Ach du Scheiße!
Welcome to Reaganistan
Of Pugnacity & Pussycrats
by Thomas Adcock
Copyright © 2014 – Thomas Adcock
New York City, near America
Shocked to my bones by how colossally incorrect I was in forecasting victory for common sense over venality in the federal and state elections of Tuesday, November 4, I am at last able to creep forth from beneath the bedcovers and into the sun—finally to face up to you, dear readers. You, who undoubtedly took heart in my roseate essay of October 29, “Butt-Kicking Time.”
Alas, optimism overwhelmed me in the weeks prior to that execrable Tuesday. I believed in the best of us Americans, and this time confidence went awry; sadly, the dour pollsters were right all along. For a variety of reasons—some nefarious, some preventable, all regrettable—the pessimistic forces of regression, stupidity, and racism swept into power. The amalgamated Republican Tea Party—more accurately, the Repugnant Party, its exchequer newly swollen with secret deposits from rapacious corporations and hush-hush billionaires—now counts majorities in both houses of Congress, and in statehouses throughout the land. We have not seen such unnerving pluralities in more than eight decades.
But I do not renounce optimism, of course. That would be foolish, whereas problematic prediction is merely embarrassing. Instead, I would urge reconstituted faith in the spirit of a Swedish immigrant named Joel Emmanuel Hägglund (1879-1915)—better known as Joe Hill. Later about Mr. Hill and his relevance to our political present.
Meanwhile, consider the pessimists’ triumph of a terrible Tuesday.
On November 4, the United States was rendered a Reaganistan of right-wing hegemony, led by a discommoding number of Caucasian politicians with little more than a singular credential: animus toward Barack Obama, titular head of the Democratic Party and the nation’s first African American president, who among other things rescued the United States from its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and oversaw adoption of Step One toward universal health insurance coverage—a long-sought goal of presidents of both parties, going back more than a century.
Lest anyone doubt the anti-intuitive repugnancy of today’s Repugnants, it must be remembered that the once-respectable Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower was forever perverted by the late Ronald Reagan—second banana to a chimpanzee in low-budget Hollywood movies before moving on to the theatre of politics, where he starred as an affable Great White Hope against the horror of darkening demographics.
In 1966, as candidate for governor of California, Mr. Reagan supported a ballot initiative to permit white racism in housing law. “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so,” he declared.
After securing his party’s nomination for president in 1980, Mr. Reagan won the hearts of southern bigots by kicking off his campaign in a Mississippi county notorious for Ku Klux Klan lynchings of civil rights workers. On the campaign trail that year, Mr. Reagan dutifully delivered racist dialogue from the script of his polluted party. Federal food assistance for the poor, he repeatedly dog-whistled, was unfair to hard-working white folks on grocery store checkout lines because it helped “some young buck ahead of you buy a T-bone steak while you’re waiting to buy hamburger.”
Four days after this year’s midterm elections, the ugly truth that underlay Repugnant Party victory was revealed during a broadcast of “Washington Journal,” a nonpartisan public affairs program aired live each morning via C-Span television. A self-identified “Reagan Republican” by the name of Anthony, presumed to be of pale complexion, called into the program to define the essential meaning of the midterms.
“This is about race,” said Anthony, according to the C-Span transcript. Before being cut off, he added, “The Republicans hate that nigger Obama.”
The accomplishments of “that nigger” prompted Richard Brunt of Victoria, Canada, to submit a letter to a newspaper this side of the border. Last Monday morning, the Detroit Free Press published Mr. Brunt’s notion of American madness:
Many of us Canadians are confused by the U.S. midterm elections. Consider right now in America: corporate profits are at record highs, the country’s adding two hundred thousand jobs per month, unemployment is below six percent, U.S. gross national product [increase] is the best of the Organization for Economic Coöperation and Development countries. The dollar is at its strongest level in years, the stock market is near record highs, gasoline prices are falling, there’s no inflation, interest rates are the lowest in thirty years, U.S. oil imports are declining, and the wealthy are still making astonishing amounts of money. …Obama brought soldiers home from Iraq and killed Osama bin Laden.
So, America—[you voted] for the party that got you into the mess that Obama just dug you out of? This defies reason.
When you’re done with Obama, could you send him our way?
Mike, a Brooklyn-born pal of mine, is an ardent Democrat who prefers a first-name reference here. The poor guy suffered the post-election blues for days, the same as I. We both remain angry over certain Democratic candidates for Congress—wishy-washy weasels who peddled themselves as ideological foes of Mr. Obama, on the ludicrous theory it would persuade the likes of Anthony to vote for them over straight-up Repugnants.
A fat lot of good it did the Pussycrats: to a person, they were defeated, and deservedly so. At the top of this dishonorable list was the disingenuous Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky. She failed in a senatorial bid despite toting a rifle all over the state and shrieking about her differences with the president—even refusing to disclose whether she’d voted for him.
Mike sent a bluesy email on the day after the midterms, a lament that concluded with a splendid burst of moxie I prescribe as exactly the right stuff with which to prepare for restorative elections two years hence:
There is no limit to the amount of heartbreak American politics regularly produces like the tonnage pressing on my heart this morning. By virtue of disdain, contempt, and abuse—all delivered steadily and constantly since [President Obama’s] inauguration in January 2009, the Repugnant Party has made an ordinary man of the most intelligent and capable man of this era. I’m filled with hatred, dread, sadness, and despair…just the way the ‘brain trust’ at Casa Repugnance wants me to feel. …May I gain the wisdom of a cool head, the heart to stand up and move forward, and learn to strategize for the long war that is upon us.
An absent friend, likewise Brooklyn-born, is the Boston University historian and social activist Howard Zinn (1922-2010). Brother Zinn is responsible for my own belief in the need to imagine the best of times in the worst of times. “If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something,” the professor once wrote. “If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”
Mark me down as an optimist who sometimes gets it wrong for the right reasons, an optimist susceptible to the blues when social carnage is clearly on the horizon. For indeed, the freshman class of Repugnants, set to take office in January, is a dangerous bunch. A wee sample:
- JODY HICE of Georgia was elected to succeed outgoing Congressman Paul Broun, an actual licensed physician famous for declaring that evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang Theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Mr. Hice, a Baptist minister and right-wing radio talk show host, would seem the good doctor’s long-lost brother. A most Christian gentleman, Mr. Hice preaches the following: so long as a woman remains “within the authority of her husband,” she may enter politics; gay men are determined to “sodomize your sons” and turn them into sex slaves; and the slaughter of twenty schoolchildren and six teachers in Connecticut in December 2012 was a consequence of the state’s putting an end to mandatory Christian prayers in classrooms.
- GORDON KLINGENSCHMITT, a one-time U.S. Navy chaplain and homophobic victim of ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome), was elected to the Colorado State Legislature. As host of the daily “Pray in Jesus Name” radio show, Mr. Klingenschmitt classifies gays and lesbians as “unhuman,” urges parents of a transgender teenager to consult an exorcist, and once performed an on-air exorcism of his own “against the demon of tyranny” currently in the White House.
- JONI ERNST introduced herself with a television advertisement marketed to yahoos in her state. “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so I’ll know how to cut pork in Washington,” beamed the lady with the blazing white California teeth. “Let’s make ‘em squeal!” Thence came a stampede of rednecks to elect her to the U.S. Senate in spite of Iowa’s well-deserved reputation for literacy and political moderation. The gonad snipper’s devotion to guns was more creepy than vapid. “I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” said Ms. Ernst. “I believe in the right to defend myself and my family—whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government.”
Only thirty-six percent of us cast ballots in this month’s elections, the lowest turnout since the war year of 1942. Which computes to about nineteen percent of us who voted for Repugnants. Party elders call this a “mandate.”
Pussycrats complain these days about the millions upon millions of dollars spent by Repugnants in television ads touting real and manufactured capital-F fears—Immigrants! Ebola! Terrorists! Those People!—and of laziness on the part of their overwhelmingly no-show constituents of the working- and middle-class. They have a point, small as it is.
But Pussycrats must lay truer blame for defeat on themselves: They were blind to what a foreign letter writer saw as a strong partisan narrative for Democrats willing to just say no to timidity. Instead of spreading the good news of Democratic statesmanship under Barack Obama and a U.S. Senate heretofore controlled by Democrats—instead of shouting it from the rooftops, as Repugnants would surely do were circumstances reversed—Pussycrats disrespected their president in a sham of elective pragmatism. They cowered before the immoral power of Fear and the shameful appeal of racism, failing to militate against either.
Next Wednesday is the ninety-ninth anniversary of the execution by firing squad of Joe Hill, falsely convicted of murdering a grocer and his son in Salt Lake City, Utah. Local police and prosecutors were intent on pinning blame for the crime on Mr. Hill, a thirty-six-year-old labor union organizer and stalwart of the nascent Industrial Workers of the World—the fearsome “Wobblies,” barely in existence today.
Joe Hill, who had cheated death from police gunfire a number of times for the offense of militating on behalf of non-billionaires, refused to respect immoral power.
On November 19, 1915, a Utah firing squad leader reached only the second of three deathly commands—“Ready, aim…!”—when Joe Hill interrupted the celebrated proceedings with glorious pugnacity:
“Fire!” he shouted at the men soon to gun him down. “Go on and fire!”
He had been similarly pugnacious before the kangaroo court that found him guilty. He told the trial judge, “I’ll take the shooting. I’m used to that. I’ve been shot a few times in the past, and I guess I can stand it again.”
And from his cell, while awaiting execution, Joe Hill penned a letter to a comrade, urging him to carry forth the good battle: “Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize!”
We optimists must do no less. Don’t mourn. Organize!
Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag