It's been an exciting autumn for the Joes, hasn't it? First Sarah Palin introduced us to Joe Sixpack, formerly Joe Lunchbox, who was grown in a small town by real Americans and was once played by Peter Boyle. Then we met Joe the Plumber, who turned out to be not exactly what he seemed, and Joe the Brother, who turned out to be exactly as short-tempered, foul-mouthed and borderline psychotic as John the Senator. That just leaves Joe Btfsplk, the Al Capp character who always had a thundercloud raining on his head. He's scheduled for the first week of November.
Looking back, I think it's clear that the wheels came off the Straight Talking Maverick Country First Goddam War Hero Express the day John McCain waved away a list of about a hundred better qualified men and women and chose Mother Pucker as his running mate. At first people were enthralled, as they tend to be when America's Got Fifth Graders
, or some such "reality" show, showcases a particularly unusual contestant. She was fun, she was cute, she was sexier than Joe Biden. If memory serves, not even Charlton Heston had appeared at a national political convention with a high-powered rifle in his hand. Then they wondered why Jeffrey Dahmer lookalike Rick Davis wouldn't let even the Fox "journalists" near her. They read Karl Rove's comment that she's better when people don't try to fill her up with information. They saw her falter under the questioning of relentless investigative reporters Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric. They heard about Troopergate and the sports arena screwup, and they realized she hadn't taken five minutes to learn all the Constitution has to say about the office of vice president. They got an education in the Alaska separatist movement and the people it attracts -- one could even call them "terrorists." Gradually it dawned on them that the party which disparaged Barack Obama by comparing him to Paris Hilton was asking them to vote for Paris Palin. In Ohio, in Pennsylvania, even in Florida, Joe Outsourced seems to be abandoning the GOP as if it were the Andrea Doria. Sexy Sadie became Lady Albatross, and that was before the disputed shopping spree. A bus going downhill without wheels is not a pretty sight.
Neither is a party appealing to the worst angels of our natures. It was inevitable that a black candidate for national office would attract dangerous rednecks; Secret Service agents were assigned to Obama back in May 2007. It was not inevitable that the candidates themselves would egg on the lynch mobs; that was a conscious choice presumably made by a sick old man who knows this is his last chance. McCain could have left the low road to the Axis of Murdoch and lost with honor, but he and honor have been strangers for a long time. And in the absence of any real plan to deal with the economic and diplomatic disasters of the Cheney-Bush years except four more years of war, tax cuts and incompetence, perhaps it was inevitable that the Republicans would fall back on the golden oldies. The party that deployed a scary black man, Willie Horton, against a white candidate, Michael Dukakis, tried to make Bill Ayers into a scary white man to defeat Barack Obama. It assumed its anti-choice message would sound better in the mouth of a woman, forgetting that a gift-wrapped turd is still a turd. And it flopped, because, as Frank Rich observes today, white Americans are not as bad as the Right thinks we are.
After a while, all the ugly mephitic strident crazy gets so extreme that you have to stop holding your nose because you're laughing too hard and your head would explode. For me, the tipping point was good ol' Rush Limbaugh bellowing through cupped hands, so even his pinhead audience could understand, "IT'S ALL ABOUT RACE!" What is? Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama, of course. Colin Powell
, general, U.S. Army (retired). The far Right had no problem with Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or as Bush's secretary of state. All it took was one appearance on Meet the Press
to transform him into H. Rap Powell, race man. It's the distinction -- forgive me, there's no other way to express this -- between the good nigger and the bad nigger that is as old as slavery. The good nigger is docile and loyal and is often rewarded with a job in the big white house (see Gone With the Wind
), while the bad nigger is brutally disciplined or sold down the river. Which has been the general's fate, metaphorically speaking, all week. Thank you, Rush, for refusing to gift-wrap the turd. I knew that if we waited long enough, you would do something for your country.
"Let all the poisons that are in the mud hatch out," says Claudius in Robert Graves's Claudius the God
. He refuses to curb the evils and excesses of the empire in the hope that the Romans will be so revolted that they will demand the restoration of the republic. It is a vain hope, of course. The Roman people are too far gone in indifference and hopelessness. Apparently we are not, if the polls are accurate. And assuming the polls are accurate, I intend to enjoy the spectacle of the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln (Savings & Loan) and the Southern Strategy, the party of Morning in America and the Real Americans, devouring itself. As an unreal American, I've waited a long time. They owe me.
Labels: Joes, politics, race