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Dominic

Great post, of course you'll have to add in the courtiers of the cable news channels to without fail always say "both sides" or "but the Democrats" whenever someone points out the foibles and failures of the Republican party.

Audrey

In a writing class I took, we spent one class discussing the various theories on how may types of stories there are. I don't remember who proposed the theory, but we worked our way down to there being only two types of stories. Someone goes on a journey. A stranger comes to town. And that was it. I don't know if it was proposed seriously, but it was fun to spitball some well known stories and see which one they fell into (eg. Jaws - A stranger comes to town.) The types you list above could fit into either one depending on how the struggle takes place.

DWhite

Audrey, you beat me to it. I heard the "man goes on a journey, a stranger comes to town" from Jerome Stern, who at one time was a professor at the Univ. of Florida and a commentator on NPR

Falstaff

My American Lit prof my freshman year of college insisted that there were only three types of story -- "The hero wins," "the hero loses," and "the hero wins *and* loses."

I dunno. I've always been leery of that kind of thing.

Lance, I think this was a good piece, but I think the last three or four paragraphs are the best part. Incidentally, I can't help remembering -- this would've been about 2000 or mid-2001, I think; pre-9/11, anyway -- hearing Henry Hyde admit in an interview that the Clinton impeachment was "revenge for Nixon." I've never seen the logic in that, and if I think too hard about it I'll start verbally frothing at the mouth, but... yeah.

El Jefe

To your list of political books, I would add Billy Lee Brammer's outstanding The Gay Place which does fall at times into the trap of becoming domestic drama by focusing on the personal and internal lives of the characters as metaphors for the culture they live in -- the culture of Texas' political community in the Forties and Fifties, with the patriarchal governor "Arthur goddamn Fenstermaker" one part Beauford Jester and one part Lyndon Johnson, with whom Brammer was closely acquainted. But it does at other times manage to be very directly about that culture and that time, to good effect. It's also a great piece of writing -- the description of a sudden storm on a metal roof in rural Central Texas is just one of the marvelous descriptive acts in the telling. Perhaps this is a flaw built in by the way we humans organize, by our continued and well-evolved attachments to our "monkeyspheres", small clans and communities that we know well, in a vast and complex world. Advise and Consent comes to mind on that front, with the Washington-as-very-small-town trope deployed as what's essentially a large feuding clan -- Congress -- with its patriarchs, loyalists, and prodigals all on display and a family scandal (homosexuality) as a convenient vehicle for stirring up all the preexisting conflicts and relationships.

Thanks for the Sammy Glick mention because for me it's a call-back to one of the most underrated popular singers of Peak America, Steve Lawrence, who as Sidney Liebowitz with a WASP stage name and a Brooklyn Jewish upbringing, played Glick so well on Broadway because he understood that there was an eyelash of differing circumstances between them and that it would always be a conscious effort to stay on the right side of that eyelash.

The Republican Party is, as Sir Terry Pratchett might have said, a long story of going down the wrong leg of the Trousers of Time over and over again. Garfield's assassination is not a bad point of departure, he and Teddy were the last great chances, until a last flickering in the Sixties, of the Republican left saving the party from itself. And William Seward, a titan of 19th century politics now sadly remembered just for Alaska unless you're an ultra-nerd like us folks, was way out in front on favoring the GOP becoming champions of the immigrant population (a true "make men free" 19th century radical Liberal) but ran smack up against the Northern racism of Free Soil, which was about giving poor Protestant men already here a chance to make it big by not sandbagging them with black or Catholic labor. If you haven't read them you should bump Heather Cox Richardson's To Make Men Free and Geoffrey Kabaservice's Rule and Ruin right up your reading list (and report back to the rest of us, I've read both but would love to see your take :) Kabaservice covers the last attempted flowering of reasonable, even liberal, Republicans and their deliberate, concentrated destruction by both the Old and the New Right between Eisenhower's nomination and Reagan's election.

Cox Richardson's thesis is a bigger one and one with which (me with my "there are really three American parties, always have been") I entirely agree. It's this: for a century from Lincoln's nomination to the Southern Strategy 1960s, the GOP was America's Liberal Party. Not "liberal" as FDR's code word for making Progressive Republicans comfortable as part of the New Deal coalition, since muddied into meaning both the far left of that Liberal Party and the right wing (only in number-line terms) of the latent Left Party associated with the Dems or splinters thereof since FDR. No, this is Liberal in the 19th century sense still used more or less everywhere but here in the US (although north of the border the Liberal Party has been dragged steadily leftward by Lester Pearson and both Trudeaus since the 1950s, but still has room for the NDP to their left.) A "free men and free markets" party. The left "free men" wing, however, repeatedly lost out to the right wing that was not just about "free markets" but about One Market red in tooth and claw, whose Invisible Hand finally provided a replacement for the Divine Right of Kings (and aristocrats thereto) as theological justification for the strong to prey upon the weak. That, as Liberalism managed so often elsewhere in the industrializing world, opened the way not only for Reaction to regain legitimacy, but at the level of political economy (misdiagnosed epically by Marx, to the Left's everlasting damage) allowed the old evil of Feudalism back into the mix, through rent-seeking, commercial banking, financial dealings for their own rent-based sake, and even in non-American places the preservation of actual aristocrats who finally had a decent income stream again and lorded it culturally over the relatively-nouveau riche financiers around them. (I have a feeling feudalism is the default evil of any human society evolved from farming and settled communities.) But as that fractured the old Liberal Party that was the GOP, they noticed the Democrats had fractured too as the Left Party component of the Dems had almost managed to displace the old Reactionary Populist core. And as good elitists, they figured they could recruit a new army of unthinking voters (thanks, Kevin Phillips...) with a new "bloody shirt" approach to politicking. This would let them beat down the Left Party thinkers and serried ranks of union members and minorities lined up with the Dems, and their own internal enemies with the last renaissance of reasonable Republicans around figures like William Scranton (most "Rockefeller Republicans" would be better named "Scranton Republicans"), George Romney (who, God bless him, wanted to actually go for the throat and desegregate America's *neighborhoods* rather than nibbling around the edges with schools and jobs), or the better moments of Nelson Rockefeller.

It worked. But they were not new lords of the manor leading their fiefs off to battle for their divine right to rig the economy around stock dividends and low inheritance taxes. They were Frankenstein, and in time the Monster would come for them.

Kaleberg

I really don't think Nixon and Trump are about self hatred. They were about living the American dream which goes back at least to the 18th century. Talleyrand was fascinated with America during his exile. There was the possibility to obtain nearly unlimited wealth and power in a way impossible in the old world. Look at John Jacob Astor. Look at Aaron Burr, bucking for an empire in Mexico or Texas or both. In America you can reinvent yourself as anything. It was like the fantastic novels the conquistadors read except without Jesus. I think Nixon was and Trump is more about American self invention.

'Money Talks', a book by Laurence Shames, an author I generally like, was about a schlemiel of an author hired to ghost write the autobiography of a thinly disguised Donald Trump. I found the protagonist too annoying to finish the book, but I felt the book also granted Trump more humanity than he deserved. Trump is one of the great monsters, a great appetite with the desire to get ever bigger whatever it takes. He's a figure like Roy Cohn in 'Angels in America', one who recognized the promise of America and was ready to grab 'with eight hands, like an octopus'.

Shari Walczak

The most trump-like character in fiction for me is Greg Stillson in Stephen King's The Dead Zone (played chillingly in the movie by Martin Sheen). Not only can I envision trump starting a nuclear war a la Stillson, I can also see trump picking up a baby to shield himself from assassination.

Lance Mannion

Oh boy, lots of good comments here and much to think about! I'll try to respond to all of them soon but just for right now:

Audrey and DWhite,

I like the journey/stranger idea, and I especially got a kick out of thinking of Jaws as "a stranger comes to town". Trump's story can be told as one or the other, depending on the narrator's point of view. Trump's own favored version is "A man goes on a journey". He likes the idea of himself as the ambitious middle class kid from Queens making the big move to Manhattan. From the point of view of folks in Manhattan, he's the stranger who came to town.

He's also Jaws.

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