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Why old conservative white males are bad for America



It would be foolhardy of me to say that all old white males are moral reprobates, because I’m an old white male! There actually are many old white men in politics whom I admire: Bill Clinton, Patrick Leahy, Al Gore, John Kerry, Jerry Brown, Bernie Sanders and Dick Durbin, among others. So, you see, just being male, old and white doesn’t disqualify a fellow from being a good leader and role model.

But the problem with old white men happens when they decide to be Republicans. In the past, the term “Republican” was not one of opprobrium. It meant, more or less, simply that these men tended toward fiscal conservatism, did not want the rules of polite society to change too quickly, and were reluctant to venture into foreign entanglements, which steered them in the direction of isolationism. These Republican positions had a certain intellectual soundness, and it was good for Democrats to debate their Republican colleagues and, eventually, for both sides to compromise in crafting legislation.

Today’s Republican Party couldn’t be more different from the party of the past. It is vastly more rightwing. A number of baleful influences is the cause. Chief among these was the decision by party leaders, in the 1970s, to ally with evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell and his so-called Moral Majority. This was because both sides made common cause: evangelicals wanted an end to abortion, they loathed homosexuals, and they desired to see the protections of the First Amendment eroded if not overturned, so that Christianity would be the State religion. Then, too, many of them wanted Brown v. Board of Education wrecked. They were not lovers of what then were called “colored people.” As for Republican pols, they wanted to win—and they needed evangelicals to do it—so the deal, however distasteful, went down.

This sent the Republican Party—the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Wendell Wilkie—reeling to the right. That trajectory, sadly, only grew worse in the 1980s, when Republican leaders turned to political muckrakers, like Lee Atwater, for whom scruples were irrelevant and truth was an impediment if it impeded their goals. The worst result of this, until the partisan Supreme Court decision of Gore v. Bush, was the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

Since that time, we’ve seen the election to the United States Senate of such reactionaries as Orrin Hatch, Charles Grassley, John Cornyn, Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz and other Republicans who sit on the Judiciary Committee; and it is these old white men who are the problem. Old white men have ruled the Western World since its inception. They were the landowners, the woman-owners, the slave-owners, the protectors of their version of Christianity, the persecutors of heretics, the murderers of homosexuals, the burners of witches. They wrote the rules, and woe be unto anyone who didn’t kowtow to them–rules designed, of course, to keep them in power, and those over whom they held sway down and out.

But a funny thing happened to America on the way to the 21st century: it became less old, less white, and less male-dominated. Today, America is exactly what it ought to be: multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-sexual preference, and therein lies the profound dilemma for old white men. They see their grip on power, and its fruits, slipping away. And this makes them angry, as only an old white man who feels wronged can be angry.

To see the frightening face of that anger, look at Kavanaugh, during his frenzied, insane rant about the Clintons, and at Lindsay Graham. The latter is a particularly interesting case, since rumors of his homosexuality have been around for years. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, but there is something wrong about being so ashamed of it that you’re afraid to come out of the closet. (Then again, it would be impossible to get elected dog catcher in South Carolina if you’re out-and-out gay, but on the other hand, if Lindsay Graham were living a life of truth and dignity, rather than the mere accumulation of power, he wouldn’t have run for office in South Carolina.)

When someone like Lindsay Graham is so at odds with himself—when the outer shell is at war with the inner reality—it creates a personal, psychological conflict that can paralyze the person. Deep-seated guilt and shame cannot be admitted, so the fragile ego turns against itself, morphing into rage, and against others, for whom the rage needs a ready victim. That was the underlying reason for Graham’s intemperate, shocking and decidedly non-Senatorial burst of fury in the hearing. He was raging, not against Democrats, but against himself, for being guilty of the “crime” of being gay, for the indignities this forces upon him, for the malevolence of the universe in putting him into this Catch-22, for the impossibility of rationalizing his situation. (Graham’s problem is exacerbated by his being a member of the rabidly homophobic Republican Party and knowing that his colleagues privately despise him.)

Kavanaugh’s fury was, of course, not due to being gay. If anything, it was pure performance art, practiced for two weeks in the White House with directors such as Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It was an Emmy-winning moment, but the underlying anger wasn’t faked. Like all method actors, Kavanaugh relied on his sense-memories, and, like all Republican white men, his sense memory is filled with anger, bitterness, rage, fury and frustration. His power, too, is slipping away. The dominance he, and his type, long have held over America is melting, like fog on a summer morning here in California. But rather than welcome the coming sun, Kavanaugh, Graham and their cohort hate and fear it; their best work is done in darkness.

And this is the problem with old white men, compounded by the grim reality that they still wield a great deal of power. As Kavanaugh threatened (“What goes around comes around”), these old white men also are capable of extreme, and possibly violent, vengeance. We now know the answer to the old query, “What rough beast slouches towards Bethlehem”? The Republican Party, its hour come round

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