The Art of Discourse

The weather continues to improve as I am reminded that we are on the eve of the Great Snowjam of 2014. If you were not in the Atlanta environs, the anniversary probably holds no distinction for you. For people in Atlanta, it was the apocalypse. It was the time when the Republican/Tea Party no government folks showed the brilliance of their philosophies by having a million people sit stranded in their cars for hours and hours.

Of course, the spin now is, that the public was at fault because they all left from work at the same time. Ignoring a hundred years of the quitting whistle going off at 5 o’clock every day, the Governor wants to deflect his ineptitude to the fact that everyone created a traffic jam by leaving for home at the same time. Just like they do every day. Two inches of snow brought a major metropolitan area to its knees, and the government was powerless to help.

Powerless, or the government’s lack of concern for the citizenry provided their raison d’etre for not preemptively providing services. The Repubican Tea Partiers have come up with this great concept of governing. Pay me to do nothing. Send me to the Capitol and I promise I won’t do anything but cash my check. What a great job if you can get it. It set my mind to wondering where this line of thinking came from, and, where Republicans turned the corner from folks like Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower to nut jobs like Ted Cruz.

Turns out, there’s a documentary that parallels the timing of the schism, and the documentary includes one of the major players. The documentary is “Best of Enemies”, and it details the debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal prior to the 1968 elections. William F. Buckley was the founder and editor of  the National Review magazine, and from his podium he espoused the ideas that only the elite, of which he was one, should have any say.

Now in his mind, he thought he was in favor of democracy, he just didn’t see how letting every one having an equal say was good for the country. Buckley also was not in favor of “big government”, and he despised programs that benefited the general population. He was a smart guy, well educated, and spoke with a patrician, condescending tone that I’m sure was cultivated to make him appear to be all knowing.

Condemned by his own words, I’ll give you a Buckley quote on integration in the South and the struggle we were having: “The central question that emerges—and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal—is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”  

Ok, so now we know how the elite feel about preserving their place in a Democracy. Speaking for the regular folks is Gore Vidal.

Vidal is equally educated and extremely erudite. The fact that Vidal can claim more “roots” in the elitist area of society than his nemesis, Buckley, gives rise to the idea that Vidal came to liberalism as an intellectual process. Vidal was also a prolific writer. He wrote a great many histories of American figures, as well as eye opening fiction.

While he was a progressive, and ran for office as a Democrat, he was very realistic about the American political system, as he asserts here, “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party . . . and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt – until recently . . . and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.”

Not exactly a yellow dog Democrat, but still well left of where Buckley operated.

The classic debates between Buckley and Vidal were hosted by ABC and are studies in intellectual mayhem. If either contestant had been capable of exploding his opponent’s brain by power of thought, they would have done it. The fact that the debates ended in Buckley calling Vidal a “queer” and threatening physical violence, points out the intensity of the feelings between them. It also points out the winner of the debates. “When you lose your temper, you’ve lost the argument”, as the old saying goes.

For an immediate increase in IQ, and an insight in to how Buckley convinced politicians, starting with Reagan, that government was the problem, not the solution, check out “The Best of Enemies“. You might have to watch it twice to catch it all. Having a dictionary close at hand is a good idea too.

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