Concrete R vs composite D

February 8, 2020 at 9:35 am (By Amba) (, )

Reading this article this morning, after watching that lamentable debate, I got the sinking feeling that Michael Bloomberg is going to be foisted on us. He and his backers banked on (pun intended) the emergence of that void we saw last night. While the Republicans are a phalanx (of white men in suits), Democrats are a gaggle. Their diversity is their disunity. So by default they are going to hire a proxy, their own white man in a suit with a fortune, who represents none of them. It’s a weak position.

For some reason I started thinking of it in terms of construction materials.

Republicans are the “rump” of the old, white, Christian America that had three TV networks and 16 baseball teams and the AFL-CIO and a Fourth of July picnic cuisine, garnished with a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving banquet. Note that I’m nostalgically exaggerating the unity of that lost America, just as its embattled fetishizers do. In reality that America was always riven by “the narcissism of small differences” between Christian denominations and European immigrant groups contending for assimilation, and patrolled by vigilant contrast with those it would never take in because they would freckle its complexion and relativize its religion. Still, it had a unity, a mass, an aspirational uniformity. It was an identifiable substance, Americanness, homogeneous as Wonder Bread and solid as concrete. Its remnant is like an old pillbox bunker on a sea bluff. Weatherbeaten, shrinking and eroding on the outside as it loses chips and chunks to the elements, at its core it is still uniform and, if nothing else, it still coheres.

Democrats are everyone else. They are—someone in construction please help me out with the terminology here—like an amalgam or composite with insufficient binder. It hasn’t yet fused into a substance with enough consistency and alignment to hold a shape and have tensile strength. It keeps crumbling back into its components. When you look at the Democratic field of candidates, they embody this. Each is a different piece. None is the binder that can hold it all together.

The Democrats and the coming-to-be America they attempt to represent have never recovered from the assassinations of April and June, 1968.

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