To conclude my look back at the soul crushing 2000s, I will now review American politics for the decade.
I call this the decade of the conservative talking point. Through the use of the talking point, Republicans and conservatives managed to entirely dominate American political discourse this decade, and as a result, rendered reality woefully irrelevant. The ability for conservatives to control the media, as they so overwhelmingly did, allowed them to carry out the most heinous acts and behave at best indifferently, and at worst callously, toward many of the very people who elected them. The decade of the conservative talking point was the decade in which reason, truth, and reality ceased to matter; these things were replaced by emotion, lies, and distortion within the popular consciousness of the American people.
The decade began with the inauguration of George W. Bush, and with his dictatorial administration came an eight year rule from hell in which personal freedoms were rescinded, religiously inspired hate and ignorance became acceptable in the mainstream, a war was blundered, another war was waged needlessly, an American city was allowed to be destroyed, and the destruction of the world’s economy was engineered and overseen.
Bush’s reign as overlord shit-fucker was helped along by snowballing power of the right-wing media. Fox News rose to prominence early on in the administration’s life, and with it came a 24 hour a day propaganda machine which not only promoted the administration through traditional blatant (enthusiastic pro-war support) and subtle (mislabeling shamed Republicans as Democrats) means but through a wholesale manipulation of the discourse of the entire country. Conservatives on Fox News, right-wing radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Bush administration officials were able to collaborate on a relentless push against mainstream discourse, shoving it forcefully to the right, and in so doing, shifting the centre radically into their political camp. Suddenly, torture didn’t seem so radical; neither did unjustified war, nor the dismissal of scientific research.
Conservatives were able to eschew reality itself, ignore the hard truth of unsustainable economic policies, the lack of weapons of mass destruction, and the absence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. The truth was that those truths no longer mattered; only the opinions of conservatives repeated ad nauseam by right-wing talk radio hosts, Fox News personalities, and White House officials. Eventually, any lie, repeated enough times, started to seem like the truth for the public at large. The extent of this power allowed Bush to be reelected in 2004 despite the Iraq war having already been needlessly launched. And although it did not technically get another Republican elected in 2008, it has allowed their ideals to continue to dominate the decision making process, even under a Democratic administration, as I will later discuss.
During a press conference in Baghdad, on December 14th, 2008, a man named Muntadhar al-Zaidi managed to chuck his shoes at the outgoing President Bush. The act symbolized the sentiment of much of the world, even those in the United States who had once supported Bush. It was a great farewell “fuck you” to a president who managed an eight year reign of terror which paired simultaneous Machiavellian genius with ignorant, bumbling stupidity.
November of 2008 saw the election of Barack Obama as the successor to Bush. In many ways, Obama’s campaign promised an anti-Bush, an administration, we were told, which would work for the people, with openness. Decisions would be made cautiously and with consideration for their consequences, personal liberties would be restored, the public would be put ahead of corporations, etc. In other words, reality and responsibility would replace misinformed idealism and corporate handjobs. As the decade closes, one year into the Obama administration, there is little evidence of these promises being met. Some things have changed, the arrogant swagger of the Republicans has been replaced by the stooped pussy-hood of the Democrats, but the results are the same: corporations get what they want (see: the absence of a public option in health care reform), and right-wing radio whiners get what they want (see: the ongoing operation of Guantanamo Bay).
The 2008 election saw the rise of another political personality named Sarah Palin. Palin lost the election, of course, and some time afterward she also quit her position as Governor of Alaska. Somehow, despite no longer having any legitimate role in politics in the country, Palin continues to be a major player in controlling the decision making process of politicians in America. She popularized the term “death panels” as relating to health care reform, and threw the debate wildly off course for some time because of it, for example. The 2000s, the decade of the conservative talking point, have, at their conclusion, given birth to a monster of unimaginable power.
Politicians no longer even need to be in office to have power, they merely have to get their words on TV, and those words will be replayed, discussed, obsessed over, and even marveled at, and somehow, those words will carry with them such tremendous power that they will go on to run roughshod over the words of real politicians, and ultimately these non-politicians will have managed to exert power without having to even be officially elected. The decade saw the rise of conservative media, and over time that conservative voice became so pervasive that it no longer even seemed conservative, but the norm within public discourse. Now, Palin’s words are treated as gospel by this newly remade media, a media which perpetuates the myth of a false majority of an ultra-right population.
The 2000s close with an American president noticeably less awful than the one they opened with, and yet one not really any better, either. Conservatives now almost wholly control the media, and they use that power to perpetuate their twisted, misinformed, and greedy ideals. As a new decade begins, the United States appears to be entering a second decade under the banner of the conservative talking point, and Karl Rove’s dream of the permanent Republican majority, while not literally real, has essentially been created.