November 26, 2008

Shameless Revisionism: Election Rants, 2004 Edition

Oh, so you thought that Shameless Revisionism was gone forever, didn't you? Well...so did I, but the final months of 2008 proved extremely fertile in the Gonzo Political Rant department, so those would have to be anthologized eventually, right? However, that day is not today (though it will be soon). No, today we delve back into the past once again, back before Democrats were winners again, when Republican crazies claimed infinite power, and American liberals despaired of any future electoral victories. Remember, that was before the Dem congressional gains in 2006, let alone Barack Obama's coronation as the Great Re-Branding of America this year. Now, I'm as happy about his November victory as the next squishy liberal, but lest we all get too cocky, we should remember what it was like back in the dark days of not so long ago, of 2004, when we lost—lost narrowly, and lost badly.

Yes, folks, 2004—when Massachusetts senator John Kerry teamed up with North Carolina senator John Edwards to wrest the Democratic Party nomination from Howard Dean, governor of Vermont, only to be sliced and diced by the evil Bush/Cheney ticket on Election Day. As I might have said before, that particular day was my 28th birthday, so it wasn't a happy day in many ways, but it did herald a great return to form in terms of me writing for fun and amusement, and sharpened my skills enough to begin spewing out my protracted, long-suffering Great Suburban Novel. I held back on anthologizing this stuff in the original Dubious Ventures compilation, but what with my continued output in 2008, I figured I should throw in some of the other stuff to see if any evolution happened.

So let's get to my four-year-old posts, which all show me shaking off the dust of illiteracy and, once again, crudely apeing the style of Hunter S. Thompson in a desperate effort to find my own twisted linguistic voice. Click on a post's title to read the whole thing.

The Ghost of Muskie Haunts Iowa (Jan. 20, 2004)
When I began this silly thing called Dubious Ventures in late 2003, I'd promised to never make it a "political blog," but then I broke that vow pretty quick once the presidential campaign began kicking into high gear and Howard Dean was stomping on the terra. It was all too easy to get caught up in the quasi-excitement and bookie-enthusiasm of like-minded political junkies, but for some strange reason my ego failed me and I still didn't have the guts to post this stuff on the various liberal political blogs that I read so much of back then. Anyway my first one dealt with the Iowa caucuses:

The freak finish, Kerry-Edwards-Dean-Gephardt, certainly looks strange at first glance, considering the amount of Dean-frenzy in the past year, but the inside-baseball talk is already calling the nomination for Big John. Oh sure, Kerry will now have to face General Clark, who abandoned Iowa, and who's been hiding out in the New Hampshire snows for weeks now, and the two old soldiers may indeed maul each other to death yet, because if Kerry's victory speech was any indicator, El Lurcho is still tired and listless despite regaining his precious frontrunner status. His main line of assertion at this point, that of "electability," is eerily similar to that of another glowering golem from primaries past: Ed Muskie of Maine, who crashed and burned at the feet of George McGovern way back in 1972, despite wide acclaim for Muskie as the only man who could beat Nixon.
Watching C-SPAN so You Don't Have To (Jan. 28, 2004)
As the campaign staggered into New Hampshire and began to shake itself out, I realized that I wasn't writing anything that professional pundits and goofy bloggers across America weren't saying already, never mind the Thompson re-treadings. That didn't stop me from continuing down the same well-worn path of insanity, of course—it merely made me a willing tool down in the minor-minor-minor-leagues of opinionated self-importance—and since I'd done the whole DIY thing with bands, why not make that excuse here, even if everything was hopelessly derivative? I even dragged a fictionalized version of Honey White's illustrious guitar player into things:
Brian and I argued briefly over the quantity of bullshit coursing through the bowels of "electability," and my genius guitarist observed that perception, in this case "perceived electability," holds a voodoo-like sway over so-called "Flyover Country." We sneered in unison at our own cleverness, and finished our conversation beating up on Joe Lieberman. "He's behaving like a crazy old lady," laughed Brian, phoning it in from San Francisco, "like some inverted, Faulknerian she-troll that keeps a decaying corpse of Scoop Jackson in her attic."

"Totally," I replied. "Only in the world of Lieberman-gothic would we ever hear a crime against English like the word 'Joementum." After we hung up I pondered some more confusing minutiae. For instance, throughout the week Kerry kept insisting that he was not the frontrunner and kept campaigning like he was fifteen points down, as if he could almost smell the inevitable media barbs that always aim for Number One. Kerry further insulated himself behind a phalanx of veterans, who manned the phone banks on his behalf, repeating to anyone within earshot that "outsider anger" was a losing formula that would drag the party back into the wilderness of defeat.
Enduring a Frigid Interlude in New Mexico (Feb. 10, 2004)
Bryn and I really did jet off to Santa Fe to spend some quality time in the snow with our aunt and uncle, but things weren't really as crazed as I tried to make it appear in this essay. We really did have big plans, but each and every one of them succumbed to a violent bout of sloth once we finally got settled. So not such a bad stab at travelogue, but still not great.
That's right, for the past week or so, I've been hunkered down in one of America's weirdest locales, shivering like a popsicle and unable to rouse myself into few activities more complicated than eating, excreting, and sleeping. Santa Fe has turned me into a hibernating animal, and all because my brother and I needed to get the hell away from Isla Vista for a week. We were long overdue for a visit—I'd last been in 1999, and it had been longer for Bryn, so with a break in Honey White rehearsals before a show later this month, we decided to fly up the mountain to endure the last lashings of winter. This being an election year, I thought maybe we'd observe the aftermath of the New Mexico Democratic caucuses, preferably in the company of our good college buddy Crazy Jon Neal, who had somehow elbowed his way into Wesley Clark's fizzling campaign. Ideally, we could do it all while taking in a Cracker show—the rootsy alterna-clowns would be rocking the Paramount on February 4th.
Super (Thanks for Asking!) Tuesday (Mar. 3, 2004)
I posted a slew of tiny rants leading up to Super Tuesday, when about 16 states held primaries—including here in California—because lots of other newsworthy things had been going on: the Dean campaign's implosion, a baseball exorcism in Chicago, and a Honey White gig at UCSB. Once again, I fictionalized a band member—Bryn this time, ranting about John Edwards—so clearly my priorities were running headlong-Gonzo away from normal journalism, but since I'd never really been a journalist in the first place, that was okay, I guess.
As for Johnny Sunshine, he put up a good fight against Kerry in WI but his wave had already crested in that state, and after coming close only in one other primary—Georgia, by 3.5%—Edwards closed his campaign early on Super Tuesday, peppering his concession speech with lots of praise for John Kerry. My brother was livid at this—the California polls hadn't even closed before Edwards threw in the towel. "That Crisco-headed bastard!" fumed Bryn. "I was still registered as a Green, so I had to write in his name on the goddamn ballot—probably at the same time he was verbally fellating John Kerry!"

I laughed at the time, but soon realized that Kerry would be in for some tough weeks courtesy of the Illiberal Media, and El Lurcho may not have the long-term stamina to survive such an onslaught. It would have been hard on Edwards, too—he surely would have crashed into negative numbers during the long wasteland between now and the August Democratic Convention in Boston. Edwards would have ended up at some low-rent exorcism of bad karma, like the one held in the Harry Caray Restaurant in Chicago a few weeks ago, where the infamous "Bartman Ball" from the Cubs' ill-fated 2003 playoff appearance would be ceremoniously destroyed for all to see.
Three More Weeks of Nail-Biting Insanity (Oct. 12, 2004)
I brought almost everyone in the band into this one, a semi-ficitonalized account of Honey White's 3rd long weekend in the San Francisco studio where we made our How Far is the Fall album. Unfortunately, we all sound like puppets of the same point of view, what with spouting off about polls and stuff. Perversely, only Billy was spared inclusion, since he wasn't actually there, but he is conveniently replaced in this piece by our engineer Jonathan Mayer. The whole thing was supposed to be a bent commentary from all of us on the circus that was the Bush-Kerry debates late in the campaign, but it turned into much more of a band thing:
2004’s campaign inevitably poked its hideous head into the studio several times. One bad joke about Bush from Jon and we were off—no dipshit Republican was safe from our passive-aggressive liberalized vitriol, and Joe Lieberman would have felt skittish in that company, too. The tipping point came and went earlier this month, though, when Brian joined up with DJ Monkey Mike and his crew of canvassers on a registration drive to Reno. Our genius guitarist had already skipped out on one session back in September (as it degenerated into simultaneous diva-tastic displays from Bryn and I) to go see the Pixies with Owen in Berkeley, so the rest of us were only mildly impressed when Brian sauntered into the studio at our most recent session, dispensing Kerry/Edwards buttons like they were shiny new silver dollars. “Oooh,” said Jon the engineer, “they’ll look great next to my vintage McGovern and Mondale buttons. All I need is a Dukakis, and I’ll have the complete set!” I smirked at him and turned to Brian. “Yeah, don’t get cocky, dude. You should know that by now; when Democrats get the hubris bug, they’re almost guaranteed to crash and burn.”
So all in all, nothing too earth-shattering in terms of writing quality—indeed, I would discover later that year that none other than Matt Taibbi had penned an awesome screed on the 2004 campaign, Spanking the Donkey, and he of course did it much better and funnier than I could ever hope to do. By the bitter end, of course, I turned into a jabbering puddle of weepy goo, but since I've included that in another Shameless Revisionism post I'll spare everyone the ugly flashback.

Anyway, like I promised, we'll get to the crazier crap from 2008 next time. Hopefully that can be as early as this weekend, since it's a holiday.

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