Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Furies

It is looking increasingly like the McCain campaign, having flailed about mindlessly in the face of disastrous economic circumstances, is lost beyond repair; that nothing that could happen in the next three and a half weeks could reverse the trend; and therefore that the November 4 election will not be close enough for the Republicans to steal in the usual way – through voter suppression, ballot tampering, judicial meddling or fraud. The finding, announced yesterday evening in Alaska, of a bipartisan but Republican-dominated legislative investigation of “troopergate,” concluding that Sarah Palin was indeed guilty of abuse of “the public trust,” is another nail in the coffin.

Does this mean that we can stop worrying about both a de facto third Bush term and the economic catastrophe Bush’s policies helped bring about, and concentrate just on the latter? I don’t think so. The “honorable” John McCain – working mainly, but not entirely, through surrogates and, of course, through the adorably feisty and morally repugnant Sarah Barracuda – has stirred up the dark side of the American psyche, the side that has been more or less in eclipse since it last bubbled over in the late sixties, the Age of Assassinations and real (not imaginary) domestic (mainly racist) terror. Last night, in Minnesota, McCain (temporarily?) reversed himself, yet again, when his “town hall meeting” took on the atmospherics of a lynch mob, and some woman called Obama not just a “traitor” but also an “Arab” (horror of horrors!). McCain, to his credit, corrected her – by saying that Obama is a fine “family man” (yippee!). But will that or anything else he can do at this point suffice to put the evil genie back in the bottle? Probably not; therefore, worry!

Who knows whether McCain pulled back out of decency or because, the polls along with increasing numbers of Republican pundits – including the handful who, like George Will and David Brooks, have intellectual pretensions – were telling him that indecency wasn’t working? Who knows even if, from now on, he’ll run the “respectful campaign” he once boasted of? It hardly matters. Partly thanks to McCain, the devils of our worse nature are abroad in the land. Therefore, again I say, worry!

Note: Jonathan Raban’s piece in the October 9 London Review of Books provides as cogent an account of the Sarah Palin phenomenon as I have seen. Rabin’s aim is to explain Palin’s popularity, at least as of a few weeks ago, to a European audience. That perspective is as useful as any for those of us who live too close to it. I must also say that, of late, the opinion pages of The New York Times have been unusually good too – though characteristically emphasizing atmospherics more than the broader historical context. Sarah Palin has brought out the best in Gail Collins, among others. From the moment she erupted on the scene, Palin has been a godsend for comedy writers. Now, she’s even helping liberal commentators find the courage to defend their own side. For both developments, we should give thanks. Verily, the Intelligent Designer, cruel jokester that He be, works in mysterious ways!


Cliff 2007 said...

"Raban" is the correct spelling of the author you cite.

But keep on bloggin'.... I value your commentary.

Also, don't miss George Packer's essay on the POP and Obama in the most recent New Yorker.

I'd love your take on that essay.

Cliff 2007 said...

Here's the reference to the article I mentioned in my previous post.

The Hardest Vote: Ohio’s worried working class.

by George Packer
The New Yorker, Oct. 13, 2008