Friday, September 23, 2011
The Purple Better Ones
Friday, September 23, 2011
I was just rereading something I remembered from William Burroughs, a piece set at the time of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, called “The Coming of the Purple Better One.” What put me in mind of that was a photo I saw of one of the many recent Republican candidate debates. These GOPers have hit on the best publicity possible—debating each other seemingly every other day, bringing their lapdogs from CNN and Fox along and forcing the other networks and the print media to trail after. Here’s where the Democrats are at a real disadvantage. There’s only one of them running for president in 2012, at least so far. The Republicans, on the other hand, have cloned themselves into a half dozen or more ever weirder versions of one another, and are now engaging in an elaborate series of sophistic exercises whereby they get to trot out their most outrageous ideas, see if they fly, and eliminate or refine them one at a time. I imagine the thinking goes that eventually they’ll hit on a few ideas that “resonate” with the American public, and whichever candidate proves to be the least embarrassing in the long run will take those ideas on the hustings. In the meantime, they get lots and lots of air and print time, gratis.
With the Democrats, on the other hand, even though the presidency is sometimes referred to as the Bully Pulpit, there’s only that one pulpit, and one sorry little preacher to do all the evangelizing, all the heavy lifting for his party. He can’t be the whacked-out born-again shoot-to-kill give-everybody-the-needle Texan Obama debating the serious grey-at-the-temples faux-moderate Mormon Obama, looking across the podium at the certifiably insane and geographically challenged female Obama, while the chubby professorial Obama chimes in once in a while.
It reminds me of that movie “Multiplicity,” where Michael Keaton has himself cloned so he can get more work done and have more free time. The first clone is an aggressive workaholic, just the ticket. Then he goes for a second one, who embodies his gentler, more nurturing side. Between the two of them they make up a complete person. Then the two clones for reasons of their own decide to make yet another, who, as they explain, being a “copy of a copy, isn’t as sharp as the original.” The Republicans have all that going on and more (minus the sharp writing of Harold Ramis). There’s the tough take no prisoners candidate, the reasonable candidate, the other Mormon candidate, the avuncular intellectual candidate, the Dr. Strangelove pure libertarian candidate, the mentally challenged candidate. Actually there are several of those last ones at this point, but I’m confident they’ll whittle it down to just one or two.
They are, collectively and individually, the distinguished senator and former Justice of the Supreme Court, Homer Mandrill, known to his friends as the Purple Better One. Homer was, you may recall, a purple-assed mandrill baboon, running for president. Back in ’68 when it appeared in Esquire that was cutting-edge hallucinatory satire from old Burroughs, although he always knew that his version of reality was, well, more real than what most people thought was the real thing. Today, when it comes to the Republicans, we should all be so lucky as to have a choice between the people currently running for president and an artificially animated mandrill baboon. I know which one I’d vote for, without hesitation, if I were ever to venture into a Republican primary. What a difference a generation or two makes. Yesterday’s drug-fueled crazy metaphor becomes today’s Great Simian Hope for America.
I think we all know pretty much how this is going to play out. We’re in the middle of another bad television drama, where we know that by the end of the hour something definitive has to happen that will let people get to sleep. I’ll go out on a limb here, and you can check me as time goes on, but here’s my fearless prediction. Rick Perry will fall away. His brown makeup will accidentally chip off on TV and people will see that underneath he’s a putrid green scaly alien. Adios, amigo. Michele Bachmann will find the intellectual weight of sharing the stage with all the rest of those brilliant bastards too much to bear, and will shrivel up, leaving only her pointy shoes like one of the bad witches from the Land of Oz. Ron Paul? Forget about it. He’s a placeholder. The guy has fifteen supporters nationwide and they all look like Charlton Heston as Moses in “The Ten Commandments” and live in compounds up in the mountains. They have more bullets than votes. He’s the far right’s answer to Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich. Newt Gingrich? Excuse me, but that toad is more last century than disco. Then there’s the other Mormon governor dude, Huntsman (which you must admit is a great name for a Republican, right?). He might just hang in there for a while, but eventually people will have to choose which of the two secret underwear-wearing guys they’re going to fall in with, and my guess is it will be the one who’s already done his missionary work out in Massachusetts.
I know I’m skipping a few, but it’s like talking about the NFL—you can only devote so much air time to Kansas City and Seattle. As with football, it’s early in the season, but not too early to make predictions.
Here's one more: maybe the insect masters who hold the strings will pull all of these bozos out at the last minute and stick Dick Cheney in there, which I think is what they really would like to do anyway.