Its Over (Finally!)(Reprinted from the issue of November 16, 2006)
Once again I find myself in the woeful position of writing on election day, trying to sound as if I knew exactly why events that havent happened yet did happen, though as you read this, days later, you may know they didnt, and why not. It doesnt look good for President Bush and the Republican Party, though not quite as bad as for Saddam Hussein and his inner circle.
On the whole, this campaign has been somewhat less amicable than, say, the Paul McCartney divorce. (Nobody asked me, by the way, but I would counsel billionaires to beware of one-legged gold diggers.)
The Republicans have been warning of the horrors that will ensue if Nancy Pelosi becomes speaker of the House. For a woman of 67, I must say, she is rather stunning, thanks to a facelift which, however, makes her smile appear to be stapled on like a mask. Something sinister lurks within, all right. The Democrats remain the Party of Compassion, which is to say, of Envy. We can only hope for the optimal outcome, mutual frustration. These two parties have given gridlock a good name. Maybe thats what these elections really mean.
The Democrats are still bitter about the 2000 election, which they strongly feel was stolen because Al Gore won the popular vote and was allegedly cheated out of the Electoral College vote too. I dont quite understand their indignation. If democracy means that 51% of the people should rule, very well; but why 50.000001 per cent? Actually, when you take Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, and others into account, Gore got less than 50% anyway more like 49.700002%, if memory serves. Is that worth getting an ulcer about?
As far as Im concerned, one happy result of this campaign has already been assured: Regardless of whether he is reelected, Virginias arrogant Sen. George Allen will never be president. He sealed his own fate with a single word, which almost nobody had ever heard before: macaca. Many politicians have been caught using ethnic slurs, but this must be the first time in recorded history that a politician has created a brand-new slur, previously unknown, as if for the express purpose of self-destruction.
As long as he lives, Allens name will be synonymous with the M-word. Im not even sure there is even a group corresponding to the designation macacas, but whether or not they exist at all (not that I make light of their undoubted historical suffering), they have cooked Allens goose. On top of that, Allen reacted with fury when a reporter asked him if he was Jewish; youd have thought the question was a deadly insult. It later turned out that the answer was yes. (Technically, anyway. Hed only recently learned his mother was Jewish.)
Allen makes President Bush seem the very model of verbal finesse; between them, the two have almost made us forget the days when Dan Quayle was regarded as the dumbest Republican in Washington.
The death sentence of Saddam Hussein, on the eve of our elections, brings to mind the neoconservatives who were so eager for war with Iraq. Vanity Fair reports that some of them are now having second thoughts, including David Frum, the corpulent Canadian who once accused American conservatives who opposed the war of hating their country. Frums central insight was that if you dont like war, you must be anti-Semitic.
Not that the neocons are being too hard on themselves; no need to worry about an orgy of self-flagellation. Their contrition is heavily qualified by contempt and recrimination for the way President Bush has prosecuted the war they so brilliantly conceived. It may be just a matter of time before they accuse Bush, too, of anti-Semitism. This is a moment in history that requires a lot of very fast talking.
One of the neocons deserves special mention. George Will has distanced himself so adroitly from both Bush and the neocons that hardly anyone remembers his original support for the Iraq war; today you could easily get the impression that he was against the whole thing all along. This man could give an eel valuable pointers on wriggling.
With startling suddenness, the mighty Republican coalition has gone to smash. The war, the neocons, the religious right, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, all have ceased to unite and energize, or at least harmonize, as they once did and have become points of dissension and confusion. Democrats have attacked what used to seem the Republicans strengths, while Republicans have played them down or even fled them in panic. Sexual scandals have ceased being a Democratic problem and have crossed party lines. Both parties have lost definition, liberalism no longer scares voters off, and the term conservatism has been discredited by those who once claimed it.
If there is a lesson in this chaos, I suppose it is that you should be very careful whom you accept as allies.
My Favorite Atheist
On election eve, public television aired Ken Burnss excellent documentary of Mark Twain. Please dont miss it when it is rebroadcast.
Twains posthumous writings have earned him a reputation as a religious skeptic. Which, in a sense, he was. But if he was an atheist, or thought he was, I believe his was what might be called the atheism of pain. He had been raised with a conception of God so loveless that he cant be blamed for rejecting it; and early death had taken his sister, his dearest brother, and his beloved daughter. His humor was a form of consolation, of giving joy to a world that badly needed it.
Some atheist! His favorite of all his books was not even a funny or satiric one: It was a late and reverent one, Joan of Arc. His love of the valiant little saint sprang from the same generous heart that makes Huck Finn ready to go to Hell rather than betray his only friend, the despised slave Jim. If going to Heaven means abandoning Jim, Huck sees, it isnt worth it.
Those who think Twain merely mocks honor, chivalry, and piety had better look more closely. The truth is that he hates their counterfeits.
If voting could change anything, someone has truly observed, it would be illegal. Regime Change Begins at Home a new selection of my Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian will brighten your odd moments. Well send you a free copy if you subscribe to SOBRANS, my monthly newsletter, for a year (at $44.95). If you have not seen it yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample. Better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.
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the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission
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