Monday, December 29, 2008
Return Of The Zombies
...in which the Village begins a campaign to revise history and redeem itself for its support of George W. Bush:
The idea that 44 might in the future continue to seek the counsel of 43 would until recently have struck partisans on both ends of the ideological spectrum as absurd. But that was before the transition commenced and Obama began to tip his hand in the area of foreign policy. Before the appointment of the power troika of Bob Gates, Jim Jones, and Hillary Clinton, each of whom plausibly could have filled the very same jobs in a John McCain regime. Before the hints that Obama might not be fully, rigidly committed to the rapid timetable for drawing down combat troops in Iraq that he advocated during the campaign. Before, in other words, the pat assumptions of the right and the left were blown to smithereens. If Obama wants to join him in ranking as the worst president in US history, he'll do just that. There is no salvaging this neocon nightmare and any attempt to try will drag him down with the sinking Bush family ship. (Not to mention that it would be disastrous for the country.)
That all this has come as such a shock to so many owes to a misreading of Obama as a starry-eyed idealist—when there was ample evidence that lurking just beneath the surface was a hard-eyed, sometimes hawkish realist. One obvious implication here is that the next four years may be marked as much by continuity with Bush’s policies as by radical departures from them. But a less conspicuous consequence is that, although the president and his supporters shared a dim view of Obama as a prospective commander-in-chief, the supposedly woolly-minded, lily-livered Democrat may wind up doing more to salvage Bush’s legacy than the grizzled Republican nominee ever would, or could, have done.
Heileman goes on to assert that Bush isn't really as much of a global miscreant as everybody thinks. Apparently he's been pretty darned level headed these last few years, more like his Dad, who everyone in Washington now seems to agree was the model president. All Obama needs to do is follow the Bush blueprint, but add a little of that patented Obama smooth talk about hope 'n change and it's all good.
This entire thesis seems to me to have far less to do with Obama than with the villagers' desire to legitimize their own failures during the past eight years. And predictably, the establishment line dovetails nicely with the embarrassingly obvious Republican efforts to co-opt Barack as a post-partisan keeper of the conservative flame. William Kristol today practically adopted him as the long lost son of Barry Goldwater:
I also have to admit that I look forward to Obama’s inauguration with a surprising degree of hope and good cheer. I know it's unfashionably partisan and all, but I really hope that Kristol is forced to eat those words. Because if he isn't, I'm afraid that conservatism will remain the default political identity of the villagers (and a good number of Americans) who will then gravitate back to the Republicans if they're allowed to forget that it was conservatism that failed in the first place.
For one thing, there will be the invocation, delivered by Rick Warren. I suspect he’ll be careful to say nothing pro-life or pro-traditional-marriage — but we conservatives have already gotten more than enough pleasure from the hysterical reaction to his selection by the tribunes of the intolerant left. And having Warren there will, in fact, be a welcome reminder of the strides the evangelical movement and religious conservatives (broadly speaking) have made in recent decades.[...]
One more heartening tidbit — from my point of view — about the president-elect: he’s been in the past an intermittent smoker, and is now a nicotine gum chewer who admits that he’s occasionally fallen off the wagon this past year to indulge in a cigarette. He’s been chastised for this by some scolds. The editors of The Mercury News told him recently he needed to make “a very public show of quitting” to set a good example for young people.
Bah, humbug. Those of us who dislike finger-wagging nanny-state-nagging liberalism relish the prospect of President Barack Obama sneaking a cigarette on the second floor of the White House while rereading Harry V. Jaffa’s great work on Lincoln, “Crisis of the House Divided,” then taking a break to stroll over to take a look at the White House’s copy of Emanuel Leutze’s painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” then going back to the family quarters to tell his kids to get back to memorizing some patriotic poetry, all of this interrupted occasionally by calls from Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Ray Odierno — his Ulysses Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman — to discuss progress in the wars we’re fighting, or from Rick Warren to discuss their joint efforts to fight AIDS in Africa and to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S.
Now that’s a presidency I can believe in.
I know that most people believe it doesn't matter if voters think progressive policies are conservative as long as they are progressive in reality. And certainly the policy is the most important part of the equation. But most people's understanding of policy is vague at best and, in any case, politics has a number of moving parts and heuristic elements. For most voters politics are predicated on identity and affiliation as much as anything else and it matters to long term political success how most people see themselves on the partisan spectrum. As important to the country as it is that Barack succeed in enacting progressive policies, it's equally important that he till the soil for other progressives to follow.
The modern conservative movement has been disastrous on both policy and politics in America and I think it's a mistake to allow them to simply lay low and co-opt the successes of a center left president until they can regroup and come back to screw it all up again. Their economic and foreign policy radicalism has very nearly wrecked the world and I don't think the "serious people" in the political establishment should be allowed to pretend that it was anything but what it was. And I certainly don't think they should be allowed to state that Obama was elected to carry on the Bush family legacy without challenge. I'm pretty sure we'll come to regret being complacent about such things when the next George W. Bush comes along pretending to be a compassionate conservative --- and actually finishes what Junior started.
I realize that I'm out of step with my thinking on this. As Steve Benen reports in this post about Move On, most liberals don't
give a damn think it's a top priority to hold the Bush administration accountable or reform politics and prefer that Obama devotes his time working on health care and global warming and getting out of Iraq. And I certainly can't argue that those priorities are extremely important.
But somebody has to call bullshit on the Republicans and the media lest they successfully paper over their ongoing malpractice and succeed in convincing people that Obama represents some sort of continuity instead of the change the people actually voted for. It's almost impossible to take them seriously at this moment, but if Obama succeeds we may very well find ourselves in a situation where the political establishment and the Republicans will take credit for his achievements to push their next aristocratic wrecking crew into power. Unless we challenge this new narrative, we could find ourselves right back where we were in 2000, with the country voting on the basis of who they'd like to have a beer with because the country is doing well and as far as they can tell there's no difference between the two parties. And as we all know, it only takes a few short years of GOP dominance (and tepid, credulous opposition) to reverse it all.
Whether anyone likes it or not I'm going to keep an eye on the Village zombies. Remember:
Modern zombies, as portrayed in books, films, games, and haunted attractions, are quite different from both voodoo zombies and those of folklore. Modern zombies are typically depicted in popular culture as mindless, unfeeling monsters with a hunger for human brains and flesh, a prototype established in the seminal 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. Typically, these creatures can sustain damage far beyond that of a normal, living human (generally these can only be killed by a wound to the head, such as a headshot) and can pass whatever syndrome that causes their condition onto others.
Usually, zombies are not depicted as thralls to masters, as in the film White Zombie or the spirit-cult myths. Rather, modern zombies are depicted in mobs and waves, seeking either flesh to eat or people to kill or infect, and are typically rendered to exhibit signs of physical decomposition such as rotting flesh, discolored eyes, and open wounds, and moving with a slow, shambling gait. They are generally incapable of communication and show no signs of personality or rationality, though George Romero's zombies appear capable of learning and very basic levels of speech as seen in the films Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead.
Modern zombies are closely tied to the idea of a zombie apocalypse, the collapse of civilization caused by a vast plague of undead. The ideas are now so strongly linked that zombies are rarely depicted within any other context.
I'm just saying...
digby 12/29/2008 01:00:00 PM