Monday, September 14, 2015

Joan Didion's Miami and Today's Republican Party

Another found book finally read.  (Ah Cambridge, where the streets are paved with books.)  Going through it, I found that her description of the Miami Cuban exile community during the Reagan years was a precursor of the advanced polarization we find in USA politics today and another vector for the prion disease that, as Charles Pierce writes, ate the brains of the Republican party.

_Miami_ by Joan Didion
NY:  Pocket Books, 1987
ISBN 0-671-66820-X

(17)  Some were American citizens and some never would be, but they were all Cuban first, and they proceeded equally from a kind of collective spell, an occult enchantment, from that febrile complex of resentments and revenges and idealizations and taboos which renders exile so potent an organizing principle.  They shared not just Cuba as a birthplace but Cuba as a construct, the idea of birthright lost.

(93)  It was a year [1963] described by Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr, as one in which "the notion of invading Cuba had been dead for years" (since the notion of invading Cuba had demonstrably not been dead as recently as April of 1961, the "for years" is interesting on its face, and suggestive of the way in which Washington's perception of time expands and contracts with its agenda)...

(113)  "This is Miami," Bernardo Benes said about the radio attacks.  "Pure Miami.  A million Cubans are blackmailed, totally controlled, by three radio stations.  I feel sorry for the Cuban community in Miami.  Because they have imposed on themselves, by way of the Right, the same condition that Castro has imposed on Cuba.  Total intolerance.  And ours is worse.  Because it is entirely voluntary."
NB:  the model for the right wing radio game

(129)  Still, "right-wing," on the American spectrum, where political positions were understood as marginally different approaches to what was seen as a shared goal, seemed not to apply.
NB:  changed since 1987.  There is little or nothing left of a "shared goal" now in our politics.

(178-179)  David Gergen had worked in the White House during three administrations, and acquired during the course of them an entire vocabulary of unattributable nods and acquiescent silences, a diction that tended to evaporate like smoke, but the subtext of what he was saying on this spring afternoon in 1984 seemed clear, and to suggest a view of the government of the United States, from someone who had labored at its exact heart for nine of the preceding thirteen years, not substantively different from the view of the government of the United States held by those Cubans to whom I later talked in Miami:  the government of the United States was in this view one for which other parts of the world, in this instance Central America, existed only as "issues."

(190)  As it happened I had heard Jack Wheeler before, at a Conservative Political Action Conference session on "Rolling Back the Soviet Empire," where he had received a standing ovation after suggesting that copies of the Koran be smuggled into the Soviet Union to "stimulate an Islamic revival" and the subsequent "death of a thousand cuts," and I was already familiar not only with many of his exploits but with his weird and rather punitive enthusiasm.

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