Vidal Responds

Emily Udell

After I interviewed Gore Vidal for In These Times and Fire on the Prairie, I asked him if he would reply to a few post-election queries. On November 4th, he faxed me this response to the question: Did you expect that George W. Bush would be re-elected, and that so many Americans would vote for him? Vidal: No. And no again. The record of failure in almost every department should have ensured Bush's defeat. The increase in voter registration should have provided Kerry with an ample victory. Instead the increased numbers made it possible for religious zealots to outnumber ordinary citizens who are merely interested in war and peace and jobs. I missed this phenomenon even though a quarter of a century ago I predicted that it would come to pass. Instead of ignoring the awful rhetoric of '04, I should have reread myself in the January issue of Playboy 1979. Nixon's Southern strategy was still underway without the master himself, benefitting the right wing Republicans in states of small population but sufficient electoral votes to outweigh the great states. In 1979 I quoted the Conservative Caucus's Howard Phillips: "We're going to go after people on the basis of their hot buttons." In the past year [1978] the two hottest buttons have proved to be sexual: ERA and gay rights legislation… elsewhere in the badlands of the nation, one Richard Viguerie is now the chief money raiser for the powers of darkness. In 1977 Viguerie told Congressional Quarterly, "I'm willing to compromise to come to power. There aren't 50 percent of the people who share my view, and I'm willing to make concessions to come to power." That has a familiar Nuremberg ring. Viguerie is said to have at least 10 million names and addresses on file. Viguerie is not just a hustler, he is also an idealogue. "I have raised millions of dollars for the conservative movement over the years and I am not happy with the results. I decided to become more concerned with how the money is spent." He is also beginning to discuss the creation of a new political party (the W Republicans?). " I want a massive assault on Congress in 1978 in a way that's never been conceived of…." Move against Congress? That sounds like a revolution, I wrote. As it was, 1978 came and went. Viguerie kept a low profile. Two days after the recent election, headline in the New York Times: "Some backers of Bush say they anticipate a 'revolution.'" I scanned the first column of the story. Exulting in their electoral victories, President Bush's conservative supporters immediately turned to staking out mandates for an ambitious agenda of long-cherished goals, including privatizing Social Security, banning same-sex marriage, remaking the Supreme Court and overturning the court's decisions in support of abortion rights. Now comes the revolution. Richard Viguerie, the head of conservative direct mail, told about a dozen fellow movement stalwarts: "If you don't implement a conservative agenda now, when do you?" Good question. I asked Vidal if he could see any bright spots on America's political landscape over the next 4 years. Vidal: Do I see any bright patches on the horizon as you ask? That will depend on the unity of resistance we make as we gather about the tree of liberty.

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Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.
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