.) Meanwhile, all indications are that the entire religious right is in complete disarray (oh, so that's what they mean by "Hallelujah!"). Loads of its troops are disenchanted with politics, disenchanted with regressivism, disenchanted with the GOP candidates, and otherwise just generally reeking of betrayal, rage and a large dose of your garden-variety steroid-enhanced mass surliness. This does not a successful political movement make.
* Follow the polls: Which have been showing for a long time now that Americans are really pissed off about what has happened to their country, and in record numbers. That's not exactly what you wanna hear when you're an incumbent running for reelection, or trying to keep your party in power. It gets better yet, though. As Paul Krugman noted this week, political research is now showing that the American public is not just aimlessly angry, but is more liberal in its attitudes than it has been since the early 1960s. And the Baby Boomers haven't even retired yet! Something tells me that killing stem-cell research and gutting Social Security, coupled with homophobia, environmental destruction, reckless aggression abroad and bankruptcy at home are not going to be big vote-getters in the coming decades. Call me crazy, but I'm going to go ahead and make that wild prediction.
* Follow the rude dude: Giuliani's popularity in the GOP indicates that even those nuts have turned away, however reluctantly, from their own social conservatism. And now the nuttiest of them all, Pat Robertson, has just endorsed this nasty little Rottweiler with the sorta liberal social policies. There's really only one viable explanation for that. Sex-obsessed pseudo-Jesus regressivism is a completely spent force, and the Pat Robertsons of this world have only two remaining choices: They can either jump on the bandwagon of sheer hypocrisy (Remember Robertson's post-9/11 rant about the abortionists, and the lesbians, and the feminists, etc.? Remember how he once sued a certain mayor of New York City to block the latter's support for gay marriage?), or they can demonstrate their utter irrelevance. Ol' Pat has made his choice. He did both.
* Follow MoveOn: Sure, they're not perfect, but they may be the best thing happening on the left these days in terms of real work with a real chance of success. More importantly, they've already shown that they know how to play hardball, and now they're learning how to play sophisticated hardball. In many ways, they're copying the playbook that the right adopted in the decades since the Goldwater ocean liner had its encounter with the proverbial iceberg, bringing the GOP back to the drawing board. Regressives have been winning for so long in part because they've been fighting smart, and in part because nobody was fighting back. The Democrats, of course, are still doing neither. But they're not the only ones with fists. Look for the right to crumple like any schoolyard bully the minute somebody stands up to it, just as Move-On is now doing.
* Follow the retirements: Republican politicians are retiring in droves now. There are 14 so far who are quitting their House seats, including Ohio's Deborah Pryce, one of the top members of the GOP leadership. Who wants the pleasure of defending the Republican record in next year's election cycle, followed by a drubbing and an ignominious pink slip? Or, if you're lucky enough to survive the tsunami, a lonely gig kicking around in forgotten wilderness of the mega-minority?
* Follow the numbers: As if the gods weren't angry enough (perhaps at Robertson for backing the pro-gay rights Giuliani?), Republicans will have to defend twice the number of Senate seats up for election next year as will Democrats. That may seem like sheer coincidence, but there is actually a perverse irony here. This is the fruit of the GOP's pyrrhic victory in 2002, when they used the Iraq war vote and general security hysteria to pummel hapless Tom Daschle-like Democrats. Now those very seats are up again, only this time the chicken has since come home to roost, and it's an angry little fowl. That's some awfully nasty karma to be carrying on your ledger, man. You might call Election 2008 the Revenge of Max Cleland.
* Follow the conversions: Just as might be expected, Republicans are starting to change their party affiliations, even in places like Missouri and Kansas (really!). And, just as also might be expected, you're hearing the classic (and true) explanation for their move: "I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me". Sorry Ronnie Raygun, but what comes around... Watch for a whole lot more of this, especially after November 2008.
* Follow the food chain: They're eating their young now. Predictable, to be sure, but still so much fun to watch. Did you hear that five conservative authors - including one of the Swift Boat hatchet-men, no less - are now suing their publishing house, Regnery (did they actually mean to call it 'Degeneracy' but it just got by the spell-checkers somehow?), and its parent company, Eagle Publishing? It seems they're a little upset that Eagle "orchestrates and participates in a fraudulent, deceptively concealed and self dealing scheme to divert book sales away from retail outlets and to wholly owned subsidiary organizations within the Eagle conglomerate", and thus rip the authors off of royalties owed to them. No kidding - really? I'm sorry, guys, but just who exactly did you think you were dealing with here? Look in the mirror! You cut a deal with a conservative press to publish your fraud, deception and self-dealing and you expected them to treat you better than George Bush did when he gave the gift of freedom and democracy to the Iraqis? And what's up with your wanting fair treatment and fair pay for your labor? You guys are starting to sound like a bunch of whiney socialists, fer crissakes! And tort-reform-needing litigious ones, at that! This is America, Dudes. Your America. Get used to being scammed by people who are richer than you.
* Follow the fallow: The right's agenda is not only bankrupt of real policy ideas, but nowadays it's even bankrupt of effective red-herrings as well. Yesterday's tried-and-true tropes no longer have that old magic anymore. "Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism. Gays, gays, gays." Yawn, yawn, yawn. "Honey, have you seen the remote? I really need to change the channel. And what time are we supposed to pick up Johnny from Little League practice?" Ho. Hum. This show is over. Regressives would like to thank everyone in the audience for their participation. Unfortunately, neither your wallets nor your articles of clothing are available for return to you at this time...
If the signs of the looming conservative apocalypse get any clearer, even blind cave fish will be reading them. These guys are getting ready to crumble like a poppy seed muffin six days past its sell-by date.
It certainly couldn't happen to a nicer bunch, could it?
I hope they get every little thing that is coming to them.
Except, of course, their Regnery royalties.
David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (firstname.lastname@example.org), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.