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The Next 362 Days

Has it really been seven years and three days since President Barack Obama’s first inauguration? The calendar says so, so we have already begun marking off the more or less Constitutionally-guaranteed final 362 days of his presidency on our wall with the grimly optimistic impatience of a prisoner awaiting the end of an unjust sentence, but as bad it’s been it somehow doesn’t seem like seven years and three days.
Our memory of that first inauguration, which entailed such unforgettably nauseating coverage by the adoring press and such a rapturous reception by the public at large that it seemed more of a coronation or canonization or even a messianic anointment, remains so vivid that it seems just yesterday. We still recall sitting in a car dealership waiting for some annoying automotive repair with nothing to read but a Time Magazine with Obama as Frank Delano Roosevelt on the cover, and pulling into an ice-covered parking lot on some chore while listening to a radio report about some school district someplace that voted to make Obama’s first inauguration a National Holiday when the kids didn’t have to go to school, and all the good-looking celebrities pledging their allegiance to the new leader and the choirs of cute children singing the new leader’s praises,and all our liberal friends swooning, and how even some more or less Republican types were writing they liked the cut of this Obama fellow’s jibe and the crease in in his trousers. Ah, it truly does seem only yesterday.
Yet how far we seem have travelled in time, given what we find in the news and hear from our varied friends these days. By now the big issue was supposed to have been the hasty repeal of that nasty Republican-inspired 22nd Amendment so that Obama will be allowed to serve a third term, and how the upcoming Chicago Olympics will allow the world to celebrate his new era of global peace and prosperity and hip-hop coolness, but we can no longer find any of that among even our craziest friends or the most fervid reaches of the internet. Instead we awake to the current date’s news and rub our eyes and look about and we note that Obama seems but a minor player these days, albeit an annoying one, and that along with brief mention of the dour economic and foreign affairs news most of the talk is about the strange stew ¬†of politics that is lately ¬†brewing in the red-hot metaphorical pots of both parties. The past seven years of hope and change have both parties in an anti-establishmentarian mood, with wildly divergent ideas about what to do, even if the moderate moderate wings of both parties somehow survive the revolutionary zeal, and that glorious inauguration-coronation-cannonization-annointment and moment of more or less national faith in the new leader seems so very long ago.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is running for a third term of the First Black President as the First Woman President, which somehow makes sense to a significant portion of Democrats, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating some pretty darned serious charges about everything from her un-secured e-mail account to her family foundation’s hefty donations from the dubious countries she was dealing with as Secretary of State, that whole First Woman President thing is being undermined as her perv husband’s countless scandals are suddenly viewed by her own stated standard that victims of sexual assault should always believed, and there’s all that one-percenter kind of money she’s racked up from the Wall Street slickers which she’s now obliged to rail against after the past seven years, and even her promises of an another eight years just like the past seven aren’t playing well with Democrats.
Seven years and three days after that historic inauguration-coronation-canonization-anointment day, almost all of the Democrats we know are by now so fed up they’re itching to itching to go full-blown and self-described socialist along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. That long ago dawn of the Obama is not so far ago that they’ll ascribe the new leader any blame, but they all seem to reluctantly concede that their leader did not dare to go quite far enough to have reached that once-promised land. Some Republicans still persist, they glumly note, along with all their noise about illegal and legal immigration and terrorism and a sputtering economy heading for a scary downturn, along with their unaccountable lack of concern about global warming and transgendered rights, and there’s still all that white privilege and social injustice and whatnot out there, and all in all they can’t disguise a certain disappointment with the past seven years of hope and change. Sterner stuff, they seem to believe, is required.
The Republicans and the conservatives and the populists and the anti-establishmentarians and the independents and the moderates and whatever else you want to call the majority of dissatisfied America are by now worse than disappointed. There’s currently a mad scramble for their votes among the Republican presidential candidates, and oy vey, is that a mess. Through-thick-and-through-thin Republicans such as ourselves don’t have to choose between another seven years of Wall Street-financed socialism and a baggage cart full of scandals or an even more outright socialist, but we find ourselves wading into internecine battles over conservatism that we didn’t anticipate just seven years and three days ago.
Gee aint it funny how seven years and three days, out of our mere three score and seventy, slips away.

— Bud Norman

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The Anger on the Left

Just the other day ago or so we were composing an admittedly angry yet sincerely jocular essay about the most recent Democratic presidential debate, and with some literary license we described a fantastical world where the candidates frankly admitted their plans to guillotine the handful of nefarious and unnamed billionaires who are standing in the way of their otherwise easily obtainable utopia of social justice. We thought it an amusingly Swiftian exaggeration of the sore and sorry state of modern liberalism, but once again the more humorless and literal reality of the fact-based press has overtaken our most ambitious attempts at satire. The latest news from The National Review, which is still considered a far-right publication by the left but is now regarded as a stuffily establishment press by the even angrier further-right, and is still as always a reliable factual source, finds a Missouri Democrat who is a happy to be quoted that he’s “OK” with “bringing back the guillotine” for the benefit of a few billionaires, and that he also doesn’t mind naming which ones he has in mind.
That’s just one cherry-picked quotation, to be sure, but we don’t doubt that even in this cold and barren winter there are plenty of cherries on the trees to be picked if that’s what it takes to convey how very angry these liberals are these days. That Missouri Democrat was weighing on behalf of the embattled University of Missouri “professor” of “communications” who was caught on video “rounding up some muscle” to evict a student journalist from public space that had been illegally seized by a “Black Lives Matter” protest on her campus, which is understandably angry about the black lives lost to wrongful police conduct but somehow sanguine about the far greater number of black lives lost to the un-policed rampant in too many black neighborhoods, and which has spawned similarly acrimonious protests over Halloween costumes and ethnically incorrect Asian cuisine on the cafeteria menu and various other “micro-aggressions” among the most prestigious and pampered student bodies, not to mention all the angriness about that “culture of rape” that has has somehow spread from the church-going redneck jurisdictions to the liberal domain of academia, and there’s been plenty of quotable angriness to go around. That’s just the college kids, too, and you should hear what the more hard-strapped high-school-drop-out wing of the Democratic party and its post-graduate Starbucks baristas are muttering about these days. We hear them all too often, given the sorts of dives where we go to watch ‘Shocker games and hear rock ‘n’ roll shows and to catch up on the latest events with a gray-ponytailed hipster but more or less conservative friend of ours, and it somehow exceeds even the angriness we find when in the relative comfort of our right-wing extremist friends.
It’s mere anecdotal evidence, of course, and we further concede we run in some atypical circles, but in our experience the talk of revolution and even guillotines is not uncommon and often seems more than rhetorical among liberals. We still recall the lithe and comely young hipsterette at a local dive who expressed her eagerness to fight it out in the streets with such nasty Republicans as ourselves, the countless comments by politically correct guests at locally swank cocktail parties about how certain Republican women weren’t really women at all, and all the threateningly indignant comments by the most unexpected people about how Bruce Jenner really is a woman, although maybe not because he or she might be a Republican, and all the things confessed in in honesty before the speaker realized when we were one Them, not to mention that a self-described socialist’s call for “revolution” is currently threatening the liberal “establishment” candidate at a time when that label is as odious to the left as it is to the right.
This seems peculiar from our geographical and ideological perspective, where our grievances are stated from a long-fixed position and can thus be objectively measured by the dangerous distance our country has been dragged leftward over the past seven years, but even in our anger we try to be empathetic. Those angry folks on the left are judging events by the distance of their ever leftward-drifting hopes against the evermore elusive reality of the socially just Utopia of their dreams, and they’re still so infatuated with the hopes of the change that the past seven years would bring they can’t help look for scapegoats and demagogues, and as always there are plenty available on both the left and right, so we try to be understanding enough to avoid any thoughts of guillotines.
We caught the first half of an important conference ‘Shocker game at a notorious dive just across the street from the local university and on the edge of a very rough part of town, and were reminded of the times when one of the more annoying regulars the was disappointed to learn that we don’t want Donald Trump executed or, at the very least, tortured, and further surprised to learn that we didn’t even wish execution or torture on President Barak Obama, and that we merely wished them both happy lives outside the sphere of public influence. Given the current rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum, we’ll give that psychopath some benefit of the doubt. We were somewhat hearted by a brief conversation with an old friend of ours, a delightful woman and locally legendary hard-rock drummer who is currently featured in an all girl punk trio with of her longtime best friends’ daughters, and although that single and hard-working and hard-rock drumming woman was coming from the Democratic side of the demographic divide she seemed to share our hope that some sort of center will hold. She agreed with us that the Democrat’s “establishment” candidate should probably be jailed in some humane prison, and that our party’s “anti-establishment” front-runner should be banished to real estate investments and reality television, and we both admitted that our hopes aren’t high even for our necessarily angriest anti-establishment candidates.
Although we hold out faint hope that the future of our Republic will be favorably decided at the ballot box by an informed public choosing between red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism and the compassionate Judeo-Christian tradition and a stifling socialistic bureaucracy and all that insistent post sexual-revolution social justice stuff, we acknowledge it will likely come down to which side can best harness all the anger that is clearly brewing out there. We’re not at all certain how that might work out, and at this point we’ll settle for the center holding.

— Bud Norman

Our Republican Response to the Republican Response to the Republican Response

What turned out to be an Iliad-and-Odyssey-like quest to purchase a two-dollar replacement nose pad for an aging pair of spectacles put us in the dreaded rush hour traffic of the unlovely and all-too-busy near-west side on Wednesday evening, so to suit our mood we tuned the comfortingly old-fashioned AM radio in our aging automobile onto one of the angrier talk radio talkers. Although we’re usually not inclined to listen to the host’s shrieking diatribes, even if we do mostly agree with what he’s shrieking about, we thought it might pleasantly kill the time at those interminable near-west side traffic stops to hear someone shrieking about that awful State of the Union speech President Barack Obama gave the night before. By the time we finally found our way back to home we had acquired the rare and elusive nose pad, alleviating a slight but annoying pain in the nose, but something in in our old-fashioned Republican soul remained unsettled by the road rage and other rancor we encountered.
Our reliable host eventually got around to a spittle-spewing rant on the president’s infuriating address, with all the capital letters and multiple explanations marks and sneering nicknames and other rhetorical frothing we studiously avoided in our own previously-published grousing on the matter, which we’d like to think conveyed our disgust amply nonetheless, but he spent the first segment of his show grousing with same spittle-spewing and capitalized and exclamation marked disgust about the Republican Party’s traditional response to the speech. Similarly outraged Republican responses to the Republicans’ response were all over the conservative corners of the internet, so it suddenly seems that every wing of our Republican party is as angry about the others as they are about anyone else. To hear that radio host go on about you’d think he’s even angrier about his own party than he is Obama, and that’s saying a lot. We’ve oft shared our own reservation’s about our party’s too-frequent timidity, albeit with what we like to think is our more light and literary touch, but in this case the outrage seems inordinate.
In this case the Republican response was offered by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, whom we hardly consider an enemy of the conservative cause. She’s a woman, but with an “a” rather than a “y,” and she’s of Indian-from-India descent, but is proudly Christian and has proudly never hyphenated her Americanism, and the reliably conservative people and thus reputedly sexist and xenophobic people of South Carolina seem to like her, so we’ve formed a generally favorable impression of her of admirable career of confounding the Democrats’ convoluted theory of identity politics. She’s struck some less-than-perfect political bargains in a state that was until recently dominated by a Democratic Party that still has a significant and loyal black population to make it a significant player, but even the most famously tough negotiators on the Republican slate will eventually come up against that sort of thing, and she agreed to remove to confederate battle flag from the public square if not from the roof of the “Dukes oF Hazzard” muscle car, but as Bleeding Kansas Republicans so old-fashioned that our Republicanism goes all the way back to Abraham Lincoln we can’t object to such unbiased Unionism and abolitionism. In any case, as we assess her generally low-tax and low-spending ways, we worry that if the likes of South Carolina’s Gov. Haley are banished from conservatism we’ll be left inside a very small tent.
And what were her offending remarks? So far as we can tell, she he went so far as to say that “Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.” To compound the offense, she went to say that “In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a false tendency to equate noise with results.” To those who are blissfully unaware of recent internecine Republican politics these might seem blandly true blandishments, or perhaps even a well-deserved jab against the Obama administration’s fear-mongering and divisive rhetoric and the perilous situation it has wrought, along with his blithe dismissals of the very viable threats facing America, along with the academic and media culture that has echoed his efforts, but to those in the know it was readily understood as an attack on Republican front-runner real estate mogul Donald Trump and perhaps even his most troublesome conservative rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Both of the two most potential Republican nominees have been conspicuously angry lately, along with most of the Republican Party and a big chunk of the Democrats, and after that stupid Toyota took long enough to crawl to a left turn we’re angry enough ourselves to understand her remarks accordingly. Her words are frustrating, we must admit, given how very rational and quite forgivable our anger seems.
Still, we retain a respect for Gov. Haley and her advice about not letting anger get the best of us. It is redolent of our beloved Lincoln and his his memorable exhortation during our nation’s darkest hour of “malice towards none, and charity toward all,” and that Burkean claim to the best of our civilization’s traditions, and both the Enlightenment’s and the Christians’ appeal to “come, let us reason together,” and all that Greek stuff about rationalism, so as annoyed as one can become in a near-west side traffic jam with the understandably peeved talk radio talkers talking their compelling complaints we have tried to keep calm within our old-fashioned Republican soul. Given our own mixed record of scraps with equally angered folks, so we’re temperamentally inclined toward to any peaceful resolution that preserves both our liberty and our generously accommodating sense of justice, and we scan the dial enough to note that those even crazier Democrats have their thoroughly corrupt establishment candidate vs. insurrectionist and outright socialist anger thing gong on. At this point we’re clinging to the desultory hope that a perfectly calibrated candidacy of public anger will prevail, and that the most non-socialist and least-authoritarian candidate will wind up as president, and that both reason and tradition and the Enlightment and Christianity all the rest of that Burkean and Greek stuff will somehow sort all this stuff and that all those angry radio talkers will have some good news to proclaim and that the near-west side traffic lights will eventually turn green.

— Bud Norman