Skip to main content

Hi...for those who may be interested, I humbly proffer the following: My most recent column for North Star Writers - basically my take on what the defeat of McCain means in a broader sense (as if you don't get enough of that kind of thing around here already).

In any event, I'd be curious to know what y'all think.

David B. Livingstone

To the relief of the mature, civilized world – that is, the world beyond the territorial borders of the United States – it is starting to look as if the clumsy, belligerent bully on the international block may be finally forced into something resembling adulthood. By all appearances, Americans seem poised to elect Barack Obama as George W. Bush’s successor in the oval office, a turn of events seemingly inconceivable a few short years ago; with this seismic shift in the American political landscape, a curtain will finally and permanantly fall upon arguably the most puerile, self-absorbed, and wilfully ignorant period in this country’s history, the era of Cowboy Conservatism.

Failed actor Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected to the presidency in 1980 on the strength of his career’s single solid performance: His reinvention of himself as the grandfatherly, straight-talking spiritual heir to an earlier generation of rough-and-ready politicians. Where a man such as Theodore Roosevelt came by his plainspoken populist credentials and his rough-hewn, saddle-born public image organically, Reagan could only offer a cardboard-cutout approximation honed on a Hollywood backlot; nonetheless, a country battered by Nixonian scandal and Carter-era incompetence, fearfully searching for a savior to lead it out of its "malaise" (to cite Carter’s term), would prove more than receptive to the charms of the vague, vacantly-cheerful Californian.

Apart from denoting a sharp rightward shift in the sentiments of the American electorate, the election of Reagan marked the institutionalization of the Cowboy Conservative meme. Even absent its "Great Communicator," the Republican party would succeed in recycling this manufactured mythos through two subsequent presidencies and in countless senatorial and congressional contests, culminating in the successful re-imagining of east-coast frat boy George W. Bush as a rugged texas rancher. As a quintessentially American mythology resonant throughout popular culture, the John-Wayne-as-commander-in-chief seemed almost magical in its ability to continually reinforce itself; a populace eager to view itself, against all reason, as a band of hardy individualists seemed endlessly willing to continually reinvest its faith into an ideology responsible for the disappearance of their jobs, the decimation of their constitutional rights, and the erosion of their standard of living provided it continued to be packaged and sold under the cowboy brand.

Unfortunately for latterday pretend-cowpoke John McCain repetition and dilution have a corrosive effect upon even the most beloved of brands, and was McCain’s misfortune to saddle himself with this shopworn myth, even as it became evident that it was clearly well on its way to joining "Gunsmoke" and Twenty Mule Team Borax in oblivion. As America’s population of Marshal Dillon-reared white people ages and dwindles, Cowboy Conservatism’s market appeal becomes ever further restricted to a narrow niche of the electorate who are somehow capable of maintaining the unweildly construct of illusion layered upon illusion that is required in order to fully believe in the exceptionalism and entitlement the myth promises.

This infantile, ill-fitting belief system, rooted in narcissistic self-involvement, may have been comforting for a television-fixated populace incapable or unwilling to acknowledge the grimmer realities of American life, but it certainly ensured that the inevitable ultimate reckoning with certain long-denied facts would be be more painful than it might have been. It was Cowboy Conservatism that led the U.S. into two failed wars and massive economic collapse; it now seems apparent to all but the most fervent Palinites that it will take something more substantive than a shopworn myth to lead it back out again.

There are already efforts afoot to follow one catastrophic long-term delusion with another: Given its way, the mediocracy will more than happily saddle Barack Obama, should he be elected, with a destructive mythos of his own, as the second coming of a JFK or FDR. For the good of the country and of the wider world, one can only hope that Obama resolutely rejects such efforts. The challenges America faces in 2008 call for more than palliative infantile mythmaking; they demand a task-oriented, committed, adult approach focused upon long term solutions. Neither cowboys nor Camelot are up to that task.

Originally posted to on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 06:01 PM PST.


Should I periodically post these columns here?

55%27 votes
12%6 votes
6%3 votes
4%2 votes
10%5 votes
8%4 votes
4%2 votes

| 49 votes | Vote | Results

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    Only if you feel so inclined.

    Thanks for reading.

    It's called the american dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. - G. Carlin

    by RabidNation on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 06:02:34 PM PST

  •  We have more than 28 hours before we can speak (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of "McCain's defeat."

    I will not be relaxed until the current thug in the White House is expelled from it, and perhaps not even then.

    There is not and will not be time or resources for gloating.

    •  hm. (0+ / 0-)

      not really so much about gloating, for me, although some of that isn't so bad.

      it's about calling things what they are. and shaming can be a powerful weapon; the last thing american reactionaries want is to be broadly perceived as the ridiculous and primitive species that they are.

      "gloating" in this context, to my way of thinking, involves the relegation of these cretins to their rightful status in the pecking order of popular perception. they should not be afforded dignity, respect, or credibility.

      It's called the american dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. - G. Carlin

      by RabidNation on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 06:39:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't want to be like them. (0+ / 0-)

        They are wrong about everything; they have been malicious; they have been vicious; they have been cruel.

        But all these things were true of the Confederacy, but Lincoln said, "Let 'em up easy."

        All those things were true about the Apartheid Gov't, but when the time came, Nelson Mandela established himself in history when he asked for both truth and conciliation.

        We will do no good if we behave the way our opponents behaved.   We need to be better than them if we wish to truly win.

  •  The party of 3 year olds (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RabidNation, melpomene1

    will not grow up , ain't gunna happen .

    "I don;t need to , because I don't give a shit who YOU are" MAORCA ***mean people suck***

    by indycam on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 06:07:19 PM PST

  •  I've thought all along (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RabidNation, pepper mint

    that this election could demonstrate whether the US has grown up or not. I'm hoping that's the case, although there are still so many indicators that it really hasn't, and that this is simply a Democratic year after a long period of Republican malfeasance.

    "You can't negotiate with reality" - James Kunstler

    by Bob Love on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 06:31:29 PM PST

    •  It really does come down to that. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Love, bablhous

      Living here, being here, growing up here colors one's perceptions...until you get OUT of it, you never realize how strangely infantile American culture is, and how narcissistic so many Americans are. It's a really weird mindset when viewed from outside.

      I don't blame individuals for it so much. I blame the acculturation mechanisms we've all been subject to, television preeminent above them. From infancy on, we are trained what to become by television, and its influence seems to me to be especially malignant here.

      It's called the american dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. - G. Carlin

      by RabidNation on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 06:36:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very nicely written (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RabidNation, bablhous

    The "adults" meme is a good one to spread as loudly and as often as possible.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site