Sunday, January 15, 2012
The quadrennial carnival of presidential campaigning is now upon us. Show me the way to get out of this world.
Ever since voting took place for milk monitor in the 2nd grade I’ve been wary of the process. Early on we raised our hands for the boy or girl with the most polished persona to head the class. The one in charge of money had the look of fiscal responsibility on a seven-year old face. Even then the system was rigged. Sorry Henry, no graham cracker and milk without your 2 cents.
Americans accept political enfranchisement in lieu of economic democracy. We swallow agreed-upon lies. We get our hopes and wishes stoked, our fears and anger channeled. On some level we must know we’re being pandered to. There are code words we wait for. We want our old ways justified, our slumber uninterrupted.
In the 30s and 40s, Frank Capra made films about Everyman. Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper came from the Aw Shucks, school of acting. They had prominent Adam’s apples, gulped a lot and were therefore incorruptible… like us. Meet John Doe. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
These were the Populists. Today we have Newt Gingrich, of all people, except he has no Adam’s apple. He barely has a neck. But in his zeal to be an Anti-Romney the former Speaker is speaking the unspeakable; namely, that Capitalism is avarice, institutionalized greed, indifferent to the plight of Everyman. The emperor has no heart. Rush Limbaugh almost falls out of his ample chair. Hush that heresy!
Every so often in our peculiar political history a Populist emerges. Robert la Follette and William Jennings Bryan were early 20th century progressive voices. Even Huey Long bucked the machine in Louisiana and abolished the Poll Tax… before he became his own machine. George Wallace spoke for White Trash. The early figures expressed the grievances of the farm belt, railing against banks and railroad interests. More recently Populism is a form of demagoguery emerging as a force of racism and anti-government rhetoric. Gary Cooper has become Joe the Plummer, poster boy for guns, gospel and get-off-my-back.
But that is so yesterday. We may now be witnessing a new phenomena. Could it be that the Occupy Movement has legs and those legs have marched into Newt’s attack ads on Mitt? Does Obama dare assert what Gingrich has let fly? Politics makes for unimaginable coalitions. It took Nixon to open up China and George W. Bush to get a prescription drug program for seniors even if he gave away the treasury to Big Pharma.
The lop-sided privileges of the 1% in contrast to the plight of the 99%, now defines American life. The Democrats must carpe the diem particularly since Romney would fit Frank Capra’s casting for the manikin-face, rich man born on third base who thinks he hit a triple….and who bought the cookie factory, out-sourced the jobs to another time zone and made off with the dough.