As readers of this blog know, I have somewhat of a following among the libertarian right. I don’t really understand it except that there is a deep part of me that distrusts centralization, whether in academic bureaucracies, corporate headquarters or in government institutions. So I guess I was not surprised when a couple of people wrote me this week and asked me to say something about the death of Andrew Breitbart. I know my liberal friends are going to be angry with this post, but so be it.
I had met Andrew for the first time two months ago over dinner in a Santa Monica steakhouse. I had come at the invitation of a conservative friend who wanted me to see that Breitbart was not the demon that I had depicted him as, during the Shirley Sherrod fiasco. When I left the restaurant after a large meal and multiple bottles of red wine I had a couple of impressions that stayed with me. First was that Andrew was a somewhat charming provocateur, much in the spirit of Abby Hoffman. Like Hoffman, I was never sure Breitbart really believed half the shit that came out of his mouth, but his main purpose seemed to be a social irritant.
The second impression from the dinner was that Andrew was sick at heart about the prospects of beating Obama in 2012. He called the current Republican field “pygmies” and I actually believe he felt that Sarah Palin would have been a far better candidate. I laughed at that. He truly despised Obama, and in some weird way I think he felt that the election of 2008 had been the culmination of an era of political correctness, which he considered to be the main source of evil in the modern world. Just why Barack became the focus of his anger, I couldn’t fathom, but I came to see this loathing as something that was not connected to a rational process, but rather something more from his “reptilian brain”. This kind of anger is not kind to your heart.
So how ironic that the day of Andrew’s passing that Rush Limbaugh, a far less charming angry man of the right, chose once again to dive into the deep pool of misogyny that has defined his career since he first used the term “Feminazi”. Limbaugh’s assertion about Susan Fluke being a “prostitute and a slut” are so unhinged that one can only believe he is back on the “hillbilly heroin” (OxyContin) again. So Limbaugh may be just a drug-addled “entertainer”, but what is Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich’s excuse for that same attitude— believing we have been on the road to damnation as a country since the pill was introduced and Rock and Roll eclipsed Frank Sinatra? In my book, Outlaw Blues, I quote Sinatra in 1956 saying that Rock was filled with “sly, lewd and dirty lyrics”, performed by “cretinous goons”. Of course Frank was pissed off at Elvis, but why is Rick Santorum still angry about the sexual revolution fifty years later?
In some weird way I hope that Rick Santorum does become the standard bearer for the Republican Party. I have said from the beginning of this campaign that I would really like a showdown between President Obama and a Tea Party Conservative. If Romney wins the nomination, he will weasel back to the center so fast it will make your head spin. The fact that Romney is unwilling to denounce Limbaugh proves what a spineless toad he is.
But not Rick. With him as the candidate it will be “a choice not an echo” and in my view will be a total repeat of Goldwater’s 1964 drubbing. The country will come to the realization that we are not a hard right society and that the Tea Party is a minority cult. And then maybe, with some real breathing room after an epic victory, the Democrats might reexamine some of the ideas of subsidiarity and decentralization that might realign some of the anti-war libertarians and the true liberals in a new progressivism.
Which brings me back to Breitbart. He wanted a choice election too, but not the choice of “pygmies” like Romney, Santorum or Gingrich. Although he liked Limbaugh, he despised Glenn Beck. Over the course of the dinner I kept saying that I was a classic Liberal. I believed in liberty and equality of opportunity. And he kept saying that he believed in those things too, but that “liberalism” had been demeaned by the Left. If we had had time, we might have come to some meeting ground. But it was not to be.