‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail’
Hunter S. Thompson in his classic, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” wrote, “History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of ‘history’ it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.”
Thompson wrote his classic in 1971 but he could have written it today without changing much of anything. In 1971, the baby boomers were taking over; now they’re on their way out and the new wave is coming in. It makes for interesting politics, that is if you can cut through the hired bull. Whether the new wave breaks to the left or to the right remains to be seen.
President Obama wants to push us toward a European model economy; at least it seems that is the case. That is, more central control, more social welfare benefits, and, in some cases, punitive taxation. Why Obama thinks this is a good idea is confusing at best. Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy are basket cases, and the Euro is stressed. Last year thousands of young folks tied up Paris and other French cities because they were upset the government had raised the early retirement age from 60 to 62. When college students and the young unemployed demonstrate for retirement benefits, you have a national structural problem.
We miss Bill Clinton. When he talked about the European model, he really meant real European models. He wasn’t much interested in Europe’s economic vision.
Have you ever noticed Mr. Obama expresses his thoughts in two parts? The first is for the moderates. For instance, “We all know that small business is the backbone of our economy and we must do all we can to assist the small entrepreneur.” Then he says something like, “But, they didn’t do it all by themselves and now they must give some back to those who haven’t done anything at all.” (He really doesn’t put it quite that way, but that is what he means.) So, don’t bother to pay attention to what he’s saying until he says “but;” then, listen very carefully.
Neil Armstrong and his compatriots helped make America exceptional. I believe Mr. Obama thinks it OK if we are less exceptional. Therefore, he directed NASA to end manned space flight and spend more time reaching out to the Muslim world so as to encourage scientific endeavor in that community. Whatever was our president thinking? We’ve all seen hundreds of masked jihadists brandishing AK47s, burning American flags and chanting “death to the great Satan.” Can anyone really bring themselves to believe inter galactic space travel is high on that group’s list of interests?
Obamacare will be, or should be, a big issue in the campaign. I will limit my comments for fear of giving the erudite Ms. Hanson another excuse to further pummel me in print. Suffice to say, when that 2,700-page monstrosity is fully implemented, we will all wonder why we just didn’t turn over the nation’s health care to Michael Jackson’s physician and have done with it.
Mr. Obama does not seem to be overly concerned about a decline in American influence in the world. He seems to be content with turning everything over to the United Nations. Here again, I miss Bill Clinton. He didn’t give a damn about the so-called world community. He didn’t ask anyone, he just went. He went into Kosovo without even bothering to ask the United Nations. In 1998, Clinton bombed Iraq for four days to degrade Iraq’s ability to manufacture and use those elusive weapons of mass destruction. He didn’t much care whether or not the Russians or Chinese approved.
I have no idea how the Republican convention will play out, as I have to write this before it takes place. But, I suspect it will be quite dull. Republicans have always had a rather tidy approach to this business. Unfortunately, the Democratic convention doesn’t promise anything more.
This was not always the case. The Democratic Party of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy was kind of a joyous operation and the conventions were great fun. At some point a sufficient number of delegates would sober up enough so they could belt out a few renditions of “Happy Days are Here Again.” Speakers like the great cold warrior Sen. Scoop Jackson or President John Kennedy would stir up the delegates with roaring tributes to American’s greatness. Bill Clinton was fun. We could never quite remember what he said, but we liked the way he said it.
Who can forget the moment in 1968 when Mayor Daly of Chicago rose to his feet and gave the convention speaker the middle-finger salute while suggesting he do something that is anatomically impossible? Not tidy, but great fun.
Today’s Democratic Party convention will likely feature a series of speakers, most of who will look like they are perpetually witnessing the docking of the Hindenburg. And, the speeches will have that whining quality my wife finds so attractive on public radio. Friends, it is not hard to conclude we’ve lost something important.
I think this election is the kind Thompson was talking about in 1971. It does feel like the energy of a whole country is coming to a head for reasons that nobody really understands and that will have implications far, far beyond this year.