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Robert Altman Week

Thursday
Jun182009

In Which She Is Worth Risking Everything For

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Eliot Spitzer's No Good Very Bad Days

by Alex Carnevale

To be left alone, a man will do a lot of things. To be left alone to have sex with a beautiful woman, a man will pay many green things.

One of freedom's greatest enemies was sacrificed on the altar of his own hubris this month, and everyone seems to be enjoying it quite a bit, not least of which is the brave prostitute who didn't permit him to penetrate her anus without a condom.

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she surely deserves the presidential medal of ho-dom

We are party to one of the better times to be a prostitute in recorded history. This particular prostitute lived in a $4,000 dollar a month apartment, partied 4 days a week, and all she had to do was fuck the governor and other rich clientele on a regular basis. There are worse bargains. At least when she gives herself over to the government, they foot the bill, as opposed to the taxpayer.

I have no idea how prostitution has managed to be illegal for this long. There's clearly nothing wrong with taking money for sex, and criminalizing this behavior only serves to put what should be a honest, public business in dark shadows where abuse and misery loom ever larger. As with most government intervention, laws against prostitution do nothing but waste resources and further hurt those who they are designed to protect. And prevent us from seeing awesome photosets that appear in the Post, and US Weekly.

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showtime series will capitalize on this photoset

Also amazing were these letters to the Post. If you can believe it, the Post was given to many schools for free on the day of the Dupre pictorial. I know. I know.

As an employee of the New York City Department of Education, I was appalled at the cover and interior pictures of the woman involved with the Spitzer scandal ("Bad Girl," Cover, March 14). The paper is delivered free of charge to many public schools, and to have the paper put into the hands of children is unconscionable.

James Favilla

Brooklyn

I am astounded that you would print such a photo on the front page of your paper and send free copies to an elementary school. I think that when you supply free newspapers to our schools, your front page should not be a nude picture of Gov. Spitzer's hooker.

Dolores Gateson

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ms. dupre reportedly has man hands

The crusading lawmaker has only way of achieving success. Spitzer must make laws, he must prosecute wrongdoers. You'd think Eliot would have be willing to hand himself over in handcuffs once revelations of his misdeeds hit the airwaves, once he'd subjected his wife and children to his adulterous ways.

Instead the sniveling prick hired Scooter Libby's lawyers and resumed crowing about the public good. There is no shortage of words to say how wrong Mr. Spitzer is.

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dupre myspace

Like most lawyers, Spitzer fed on the good work of others, siphoning off money from the public and private sources that are compelling by the government to employ them. There should be no such thing as a lawyer, a malevolent group of ne'er do wells who tear down instead of create, who bill hours instead of working for them, and who steal our best and brightest for long proceedings in which "judgment" is rendered, and a supposed higher good is upheld.

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"kristen" and her tramp stamp

We see in these foundering black socks another spoiled rich boy, who immediately set out to abuse the office he wanted so desperately to attain. I once met one of Mr. Spitzer's aides: a friend of a friend, he had less to say for himself than a whore. Any person naïve and stupid enough to put their trust in a fucking "steamroller" deserved what he got in the wake of this scandal.

And as for his wife, staring vapidly into her excuse for a husband's eyes? What are we to say of this one, educated at Harvard Law to marry this perverse twit; a woman who once resolved she'd never be like Hillary?

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men: it wasn't her place

Instead of separating herself from the man who betrayed her family, she had the nerve to stand next to him, as he "apologizes." For him to use her as a shield is despicable. To give the impression that this is a man worth saving, even for a moment, is the wrong message to send to her daughters. I will cut her some slack considering her life is falling apart because of the woman in this photo...

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...but still. Reports that she urged him to hold onto his office until the last moment complete the portrait of a woman whose craven desire for power overwhelms even the most damning of circumstances.

"She'll come out with flying colors," Thomas Comer, whose sister married Silda's brother, told The Post. "She'll probably end up being more powerful than he is."

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seriously?

Great. And yet in her heart Silda is just misguided and down on anal sex for no real reason. We quote the prostitute Dupre, from her myspace:

If you are in a relationship, and it is "doing absolutly nothing" for you, makes you feel bad about yourself or situations, just causing unessesary drama, and ruining things that you may actually care about...why would you want that in your life?? you need to surround yourself with the people that make you feel good, and that will help you get to that next step in your life. that is what a relationship is all about...growing and moving forward.

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she would have have stood by him too

Surround yourself around people that are making moves, and doing what "they want and love" with their lives, positive energy...thats what life is all about...living. Because if you dont, misery loves company, they will only try to bring you down with them...but the question is, are you strong enough, to not let that happen?

Silda had better take the photoset's advice.

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spitzer: lessons for nigerian politicians

Mr. Spitzer's fall from grace should have imparted a number of lessons. No one seems to be much interested in learning them. When Mr. Spitzer said that what he did was by any standard not moral, he should have been more specific. Was prostitution immoral? Was it paying for sex that was immoral, or was it doing so in violation of his wedding vows that was?

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The many enemies that Mr. Spitzer made in the state of New York attest to his grotesque incompetence.

As he declared war on Wall Street and other corporate abusers, Spitzer also declared war in effect on his own oath of office: a commitment to the state and federal constitutional guarantees of the presumption of innocence.

Time after time with high-profile corporate officials - most conspicuously, former American International Group CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg - Spitzer railed on national television that his targets had broken the law.

But in most cases - after the damage to reputations was already done - no charges were brought.

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possible difference between slave and prostitute

Spitzer's wife, who he deigned not to even mention in either of his preplanned advisor-approved-I-don't want to go to jail talks, is going to leave him eventually. Might this be the appropriate time to confess his love for the prostitute he felt so close to that he pleaded for unprotected sex? George Fox, the real one and the imagined one, would be proud.

"It is also my client's understanding from the same source that Governor Spitzer did not remove his midcalf-length black socks during the sex act," said the letter, which was signed by Stone's attorney Paul Rolf Jensen. "Perhaps you can use this detail to corroborate Mr. Stone's information."

God love Roger Stone.

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in all likelihood we will be buying this

There is probably such a thing as a public good, but we have no real way of measuring it. We cannot really know what is best for another person, and it is heresy to think we can.

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It is not a matter of judgment. We may judge another, but we cannot hope for them, or live their lives. It may seem like a good idea to be a moral crusader, as men on both sides of the aisle have been to the city of New York. In a place like this, we all agree, to a certain extent, to be policed, to be watched, the temptation is even greater to moralize for others.

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if celebs moved to oklahoma

Each generation produces a critical mass of people invested in change. This is as it should be. It is natural for the young to believe in the power of government, especially now, when there are so few social and cultural organizations that bind us together in meaningful ways. This generation, like their parents, wants to be involved in something, and government suddenly emerges as a way of giving meaning to a life that has been divested of it. And yet we cannot say what is right for other people.

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how to be a scandalite

Spitzer and his wife are no more, and a new adultering, coke-addled governor has taken his place. For the people that will mean more talk about what kind of horrible men and women we choose to lead us nowhere, as if there were any difference between them.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

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Alec Baldwin against prostitution: who'd have thunk it?

A NEW ALBUM WE ARE VERY INTO

"Eyelids" - The Dodos (mp3)

"Walking" - The Dodos (mp3)

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"Fools" - The Dodos (mp3)

Dodos myspace

Dodos website

pitchfork review

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

The latest Thomas Pynchon got us thinking.

We told you our answers, we left you our dreams on your answer machine.

Molly yelled at me for posting Five for Fighting.

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the times is still closing its eyes

Wednesday
May202009

In Which Big Sister Is Watching You

Whittaker Chambers and Ayn Rand

We will save the larger question of Whittaker Chambers, a man who a great many young people don't even know, and who if he was still alive would have to be preserved in the Smithsonian in some way, for another time. There are no people like Whittaker now, and eventually all the people who knew of Whittaker Chambers' life will die. There is no life like his, it is impossible to be as present in historical time the way that he was unless you're Angelina Jolie or the guy who writes SWPL.

In the following essay, Whittaker Chambers, on behalf of William F. Buckley's conservative movement (it differed from its antecedents in its rejection of anti-Semitism, racism, and other kooky ideas) put down the vastly popular work of the greatest propagandist of her time, Ayn Rand.

What her God-fearing foes seemed to miss, and what Whittaker Chambers willfully ignores in this National Review piece from 1957 is that The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are soap operas with a solid message: You can be great. As for his criticisms of Rand's style, we will say this: she is more readable and interesting than the Bible, by the grace of his lordship John Galt.

the atlasphere: date a fellow rand admirer

That's not to say Ayn wasn't an acquired taste. The Russian immigrant to the U.S. who spent most of her life in New York was stubborn as hell. As Bennett Cerf, who worked with Ayn on Atlas, remembered:

Atlas Shrugged was being edited by Hiram Haydn. The hero, John Galt, makes a speech that lasts about thirty-eight pages. All that he says in it has been said over and over already in the book, but Hiram couldn’t get her to cut a word. . . . I said, “Ayn, nobody’s going to read that. You’ve said it all three or four times before, and it’s thirty-odd pages long. You’ve got to cut it.” She looked at me calmly and said, “Would you cut the Bible?” So I gave up.

Whatever you think of her, Rand has inspired more people to great things than you have.

After William F. Buckley published this review, Rand would walk out of any room he walked into. In his book Cruising Speed, he recalls her saying in their first meeting, "But you are too smart to beleef in Gad!"

Whatever you think of the review, the last line is the finest in all of book reviewing.

Big Sister is Watching You

by Whittaker Chambers

Several years ago, Miss Ayn Rand wrote The Fountainhead. Despite a generally poor press, it is said to have sold some four hundred thousand copies. Thus, it became a wonder of the book trade of a kind that publishers dream about after taxes. So Atlas Shrugged (Random House, $6.95) had a first printing of one hundred thousand copies. It appears to be slowly climbing the best seller lists.

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

The news about this book seems to me to be that any ordinarily sensible head could possibly take it seriously, and that apparently, a good many do. Somebody has called it: "Excruciatingly awful." I find it a remarkably silly book. It is certainly a bumptious one. Its story is preposterous. It reports the final stages of a final conflict (locale: chiefly the United States, some indefinite years hence) between the harried ranks of free enterprise and the "looters." These are proponents of proscriptive taxes. Government ownership, Labor, etc. etc. The mischief here is that the author, dodging into fiction, nevertheless counts on your reading it as political reality. "This," she is saying in effect, "is how things really are. These are the real issues, the real sides. Only your blindness keeps you from seeing it, which, happily, I have come to rescue you from."

Since a great many of us dislike much that Miss Rand dislikes, quite as heartily as she does, many incline to take her at her word. It is the more persuasive, in some quarters, because the author deals wholly in the blackest blacks and the whitest whites.

In this fiction everything, everybody, is either all good or all bad, without any of those intermediate shades which, in life, complicate reality and perplex the eye that seeks to probe it truly. This kind of simplifying pattern, of course, gives charm to most primitive story-telling.

And, in fact, the somewhat ferro-concrete fairy tale the author pours here is, basically, the old one known as: The War between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. In modern dress, it is a class war. Both sides of it are caricatures.

alger hiss, communist

The Children of Light are largely operatic caricatures. In so far as any of them suggests anything known to the business community, they resemble the occasional curmudgeon millionaire, tales about whose outrageously crude and shrewd eccentricities sometimes provide the lighter moments in Board rooms. Otherwise, the Children of Light are geniuses.

One of them is named (the only smile you see will be your own): Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastian d'Antonio. This electrifying youth is the world's biggest copper tycoon. Another, no less electrifying, is named: Ragnar Danesjold. He becomes a twentieth-century pirate.

All Miss Rand's chief heroes are also breathtakingly beautiful. So is her heroine (she is rather fetchingly vice-president in charge of management of a transcontinental railroad). So much radiant energy might seem to serve an eugenic purpose. For, in this story as in Mark Twain's, "all the knights marry the princess"— though without benefit of clergy.

Yet from the impromptu and surprisingly gymnastic matings of heroine and three of the heroes, no children— it suddenly strikes you— ever result. The possibility is never entertained. And indeed, the strenuously sterile world of Atlas Shrugged is scarcely a place for children.

You speculate that, in life, children probably irk the author and may make her uneasy. How could it be otherwise when she admiringly names a banker character (by what seems to me a humorless master-stroke): Midas Mulligan?

making ayn required reading: I think I just found my new bank

You may fool some adults, you can't fool little boys and girls with such stuff— not for long. They may not know just what is out of line, but they stir uneasily.

The Children of Darkness are caricatures, too; and they are really oozy. But at least they are caricatures of something identifiable. Their archetypes are Left Liberals, New Dealers, Welfare Statists, One Worlders, or, at any rate, such ogreish semblances of these as may stalk the nightmares of those who think little about people as people, but tend to think a great deal in labels and effigies. (And neither Right nor Left, be it noted in passing, has a monopoly of such dreamers, though the horrors in their nightmares wear radically different masks and labels.)

the author, testifying.

In Atlas Shrugged, all this debased inhuman riffraff is lumped as "looters." This is a fairly inspired epithet. It enables the author to skewer on one invective word everything and everybody that she fears and hates. This spares here the plaguy business of performing one service that her fiction might have performed. Namely: that of examining in human depth how so feeble a lot came to exist at all, let alone be powerful enough to be worth hating and fearing. Instead, she bundles them into one undifferentiated damnation.

"Looters" loot because they believe in Robin Hood, and have a lot of other people believing in him, too. Robin Hood is the author's image of absolute evil— robbing the strong (and hence good) to give to the weak (and hence no good). All "looters" are base, envious, twisted, malignant minds, motivated wholly by greed for power, combined with the lust of the weak to tear down the strong, out of a deep-seated hatred of life and secret longing for destruction and death. There happens to be a tiny (repeat: tiny) seed of truth in this. The full clinical diagnosis can be read into the pages of Friedich Nietzsche.

andrew stuttaford's brilliant essay on rand in the new york sun

(Here I must break in with an aside. Miss Rand acknowledges a grudging debt to one, and only one, earlier philosopher: Aristotle. I submit that she is indebted, and much more heavily, to Nietzche. Just as her operatic businessmen are, in fact, Nietzschean supermen, so her ulcerous Leftists are Nietzsche's "last men," both deformed in a way to sicken the fastidious recluse of Sils Maria. And much else comes, consciously on not, from the same source.)

Happily, in Atlas Shrugged (though not in life), all the children of Darkness are utterly incompetent.

So the Children of Light win handily by declaring a general strike of brains, of which they have a monopoly, letting the world go, literally, to smash. In the end, they troop out of their Rocky Mountain hideaway to repossess the ruins. It is then, in the book's last line, that a character traces in the air, "over the desolate earth," the Sign of the Dollar, in lieu of the Sign of the Cross, and in token that a suitably prostrate mankind is at last ready, for its sins, to be redeemed from the related evils of religion and social reform (the "mysticism of mind" and the "mysticism of muscle").

 

from here

That Dollar Sign is not merely provocative, though we sense a sophomoric intent to raise the pious hair on susceptible heads. More importantly, it is meant to seal the fact that mankind is ready to submit abjectly to an elite of technocrats, and their accessories, in a New Order, enlightened and instructed by Miss Rand's ideas that the good life is one which "has resolved personal worth into exchange value," "has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment.'" The author is explicit, in fact deafening, about these prerequisites.

Lest you should be in any doubt after 1168 pages, she assures you with a final stamp of the foot in a postscript: "and I mean it." But the words quoted above are those of Karl Marx. He, too, admired "naked self-interest" (in its time and place), and for much of the same reasons as Miss Rand: because, he believed, it cleared away the cobwebs of religion and led to prodigies of industrial and cognate accomplishment.

rand and the movies

The overlap is not as incongruous as it looks. Atlas Shrugged can be called a novel only by devaluing the term. It is a massive tract for the times. Its story merely serves Miss Rand to get the customers inside the tent. And as a soapbox for delivering her Message.

terry teachout's magnificent essay on ayn

"Lithium" - The Polyphonic Spree (mp3)

The Message is the thing. It is a sum, a forthright philosophic materialism. Upperclassmen might incline to sniff and say that the author has, with vast effort, contrived a simple materialist system, one, intellectually, at about the state of the oxcart, though without mastering the principle of the wheel. Like any consistent materialism, this one begins by rejecting God, religion, original sin, etc. etc. (This book's aggressive atheism and rather unbuttoned "higher morality," which chiefly outrage some readers, are, in fact, secondary ripples, and result inevitably from its underpinning premises.) Thus, Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made the center of a godless world.

Ayn Rand: As Astonishing As Elvis

At that point, in any materialism, the main possibilities open up to Man.

1) His tragic fate becomes, without God, more tragic and much lonelier. In general, the tragedy deepens according to the degree of pessimism or stoicism with which he conducts his "hopeless encounter between human questioning and the silent universe." Or,

2) Man's fate ceases to be tragic at all. Tragedy is bypassed by the pursuit of happiness. Tragedy is henceforth pointless. Henceforth man's fate, without God, is up to him. And to him alone. His happiness, is strict materialist terms, lies with his own workaday hands and ingenious brain. His happiness becomes, in Miss Rand's words, "the moral purpose of his life."

Here occurs a little rub whose effects are just as observable in a free enterprise system, which is in practice materialist (whatever else it claims or supposes itself to be), as they would be under an atheist Socialism, if one were ever to deliver that material abundance that all promise. The rub is that the pursuit of happiness, as an end in itself, tends automatically, and widely, to be replaced by the pursuit of pleasure with a consequent general softening of the fibers of will, intelligence on "man as a heroic being" "with productive achievement as his noblest activity."

For, if man's "heroism" (some will prefer to say: "human dignity") no longer derives from God, or is not a function of that godless integrity which was a root of Nietzsche's anguish, then Man becomes merely the most consuming of animals, with glut as the condition of his happiness. And this, of course, suits the author's economics and the politics that must arise from them.

For politics, of course, arise, though the author of Atlas Shrugged stares stonily past them, as if this book were not what, in fact it is, essentially— a political book. And here begins mischief. Systems of philosophic materialism, so long as they merely circle outside this world's atmosphere, matter little to most of us. The trouble is that they keep coming down to earth. It is when a system of materialist ideas presumes to give positive answers to real problems of our real life that mischief starts.

In an age like ours, in which a highly complex technological society is everywhere in a high state of instability, such answers however philosophic, translate quickly into political realities. And in the degree to which problems of complexity and instability are most bewildering to masses of men, a temptation sets in to let some species of Big Brother solve and supervise them.

Whittaker Chambers receiving the news of Alger Hiss' conviction

One Big Brother is of course, a socializing elite (as we know, several cut-rate brands are on the shelves). Miss Rand, as the enemy of any socializing force, calls in a Big Brother of her own contriving to do battle with the other. In the name of free enterprise, therefore, she plumps for a technocratic elite (I find no more inclusive word than technocratic to bracket the industrial-financial-engineering caste she seems to have in mind).

When she calls "productive achievement" man's "noblest activity," she means, almost exclusively, technological achievement, supervised by such a managerial political bureau. She might object that she means much, much more; and we can freely entertain her objections. But in sum, that is just what she means. For that is what, in reality, it works out to.

And in reality, too, by contrast, with fiction, this can only head into a dictatorship, however benign, living and acting beyond good and evil, a law unto itself (as Miss Rand believes it should be), and feeling any restraint on itself as, in practice, criminal, and, in morals, vicious— as Miss Rand clearly feels it to be. Of course, Miss Rand nowhere calls for a dictatorship. I take her to be calling for an aristocracy of talents. We cannot labor here why, in the modern world, the pre-conditions for aristocracy, an organic growth, no longer exist, so that impulse toward aristocracy always emerges now in the form of dictatorship.

Nor has the author, apparently, brooded on the degree to which, in a wicked world, a materialism of the Right and a materialism of the Left, first surprisingly resemble, then in action tend to blend each with each, because, while differing at the top in avowed purposed, and possibly in conflict there, at bottom they are much the same thing. The embarrassing similarities between Hitler's National Socialism and Stalin's brand of Communism are familiar. For the world, as seen in materialist view from the Left. The question becomes chiefly: who is to run that world in whose interests, or perhaps, at best, who can run it more efficiently?

Something of this implication is fixed in the book's dictatorial tone, which is much its most striking feature. Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal.

the ayn rand inspired college

In addition, the mind, which finds this one natural to it, shares other characteristics of its type.

1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it.

2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation.

Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them.

From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: "To the gas chambers— go!" The same inflexibly self-righteous stance results, too (in the total absence of any saving humor), in odd extravagances of inflection and gesture— that Dollar Sign, for example. At first, we try to tell ourselves that these are just lapses, that this mind has, somehow, mislaid the discriminating knack that most of us pray will warn us in time of the differences between what is effective and firm, and what is wildly grotesque and excessive.

Soon we suspect something worse. We suspect that this mind finds, precisely in extravagance, some exalting merit; feels a surging release of power and passion precisely in smashing up the house. A tornado might feel this way, or Carrie Nation.

David Boaz on Ayn

We struggle to be just. For we cannot help feel at least a sympathetic pain before the sheer labor, discipline and patient craftsmanship that went to making this mountain of words. But the words keep shouting us down. In the end that tone dominates. But it should be its own antidote, warning us that anything it shouts is best taken with the usual reservations with which we might sip a patent medicine. Some may like the flavor. In any case, the brew is probably without lasting ill effects. But it is not a cure for anything. Nor would we, ordinarily, place much confidence in the diagnosis of a doctor who supposes that the Hippocratic Oath is a kind of curse.

From National Review, December 28, 1957, pp. 594-596


Tuesday
Jan202009

In Which We Can By Borrowing Live Beyond Our Means

Ten Best Political Speeches of All Time

by Alex Carnevale

The art of oratory is in a strange place, as John McWhorter pointed out in a recent article in The New Republic. The shift that has taken place has been driven by technological change:

Part of the difference between our era and earlier times is technology. Speakers in the early twentieth century and before had to get their message across in large spaces without microphones. ...They were experienced by most from a distance, forced to speak precisely and use broad gestures. Today's speakers can use their natural voices, and, as often as not, their faces are shown on large screens as they speak. The old-style grandiloquence would seem affected and insincere.

The best political speeches of the last couple hundred years have been driven by a healthy mix of "old-style grandiloquence" and the everyday language that has now permeated most aspects of American life.

10. Barbara Jordan's Address to the 1976 Democratic National Convention (mp3)

Our favorite lesbian Democrat was born in the wrong generation. President Clinton loved the hell out of this woman and if she was younger and her health had been better, she might have been the Madeleine Albright of his administration.

Jordan's keynote was a moving, energetic address. For me, it does the best job of going past party lines to endear the audience to the speaker, while still being unabashedly partisan. If you did not like Barbara Jordan after this speech, you were crazy.

If we promise as public officials, we must deliver. If we as public officials propose, we must produce. If we say to the American people it is time for you to be sacrificial; sacrifice. If the public official says that, we (public officials) must be the first to give. We must be. And again, if we make mistakes, we must be willing to admit them.

We have to do that. What we have to do is strike a balance between the idea , the belief, that government ought to do nothing, and the idea that the government ought to do everything.

9. Ronald Reagan after the Challenger exploded (mp3)

This short address to the nation after the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after its launch is one of the great short addresses by a president to the nation. There's a reason Peggy Noonan has prime column space in the Wall Street Journal: she was one of the greatest presidential speechwriters in history. Her poignant, mannered, soulful speech for Reagan after the Challenger tragedy was a masterpiece of rhetoric. If you had to go over the top, you needed Peggy. The speech has a famous ending, but I love the structure of this part:

And I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

As a devout Catholic, Peggy never banged on the first date, but she must had given you a hell of a time anyway. Here her faith and her love of flowery language hold up well. Masterfully done is the transition from natural language to heightened, metaphorical language. McCain should try it on for size - he's never been an inspirational figure like his counterpart (and perhaps that works in his favor with some) but a larger appeal to the nation at large wouldn't surprise me tonight.

8. Barack Obama's Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention (mp3)

if you look at the amazing focus group C-Span aired on Sunday by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, you'll see that despite the fact that Barack Obama has been a public figure since his 2004 epic speech at the Democratic National Convention, his speaking ability has never been in question. Since that fundamentally wasn't the reaction to his debut on the political scene, I think we can now agree that there's such thing as being too good of a speaker.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awQkJNVsgKM]

Both President Bushes milked this phenomenon for all it was worth, constantly pointing out that while giving speeches wasn't their strong suit, they had other strengths. Barack seems to have learned that people don't want to vote for someone they think is smarter than them.

That's why this speech was so effective. Instead of bragging about how his mother taught him to picture himself in another person's shoes, implying he's the most empathetic creature to walk the earth, Barack talked about where he came from and who he is. He needs to get back to that, stat. We don't disagree that Barack is empathetic, we just don't think swing voters care that he feels their pain. This speech had a different tone:

Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope: In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation, a belief in things not seen, a belief that there are better days ahead.

I think this was the moment when a lot of people made up their minds about the kind of person Barack is.

7. Winston Churchill, We shall fight them on the beaches (mp3)

When it comes to rah-rah, there was none better.

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.

young winston

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6llT2ZYg-4E]

Winston always knew just what to say - check out his address at Harrow School. This kind of energy is more suited to John McCain. Churchill is a great model for him, even down to the level of the line.

6. Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (mp3)

This magnificent speech couldn't be given today, but it's still an amazing piece of rhetorical skill. Honestly sometimes it's like Lincoln just pumped out a really hot blog the night before and then read it as his speech and everyone was like, "YOU BLOG AWESOME LINC!" I highly recommend John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, it is great.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Lincoln got stirring tributes at both conventions this year. He's a fascinating figure: depressed, sick, possibly gay. It's pretty much like if Proust had become president. I think eventually we will find a solid literary politician. In the meantime, Obama (who once considered becoming a novelist) is going to have to do.

5. Malcolm X, "The Ballot and the Bullet" (mp3)

One of the great memoirists of all time was also an extremely moving orator. Besides the obvious strengths of this speech, no one was better at knowing what to say to a specific type of person than Malcolm. It's natural that no one is too keen on comparing Barack with Malcolm. But they do share some qualities, including a way of speaking. Despite giving his DNC address on the anniversary of King's famous speech, Obama has more in common with X's oratory than King's.

The title of the speech is an echo of a Frederick Douglass essay, the kind of historical reference point that would go a long way for both candidates.

king and x

X's autobiography is on another level from most political books. It is taught in schools everywhere: the book is a moving and disturbing look at growing up in America. Like "The Ballot and the Bullet," it accomplishes that rare feat of appearing to be totally honest while manipulating the reader at the same time:

Well, I am one who doesn't believe in deluding myself. I'm not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn't need any legislation; you wouldn't need any amendments to the Constitution; you wouldn't be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now. They don't have to pass civil-rights legislation to make a Polack an American.

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BYVv4LY_KQ]

No, I'm not an American. I'm one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy.

So, I'm not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver—no, not I. I'm speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don't see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.

This is the opposite of an appeal. An appeal can be turned down, dismissed. A proclamation must stand and be heard. I think Obama accomplished this in his speech - tonight we'll see if McCain can do the same in his.

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4. Mario Cuomo, Address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention (mp3)

At a convention where the Democrats were already doomed, Mario Cuomo's task was to lay out the critique of the Reagan years that the Democratic Party still offers today.

Maybe, maybe, Mr. President, if you visited some more places; maybe if you went to Appalachia where some people still live in sheds; maybe if you went to Lackawanna where thousands of unemployed steel workers wonder why we subsidized foreign steel. Maybe - Maybe, Mr. President, if you stopped in at a shelter in Chicago and spoke to some of the homeless there; maybe, Mr. President, if you asked a woman who had been denied the help she needed to feed her children because you said you needed the money for a tax break for a millionaire or for a missile we couldn't afford to use.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOdIqKsv624]

Maybe - Maybe, Mr. President. But I'm afraid not. Because the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that this is how we were warned it would be. President Reagan told us from the very beginning that he believed in a kind of social Darwinism. Survival of the fittest. "Government can't do everything," we were told, so it should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest. Make the rich richer, and what falls from the table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.

 

Although my own views on American politics have changed dramatically since I put a picture of Cuomo and the above quote from this speech on my wall in 1994 as an 11 year old, the impact of this speech is felt constantly. While the original perfected the art of the vague anecdote, the gesture is way overdone today.

 

 

Every time I hear Obama or McCain reference a vague anecdote as a premise for policy ("I met a woman in Iowa...") I secretly blame Cuomo. Bush and Clinton did this all the time as well. It's become a political staple, but it could be easily reinvented or subverted by a clever speaker.

 

3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address (mp3)

The entire FDR presidency reminds us of the John McCain campaign. The brilliance of political operatives is paramount in both cases. The men running the McCain campaign have solved the image problem that FDR had by using an exciting woman, while the men running the FDR campaign just used trick photography and the wink-wink of the media.

FDR is awesome to listen to on the radio. He had the perfect voice for headphones, and his voice makes thoughts simple or complicated accessible to the audience. If you've visited the quote-heavy FDR Memorial in Washington, you know he had some of the classic lines in American history.

Recognition of that falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

 

 

2. Reverend King at the March on Washington (mp3)

 

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest - quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

 

What more can be said about this one? The only Reverend on this list, King's writings are compulsively readable, and the language never seems dated, probably because it channels religious verse rather than in spite of it. It will be fascinating to see if McCain references Christ or God in his speech. No one ever lost an election pandering to Christians.

 

1. Ronald Reagan's Speech at Point du Hoc (mp3)

John McCain's military career has been constantly highlighted during this convention, and Fred Thompson's long recounting of McCain's time as a POW was featured prominently on Tuesday night. Reagan wasn't much of a combat man himself (and neither was Noonan, the speech's principal writer).

reagan and daughter in the oval office

But instead of apologizing for that, he used it. He spoke from the position of most of us: the ones who owe a debt to those who served in wars. It was this refinement of where he was speaking from that made this speech so perfect:

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBeyZAmmJNg]

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge - and pray God we have not lost it - that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

peggy and her hero

jimmy carter and daughter amy

gerald ford and daughter

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reagan and nancy

Friday
Dec192008

In Which We Go On To The Useless Presents

 

Fun City

 

by Emma Rebhorn

 

I am nurturing a crush on John Lindsay. He’s dead, he died in 2001, and so it’s a crush a la my really serious feelings for Marlon Brando and Jaffe Ryder. To be honest, it’s a crush reminiscent of my serious feelings for Ryan Gosling: it’s never going to happen.

 

 

Lindsay’s liberalism and his pretty face were anathema to Robert Moses, who famously said, “if you elect a matinee-idol mayor, you’re going to have a musical theater administration.” I suspect Mrs. Moses was among the first ones to pine.

 

 

Lindsay served as Mayor of New York from 1966 to 1973. He had been the Congressman for the Upper East Side’s “Silk Stocking District” for three terms before that; this was in an age when Democratic machines still stuffed ballot boxes and broke kneecaps. It was courageous, it seems, to be a Republican, and Lindsay was.

 

The 1960s were a time of shifting boundaries, however, and the dignified party of Theodore Roosevelt was gradually ceding ground to Alabama Governor George Wallace’s police dogs and fire hoses.

 

 

Lindsay treated the streets differently than Wallace. During his first mayoral campaign he spent afternoons walking up and down 145th Street, in Central Harlem. On one of those afternoons he held a town meeting at Covent Avenue Baptist Church and promised the audience “glorious new housing.” I am confident that housing projects had not been called “glorious” before Lindsay, and I am confident that they have not been called so since.

 

'Glorious' was lofty but Lindsay saw no discrepancy between the majesty of the pulpit and the primal need for shelter. Such a collapsing of the practical into the grand characterized his style of governance, which William F. Buckley, founder of National Review, called “flamboyant idealism.”

 

 

The walks continued after the election; Mayor Lindsay’s flânerie expanded to the Bronx and Brooklyn. The New York Times published a sidebar blurb on the excursions in August 1967, confused by its patrician mayor’s sweaty shirts. “All summer long,” the blurb clucks, “he has been patrolling the neighborhoods as if he were a flatfoot in shirtsleeves on the dawn shift.” Lindsay’s security detail was equally befuddled. In 1968, one long-suffering assistant said, “we lost him all the time last summer. He’d disappear into a building and come out all smiles ten minutes later.”

 

 

Lindsay’s walking tours carry with them a whiff of voyeurism, a trip to a ghetto zoo. “I feel safer in Harlem than I do at City Hall,” he said, which is something I might have echoed as a shiny faced, starry eyed seventeen year old. Lindsay and the white media presented Harlem residents as blindly loyal to their Mayor: grateful, self-effacing.

 

In 1968, Lindsay said, “in the areas of the city where I have the greatest protection, it comes from the people themselves—in ghetto communities, in Harlem, Bedford Stuyvesant, and the South Bronx.” The Times continued, incredulous, “Mr. Lindsay said that on his walking tours people on ghetto streets came up to him to say ‘don’t you worry, Mayor, you’re safe here.’”

 

 

Such a departure from business as usual frightened the white working and middle classes who had been doing quite well with business as usual. A rift grew between blue-collar civil servants and the increasingly Liberal, well-coiffed Mayor. On one of his walks, Lindsay discovered that the Sanitation Department had been reporting regular cleaning of vacant lots that had not been touched in years.

 

On Lindsay’s first day in office, the transit workers union went on strike.

 

 

Lindsay refused to negotiate with the transit union and the strike lasted for twelve freezing January days. He recommended that commuters stay at home, and asked them not to bring cars into the city. Henry Quill, the brash president of the transit union, made a puckish announcement that, no, in fact, everyone should bring their cars, traffic be dammed. Lindsay was reduced to a childish back and forth and appeared on television the next day, insisting, “Mr. Quill is not Mayor. I am the Mayor. And I’m asking everybody not to bring cars to Manhattan.”

 

 

Halfway through the strike, Lindsay walked for four miles in freezing rain from his “headquarters” at the Hotel Roosevelt to City Hall. It probably did not help the Mayor’s effete reputation that City Hall provided apparently insufficient head-quartering, but what really consigned him to mockery during the strike was his announcement following the walk, “I still think New York’s a fun city!”

 

 

There was hail and some people hadn’t been able get paid for a week. No one else was having any fun.

 

When Lindsay ran for re-election as Mayor in 1969 he was defeated in his own party’s primary by the virtually unknown Staten Island State Senator John Marchi. Marchi was, even contemporaneously, acknowledged as utterly personality-less.

 

 

Richard Reeves was the Times political reporter. He wrote

 

There are a multitude of things that Marchi is not. He’s not witty, forceful, passionate; often he is not articulate; he is not truly ambitious. Naturally, he is not recognized; he walks along Broadway on a sunny May day, slightly stooped under the shadows of a dark coat and brown fedora, talking quietly of destroying the political career of John V. Lindsay.

 

 

Reeves continues, pointing out that Marchi’s very candidacy was based entirely on his emptiness: “Marchi’s only chance is based on something he is not—he is not Lindsay.” The outer boroughs had spoken in favor of the “not”, but Lindsay went on to win the Mayoral election on the Liberal Party line. The matinee idol and his urban crusaders marched on, idealism and impracticality equally intempered. Years after Lindsay was Mayor, his former city planning commissioner, Gordon Davis, explained, “It was a time when you still thought you could solve the urban crisis.”

 

 

The rising popularity of drugs frightened city residents, who tended to exaggerate addicts’ depravity and reject treatment facilities in their neighborhoods. I consider a poem from second volume of Breakthrough, the self-published newsletter of a heroin treatment clinic in Jamaica, Queens, as emblematic of the nihilism of the fraying city. “DL” writes:

 

Dead babies and broken dolls.

Faust and froth and a mad dog’s jaw.

This is what you mean to me,

All of this and more.

Circus freaks walk alone.

Sticks and stones; broken bones.

A tangled web into I fell,

Sold my soul, a bag of gold.

Nothin beats sweet, sweet hell.

 

More than half of the country’s heroin addicts were New Yorkers, and the great majority of those lived in the city. Despite widespread local and national opposition, the city’s Health Services Agency dedicated itself wholly to implementing a program of methadone maintenance for heroin addicts. In 1970, when the city’s methadone program was only a year old and serving 2,500 patients, the city Health Commissioner, Gordon Chase, projected that his agency could be serving 15,600 patients within a year. In a memo, he admitted, “the projection of 15,600 addicts is plainly on the optimistic side—and may well be downright unrealistic.” But, he continued unfazed, “it is probably well to set our sights high at the outset. We can always take more than 12 months.” Sure.

 

 

When a private methadone treatment facility on the West Side closed due to a sudden decrease in federal funding, the city couldn’t find a adequate replacement. The Health Services Agency decided to rent, for a dollar a year, a decommissioned Staten Island Ferry. After a two-week period of frantic repairs, the Gold Star Ferryboat Clinic opened on June 7, 1971, on Pier One off of Battery Park.

 

 

Only months after a mayoral commission called New York City’s subways "the most squalid public environment of the U.S.: dank, dingily lit, fetid, raucous with screeching clatter,” Lindsay had air conditioning installed. This from the man who hadn’t been able to negotiate with municipal school or transit employees and had failed even to get the streets of Queens cleared after an epic 1969 snowstorm.

 

New York would get worse before it got better: Lindsay declined to run for a third term as Mayor. Voters regressed and elected Abe Beame, an uninspired Democratic machine bureaucrat. The city was virtually bankrupt within three years.

 

Vincent Cannato’s authoritative and largely negative biography of Lindsay is titled The Ungovernable City. That title is misleading: Cannato argues that it was the Mayor, not the city, which failed. I am not so sure.

 

 

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, crisis upon crisis plagued American cities. When reminiscing about their time of public service, former Lindsay administration officials frequently invoke the fact that “New York didn’t burn.” It’s true, and cities that did—Newark and Detroit among them—are still scarred. In a time of such tumult, Lindsay’s efforts to unify New Yorkers (members of the Bensonhurst Kiwanis Club, attendees of the Happenings in Central Park, Brooklyn’s Hasidim and Harlem’s Baptists) astounded onlookers simply by virtue of their audacity.

 

 

Lindsay died in 2001, poor and dependent on insurance from a pity position to which he’d been nominated by Mayor Giuliani. The core problems of the matinee idol mayor, the flamboyant idealist, were summarized by Lindsay’s former speechwriter Jeff Greenfield: “When we ask Sir Lancelot to feed horses and do the washing, his armor tends to tarnish.”

 

Emma Rebhorn is a contributor to This Recording. She is a law student living in New Orleans. Her blog is here.

 

 

"Ulysses" - Franz Ferdinand (mp3)

 

"Braveheart Party" - Nas (mp3)

 

"We're Looking For A Lot of Love (Geese Mix)" - Hot Chip ft. Robert Wyatt (mp3)

 

"Music is Math" - Boards of Canada (mp3)

 

"Moment of Clarity" - Jay-Z (mp3)

 

 

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It's important to get tested.

 

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It lasts longer and is more consistent.

 



 

Wednesday
Dec032008

In Which It Happened That Night

Young Republican

by Amanda Shank

Recently I requested a cancellation of my membership to the New York Young Republicans Club. I had been a member for approximately ten days, for the exorbitant price of $35.

Shortly thereafter, I received a personalized response from the president of the NYYRC, assuming that we had not had the pleasure to meet and inquiring what “malcontent” had caused me to terminate my membership. I was told that in the history of the club, I was the first person who had ever requested a membership cancellation.

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I lied and said I was moving out of New York (cue kind response from president wishing me well in my future endeavors). In reality, my brief stint as a Republican was purely an all access pass into their election night event (“Victory 2008!”), which I attended, more or less, for my own amusement. Chris was covering the event for The L Magazine, and what better way to remember an unprecedentedly historical election night than having spent it undercover with the losing team?

The event was held in midtown Manhattan at the Women’s National Republican Club, the entrance vaguely unnoticeable from 51st Street with double doors that smoothed into an open hallway and a sweeping curve of stairs. Well-dressed and uncomfortable looking New Yorkers gathered like burgeoning flocks of geese in the ballroom on the second floor, hazily reminding me of Cotillion in the seventh grade: lacking in ambiance and disturbingly still. No one moved. The press cowered with their cameras in the corner. Everyone talked, but it was stilted, anxious chatter. Glasses of white wine and bottles of Amstel light were clutched tightly in manicured hands.

As soon as I walked in I felt like a spy. I’d worn a navy blazer, but still felt disheveled and mismatched, sure to give myself away as an obvious intruder. With a glass of red wine (daring), I melded into the crowd and pushed myself to the front just in time for a speech from the earlier-mentioned president of the NYYRC.

“I am so pleased to see all of you here,” she began, smiling warmly. “Especially in New York, where it is hard to believe in this party!”

Nervous laughter.

Her speech continued for a few more distracted moments, ignoring the television nearby announcing that Obama had just won Pennsylvania. I pretended to watch Fox News and lingered creepily close to a young couple clearly demoralized over Obama’s growing victory.

“See, this is the kind of thing that makes me so mad,” the woman muttered irritably. “I mean, three percent of the votes are in!”

“Oh, I know,” the man agreed. “And you know what I think is weird – you didn’t need an ID to vote today, but you needed an ID to get into Grant Park?” I wondered if he was looking for an affirmation or an argument.

“Hmmm,” the woman said, furrowing her brow as they turned somberly to the television.

“And, come on, Pennsylvania? Go Phillies!” the man exclaimed sarcastically. Less kindly, “go coal mines!”

With no real means of penetrating any of the conversations, I looped around the pockets of people, a room full of people whose life views fundamentally differed from my own. Why did I expect to produce insight from the friction? I realized if I was going to learn anything, I couldn’t just eavesdrop. I had to engage.

A word of warning: if you ever decide to interview a room of Republicans (or any avidly political group for that matter), even the most naively looking participant is going to demand to know who you are writing for, what the age group is, and (with only a pinch of subtlety) what affiliation it is. Thus, I told them I was writing for This Recording – a young, mostly Republican website. This seemed to satisfy the majority of interviewees, with only one gentleman raising a suspicious eyebrow and asking, “Who did you say you were writing for?” For the most part, the magic “R” word granted me an armload of pre-rehearsed sound bites like a long line Chanukah gifts.

The first pair of men I approached adjusted their bowties and smiled at each other as I took notes. Both originally from the New Jersey area, one now worked for a financial services company and the other for an IT firm.

“We are here for 270!” the first man exclaimed.

When I asked why they were voting for McCain, their faces grew serious. The first man said that he “deeply respected McCain’s call for personal responsibility and duty.” The second man said that, for him, McCain represented economic freedom and that he “wanted our allies to be allies.”

“Are you nervous for tonight’s outcome?” I asked.

“Last year Tom Brokaw called it at 12:30,” said the first man, punctuating his statement with a dramatic pause. “And he was wrong.”

dsc_0124

The two women I approached next looked at each other nervously when I asked if I could ask them a couple of questions. The brunette looked at her lighter-haired friend with a shrug of her shoulders, while the blond shook her head and looked away, her lips tightly shut.

“What do you want to ask?” the brunette finally said.

“Just a few questions about why you’re here this evening.”

She looked to her friend for approval. Not receiving it, she decided to talk to me anyway. Originally from Bulgaria and currently working for a hedge fund company, she answered all of my questions with statements that masqueraded as questions

“Why are you voting for McCain this evening?”

“Lower taxes?”

I stayed silent, pen poised, waiting for more.

“He’ll create jobs?” Pause. “Healthcare?”

She seemed to be bracing herself against my counterattacks, to the point that I couldn’t bring myself to ask them. Wanting to spare her any more scrutiny from her unwilling friend, I thanked her and left while she let out an audible sigh of relief.

After circling the party for about an hour, I began to get a sneaking suspicion that the entire room had been given a special handbook full of rules and protocol and standards – a set list of sound bites and opinions that does not exist for their liberal counterparts. I combed the room, choosing a random assortment. The answers were as disturbingly identical as the individuals. The men all wore bowties and smiled out of the corners of their mouths. The women all wore blazers of varying fabrics and didn’t smile. Their professions varied from financial services to IT companies. Their reasoning for supporting McCain ranged from his experience to his tax and healthcare plans. Their fears about Obama varied from his tax plan to that we would be attacked if he were elected

In truth, a part of me wanted someone to hit me sideways with some hidden gems of Republican policy that would force me to reexamine my liberal doctrine and enable me to leave the evening’s event a little more neutral. I wanted to understand the convictions that had brought a few hundred people to a cavernous and poorly lit ballroom to support a candidate who by all logic had already lost. But all I got was a repetition of staid quips and a short list of predictable hopes and fears.

I found Chris amongst the crowd (easy considering he was the only man in the room wearing a puffer vest and a messenger bag) and we began to quietly compare interview stories when we noticed a tall, stocky man standing in a nearby corner, holding a video camera and narrating the event to himself.

“Excuse me, sir,” Chris interrupted. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

The man examined both of us and kept filming.

“Sure,” he said.

“To start, where are you from and what do you do?” Chris asked.

“I’m a diamond broker. From London, Chicago and now New York.”

“Great. Can I ask why you are voting for McCain today?”

“I always vote Republican,” he said.

“What are you fears if Obama is elected tonight?” I interjected.

“I’m not afraid,” he clarified. “I mean, I make more than two hundred and fifty thousand a year so I’m not going to be taxed out the wazoo.” He paused for a moment to sweep his still-active camera around the room and then focused in on us again.

“Obama has nothing to do with us putting up skyscrapers,” he continued. “But more people will die. We will be attacked.”

“I’m not afraid,” he said again.

Nearby, the widescreen televisions trumpeted that Obama had just won Ohio.

“That’s it,” Chris whispered to me, trying to suppress a smile.

dsc_0121

I could faintly hear Times Square outside the looming windows, the whooping and hollering, the distant sound of a band playing near Rockefeller Center. I could no longer fake a neutral point of view. I wanted nothing more than to be part of the celebration- the Democratic victory, which for so long had seemed an impossibility.

Depositing our plastic cups of wine on a nearby table, we hurriedly slipped down the curving staircase, ran down the hallway and out into the unseasonably warm air of New York, the bow ties and blazers and the diamond broker all willingly left behind.

A few days after the event, Chris also requested a cancellation of his membership. He showed me his response from the president – it was verbatim the same email she had sent to me only two days earlier. We took pleasure in jointly being the “first” people to ever quit the New York Young Republicans Club.

Amanda Shank is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York City. She is also an Editor-at-Large for anderbo.com. She tumbles here.

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portrait of the author reading claire messud

"Interlude (No Known Home)" - Gang Gang Dance (mp3)

"Inners Pace" - Gang Gang Dance (mp3)

"Afoot" - Gang Gang Dance (mp3)

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