This version, rather than a bewitching literary nostalgia trip is a horror film. At midnight Parisian sewers empty out their European socialists who invade the minds of wholesome, impressionable Americans. Less Midnight in Paris really than Death on the Installment Plan…Celine’s version would be intentionally hilarious at least
Inconsiderate of conservative political needs communism inconveniently disappeared, leaving Mexican immigrants or Big Government to do the heavy lifting as bête noire. In the case of the latter of course racial resentment has been the underlying theme since the mid-Sixties. Prior to that Americans’ view of government was quite favorable and expectations of benefit from its largesse high and widely shared. Hammering hard at the lingering racial stereotypes was a relatively easy way for conservatives to sour many white Americans on the character and motivation of the newly enfranchised, and the government now dubiously devoted to incorporating them into the family, the sales pitch went.
Still, with a recession-flayed electorate feeling the weight of several decades of stagnant wages, trickle-down bupkis, and a greed-fueled private sector crackup, many erstwhile members of the middle-class reliant upon food stamps, unemployment insurance or their beloved Medicare and Social Security challenging times may lie ahead for the confident purveyors of anti-government kitsch. Dissuading voters from the persuasiveness of the proposition that Big Corporations and Big Wealth have both tyrannized their democracy and their own lives and economic circumstances may not be so easy either, despite how consistently and persistently Republican do the bidding of those related tyrannies.
Of course many a Democratic politician has lost an election underestimating the potency of conservatives’ powers of scarification. Give credit to the public relations pips on the American right for pairing what for them are two of the most distasteful words in the political lexicon: European and socialist. Hence, a two-headed gargoyle menacing yet vague has been created, even if a little desperately with the demise of international communism and the slowdown in border-crossings. It’s hard out there for a demagogue.
Nevertheless, offering instruction to American voters on the subject of the origins of our American government in the European Enlightenment probably isn’t a winning strategy. Same goes for helpfully providing a proper definition of socialism. The bunco artists on the right are aware of this of course. Newt Gingrich, now bitterly divorced from subtlety too, has the crudest pitch, calling Obama “the food stamp president” and going hard to the racist pleasure spot. I’m going out on a limb and guessing that when Newt posits the choice between Saul Alinsky and the Declaration of Independence, they’re not presented as worthy equivalents. Am I right, Newt?
When Mitt Romney says Obama doesn’t believe in work he’s baldly lying of course, and in lieu of the preferable alternative of thoroughly explaining things to him in a dark alley the best antidote to this is the reliable common sense of American voters. Otherwise, Romney’s problem dressing up Obama in the Halloween digs of European socialism is twofold. For one, he looks a little European himself, suggesting the perfumed spiffiness of a French business elite or International Monetary Fund bureaucrat. Secondly, many take a look at Romney and think too many deadbeats living off their investments for twenty years like him is what is wrong with capitalism, as they experience declining wages and foreclosed homes. In which case socialism, whatever the fuck it is, is looking better.
While some older voters may associate Europe with Seventies labor problems and stagflation that also plagued the United States by the way, younger voters are more likely to associate it with the European Union juggernaut. For Republicans, progress and modernization are the enemies here, meaning broad-based deep prosperity currently more likely in Europe, what for several post-war decades was a staple here. But it presents an imminent threat to America’s currently top-down, neo feudalistic model doggedly preserved and lovingly favored by our conservative friends.
For the right, it is a mythology dependent on voters never knowing Europeans possess superior health care systems, more modern infrastructure, in some cases (Germany) much lower unemployment, better working conditions, GDP as good or better than ours, less wealth inequality and a much greater opportunity for economic mobility. But if they sell it hard, they hope and believe European socialism will remain just another way of saying hellhole.
Of course, one man’s hellhole is another man’s (mine) gas lamps and Baudelaire, so bring the European on. But if the economy continues trending improvement, none of this will matter anyhow. The European socialist is going to wipe the electoral floor with the private equity hero of capitalism.