Late last year, when Barack Obama trounced the McCain-Palin ticket, a phrase kept crossing my mind: "No More Mister White Guy."
The signs and omens were all around for those who wished to interpret them. A clapped-out white war-hero and his ultra-white, know-nothing running-mate (who'd skinned enough wild beasts and shot enough wolves from her helicopter to be counted as an honorary white "man") had been defeated, indubitably and unanswerably, by a literal African-American, possessed of a Muslim moniker - not to mention a middle name he shared with a dictator who'd long loomed high in America's foreign-policy demonology over the previous decade. It could be argued that the single element that shot down McCain's hopes was the fact that he had attached his destiny and, not unimportantly, the nation's precarious and uncertain future, to a sub-literate toxic scold of a running-mate, a shrewd but breathtakingly ignorant woman who was happy to stir up the most loathsome, poisonous old ghosts in the American polity in order to rile up her white followers. Millions of moderate Republicans, who frankly should have noticed years earlier that their party had deserted them for the nuttiest fringes of the far-right, saw this as one bridge-to-nowhere too far - they could see that their own party, or the recrudescent Palin fringe thereof, now harbored voters content to call for the assassination, or worse, of the other nominee - and they voted in their droves for the black dude.
There were other signs - misleading, as it turned out - that America's long white-male nightmare might finally be drawing to a close, and not merely the statistical/demographic projection that, within 30 years, whites would merely be the majority-minority in America. White-themed shows like King of The Hill (RIP) and My Name is Earl (good riddance) were cancelled in the run-up to the November vote. Joe the Plumber couldn't open his mouth without sticking his steel toe-capped work-boot in there. Fox News's ratings were on the slide as their disgraced and tarnished hero Dubya sloped off to face the enormous condescension of posterity for the next few decades (of course, he thinks it'll all redound to his historical favor in about a century - good luck with that, G-money!).
And in the economic realm, all the many chickens of the last three decades of deregulation, foxes-guarding-the-henhouse and the use of the citizenry as a defenseless and exploitable resource for greedy corporations, banks and sundry species of middlemen, came flocking home to roost. The economy bottomed out in September, and McCain screwed the pooch by "suspending" his campaign, and suddenly everyone could see that this wanna-be emperor, festooned as he long had been with all the regalia of the war-hero (instead of the overpromoted third-generation hothead and hot dog flier he was in reality) was now walking the world clad only in his shredded undies. The result? An absolute rout for the Republicans, a defeat like none since 1964.
So with all that to savor, I found myself wondering, albeit only for a blessed short moment, if maybe we would now get a break from Mister White Guy for a while, from his endless conservative, hair-on-fire hysteria and hypocrisy, and his ability to be bamboozled and stampeded into a fearful incoherent, self-destroying rage by any cynical faux-grass roots organization ginned up by the corporate right. Perhaps, I dared to dream, we might now enter a halcyon new age of reason and common sense, of calm voices and measured tones, with an end to all the screaming and name-calling.
Boy, did I get it wrong.
Since almost the moment Obama entered office, the right-wing white-faced hysteria has been louder and coarser than ever. The Moderate Republican is a vanished species and the dwindling remnant, overseen by mouth-breathing hacks and procedural fanatics risen to prominence during the long dark Republican Night, has reconstituted itself as the Party of No. And their No means No, in no uncertain terms: no to healthcare reform, no to immigration reform, no to any of the desperately needed remedies for a country that has long been crying out for its own bout of glasnost and perestroika, but isn't about to get it, thanks to these fools.
Leading the charge this year were not the politicians but the media stars of the fever-swamp right-wing. Miss McConnell and John Boner were almost as anathema to these people as any differently-pigmented Democrat or "socialist" (a word that made an unlikely comeback this year, if only as a slur). First there was Palin herself, apparently shrewd enough to see that Obama would win and thus anxious to use the scrag-end of the election period to light a fire under the asses of her brain-dead constituency of GED-bereft white bozos, thus igniting a prairie-fire of support that would prove useful in any putative 2012 presidential bid or, more likely, provide her with a fanbase for future product, like her witless autobiography.
And so it has proved: almost nothing the woman does, be it resigning from the Alaska governorship because it looked too much like hard work, vomiting out her godawful worldview into the tape recorder of her ghost-hagiographer, or composing the single biggest political lie of 2009, the one about death panels, has been enough to raise the collective craw of her fan base. If you like Sarah Palin and her faux-folksy, mendacious, self-pitying bullshit, then there's a statistical likelihood that you will also see nothing wrong in depicting the new President with a bone through his nose or gazing hungrily into a cannibal cooking pot filled with white missionaries. They go together like chalk and cheese.
Like clowns stumbling out of a little car, the media ass pack suddenly seemed super charged and hyper-emotional, whipping up their people with dark and scary scenarios about the president. They grew so increasingly parodic every day that it seemed anything was possible. Glenn Beck could have ridden onto his set on an elephant, showering the audience with peanuts, and no on would have been that surprised. In the mad prophet of the airwaves contest, he took the top prize because unlike Limbaugh - and kind of to his credit - he actually is nuts.
There was the jacked-up, dough-faced pudge-monster Glenn Beck, the boy who never grew up and never will, who became a cultural icon for the mad-as-hell Right despite having no qualifications bedsides a long and mediocre career as an itinerant drive-time shock-jock (i.e., as a professional attention-seeker, a role he has yet to shed). Somehow this guy hooked himself up to an audience of undereducated fools willing to take his every nutty conspiracy-theory (FEMA camps! Buy gold! Obama's a racist!) at face-value. And in fact, said audience, soon known to us as the Tea Party gerontocracy, was actually ginned up by Dick Armey - he of the Contract on America and other fine endeavors - and his pals at FreedomWorks, with the backing of the same Koch Industries heirs whose never-idle riches have inseminated half the excuse-making right-wing think-tanks of the last 30 years. It all had as much to do with anything truly grass-roots as Glenn Beck has to do with anything true at all. PT Barnum must be cackling in his grave right now, all his theories having been vindicated daily throughout '09 - and Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, and George Lincoln Rockwell are probably having a chuckle too.
And let's not forget the elder statesmen. The grand sages. Venerable old white men Anne Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh all left their nauseating, fetid slime-trail all across this year, each vying for the prize for all-round achievement in bottom-dwelling scuzziness throughout '09. Limbaugh's great advantage over his competitors may be the fact that he is literally deaf, and hears nothing, possibly including the sound of his own increasingly ridiculous and reason-free voice. A national audience of ignorant hate-filled old men exactly like Limbaugh eats up anything the man says as he panders wholesale to their basest prejudices and dislike, and the best we can hope for is that said demographic is currently marching, steadily but inexorably, out of the nation's retirement homes and into its cemeteries.
And finally, their acolytes among the public, the men and women who called healthcare reform a variant of National Socialism, who blamed Obama for Dubya's Wall Street bailout, cursed the stimulus and refused to admit it saved a million jobs, who painted Hitler-mustaches on Obama's image and favored us with pictures of corpse-piles at Belsen and Auschwitz. These were the people so blind to their own interests that they got up at Healthcare town-halls and screamed down all others, then picked fights, often lost them, only to realize belatedly that they had no healthcare with which to treat their own well-deserved injuries!
So No More Mister White Guy, which seemed so ironclad a year ago as McCain flew back to Arizona in ignominy, no longer seems like such a tonic, timely phrase. This tendency, the apparently ineradicable Know-Nothing, John Birch Society strain of paranoia and unhinged loathing in the American political bloodstream is no deader now than when it was first diagnosed by Richard Hofstrader 45 years ago (his famous book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics - http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/08/hbc-90000908 - published in 1964, still reads like it was written the day after tomorrow). It is stoked and fed by the most cynical, unpatriotic elements in our polity: think-tanks, astroturf groupings with serious money to spread around, grandstanding moral midgets like Beck and Limbaugh, and by a Republican Party under threat from both its vanishing moderate wing and its reckless, almost suicidal rightmost flank.
It's like the end of Terminator 2: as the monster dies it reenacts every last one of its stolen identities before it sinks into the vat of molten steel. But you gotta assume the thing will simply die in the end.