Bush Like Me
October 15, 2004 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Bush Like Me: Ten weeks undercover in the grass roots of the Republican Party:
As a professional misanthrope, I believe that if you are going to hate a person, you ought to do it properly. You should go and live in his shoes for a while and see at the end of it how much you hate yourself. This was what I was doing down in Florida. The real challenge wasn't just trying to understand these Republicans. It was to become the best Republican I could be.
posted by GriffX (44 comments total)
Seems very interesting, but I have trouble accessing that article in both Firefox and IE.
posted by NekulturnY at 7:59 AM on October 15, 2004

That was really, really good, thanks. Pity it had to end, or is there more to come, since it does say ten weeks undercover?
posted by Onanist at 8:10 AM on October 15, 2004

works fine for me in opera. good article.
posted by lotsofno at 8:11 AM on October 15, 2004

more! more!!
posted by ae4rv at 8:13 AM on October 15, 2004

Worked in Firefox for me. Had to scroll down a bunch to reach the text, however.
posted by aramaic at 8:16 AM on October 15, 2004

fascinating read.
posted by evening at 8:17 AM on October 15, 2004

heh. well worth it. read.
posted by AwkwardPause at 8:22 AM on October 15, 2004

Good serial writing leaves you with the taste without filling you up... I want MORE!

[this is tasty]
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:37 AM on October 15, 2004

Bah. I thought it was horribly written. He basically labels himself a weirdo and provocateur, which usually translates into: desperate for attention. I think the guy found the situation a lot more dull than he expected it to be and while he tries to sound a bit sympathetic here and there, blows that all to hell at the end when he starts telling his story to the Christian family at the end, just to make them react. Their reactions aren't even that notable.

He said that some of the Republicans he talked to equated Democrats with the terrorists, but didn't bother to find out why. I'd love to hear an explanation for this. His interest in the lone black Republican in the area was decent, and could've written a better article on him alone instead of trying to be master of disguise and pointing and laughing at these people behind their backs.
posted by picea at 8:46 AM on October 15, 2004

Excellent article, more please!
posted by chrid at 8:48 AM on October 15, 2004

What picea said. In spades. That started so promisingly and ended with a damp fizzle.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:49 AM on October 15, 2004

It was pretty good but too short and anticlimactic. Top it off with some Friday Flash Fun. (Gary Busey and a coupla ferrets and a weasel.)
posted by ae4rv at 8:57 AM on October 15, 2004

I dunno, I didn't get the impression that he was laughing at the family by telling such an outrageous point - he was simply supporting his previous argument that fundamentalist Christians need to create a series of Bogeymen to constantly test their weak faith. I've heard stories of the same caliber told and re-told as the Gospel Truth™ by frantic conservative members of my extended family. It's the sort of stuff they want to hear about, like kids scaring themselves with ghost stories at summer camp.

Excellent article - and with no conclusion, it feels like there must be more to come.
posted by junkbox at 9:02 AM on October 15, 2004

A good read, but I had two thoughts:

1. He seemed more interested in getting strong reactions than anything else. Also, does anyone think it's a bit odd that in that space of time he managed to encounter every Republican stereotype, ranging from the tokenism, to the overt rascism, the calling all Democrats terrorists, to the whole "Left Behind" thing? Some of it's real, but I have to wonder how much of it is stuff he made up just to have a more dramatic article that would appeal to his friends.

2. This article is the reason why the Democrats keep losing elections. I support the Democratic party, but this article pin-points their key problem: they have a hard core group that simply refuses to believe that anyone of any importance will ever vote Republican. You have a group of people telling themselves how dumb the opposition is, and meanwhile, you're a minority in Congress, and the latest polls show your candidate in a dead heat with a certified moron! When you're doing as badly as the Democrats are, it's time to stop viewing the opposition as stupid and ineffectual.
posted by unreason at 9:02 AM on October 15, 2004

You have a point there, junkbox, but on reflection, doesn't this story serve the exact same function for those of us who fear the Bush and his minions as his transvestite and coke-sniffing teachers story serves for that family? They fear and feed off our alleged moral depravity, we fear their alleged fervent irrationality.
posted by picea at 9:22 AM on October 15, 2004

The observation that the most politically active tend to be moderates is a great one, and, now that I think of it, is true on both sides of the aisle. Politics is full of compromise; the hard-core like to spend their time in places more amenable to the true believer.

Otherwise, though, kind of thin. I hope he's already sold the book (for which the piece is an obvious flier), because as is it's not going to get his agent's phone ringing.
posted by MattD at 9:28 AM on October 15, 2004

we fear their alleged fervent irrationality.

MattD just covered it - another point he was trying to make was that the most active were the most moderate. I got the sense that "Susie" was one of the less-active volunteers, since she was just manning a phone bank and that was the first day he'd met her. I felt he was contrasting her extreme point of view with the POV of the other, more active and more moderate volunteers.

I agree though that we on the left are just as prone to fear-mongering as the right; however, this article does little to feed my scare-complex. It's a human story of decent, familiar-seeming folks doing what they consider the right thing; I empathize with most of the people he describes, even Susie. Stories like this are much more apt to give me a satisfying shiver.
posted by junkbox at 9:40 AM on October 15, 2004

Great idea, poor execution. I read it on the train this morning.

I always think it's funny how stories like these appear in Rolling Stone and the instant someone gets their subscription, it shows up on MeFi. Not to say that's what happened here.
posted by agregoli at 9:43 AM on October 15, 2004

sigh ... this article showed a basic lack of connection with the real republican power base ... you have to talk to the small businessmen ... the local politicians ... the "leaders" of the community and those who look up to them ... an organized campaign for bush among these people is, as he noticed, an afterthought ... you have to go to main street america ... and yes, you will hear racism there ... and you will hear some religious fanaticism ... but you will also hear quite a few ordinary people unable to understand why people ... whether they are liberal democrats or terrorists ... hate them for living a lifestyle that is productive, safe and well-ordered for them ... they take their responsibities as they define them seriously, and fulfill them ... they think that the reason they have what they have is because they worked hard and followed the rules ... and think that the reason others aren't succeeding is because they don't ... and even though they may disagree with democratic politicians on a national level, they often find they have much in common with the local democratic pols and their followers, including the same values

they are conservatives in the real sense ... they want to preserve the world they understand and live in and can't understand why it is changing on them ... as much as they despise leftist radicals ... not that they're likely to meet many ... they fear the radicals on the right, too ... and bush, in spite of his rhetoric, has not done much that they consider radical

they're fundamentally decent people who don't understand how the other half live ... or the other half of the country lives ... and can't understand why there is so much trouble over the simple concepts of being responsible for yourself, working for a living, and living a clean honest life ... even if such concepts don't take the whole reality into view

they overlook a lot of things that discomfort them ... they don't understand those who live differently or why they would choose to or why they should change their ways for them ... and as change comes, they have gotten angrier and more confused

he spent 10 weeks with them ... big deal ... he still doesn't understand them ... and anyone who thinks this article is actually insightful doesn't understand them either ... especially seeing as some of the ones i know are now leaning towards kerry ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:57 AM on October 15, 2004

great porn for democrats.
posted by H. Roark at 9:58 AM on October 15, 2004

Whoa. Ellipsis button on your keyboard stuck? And where'd the shift key go?
posted by armoured-ant at 10:26 AM on October 15, 2004

whether they are liberal democrats or terrorists ... hate them for living a lifestyle that is productive, safe and well-ordered for them

First off, you spent more effort typing ellipses than if you'd just typed ONE period and left it intelligible.

Second, liberals don't hate Republicans because of their "productive lifestyle." But I can tell you that their ideological inconsistencies, intolerance, selfishness, and fear certainly don't help make their case.

"they don't understand those who live differently or why they would choose to or why they should change their ways for them ... and as change comes, they have gotten angrier and more confused"

Just call a spade a spade: this is ignorance and intolerance, and their ranks are filled with it. See, we do "get" them just fine. But you're right in that this doesn't explain how people actually end up this way.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:27 AM on October 15, 2004

Interesting read and some insightful responses. Worthwhile tread for me. With a grain of salt, as always.
posted by semmi at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2004

Matt Taibbi, of the notorious Exile newspaper in Russia, has earned the right to proclaim how weird and vile he is. He's responsible for the horse sperm incident that made the news recently.
posted by inksyndicate at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2004

I'd with Pyramid termite and H. Roark. "Porn for Democrats". Heh.

"The problem not only with fundamentalist Christians but with Republicans in general [ OK, right there the writer has lost my respect, because he has not extended it to his subjects ] is not that they act on blind faith, without thinking. The problem [ OK - NOW it's all clear! The Problem! ] is that they are incorrigible doubters with an insatiable appetite for Evidence. [ Hardboiled skeptics, like scientists! - bullcrap ] What they get off [ A little sexual innuendo : after all, this is "Rolling Stone" material ] on is not Believing, but in having their beliefs tested. That's why their conversations and their media are so completely dominated by implacable bogeymen: marrying gays, liberals, the ACLU, Sean Penn, Europeans and so on. Their faith both in God and in their political convictions is too weak[ Taibbi, at this point, smears an entire segment of Christianity in America based on....what? Mr. Taibbi, I have a little NEWS for you : I choose to question WHAT they believe -and especially their theocratic plans for America, but I do NOT question the faith of most of those on the religious right, especially those who have done the massive amount of work done, over the last 3 decades, by the religious right as it built a whole constellation of parallel "Christian" institutions - educational, cultural, media, and so on. Home schooling ain't no picnic either ] - to survive without an unceasing string of real and imaginary confrontations with those people -- and for those confrontations, they are constantly assembling evidence and facts to make their case....But here's the twist. They are not looking for facts with which to defeat opponents. [ At this point, I'm wondering the extent to which Taibbi is in touch with reality. The religious right I'm aware of has taken (mostly) control of the GOP from the ground up, in a stunningly effective decades long campaign ] They are looking for facts that ensure them an ever-expanding roster of opponents. They can be correct facts, incorrect facts, irrelevant facts, it doesn't matter. The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom."

- Whatever, Mr. Taibbi . As far as I can tell, your pop-psychologizing of a large segment of America could have been commissioned by Karl Rove to solidify the Republican base by pissing them off and - you know what? - I'm always pissed off when Republicans smear Democrats (and they do this quite often) with these sorts of cheap, crude and indiscriminate brush strokes.

Somebody needs to "inflitrate" Taibbi's life to do a similarly patronizing pop-psychologizing "expose" about what "really" goes on in his head. Then, we'll know the real truth.


"I am deeply disturbed by the dangerous and growing influence of people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on our nation’s political leaders." – Walter Cronkite, January, 2004
posted by troutfishing at 10:33 AM on October 15, 2004

a scorching-hot paved inland archipelago of garish shopping malls and stadium-size steel-and-glass Baptist churches, a place with no nonhuman life apart from the caged animals at the theme parks, and an entire economy organized around monstrous temples to fake experience.

I really wish I were Hunter S. Thompson.

I was far worse than that -- a dissolute, drug-abusing anarchist who reads the battle diaries of Vietnamese generals on rainy days, roots for Russia at the Olympics and once published an article titled "God Can Suck My Dick."

I really, really wish i were Hunter S. Thompson.

"Course, it'd be a security problem if they got out, you know, if you had rogue clones running around. You'd have to have a special security force to maintain 'em."

On the advice of my attorney, I am pouring more ether on the brown acid. Or I would, if I were Hunter S. Thompson. Which I wish I were.

"And he comes up to me one day and says, you know, 'Well, since there's no God, I might as well be gay!' "

You see? Hunter S. Thompson would've been able to think of something much more deeply weird than that, right off the top of his head, without even necessarily meaning to. And yet I squeeze and push and strain and can produce only tiny disappointing dessicated driblets of gonzo. God, I wish I were Hunter S. Thompson.
posted by ook at 10:34 AM on October 15, 2004

You know, pyramid termite, I think your post contains some great observations, but I think Taibbi's piece was more insightful than some here are giving him credit for.

I mean, I share your fundamental (?) belief that the vast majority of core Republicans are fairly decent folks. I live in a heavily conservative area; I find myself driving through my neighborhood looking at all the political signs and thinking to myself, "Regardless of who is elected, what really is going to change?" And I think that's their fundamental motivation - they do have their lives relatively neat and orderly, they have played by the rules, and are terrified that someone is going to come and change the rules and they will suffer.

But by the same token, this fear of change can become xenophobia real fast. And that is so easily exploited - seen the southern GOP mailing with the picture of the Bible, "Banned" superimposed over top?

Demagoguery feeds on the fear of change; the worst evils of mankind are perpetrated by those who at heart are fearful and believe that their actions are creating a situation by which that fear may finally be dissipated. You've got to get over your fear, rather than nodding intently when someone tells you your fear is OK, and you should do something about those who caused it.
posted by kgasmart at 10:36 AM on October 15, 2004

kgasmart - well, what are you going to do about the demogoguery of the religious right ?
posted by troutfishing at 10:45 AM on October 15, 2004

While he is totally correct about Orlando's horrible built environment and weird economy (and being a sucky place in general), he is wrong about Orlando being an ideal area for the GOP. Orlando (at least Orange County) tends to skew Democratic as there is a large minority population and tons of folks from up north (NY, NJ). Also, he comments on not having an accent and how that might expose him. Um, almost nobody in Orlando really has that much of an accent, in fact, people in Florida poke fun at their neighborhors to the north (GA, AL) for having such thick southern drawls.

I know that's probably nitpicky on my part, but having moved to California from Orlando, its really annoying how people who have never been to the South seem to think everybody there is some kind of racist boneheaded yokel. I have seen more overt racism in San Francisco in 4 years (toward Asians, by whites) than my entire 18 years in Orlando. I'm on the Foldy side of the political spectrum (pretty damn liberal), but its this kind of condescending attitude among the base of the liberal/Democratic Pary that really does hurt our cause. I hate to give any fodder to those on the right, but the attitudes in articles like this do that perfectly anyway.

What people in liberal/more aware areas of the country need to understand is that not everybody lives in a place where a lot of the hard work (political organzing, activism, etc.) was being done by someone else 50 - 100 years ago. If these same foward thinking liberals had been born in Alabama, they would probably be no different than those they ridicule now.

on preview, what pyramid termite, h. roark, troutfishing said (more eloquently).
posted by Boydrop at 10:47 AM on October 15, 2004

and yes, you will hear racism there ... and you will hear some religious fanaticism ... but you will also hear quite a few ordinary people unable to understand why people ... whether they are liberal democrats or terrorists ... hate them for living a lifestyle that is productive, safe and well-ordered for them

You don't seriously still buy the "they hate us for our freedom" line, do you? Let alone extending that garbage to all those not supporting Bush?
posted by Space Coyote at 10:58 AM on October 15, 2004

what are you going to do about the demogoguery of the religious right?

You fight it, obviously. And, you might note, I have.

But you need to do so with logic and reason rather than a reverse sort of demagoguery.

A story. We recently had some new neighbors move in on the one side of us, and they've seemed to be a rather curious bunch. I'd never formally met them, in part because they are never around, I mean never around; I think they mowed their lawn maybe three times all last summer, at one point the weeds were chest-high.

They've got fish and Jesus stickers all over their vehicles. And recently, a Bush/Cheney sign went out in front of their house.

So this past week I'd ordered a new computer from Dell; UPS tries to deliver it during the day when no one's home, so UPS "conveniently" delivers it to my new neighbor's home. I went and knocked on the door. And here he is, my neighbor, nice as punch, big smile, oh no inconvenience at all, can he give me a hand carrying everything back to my house?

Point is not that he doesn't seek some sort of theocracy or that I don't think him seriously misguided in backing Bush. The point is, he wasn't over there eating children; they are not necessarily the monsters we make them out to be on a one-on-one basis, which I ultimately think was the point of Taibbi's piece.
posted by kgasmart at 11:11 AM on October 15, 2004

"Also, does anyone think it's a bit odd that in that space of time he managed to encounter every Republican stereotype, ranging from the tokenism, to the overt rascism, the calling all Democrats terrorists, to the whole "Left Behind" thing?"

I visited Florida in July and encountered all of that within 24 hours. Any more questions?
posted by 2sheets at 11:33 AM on October 15, 2004

Troutfisihing: So are you saying that you think this isn't true:
The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom.
Because it rings really true for me. I know a fair number of fundamentalists -- a good half of my family. I can talk to many of them. The people I can talk with are not the people this refers to. This refers to people who thrive on the bogeyman, who function as "healthy carriers" for the meme of opposition. They're the enablers, the "high throughput nodes" of religious paranoia.

Anyway, y'all expect way too much from this. It's not Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and it's not Black Like Me, but then, what is?
posted by lodurr at 11:37 AM on October 15, 2004

space coyote ... i believe that many people have their emotions too tied up in this race ... i've seen 10 different presidents in my lifetime ... and i've yet to see american life change fundamentally because of who was in the white house ... in short, the kind of hot-headed emotions running on both sides are perceived by both sides as hate ...

it's time people got some perspective ... you see, in my section of the country, it's not red or blue, it's purple ... and we have to get along
posted by pyramid termite at 12:19 PM on October 15, 2004

Matt Taibbi also wrote Babylon A-Go Go.
posted by y2karl at 12:25 PM on October 15, 2004

i've seen 10 different presidents in my lifetime ...

Postroad has seen at least 12--which is one and a half presidents more than one fourth of all presidents ever--in his.
posted by y2karl at 12:41 PM on October 15, 2004

i read this in RS last night. a good week for the mag, i think. i was thinking last night that somebody would post this one ...

i'm reading The Great Shark Hunt right now, which contains a fair selection from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and i don't see the HST resemblance at all.

mostly, this guy seems much more sympathetic than HST, who would have surely ended up macing someone ...

this guy's also more of a (self-described) anarchist. HST seems much more about exposing hypocrisy and corruption. this guy just wants to poke fun. a bit shallow, but some insights.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:46 PM on October 15, 2004

i've seen 10 different presidents in my lifetime ... and i've yet to see american life change fundamentally because of who was in the white house ...

Are you fucking blind? That traces you back to 1959 at the earliest (assuming you count "seen" as born during the tail end of the Eisenhower administration). I'd hazard to say American life has changed quite fundamentally because of who was in the White House. Hell, it changed quite a bit during the first 3, 4 presidents.
posted by hincandenza at 12:51 PM on October 15, 2004

Then another staffer came over to say hi. He knew Lorin from past campaigns and asked if Lorin was planning on coming in to do phone banking. Lorin answered that he wasn't, that he was busy setting up a school-supplies giveaway charity event in his neighborhood. The staffer laughed.

"Oh, come on," he said jokingly. "I know how you people don't like to work." Lorin, who was halfway out the door, stopped at this. His smile disappeared. For a moment, he was genuinely pissed off. "We don't like to work?" he said. "That's all I do is work to make you white Republicans look good."

The staffer, a jovial guy who I normally liked quite a bit, said nothing and simply slapped Lorin on the back, laughed and helped him out the door.

Yup, sounds like the Republicans alight. And Fox News wonders why Democrats get 90% of the black vote.
posted by Bag Man at 12:52 PM on October 15, 2004

latest, I mean. not earliest. Point still stands...
posted by hincandenza at 12:54 PM on October 15, 2004

I liked it and disagree with troutfishing as I rarely do. I don't have the energy to get into a debate, however, so I'll leave it at that.
posted by The God Complex at 1:13 PM on October 15, 2004

This makes me wonder. I have a very liberal friend that posts on the Free Republic just to see to what lengths the people will go in their hatred. Now I read this article.

My new theory is that most of the conservative movement is liberals undercover trying to figure out how the hell people can think that way.
posted by graventy at 1:33 PM on October 15, 2004

i would love to do something like this, but it would never work for me: they would never for a second believe that a young black male with dreds and facial piercings is conservative. you should have seen the looks of puzzlement i got when i went to see p.j. o'rourke speak here in austin recently. ;-)

still, i don't think it should come as any surprise to anyone with even a lick of sense that the majority of republicans/conservatives are genuinely decent folks.

i've experienced some horrible racism from whites in the south, but i gotta say that i've met few people more genuinely decent and special than some of the warm, friendly, non-racist, strongly-christian southereners i've had the pleasure of knowing -- people who tend to be strong bush supporters. i mean these are the kind of folks who who would walk 5 miles in the snow (uphill both ways, without shoes ;-) ) to help someone in need, regardless of that person's political affiliation, skin color, or religious beliefs.

and so every time i see pres. bush and v.p. dick cheney, i think "you punks, you don't deserve the support of people like that." and every time i see karl rove i think, "you slimy worm, you vile fuck. you deserve an extended stay in hell for manipulating these people, and i hope the furnace in your cell is powered by antimatter."
posted by lord_wolf at 2:05 PM on October 15, 2004

I am quite convinced this is a contrived story. All a work of fiction. But it is so damningly accurate that you've got to love this guy's moxie.
posted by jmccorm at 8:47 PM on October 15, 2004

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