In the agonizing hours of Nov. 5, 2008, following the near annihilation of the Republican brand, its most celebrated voice, Rush Limbaugh apologized to his listeners for “carrying the Republicans water,” ignoring his sworn allegiance to conservative ideology and the glaring facts at hand to defend what he said was a party gone astray. It was self-serving and silly—essentially Limbaugh’s tired act for the past two decades—but it rang true. In his own clownish way, he stumbled onto something more than a half-baked guffaw and uttered a coherent plea, which was later picked up by many of the talking heads at Fox News, the GOP broadcast network. The Republicans, they all said, were not very Republican with their nation building and federal government bloating and TARP bailout stimuli.
And for a time, both Limbaugh and more pointedly Fox News held this ground. What choice did they have? The president was a Super Man and the Democrats had a Super Majority, and the progressive movement, so damaged by Viet Nam and the Reagan Revolution, the Contract with America and 9/11 xenophobia, was now front and center, representing a nation that had been sold atavistic palaver about being “center-right”.
But over the past thirteen months, the wind has shifted dramatically, as it will when someone as kinetically charged as Barack Obama streaks into the White House with so much promise following the dirge of a weakened predecessor. As stated time and again in this space over the past year, Joe Cool’s symbol of the Left’s Hopes & Dreams has eerily mirrored that of Ronald Reagan’s meteoric New Right rise of 1980. Then, just as quickly, with a sagging recession and a fallout in the Hope Department, there were heavy loses in the polls and consequently two years later on Capitol Hill.
The idea of the fifteen-minute fix and immediate satisfaction or else is an American institution. Comes with the territory, jack.
And so suddenly those who kicked the Republican brand to the curb and subsequently embraced and then trumpeted fringe Right movements, most notably the many and varied TEA Parties, are once again grab-assing at the laziest route to a return to power. Why not re-brand the Republican Party with the same exhausted bullshit that has made it as abject a failure as the Democrats for well over a century and a half?
The pendulum swings and people conveniently forget what ushered in the alternative.
Usually it is sound if not recidivist advice.
Problem is there now appears to be a segment of the fragmented street rabble crazies who actually believe a national third party is a viable alternative to what conservative NY Times columnist, David Brooks recently framed this way: “I just don’t see how we get out of the fiscal hole if Republicans are not willing to raise taxes and Democrats not willing to cut spending. I’m actually beginning to think, for the first time in my life, there’s a prospect for a third party at some point in the future.”
Last summer Fox News, along with colossal drug concerns and anti-Health Care Reform lobbyists, helped promote, bankroll, and lend legitimacy to what the mainstream could only then best describe as angry, disenfranchised lunch pail enthusiasts, whose most vocal exclamations were horrendously grammatical and explicitly racist banners. Entertaining, colorful and highly motivated Jerry Springer rejects had apparently captured the very real outrage of a nation barely able to cobble together two original thoughts without a spate of banal anarchism. Ah, but between the specious rants about the Founding Fathers and laughably insipid definitions of Tyranny, there lies a germ of true democratic spirit, one in which may take down not one, but two parties in one fell swoop.
One can only dream.
A dream we’ve kept alive here since the day we began to send words to press.
To wit: The Feb. 20 issue early in the election year of 2008, in a piece titled, INDEPENDENCE RULES, Reality Check issued this synopsis of American Politico: “The two-party system, which has halved the ideological soul of this nation for over a decade, has now reached its breaking point. The special interest fobs and extremist twits who have monopolizedthe national discourse for decades are being swept under by a tidal wave of independent voting. Republicans and Democrats are crossing lines. Fiscal conservatives fed up with social fascists, liberal lions pissed at whining granola heads, war hawks and peaceniks, activists and casual observers are jumping around like never before.”
Not a big deal. You could pretty much yank out an archived piece around here for the past dozen years plus and read something or other trashing the two-party system, but this time it was a growing reality which had been covered a year and half earlier on June, 16 2007. In this space under INDEPENDENCE ’08 appeared the results of a Gallup poll, which painted an evenly divided electorate: Republicans, 27 percent; Democrats, 34 percent; Independents, 38 percent. The following analysis was then offered: “Despite exit polling of stark contrasts in conservative vs. moderate vs. Evangelical voting blocks on the Right and women, black/Latino, and an economic range voting block on the Left, nothing has crossed the divide of this polarized nation than the quickly emerging, highly influential, and increasingly mighty Independent vote.”
And into this vacuum emerged the first African American, predominantly liberal neophyte to gain the White House. And it has not begun to close one iota. In fact it has become a gaping maw, which may swallow him and whatever poor sucker dares face it.
There was a time, as it was for George W. Bush the months following the 9/11 attacks, when the country was ready for The Big Leap. Bush, for all his failings and chronic stupidity took it. Not so much for Joe Cool, who demurred when he should have pounced, sequestered, then media blitzed when he should have hammered home The Deal.
And maybe it was too much to ask. There hasn’t been a single major sweeping change in legislation since 1964. This is what awaited this president and this dead-on-arrival congress, predominantly made up of federal government zealots, who had the electorate by the balls and still could not get a thing done.
This week Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, one of the few Democrats with a chance in hell of retaining his seat this fall, up and quit. Why? Upon the occasion of his hissy-fit resignation, he told an interviewer that two weeks prior to giving up he and several fellow Republicans co-sponsored an anti-deficit bill, only to find out later they turned around and voted against it for what he deemed was “purely political reasons”. Well, of course they did. Probably the same assholes who voted against the Recovery Act and then took bows back in their states for the dumb shit it paid for.
And so as Brooks concluded, there is indeed “unprecedented levels of distrust in Washington”, at least since the decades prior to and following the Civil War. And from its ashes comes the TEA Party, and whatever it is or wherever its going will chip away at the final progressive movement of any of our lifetimes and whatever is left of ancient conservative wisdom.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus and Midnight For Cinderella. His work is archived at jamescampion.com.