The Dead and the Dying

by | May 25, 2015 | Atticus On The Trail, Creative Nonfiction, Politics

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
– Book of Revelation 6.8

STATESBORO, GEORGIA – It’s May of 2015, eighteen months out from the General Election, and damn it this race is already white hot with enough lunacy and rage-filled madness that we may not make it to the finish line.

There’s no time for coherency, so apologies for those not keeping up or staying abreast, there’s tealeaves to read, innards to sort through and divine.

***

We’re stepping into a Republican primary that, before it’s all said and done, could feature upwards of twenty candidates jockeying for position in a crowd so filthy and underhanded that even the lowest grifter would wash his hands of the scene.

Hell, the biggest conversation of the moment, which is crazy to even believe, is how the networks are going to run their debates with so many charlatans on display. FOX News and CNN executives are actually losing sleep right now because there aren’t enough podiums, long enough stages, and certainly not enough air-time to feature every idiot who wants to declare. FOX seems ready to pull the trigger on a plan where multiple debates are held with random drawings to determine who belongs to which airing while CNN has hired math wizards from MIT and Princeton to devise an algorithm that rids them of Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, but leaves poor Carly Fiorina in the mix to promote some far-flung idea that the GOP isn’t an exclusively male-dominated and male-centric party.

The frontrunners – Jeb Bush and Scott Walker and Marco Rubio – are sending their hatchet-men round the clock to New York to argue for trimmed down engagements featuring six to eight candidates, all of them chosen because of their numbers in blended and targeted polls, their surrogates arguing the people “want substantive debate” and “a real conversation about the issues,” which is politico speak for “keep the bastards and the hounds at the gate!” It is their greatest fear, no doubt, that a Ben Carson or a Huckabee or a Rick Santorum shoulder their way onto the main stage and start talking about abortion, guns, and gay marriage, a recipe that will clip this bird’s wings before it ever tries to take flight.

Undoubtedly, the culprit and scapegoat here is the RNC, helmed by certified-idiot Reince Preibus, who should be laying down the law like it was the 1980s again and telling the lost-hope candidates to make a living the old way and get a syndicated call-in show after Glenn Beck and before Rush. That is the way it’s supposed to be and why we have national parties in the first place, but the GOP is in such disarray and betrothed to a virtually limitless number of special interests–amazing considering this is the reason they lay so many a beating on the DNC for so many years–that they’re hesitant to pull the trigger and save their own lives in the process.

Right now, the RNC, once a well-oiled machine that could chew up a high-minded Democrat and spit out his or her bones, is a bumbling, taped-together mess that can’t get past its debts and responsibilities to any of their far-flung and rabid bases, be it the billionaires, the remnants of the Tea Party, the Libertarians, the anti-vacciners, the corporate bosses, the hedge-fund operators, the werewolves, the gun toters and Planned Parenthood-protesters, the evangelicals, the Vain and the Morally Bankrupt.

It’s hard, you know, to serve so many masters.

Preibus, who has never been up to the task, is helming a two-ton, rust-covered war-machine that’s careening out of control and is bound and determined to take out whatever bastard happens to be in the path in its swan-song.

***

Trivia question: Who was the last chairman of the Republican National Committee?

No.

The Last AND Final.

***

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a White House higher-up over the phone and several times I had to ask him what the hell the racket in the background was.

“They’re doing the conga in the halls,” he said. “Perry’s going to announce.”

Congas in the White House of No Joy, the Deliberative and Data-Based Seat of Power?

“Jindal’s coming too!” I heard someone shout before he slammed the door. “Lindsey Graham! Call up John Bolton and ask him to reconsider!”

***

There will be those who revel in the death and decay of the GOP. Surely I’ll hoist a few tumblers of Scotch when the deed goes down, but there is no pride and there should be reverence in the demise of an old foe.

For over a century now the Republicans have alternated between keeping order and fighting generation-long wars and terrorizing the known-world, and fuck it all they have been good at it.

This is the party that defeated the USSR and managed to sink the American economy in the process.

This is the party that kept the underclass and minorities under their bootheels for generations and rotted the American soul.

These are humdinger antagonists, which is why it’s joyful but embarrassing to see Mike Huckabee throwing his support behind recently-admitted child molester Josh Duggar and to hear Jeb babble incoherently about the Iraq War this and the Iraq War that. The Writing is On The Wall for the Grand Old Party and all of their aging intellectuals are writing “The Democrats are Doomed” think pieces by the dozen.

This is supposed to be the party that takes shit seriously, that has its finger on the button in case the button needs pushed. These are supposed to be the stone-cold realists who take the liberals to task when their eye is on the Future instead of Today.

***

In three weeks I head to Iowa to survey the groundwork of the campaigns. Word from the Midwest is that already there’s friction and tension in the streets. Cruz supporters are shooting dangerous glares across the street at Rubio’s people. Rand’s crazed bunch is eyeing the Huckabees as they pray about the entrance to their new campaign headquarters, a hollowed-out strip-mall church that now saves the voters as they hand them flyers denouncing same-sex marriage and gives them directions to their caucuses.

By all accounts, it is a soul-trying scene there.

With a little divining and a fair-amount of prognostication, it’s easy to see where this is all heading. With Jeb probably skipping the caucuses and Walker set to scoop up all the numbers he’s leaving behind, we’re looking at the governor of Wisconsin and Rubio or Cruz running the table, Rand Paul picking up a fistful in the process, and after that?

Who knows?

The smart money, and perhaps the one silver streak in this muddled mess of a cloud, is that we might be looking at the first interesting national convention since 1976, where there was still a chance Ronald Reagan and his merry group of Fascists might perform a coup and hoist then-president Gerald Ford from office. In this case, we might have Jeb or Walker in the lead, the two of them jockeying for loose delegates, while Rubio tries to scoot up the middle, like a stock car crazed with nitro, and in the wings: Rand Paul with a considerable fist of Libertarians who are ready to either conquer or leave the party altogether.

What happens if Rubio and Rand strike a deal?

Or, if Rand gets up on the podium–fuck, there’s no way Jeb’s people would ever let him near a microphone in this hypothetical, though they have shown themselves to be dimwitted and slow to the punch–and announces he’s leaving and taking every hard-hearted soul with him?

There’s a very real possibility that we might see a new decision here, a new evolution of politics. On the last night, I have half a notion that I’ll be in the pit with all the time-turners and backbiters the GOP has to offer, throwing up twenties on which candidate, bound by leather straps, will overcome his rivals in a vicious knife-fight. It’ll be the type of scene that’ll make the recent biker riot in Waco look like preschool.

Who do you bet on in this cockfight?

Jeb with his soft underbelly? Rand with that gleam in his eye? Rubio, who is hungry and miscalculated, but hungry all the same? Or Scott Walker, a villain so disgusting he’d be willing to knife the children of Wisconsin with nothing in the pot?

That’ll be up to the networks, you’d have to say.

And whether the Almighty is ready to release his final Seal and Proclamation.

 

Illustration: Death on a Pale Horse 1775 by John Hamilton Mortimer

About The Author

Jared Yates Sexton

A born and bred Hoosier, Jared Yates Sexton is the author of An End to All Things (2012, Atticus Books), The Hook and the Haymaker (2015, Split Lip Press), and Bring Me the Head of Yorkie Goodman (2015, New Pulp Press). He currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University.