Posts Tagged ‘Rush Limbaugh’

Sipping sweet, sweet whiskey with H. L. Mencken and the Bourbon Democrats

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I discovered an excellent post on “Open Left” about H. L. Mencken the other day.  The author, John Emerson, puts Mencken’s both elitism and allegiance to the Democrats in the context of a wing of the party I’d never heard of: the Bourbon Democrats:

…Mencken was a Bourbon Democrat. The Bourbon Democrats ruled the South and most of the big cities of the North. They (and their “stand-pat” Republican frenemies) were uniformly corrupt, cynical, elitist, anti-labor, and segregationist. During the 1890s they succeeded in destroying the Populist Party, and in the succeeding era they were under continual attack by progressives within the party, and they and the stand-pat Republicans fought to the death against reform. The Bourbons didn’t lose their power within the party until 1965 or so, and during the New Deal they supported FDR only grudgingly, if at all.

Emerson cites Mencken’s encomium to Grover Cleveland, “the most famous and most successful Bourbon Democrat.”  Cleveland, students of American history will recall, sent troops to Chicago to put down the Pullman Strike.

Surveying today’s political landscape, Emerson remarks that

[T]oo many of the Democratic rank and file – what I call the “wonk demographic” — have bought into the anti-populism, cultural elitism, and administrative liberalism of the machine Democrats, and this cripples the party. In many contexts, becoming a liberal is a way of making yourself a better class of person, the same as buying a nicer pair of shoes or a better kind of cheese.

There’s truth to the that, but there’s another truth that’s even uglier to consider.  Most of the American masses don’t want to hear about progress.  They despise uplift.  Anything that opposes their masters–the corporations, the State (especially the military), and the church–is evil and unpatriotic.  Look at the response to health care reform.  Look at how “socialist” has become a pejorative word.  (Actually it’s been pejorative for decades, but now it’s on a level of “Satanist.”)  Look at the cults of creeps like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh.

It’s hard, very hard, to fight for people who don’t want to be liberated.  To quote a passage from Notes on Democracy, what the common man mistakes liberty for, “nine times out of ten, is simply the banal right to empty hallelujahs upons his oppressors.  He is an ox whose last proud, defiant gesture is to lick the butcher behind the ear.” 

Bring back the Wobblies, I say.

Well, exactly…

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Will Durst, the political humorist, really got it right today with his “Poking the cobra” post:

[President Obama] is taking it straight to his perceived enemy, calling both Fox News and Rush Limbaugh radical and out of the mainstream, making the two crazier than a preacher at a whorehouse with a parishioner working the door. Because that is exactly what they say about him. [Emphasis mine.]  Methinks there may be a bad case of “can dish it out but not take it” going around.

Conservative commentators are retaliating by lobbing charges of extreme partisanship at the President. Claiming he totally ignored his campaign promise to be “a uniter, not a divider.” Oh wait, that wasn’t him. That was the other guy. Sorry. You remember the last guy. Now there was someone who reeked of non- partisanship. At least I think that’s what it was.

Look, let me me make something clear: this isn’t a case of worshipping Obama.  I don’t worship him, much less any mortal on this lugubrious ball.  I’m just applauding Durst’s, and yes, Obama’s too, common-sense.  The Bush administration and its apologists were opposed to the point of lunacy against any and all criticism.  Now Republicans are upset when a president speaks back to the press?  Would it kill them them to simply say, “Of course he says we’re wretched!  No surprise there.  We say the same thing about him.  That’s just good business.”  The haters of Obama are so full of loathing for the man I wonder if they’d say it was a Communist/Socialist/Islamofascist/feminist/gay liberation plot if he found a cure for AIDS.

This is why I find the U.S. news commentary for the most part so dull.   It takes predictability and stodginess to almost Soviet levels.  The right condemns the left.  The left condemns the right.  For the love of God, can’t you once, just once say something surprising?  Do you have to follow the party line like a rabbi adheres to kosher dietary laws?  Is it possible that an approach or initiative not within your ideological scope might have some validity?  Even if you don’t agree with it, can you perceive at least some charm?  And why does everything have to be “right/wrong,” “good/bad”?  Could it be that they are instances were neither side has an answer?  Where the situation is hopeless?

None of today’s pundits are fit to wear H. L. Mencken’s mantle.  They’re not intellectuals; they’re yelping, whining sports fans, fanatically devoted to their teams at the cost of all reason and critical thinking.