Politics is a duty, poetry is a need. —Alexandros Panagoulis (I think it was Panagoulis who said this. It's been rattling around in my head for years associated with him, but I cannot find the quote to confirm that he is the source. It could be that Oriana Fallaci attributed it to him in her novel A Man. I'm pretty sure I did not say it except by way of quotation.)
My focus for the past month has been on the Portland International Film Festival, and it has been a blast. Not that I have neglected current affairs and reports of each day's fresh outrage from the Trump regime. I just haven't been blathering about it. Time to get back to it with some not quite random thoughts bubbling to the surface this morning.
Does anyone share my prurient curiosity about what the conversation around the Conway dinner table is like these days? If you've somehow missed this story, Caitlin Oprysko's piece at Politico will bring you up to speed: Trump calls George Conway a 'husband from hell' to top aide Kellyanne.
I am baffled by the whoop-de-doo over Beto O'Rourke now that he has thrown his cowboy hat into the ring. I assume it's a cowboy hat, Beto being from Texas and all. Maybe it's a baseball cap worn backward or sidewise or something. Beto is likable, bright, seems like a decent guy you might enjoy drinking a beer with in a bar, although he may not be the guy you'd ask to give you a ride home afterward. His record is sufficiently unadorned for people to read into it what they will, the primary accomplishment for which he is known being a noble loss to the pinhead Ted Cruz in last year's Senate contest. The media hog-callers, punditocracy, party hacks, and lest we forget that amorphous beast reified under the heading the people are ever on the lookout for someone to anoint as the phenomenon who will lead us from the wilderness. Maybe it is not so baffling after all.
David Brooks at the New York Times and the PBS NewsHour sometimes throws out a nice observation, as with this from Friday's broadcast: "And one of the things that Beto and AOC have in common is that, at a time, frankly, when the left can be a little turgid, they're joyful." I had not thought of them in these terms. They really are happy warriors. That's refreshing and and probably does account for some of their appeal. While I have been critical of Joan of Arc Ocasio-Cortez and expect that will continue, I do like her and am in agreement on more than a few points. She is intelligent, unflappable in the face of brutal, unscrupulous, and inaccurate attacks from pseudo-conservative* dingbats, and adept at rousing the rabble at a time when that is needed. My criticisms often come from frustration when she is careless with facts and details, what amounts to handing opponents a mallet and an invitation to pound her with it, and her belief, shared with some of her fellow progressives, that the country as a whole is more progressive and ready to jump on board with her agenda than I believe it is. Ah, but I digress.
I do not buy the complaint that the Beto bandwagon is fueled by white male privilege and a centrist stance (Natasha Korecki, ‘Not one woman got that kind of coverage’: Beto backlash begins, Politico, March 15, 2019). I do not doubt that these qualities matter to some blockheads on our wing. A certain contingent in response would make more of this than is warranted, whereupon it becomes a distraction. Most of the blockheads who want a candidate of the male Caucasian persuasion are in Trump's camp. For more substantive criticism of O'Rourke from the left, see Luke Savage, With Beto O’Rourke, There’s No There There, Jacobin, March 18, 2019).
For the record, I am at present favorably disposed toward Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, who I would like better if he were ten years younger (same goes for Joe Biden). There is also plenty to like about Kamala Harris and Corey Booker. There is stuff about each of them and that gives me pause. This goes for others in the field as well. The country might be better served if about half of the Democratic hopefuls would bow out and it does not much matter which half. Of this, more anon, no doubt.
Bottom line is that I will support the Democratic nominee whoever it may be, even my old bohemian poet pal Mark from the Little 5 Points scene in Atlanta circa 1980, who went on to teach impressionable high school students about Shakespeare and is now Ocasio-Cortez's biggest cheerleader. With teacher like that it's no wonder the kids are out agitating for gun control and the Green New Deal, which is precisely where we need to them to be.
Keep the faith.
*I am tempted to adopt the term "pseudo-conservative" to classify the addlepated toffers who have rewoven a conservative mantle that once had some intellectual heft into an incoherent confabulation that owes more to Ayn Rand and her acolytes than to a tradition associated with the likes of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk.
Memo from the Editorial Desk
Minor, nonsubstantive revisions were made to this piece after it was initially published.