Sunday, November 13, 2016

Calvin Coolidge's Grave Reservation, or why did Hilary Lose?



Why did Hilary lose? There is a bias against intelligent woman, she didn't motivate the black vote, Nafta & rich gutted middle America factories and a downtrodden white class woke up for 5 minutes, incumbent party loses White House after 8 years regularly, the debates ended too soon, the FBI got involved (in today's NYTimes, Hilary cites this), 20 years of gerrymandering weighs on outcomes – through this and before, when he vanquished a string of Republican contenders that to an exceptional degree resembled losers on the Apprentice, Trump was lucky. Does any of this sound familiar?

When I was a lad what a kick in the face it was when Nixon took power. In 1968, in March, I'd gone door to door for McCarthy, all my friends had seen the Democratic Convention debacle, had no use for Johnson, or his appendage Humphrey. As the days to election day neared, as they got closer, as we descended like drowning swimmer into November '68, there was trepidation and last-minute push for Humphrey in my little orbit. My girlfriend E. worked at the Racine Public Library, and went through the staff proselytizing for the Happy Warrior, trying to talk people into voting for him. Practicality surfaced, the gap closed, but the momentum was Tricky Dick's. He was the lucky one in 1968.

* * *

There was a display case in the Children's Dept where I worked in those days, and they'd let the student pages like me decorate it. And the bosses were nice enough to let me design the Election one. The idea was to give the kids some positive  public civic feeling. OK!

And there was budget for a whole slew of red white and blue bunting, which I spent.  And I had done one drawing that was going to be the centerpiece: Calvin Coolidge in a Western Native American Honor Bonnet.  It seemed ajar on this Yankee. Coolidge was something of a non-entity as president (he rode to the top as the tough Mass Gov who cracked the Boston Police Strike of 1919). In that glow of his inconsequential aura I was taking solace.

Maybe Nixon as president wouldn’t matter.  Of course it was a long strange trip, as it turned out.

This idea of 'we've been here before' is what what now I would call 'survival instinct response.' Whatever I have of it still, I try now to conjure.

I did two other presidents for the display (three's a meme). Chester A. Arthur (who?) and Benjamin Harrison ( he only lived about two months as president - caught a flu at his inaugural). These came out even more psychedelicized  than Calvin (above).  I can post them if anyone is interested. Psychedelicism was afoot  in those days – that and affordable plastic colored markers.

The message was: Maybe it doesn’t matter who is president -  though I knew - or do now - on several levels, it does matter, and to differing degrees to different segments of the populace. It was so nice of the library managers (ladies, all) too let me follow my doodles.

* * *


So what now? Time to recall the great art created during Nixon's, Reagan's, and Bush Jr.'s admins. Such as (1971- Archie Shepp's Money), (1980 – Jim Carroll's Catholic Boy),  or (2001 – The White Stripes Hotel Yorba)!

1 comment:

Janet Steiner said...

Jack, I can't believe that you saved that Cal Coolidge drawing all these years! (Although I still have a beautiful hand screened poster from the McCarthy campaign, plus a button.) It was well worth keeping. We really thought we could change the world. My husband knows a lot about American Presidents and I keep asking him who were the worst and what damage did they do (ie trying to figure out if this is the end of our democracy as we know it). I am proud that the library ladies gave you some leeway in your exhibit but they must have been surprised at what you wrought.

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