Thursday, November 09, 2006

Making the World Safe for Leave it to Beaver

Sidney Blumenthal's latest article for Salon is an analysis of the cultural ramifications of the Bush Defeat, and it's quite good. It explores what kind of America Bush is fighting for, contrasting it with Reagan's vision of the inherent decency of small town America.
Under Ronald Reagan, conservative kitsch was the last nostalgic evocation for a glowing small-town America before the New Deal, with its raucous city dwellers, brain-trusters and an aristocratic president gleefully swatting "economic royalists." Reagan drew his raw material for "morning again in America" from an idealized view of his boyhood in Dixon, Ill., where his father was the town Catholic drunk, rescued at last only by a federal government job. Reagan also had a well of experience acting in movies romanticizing small-town life, produced by the Jewish immigrant moguls of Hollywood for whom these gauzy pictures enabled them to assimilate into a country that had richly rewarded them but in which they remained outsiders.

Bush's America contains no nostalgic evocation of small-town life. The scion of the political dynasty, raised in the oil-patch outpost of Midland, Texas, where the streets are named for Ivy League universities, and whose family retained its summer home in its New England base of Kennebunkport, Maine, attended all the right schools as a legacy, one of the last of his kind before more meritocratic standards were imposed and religious and racial quotas abolished. George W. Bush's inchoate resentment at the alteration of the world of his fathers impelled the son of privilege to align with the cultural warriors of faux populism.

The pathology of Bush's kitsch is the endless reproduction of vicarious hatred of the "other," who is the threat to the sanctity of what kitsch represents. The "other" lies beyond the image of the lurking terrorist to the lurking Democrat -- "America loses." "You're either with us or with the terrorists," Bush said famously. You either have a "pre-9/11" mind-set or a "post-9/11" one, according to his strategist Karl Rove, who carefully set the terms of demonization. In the great act of kitsch, Bush et al. apotheosized their fiasco in Iraq into a battle against Hitler -- "appeasers" ... "Islamofascism." By impersonating a historical context, they projected themselves into it.

Unlike the kitsch before and during the Reagan era, the Bush warriors' kitsch lies beyond unintentional camp. Their kitsch lacks more than irony or self-consciousness. It is deliberately sarcastic, mean-spirited, fearsome and fearful.
The article is well worth sitting through a brief ad to read, in my opinion.

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