Thursday, October 1, 2009

Make what you will of Gore Vidal's latest statements

but he did manage to more or less nail this one:
Obama believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”
I can flash back to about a quarter of a century ago when the term "conservative" meant something a bit different in the US. Things have sure changed. I've been witness to the devolution of the GOP from a predominantly economic conservative party (with a few undercurrents of Cold War paranoia and theocratic reactionaries in the margins) to one in which the paranoids and reactionaries run the show. I'm either close personal friends with or related to some of those economic conservatives who left the GOP (or as a few have expressed to me in recent years, the GOP left them) in recent years. I'm not yet convinced that the GOP has much future long-term beyond that of a regional partisan presence, but in those parts of the US where it does hold some tangible power, its foot soldiers can still do some damage - at least to the extent that it is now embraced by the same folks who only a decade or two earlier would have just as soon joined ad hoc militias, and maybe blown up the occasional Federal building. So, one area of agreement between me and a few friends is that the GOP is largely populated by bad apples in a bad barrel. Another area of agreement is that the Dems have themselves shifted to the right in recent decades (or shall I say their primary movers and shakers) - at least enough to where one can much more easily find avowed economic conservatives identifying with it.

As for the rest of Vidal's blurb in the Times, make of it what you will. I'm not convinced that the US is headed for dictatorship in the near-term - the government was never terribly democratic to begin with, but the crackpot talk of coups and such are in all probability nonsense at this point. Flash forward a decade or two, and maybe we'll find sufficient devolution in the political and economic situation to make such talk more plausible to those of us who are much more skeptically minded by nature. For now I'm much more concerned about the US getting even more bogged down in the unnecessary quagmire in Afghanistan, perhaps expanding into Pakistan or Iran. I'm much more concerned that neoliberal orthodoxy (which became Beltway dogma in the Reagan era) will continue to impoverish more and more of us, taking with it the very mindset needed to sustain whatever civic commitment and discourse still remains. And of course, I'm concerned about self-appointed "patriots" who seem to think that showing up to public events packing heat is an appropriate form of political expression, to the extent that such folks have a tendency to do much harm in the name of their twisted ideal of righteousness.

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