Midwestern Summer '08: Zooey, Pork & Beans, and John McCain
by Jeff Dinelli
How long, O Lord....How long? Where will it end? The only possible good that can come of this wretched campaign is the ever-increasing likelihood that it will cause the Democratic Party to self-destruct. --Hunter S. Thompson Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, 1972
A scorching suburban summer has begun here in northern Illinois. Every area small town is holding their yearly festivals with their requisite brawling beer gardens of Cubs vs. Sox fans and same creaking carnival rides operated by men with more missing teeth than a minor league hockey player. Carefully manicured lawns mask the wife-swapping, ditchweed-smoking dysfunctionals inside the look-alike Monopoly houses, who scream at their little league kids Saturday afternoons, participate in drunken skinny-dipping orgies after nightfall, then dutifully attend their cult-like non-denominational Christian Church on Sundays before the NASCAR race starts. Local police have broken out their latest technology: undercover, unmarked Suburbans, Tauruses and Firebirds, eagerly pulling people over for malfunctioning lights or unfastened seat belts and happily handing out tickets for out-of-date insurance cards (if universal health care is a Socialist construct, as Republicans claim, shouldn't mandatory car insurance likewise meet the criterea?). I-55, which turns into the Stevenson Expressway, is a parking lot again, with its annual lane-closures. The new summer tunes are blasting out of car or pool-side party stereos: Lil' Wayne is now the best rapper in the biz, while nerd-rockers Weezer have scored big with their catchy sing-along single "Pork & Beans", causing a YouTuber phenomenon with the video, my 8-year-old desperately searching for the chords on his mock Gibson Les Paul, and my five-year-old to sing his first anti-authoritarian lyrics ("I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like / I'm fine and dandy with the Me inside"). Kudos to good guy Jon Favreau for directing the best summer blockbuster so far in "Iron Man", but according to collegue Kevin Smith, the Big One has yet to be released, "The Dark Knight":
Without giving anything away, this is an epic film (and trust me: based on the sheer size and scope of the visuals and storytelling, that's not an overstatement). It's the "Godfather II" of comic book films and three times more earnest than "Batman Begins" (and fuck, was that an earnest film). Easily the most adult comic book film ever made. Heath Ledger didn't so much give a performance as he disappeared completely into the role; I know I'm not the first to suggest this, but he'll likely get at least an Oscar nod (if not the win) for Best Supporting Actor. Fucking flick's nearly three hours long and only leaves you wanting more (in a great way). I can't imagine anyone being disappointed by it. Nolan and crew have created something close to a masterpiece.
But clearly summer's biggest star is uber-indie-film Queen Zooey Deschanel, who not only stars in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening", not only carries Sundance favorite "The Go-Getter" with only her voice, but also teams up with singer-songwriter M. Ward to create a suprise critical darling of a cd called She & Him. If only she were running for president, because guess what else is becoming a favorite activity out here? Not so much the (out loud) dissing of our first-term Senator, Barack Obama, but the reconsidering of John McCain.
What is clearly evident is we're in the lead-up period of what Jon Stewart is already hilariously calling "Baracknaphobia." Right now what one hears is making sure the "liberals" don't take over the country, you know, the satanic, Sixties-lovers who burn the flag, are tolerant of Muslims, want to destroy free enterprise and place everything under strict government control. Once in a while you'll hear something about Obama being a Harvard intellectual with no military experience (as opposed to -- actual quote from a local -- "McCain was a flippin' POW in Vietnam for years, Man! And where was Obama? Snorting coke and studying Islam?"), but so far it's more the liberal brand name that is the enemy.
Just because George Bush is unpopular doesn't mean this is by any means a lock for Dems to recapture the White House. I don't care about the double-digit lead Obama sports right now, in late June. The ideas of Newt Gingrich's Republican revolution are still very much alive. Right-wing talk radio is still one of the most popular formats on radio. We on the left may have thought it was wonderful that a woman and a black guy fought it out for our side of the ticket, but now that the dust has settled (we're over that fight, I, perhaps naively, assume) none of that matters, because look at what McCain is doing. He's donning the decades-long cape of American conservatism that pre-dates Nixon. He's running against two ideas that have bills with his name on them, campaign finance reform and immigration policy. He's now pro-life, pro-Bush tax cuts, pro-torture, pro-evangelists like Joel Osteen, and anti-Mexican immigrants, all of which are complete reversals. Lookee thar, Rush and Hannity listeners, he's one of you, after all.
Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi nails it when he writes:
But the idea that John McCain is kicking off his trek to the White House by fleeing at top-end speed from the faltering Republican brand is the kind of absurdly facile misperception that only the American campaign press could swallow whole. The reality is that the once independent-thinking McCain has by now completely remade himself into a prototypical, dumbed-down Republican Party stooge — one who plans to rely on the same GOP strategy that has been winning elections ever since Pat Buchanan and Dick Nixon cooked up a plan for cleaving the South back in 1968. Rather than serving up the "straight talk" he promises, McCain is enthusiastically jumping aboard with every low-rent, fearmongering, cock-sucking presidential aspirant who's ever traveled the Lee Atwater/William Safire highway.
There will be no ideology behind this campaign. We will see Michelle Obama hates America, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, racist/communist/elitist/socialist/Muslim undertones, not tough on terror, won't wear his lapel-pin....it's the same shit we've seen our whole lives, updated to fit 2008 themes.
And it's gonna work. Because America always has been and always will be full of Fear and Hate. After all the American flags and the military photo-ops and the Hillary-inspired "white America" crap, it's gonna take a lot more than "Change" and a Bob The Builder slogan to beat these twisted bastards. The McCain Team isn't stupid. They hear the same comments I'm hearing, the same questions of handing over the reins to a young madrassa/Jeremiah Wright-educated Muslim BLACK guy during wartime.
This summer-into-fall is gonna be stupid. It's gonna be ugly. And the race is gonna be closer than you think. At least I have my tickets to see She & Him at the Park West in mid-August, and a healthy supply of Tequila to make it through the conventions. Turn up the Zooey and hold the training wheels, Boys, this is gonna be a rough one.