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Some day a real rain will come

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taxi driver

The invaluable Rick Perlstein has a great piece on locating Donald Trump’s political ideas, to use the term loosely, within the cauldron of 1970s New York City politics, which themselves must be located within a much older tradition:

No history of modern conservatism I’m aware of finds much significance in the 22,000 Nazi sympathizers who rallied for Hitler at Madison Square Garden in February 1939, presided over by a giant banner of General George Washington that stretched almost all the way to the second deck, capped off by a menacing eagle insignia. Nor the now-infamous Ku Klux Klan march through the streets of Queens in 1927, when The New York Times reported “1,000 Klansmen and 100 policemen staged a free-for-all,” in which according to one contemporary news report all the individuals arrested were wearing Klan attire, and that one of those arrestees was Donald Trump’s own father.

In the specter of the son’s likely ascension as Republican nominee, however, such events gather significance. Consider the subsequent history of Fred Trump’s career as a developer of middle-class housing in the outer boroughs of New York City. We now know Fred Trump was notorious enough a racist to draw the attention of Woody Guthrie, who wrote a song about him in the 1950s: “I suppose/ Old Man Trump knows/ Just how much/ Racial Hate/ he stirred up/ In the bloodpot of human hearts/ When he drawed/ That color line/ Here at his/ Eighteen hundred family project.”

Twenty years later—by which time he had brought his son in as his apprentice—the hate Old Man Trump stirred in the bloodpot of human hearts became a matter of legal record, when the United States Justice Department sued Trump père et fils for violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in operating 39 buildings they owned. Testifying in his own defense, young Donald (who would soon be seen around town in a chauffeured limousine with a license plate reading “DJT”), testified that he was “unfamiliar” with the landmark law. As the evidence in the federal case against the Trump organization became close to incontrovertible, he told the press the suit was a conspiracy to force them “to rent to welfare recipients,” a form of “reverse discrimination.” This proud and open refusal to rent to welfare recipients—whom he said contribute to “the detriment of tenants who have, for many years, lived in these buildings, raised families in them, and who plan to live there”—was Donald Trump’s defense against racism.

It is in this saga that we locate the formation of Donald Trump’s mature political vision of the world, in continuity with America’s racist and nativist heyday of the 1920s, and within the context of a cultural world much more familiar to us: New York in the 1970s, that raging cauldron of skyrocketing violent crime, subway trains slathered with graffiti, and a fiscal crisis so dire that even police were laid off in mass—then the laid off cops blocked the Brooklyn Bridge, deflating car tires, and yanking keys from car ignitions.

That is the New York of Death Wish and Taxi Driver, vigilante fantasies (the latter is a complex and ambiguous film; the former is very much not) that were precursors of the white rage at the core of Trumpism.

A decade later Trump’s nascent political ambitions latched onto the Central Park Jogger rape:

Trump’s political debut, after all, came in response to a mugging. Following the infamous attack on a female jogger in Central Park, Trump purchased full pages in four New York newspapers demanding, “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!” All the hallmarks of his present crusade against “political correctness” were in evidence, such as the harkening to that bygone day when men were men, cops were cops, and punks were punks. He concluded: “I miss the feeling of security New York’s finest once gave the citizens of this City.” As I previously reported, these same police straight-jacketed by liberal timorousness had already coerced the rape suspects into confessions later proven to be false.

That’s N.Y.C.’s avenging-angel conservatism in a nutshell. And now that Trump is gliding toward an expected landslide in the New York primary on Tuesday, April 19, we must begin the work of excavating its history.

Read the whole thing.

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  • BiloSagdiyev

    Thank you for the Perlstein alert, always appreciated.

    When I was a boy, things were shitty and DeNiro was in great movies.

    As for the rage, I think it’s just a constant with these people, no matter what the historical era, the brown people are too uppity, the nation too weak, the foreigners too scary. Also, they’re jerks.

    • LeeEsq

      This sort of attitude is mistake at least from the perspective of political strategy. Its what gave us Reagan and Thatcher. You can’t really just dismiss the concerns of a large part or majority of the electorate with a waive of your hand because you find their concerns unwarranted or silly if only because they will vote against you come Election Day.

      There really was a lot of crime during this time period and many people including many people of color did not feel safe in their neighborhoods. People like feeling safe. Now much of this feeling of un-safeness was rooted in deep racism but at had a partial factual basis. The Democratic Party suffered a lot at the polls because of a lot of perceived tone deafness.

      • bender

        I agree with this both as a maxim and in this particular instance. My childhood was in the late fifties/early sixties when rates of violent crime were low, criminals’ usual weapons were less lethal, and it was common for suburban middle class parents to tell fourth-graders to play outside unsupervised and come home by dinnertime. That’s a strong sense of security. Some, though not all, working class kids of that period felt equally safe from stranger danger.

        I remember the rising crime rates of the eighties, contributed to by CIA drug-running to finance the Contras. The crime increase affected all races and most classes, though of course not equally. It broke down social cohesion. Public attitudes toward crime are probably a lagging indicator.

  • Thirtyish

    I see such attitudes (vigilantism, black-and-white morality, etc) in other entertainment, such as the abominations that are the Law and Order spinoff series.

    • LeeEsq

      A lot of popular entertainment always employed black-and-white morality because a lot of people want black-and-white morality. One reason why superhero movies are so popular in the global market is that good vs. evil tales have more universal appeal than comedic, which tends to get very culture specific and is harder to translate.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Just like a Rambo movie (URRRRRNGH!! while firing an M-60 machine gun) could be dubbed into different languages for global consumption and was quite popular.

        • Lev

          The sequels, sure. But I continue to argue that the first film is a very different animal–Rambo is closer to a sympathetic antihero than an outright hero, and to my mind the film is more about the cycle of violence (particularly in Brian Dennehy’s sheriff but also in Rambo himself) than its awesome and redemptive qualities. Dennehy, though an asshole in the film, goes from being conscientious in trying to avoid civilian casualties at the beginning to finally standing by while his whole town is destroyed, just to get a shot at Rambo. And while Rambo himself is initially on the run and does the least violence necessary to survive, he ultimately continues to escalate the situation even after he has the chance to get away. Watching it recently, it’s amazing just how different it played than the cultural idea of it, which is largely due to the sequels I think. Hell, even the notorious “they didn’t let us win” line is a throwaway.

          First Blood is more complicated than it gets credit for–it’s by no means the right-wing film it could have been and it avoids absolutes. Thank Canadian director Ted Kotcheff for that. But once Stallone took them over, they became…something else.

          • BigHank53

            In the original novel (and script), Rambo kills himself at the end. Stallone apparently insisted on filming the “happy” ending.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Dennehy, though an asshole in the film, goes from being conscientious in trying to avoid civilian casualties at the beginning to finally standing by while his whole town is destroyed, just to get a shot at Rambo. And while Rambo himself is initially on the run and does the least violence necessary to survive, he ultimately continues to escalate the situation even after he has the chance to get away.

            That sounds similar to the NVA/VC vs. U.S. Army, too.

          • cleek

            i’ve always liked to pretend that Steely Dan’s “Don’t Take Me Alive” was the inspiration for the first Rambo.

          • CP

            Hell, even the notorious “they didn’t let us win” line is a throwaway.

            Well, I don’t know about that. The full line is “I did what I had to do to win, but somebody wouldn’t let us win! Then I come back to the world, and I see all those maggots at the airport, protestin’ me and spittin’, callin’ me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me?! Huh?! Who are they?! Unless they been me and been there and know what the hell they yellin’ about!” And comes at the emotional climax of the movie. The rot was there from the start and pretty well articulated.

            The main difference is that in First Blood, it’s still only the angry words of one man. So you can, if you choose to and if you’re aware that the “hippies spitting on troops!” thing is 90% myth and right-wing chain-email (or whatever the equivalent was back then), take it with a grain of salt and treat Rambo as an unreliable narrator (as opposed to the second movie that fully embraces POW/MIA conspiracy theory). But I’m not at all convinced that we’re supposed to be doing that.

            • WabacMachinist

              Actually, the “hippies spitting on troops” thing isn’t 90% myth. It’s more like 100%. The only documented case of a Vietnam vet getting spat on was Ron “Born on the Fourth of July” Kovic at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach in 1972. In this case the spitter was one of the delegates.

              • Correct.

                And given the proclivity of the media in the Vietnam War to hate hippies, were there any actual spitting images, they would have been reported. But there is absolutely nothing in contemporary accounts of Vietnam of any kind, including from veterans, except the Kovic incident.

                • CP

                  Going 90% was mostly me not wanting to absolutely totally definitely undoubtedly say that this never ever ever ever happened to anyone ever – given the general principle of “there are complete assholes in every group,” I’m not going to say it never happened to anyone. But yeah, I was aware that there were no documented cases of it happening. (And also that it’s largely right wingers seeking cover for the activities of their own, i.e. the American Legion veterans of previous wars who despised the Vietnam generation for having failed to win “their” war. Never heard of the Kovic incident, which is just icing on the cake).

                • ColBatGuano

                  Plus, spitting on a soldier who just returned from a war zone seems like an excellent way to get into a fight which would have attracted attention.

              • sharculese

                Right after college I was dating a woman whose father was a medic in Vietnam, and he claimed to have been spat on, but I have no idea whether that actually happened.

                • CP

                  This is what I meant above. I’m not going to say that your girlfriend’s dad was totally and unquestionably a liar. Maybe he did get spit on. Some asshole relative at a family reunion, some asshole in the street with very few people around, who the hell knows. I am comfortable saying that if things like that did happen, they were in too ridiculously low a number to ever constitute a trend representative of the hippie community. Otherwise, as Eric says, at least one of them would’ve been credibly documented.

                • eh

                  The father of my high school girlfriend was an Oakland PD officer in the 60-70s and would say that my girlfriend and her monther had experienced a (or attempted) home-invasion by The Black Panthers once while he was at work.

                  Nothing I’ve read about the Panthers since has supported any part of this story happening to anybody, except in Fred Hampton situations where the police were the ones doing the invasion.

                  Moral: authoritarians lie.

          • FOARP

            First Blood is more complicated than it gets credit for–it’s by no means the right-wing film it could have been and it avoids absolutes.

            Absolutely. It was actually a very good film, well-plotted. It was the sequels and their embrace of ideas that were proved obviously wrong/stupid within a few years of their release (e.g., no-one seriously believes that there were significant numbers of POWs left in Indochina, describing the Mujahedin as “gallant” now seems incredibly ironic) that wrecked Rambo for later viewers.

      • Thirtyish

        A lot of popular entertainment always employed black-and-white morality because a lot of people want black-and-white morality.

        I’m well aware of the operational belief that viewers are morons.

        • LeeEsq

          Its not so much that viewers are morons but that they want to be entertained, have a good time and fun, and aren’t going be into didactic entertainment from any ideological perspective.

          • JL

            Do you think gray-and-gray morality is inherently didactic, or black-and-white morality inherently undidactic?

            • Thirtyish

              Yeah, that struck me as odd. It’s ham-fisted, black-and-white, “good guys” vs. “bad guys” entertainment that I personally find the more didactic of the two.

            • LeeEsq

              Its not about being didactic or undidactic. With black and white morality, you generally have to pay less attention than with more complex morality and can enjoy something as it is. Grey and grey morality requires more observation to enjoy usually.

        • efgoldman

          I’m well aware of the operational belief that viewers are morons.

          There are whole cable networks, which are profitable, programmed on that basis.

    • MikeJake

      So many entertaining action flicks from the 80s and 90s had pretty conservative outlooks.

      Then again, I’m not sure what a liberal action movie would look like.

      • JL

        I’d argue that the Captain America movies are liberal action movies. And the Hunger Games movies. A lot of people have made the argument for Mad Max: Fury Road, at least in the sense of it being feminist and feminism being generally liberal/left, though I’ve also seen it argued that it’s not feminist.

        Notably, all of these are from the last few years. My knowledge of ’80s/’90s action movies isn’t very strong. Terminator 2 does touch on themes that people (or robots even) can become better than what they were, which I think is at least kind of a liberal message.

        • Terminator 2 does touch on themes that people (or robots even) can become better than what they were, which I think is at least kind of a liberal message.

          I will refrain from getting into my full rant about how T2 is a much deeper and smarter movie than is generally considered, but what always gets overlooked about it is that it’s pretty much the only major action movie ever where the good guys do not kill a single person, good or evil. They do this both for satire/comedy (when Schwarzenegger breaks the 4th wall and says “I swear I will not kill anyone”) and for drama (when Linda Hamilton almost but can’t kill Miles Dyson).

          Also: it’s actually a anti-war movie, far more so than, say, Platoon or Apocalypse Now. Okay, I’ll cut myself off there.

          • CP

            Oh no, please do rant! I’ve only seen it a couple of times, but I do think it’s one of the better movies I’ve seen, not just in sci-fi but in general. Feel like I could probably watch it over and over and pick up on new things each time – it hadn’t even occurred to me that the good guys don’t kill a single person until you said it just then, for example.

            • DrS

              It just came up in a podcast that George Clooney’s was the only movie Batman who never killed anyone.

              Fun fact.

              • JMP

                Wait, I find it hard to believe that Adam West killed anyone in the 1966 Batman film based on the TV show.

                • eh

                  Those “KER-BLAMMMM!”‘s don’t tickle, you know.

          • ajay

            it’s pretty much the only major action movie ever where the good guys do not kill a single person, good or evil.

            Just sticking with other James Cameron films: how about “Aliens”? Or “The Abyss”?
            More recently, “Predators”?
            Or the greatest action movie of all time, “Tremors”?

      • CP

        Something can probably be said for the Lethal Weapon series. All four movies use as their background something that was both topical and controversial at the time (Vietnam in the first one, apartheid in the second one, gun control or lack thereof in the third one, illegal immigration in the fourth one), and all four movies come out with a pretty hardcore “fuck you” to the right wing position. (It’s easy to guess which of the two lead actors had the most input into the franchise’s politics).

        There’s nothing deep or nuanced or sophisticated about any of it (the second one especially was contrived as hell), but heck, 1) who expects that from an eighties/nineties action movie, regardless of its politics? and 2) there doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, a dumb shoot ’em up starring people I don’t like as the two dimensional right wing villains is good enough for me.

        Maybe that’s an illiberal thought. Eh.

        Something can also probably be said for the Alien and Terminator movies, in re feminism specifically. Granted, the first installment in both franchises was probably more in the horror genre, but the second installments were totally action. And there’s a reason why even decades later, Ripley and Sarah Connor remain absolutely iconic.

      • Sly

        Then again, I’m not sure what a liberal action movie would look like.

        They Live, though its more leftist than liberal and is more sci-fi than straight-up action. John Carpenter made it as a direct “fuck you” to Ronald Reagan.

      • Sly

        Also, and I can’t believe this didn’t immediately come to mind, Mad Max: Fury Road is decidedly left-wing.

    • Keaaukane

      I’m glad someone else dislikes the authoritarianism in the LO series spinoffs. I hear the SVU opening lines something like:

      L&O:SS

      “In the criminal justice system, being Jewish is viewed as being especially heinous. In the Reich, the dedicated professionals who investigate this vicious crime are members of an elite squad called the SS. These are their stories.”

      • Origami Isopod

        I liked original-flavor L&O, but a lot of viewers seem to have missed that Jack McCoy wasn’t mean to be regarded as a straight-up hero.

        The spin-offs are just plain awful. Especially SVU, which is little more than violence and degradation of women served up for titillation, with an undertone of, “See what happens when you leave your apartment, ladies!”

        • CP

          A while ago, somebody here noted that they wished there’d be a “Law and Order: Internal Affairs” spin-off.

          I think they’d mess it up and/or tone it down so much that it would defeat the purpose, but eh, it’s a thought.

          • rm

            I imagine a cop procedural in which we see who commits the crime, then watch the cops try to figure it out and either convict the wrong person or never solve it.

            Also, SVU has given people the false impression that rape kits are reliably tested and used in prosecutions instead of filed away or lost.

            My series will be Law & Order: Realistic Average Cops.

            • eh

              Fincher’s “Zodiac?”

            • JL

              I hate SVU’s politics, but one thing I had to accept a long time ago is that a surprising number of sexual violence survivors love the show. When I inquire about why, what usually emerges is that it shows a world where the cops and justice system take sexual violence seriously, which they may not have gotten, or believed they had a chance at getting, in reality.

              I have a larger rant on the failures of anti-sexual-violence and anti-state-violence movements to interact usefully with each other – though I think that’s slowly changing – but it’s outside the scope of this comment thread.

            • FOARP

              I imagine a cop procedural in which we see who commits the crime, then watch the cops try to figure it out and either convict the wrong person or never solve it.

              So, The Wire?

  • BiloSagdiyev

    P.S. I was thinking of a Taxi Driver sequel the other day. Other than Peter Boyle, they’re all still alive, and Boyle’s role was small. How about a Travis Bickle who has had a religious conversion and has decided that a real rain will come to wash the scum sinners away, and he starts building an ark?

    OK, I’ll confess I just want Albert Brooks to show up and ask a lot of annoying questions while he’s building an ark.

    • kped

      Most people think the ending of Taxi Driver is in Bickle’s head as he slowly dies. It certainly doesn’t fit with the rest of the film.

      • wjts

        Maybe an It’s a Wonderful Life remake with Bickle in the Clarence role?

        • Change that to Harvey and we’ve got a deal!!!

      • Jay B

        Here’s how they can write that out:

        [Foster’s character]: “Hey, I thought you died.”

        [Bickle]: “Nope.”

        • kped

          Love it!

          (I think that was from an early Simpsons, right? Either way, I laughed).

          edit:

          Bart Simpson: Ralph! I thought you were dead?
          Ralph Wiggum: Nope.

          • Honoré De Ballsack

            FYI: “I thought you were dead” is a recurring gag in the 1980 film Escape From New York, and although I doubt that’s the trope originator, I’m too lazy to look it up right now.

            • kped

              Seems an old trope, but the exact line was from the Simpsons. Just the “nope” as a response is what makes me laugh. No explanation.

              I’m embarrassed to say…I’ve never seen Escape!

              • I thought the Simpsons line you were going for was from the soap opera parody:

                “Father McGrath! I thought you were dead!”

                “I was!”

              • Jay B

                There was a great scene in the Season 2 finale of the AMAZING (and polarizing) HBO show The Leftovers where they played that for laughs. I love the show although I’m sure it’s easy to hate. Where it works for me is that I love the premise and while it’s all bleak — sometimes unbearably so — it’s not really nihilistic. There is hope, even if we aren’t sure what it is.

      • John F

        I think Scorsese has said that the film’s ending is not in Bickle’s head- but the film’s ending is not the end of Bickle’s lifestory, the character has “issues” and there is no/would be no happy ending for him and those around him, but yes the film ends with Bickle’s murder/suicide attempt temporarily leaving him being seen as a “hero”

        • nixnutz

          Yeah, I saw something just last night where they were discussing this, here’s a quote from an interview with Schrader in ’76:

          At the end of the film, he is cheated because the gun is empty and he can’t kill himself. But, in time, the cycle will again come around and he’ll succeed the next time.

    • rm

      Travis Bickle opens a Noah’s Ark amusement park.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Are you giving tax breaks to me? I don’t see anybody else here… you must be giving tax breaks to me.

  • LeeEsq

    Reading accounts of the social upheavals that rocked the United States, the United Kingdom, and other developed countries during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I always wondered if liberals and social democrats could have done better at the time. Reagan and Thatcher got elected because of what was seen as tone deafness on the part of Democratic and Labour politicians to the concerns of ordinary citizens. Maybe it was morally right for the Democratic Party and Labour Party and liberal and further left advocates to be tone deaf but that doesn’t mean your going to get the reaction you want from people. People will perceive things how they want to.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I wonder about it, too, but I never hear much talk about very large global economic forces that were bouncing around, too, that contributed to so much of the mood.

    • Lev

      I actually see it as mostly just good luck for conservatives. Sure, both center-left parties were governing at a time where faith in Keynesian economics had become completely blind, and as Loomis will tell you, it’s just nutty to see any sort of economics as an exact science (or even any sort of science at all). So when the formulas stopped working, it was hard for them to adjust, and they were caught holding the recession bag to the electorate. But it was lucky for Thatcher that the Labour right decided to split off from the party even after they’d won the internal battles, otherwise she would have been out after one unloved term. And it was lucky for Reagan that his Carter-appointed Fed Chair broke the recession just in time for his re-election campaign–doubt Mondale would have beaten Reagan regardless in 1984 but it would have been a closer race, which could have meant no DLC, no Third Way, no Clinton. Very different history in that case.

      • LeeEsq

        I’m mainly talking about Reagan and Thatcher’s first victories rather than their re-election victories. By the late 1970s, there was a lot of discontent in both the United States and the United Kingdom about practically everything. A lot of culture war and economic issues were coming to ahead and against liberals. Even if the Democratic and Labour parties had a difficult time adjusting economic policy, it might have helped if they weren’t seen as tone deaf on other issues like crime, etc.

        Both were hit with a problem that is kind of unavoidable for any political party. The Republicans are experiencing that same problem now. During the 1970s, fewer Americans and British people were agreeing with the policies of the Democratic or Labour Party. The party faithful still really believed in those policies though and wanted to go forward with them. What do you do in these situation? Its a lose-lose for the party.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          So what’s your stance on bathrooms in Charlotte, NC?

          • so-in-so

            Wide?

          • LeeEsq

            That they should be well-scrubbed like all bathrooms.

            NC is a case where the Democratic Party can go all ideological without any bad effects. American politics are already so partisan that the electoral consequences from doing the right thing and dismissing concerns in this case is minimal. The concerns over LGBT issues also do not have the same sort of urgency that the crime one did during the 1970s even though it might feel like that.

            • The concerns over LGBT issues also do not have the same sort of urgency that the crime one did during the 1970s even though it might feel like that.

              I was an adult during the 1970s (and spent them in Cambridge/Boston, Providence, and Manhattan), and the way I remember it isn’t the way you’re telling it from your, I assume written, sources. What are your sources, anyway?

              • LeeEsq

                Loomis’ posts, history books, etc.

    • efgoldman

      I always wondered if liberals and social democrats could have done better at the time.

      So very many conflicting demands and needs, though. LBJ was a great president for social goods (civil rights, medicare) but Vietnam eroded a significant portion of his base. Civil rights (and to a lesser extent, medicare) broke off Southern whites and those who later became “Reagan Democrats,” including a significant portion of organized labor, from the Democratic coalition; at the same time they were the strongest supporters of the war. Meanwhile the rural, Western conservatives were beginning to push the Northern, socially liberal Republicans out of their party.
      Add in the assassinations, the urban riots, and the Wallace insurgency, and the FDR/New Deal Democratic coalition was fractured almost beyond repair. The parties took a few decades to realign completely, and meanwhile the Republicans went insane.

      • LeeEsq

        It was probably a no-win situation.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Still is.

      • bender

        Pretty much how I remember it.

        My parents were New Deal Democrats. I was a college student in 1968. I was so disgusted with the refusal of the Democratic Party leadership to seat the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation at the convention (not even a single token black person from the delegation, which would have been a powerful statement), that when I turned 21, I registered third party. I usually vote for Democrats, but I have never registered as one, because the party has not improved.

      • DAS

        I always figured the issue was that the fruits of the civil rights movement were ripening just as a recession was slowing the economy as a whole: so you had white males doing worse just as everyone was doing better. It may have been a coincidence, but it was a coincidence that reinforced the communal zero sum thinking of “what’s good for ‘those people’ is bad for my kind of people”.

        And the process was self-reinforcing, because disaffected whites voted for Republicans who made life even worse for those who were not rich. Which made disaffected whites even angrier and even more likely to vote Republican, bringing more Republicans into office.

    • Maybe it was morally right for the Democratic Party and Labour Party and liberal and further left advocates to be tone deaf but that doesn’t mean your going to get the reaction you want from people.

      Don’t know enough about UK politics to say anything insightful, but I’ve read enough Larry Bartels to be more or less convinced that the Reagan backlash was the price the country paid for the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and Fair Housing Act. You can argue about how many white votes that was going to drive away from the party, but even the second coming of FDR would’ve been hard pressed to, say, square away public school busing and keep those people voting Democratic.

      • CP

        This.

        I too am mostly familiar with the American model and in that specific case, agree. LBJ clearly knew it (“I think we’ve just handed the South to the Republicans for a generation” – he was, if anything, underestimating). I think it was a conscious choice, partly forced on by the fact that the liberals vs. segregationists conflict was going to tear the party apart anyway. LBJ and the others basically wagered that liberals and their allies would be able to hold the line until it was possible to win on a racially and economically liberal platform.

  • Lev

    I liked W. Kamau Bell’s comment on Death Wish, which was essentially that the movie sets up Charles Bronson as this bleeding-heart liberal who abhors violence and then changes his mind after his family is attacked, but the problem is that he looks ready to start murdering people from the first minute of the film.

    • witlesschum

      Granted I only know Bronson from The Magnificent Seven and an odd western called White Buffalo, but I think he always looks like that.

      • Jay B

        He had a range from A to A-.

        Still one of my favorite Simpsons gags though.

        “Hey, where’s Otis?”
        “I shot him.”

        • Stan Gable

          “Now I’m going down to Emmett’s fix it shop. To ‘fix’ Emmett.”

          Charles Bronson was a recurring character on the show for a while, there was the time they inadvertently went to Bronson, MO and the other time when they saw a preview for Death Wish 7 which involved Charles Bronson lying in a hospital bed saying “ugh, I wish I was dead”

        • efgoldman

          He had a range from A to A-.

          I would put it more C- to D+.

      • Lev

        Which is to say that he wasn’t a very good actor–awesome as he was in that first scene from Once Upon A Time In The West, that was pretty much all that he could do, and in the case of Death Wish, where there’s an arc the character had to go through, he just couldn’t do it. He could convince as a badass shooting people, but not as the normal guy.

        There’s a reason why he wound up making all those Cannon Films at the end of his career.

        • sparks

          You could also mention Michael Winner’s lack of subtlety as a director.

        • wjts

          That’s a little unfair. He had some solid, if understated, comic chops as well:

          Kinder: Now, this is really quite simple. I’m going to say a word, and you come back at me as fast as you can with whatever comes to mind. For instance, if I were to say “happiness”, you might say “children”.

          Wladislaw: I wouldn’t say that.

          Kinder: Well, that was just an example. But if I said “ambition”, what would you say?

          Wladislaw: I wouldn’t say anything.

          Kinder: Well, let’s give it a try, okay? Weapon.

          Wladislaw: Baseball.

          Kinder: Knife.

          Wladislaw: Dodgers.

          Kinder: Officer.

          Wladislaw: Pitcher.

          Kinder: You seem to be thinking about just one thing, aren’t you?

          Wladislaw: Yeah. What are you thinking about?

          Kinder: Well, you see, I don’t want you to think of just one thing. I’d like for you to concentrate on each word I throw at you. Okay?

          Wladislaw: Okay.

          Kinder: Food.

          Wladislaw: Cincinnati.

          Kinder: Comfort.

          Wladislaw: Chicago.

          Kinder: Now, what made you say that?

          Wladislaw: That’s what I was thinking about.

          • sparks

            I did see him give out with some humor in Machine Gun Kelly.

            • wjts

              I remember him having some funny moments in The Great Escape, too.

              • Jay B

                That’s just a perfect movie.

          • eh

            “Now when I say ‘Hello Mr. Thompson’ and press down on your foot, you smile and nod.”

        • NonyNony

          There’s a reason why he wound up making all those Cannon Films at the end of his career.

          Can I just say that I miss Cannon Films? These days you have two kinds of movies – movies that are supposed to be tentpole franchises that are supposed to make a ton of money, and movies that are marketed towards getting nominated for awards so that they will make the studio look serious and still make tons of money eventually.

          But where are the films that get made where you think “huh – I bet someone did this as a tax writeoff/money laundering scheme/lost bet payoff”? We don’t get movies like that anymore, and our Cinemaplexes are the worse for it.

          • witlesschum

            Investigate the lower depths of Netflix and you will find that which you seek.

            • Origami Isopod

              This. It’s out there, just not in the cinemaplexes, because there are cheaper ways to deliver it these days.

              • BiloSagdiyev

                Also, Redbox. There are some straight-to-video horror and action movies that just stink.

                Also, we were speaking of Danny Glover above — he and Danny Trejo have been making a low budget action series (geriatric action series), Bad Asses or something like that. Discovered it on Netflix. Really low budget, but they seemed to be having a good time.

                Just when I thought they had some budget and crashed a vintage C-123 aircraft, I later found out, nope, that’s just high quality old footage from Air America, an old Melvin Gibsons flick.

    • LeeEsq

      That’s because he is a Tatar whose ancestors pillaged Eastern Europe. ;).

    • Ahenobarbus

      Just re-watched Death Wish a few days ago (it’s on Hulu) and it is quite interesting. Bronson is never believable as a liberal former “conchie.” The Arizona trip is supposed to change Bronson’s mind, but it’s really just where he gets his gun.

      But you gotta love the cast. Steven Keats, Stuart Margolin and Vincent Gardenia. Olympia Dukakis, Denzel Washington, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Guest in tiny roles.

      • kped

        Denzel was in it? Must have been one of his very early roles.

        • LeeEsq

          My favorite early Denzel Washington movie was when he played George Segal’s mixed race son. There was some strange stuff going around during the 1970s in liberal and conservative circles.

        • Ahenobarbus

          You know what. Wikipedia says he was in it (uncredited), but he’s denied it’s him.

          • sparks

            Damn. If it was listed in IMDB and he denied it, I’d know he wasn’t in it!

  • AB

    Here’s the Taxi Driver prequel:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_(1970_film)

    • nixnutz

      That was one of those movies where I read the Mad magazine parody decades before seeing the movie, it wasn’t great but Peter Boyle and Susan Sarandon make it more than worthwhile.

  • Woodrowfan

    If I’m going to watch a late 1970s “we’re all scared of violence” flick, I’ll go with The Warriors.

    Warriors, come out to plaayyyyyyy….

    • efgoldman

      I’ll go with The Warriors.

      On the permanent guilty pleasure list.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Saw it Netflix last month! I saw it as a teenager on late night TV, no clue what it was, it really got my inner Beavis riled up.

        Seeeing it again 35 years later? Yep, still a pretty darned good B movie. Whatever silly concept they were going for, they executed it perfectly.

        CANNN YOU DIG IT?!

        • FMguru

          The “silly concept” was, literally, a retelling of Xeonophon’s Anabasis with 1970s NYC street gangs.

          • ajay

            The “silly concept” was, literally, a retelling of Xeonophon’s Anabasis with 1970s NYC street gangs.

            It was a good idea. I mean, when your starting material is a story about a team of private military contractors fighting in a civil war in Iraq who have to try to escape back to friendly territory after their employer gets killed, you obviously need to do something to bring that up to date.

      • erick

        It doesn’t need to be a guilty pleasure, it is a straight up good action movie.

  • Scott P.

    Anyone else currently playing Tom Clancy’s The Division? Because it seems of a piece with the article.

    • FOARP

      At what point are they going to stop appending Clancy’s name to stuff he had nothing to do with?

  • Origami Isopod

    I’m surprised that Rick Perlstein, of all people, says he was clueless about the role that the ultra-right has played in U.S. conservatism. They’ve been there all along, in various forms. I also have to wonder about all these histories of modern conservatism that omit this history. Were they written by movement conservatives eager to bury all the evidence?

    • It is worth noting that Perlstein is not actually a professional historian.

      • Origami Isopod

        Well, the guy’s been doing yeoman’s work digging into the underbelly of American history for 20 years now. I haven’t, nor am I a professional historian, and I’m not surprised by what he’s recently turned up.

        Do you, as a professional historian, think that his lack of academic grounding in the subject meant he never would have considered/heard of certain foundational texts that would have given him the whole story years ago?

        • Does it surprise me that he wouldn’t be familiar with the literature on some issues? No. I have nothing against him except he mistakes endless detail for necessary inclusion in his books, so I don’t mean this as negative. But yes, it’s entirely possible that he would miss some things.

      • Linnaeus

        I suppose it depends on how you define professional historian.

      • rjayp

        you mean he’s not in it for the money?

        • Origami Isopod

          All that sweet, sweet professional historian lucre.

          • so-in-so

            For the fame – and the groupies.

            • Origami Isopod

              and the groupies.

              Are we counting Freddie de Boer?

      • PSP

        He is not an academic historian, but I think it is hard to characterize him as any less a professional historian than Barbara Tuchman. Academia is not the only way to be a professional historian.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I would say that he suffers from the same weakness I see in a great many political commentators: an awareness of American politics from the late, late.. 1950’s and onwards. This is why I get irked at people confusing Nixon’s Southern Strategy (new thing) with the kind of people he used it to appeal to and their concerns (goes back long, long before RMN.)

      I don’t know enough pre-New Deal history, but what I do know of American political history, 1930’s and later, I can pretty much apply my decoder ring and work backwards. You know, like drawing a line from Donald Trump to… Fred Trump in a klan outfight, fighting in the streets.

      • Origami Isopod

        My grasp of American history is, I’d say, fairly broad but lacking in detail. That said, I know who the Know-Nothings were, I know there have been anti-Jewish pogroms here, I know who Charles Coughlin was, and I know that Hitler most definitely had his supporters here. Oh, and then there’s the whole matter of slavery and Jim Crow law. So, yeah, we have had our fascist elements forever.

  • BRD

    Did anyone else hear the latest Whistlestop podcast where it was discussed that the real life inspiration for Travis Bickle was Arthur Bremer, who attempted to assassinate George Wallace? Then a weird sequelae from that is the succession to John Hinkley Jr.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Didn’t hear that, but had just read the wikipedia entry for Taxi Driver the other day, here’s one bit:

      While preparing for his role as Bickle, De Niro was filming Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 in Italy. According to Boyle, he would “finish shooting on a Friday in Rome … get on a plane … [and] fly to New York.” De Niro obtained a cab driver’s license, and when on break would pick up a cab and drive around New York for a couple of weeks, before returning to Rome to resume filming 1900. De Niro apparently lost 35 pounds and listened repeatedly to a taped reading of the diaries of Arthur Bremer. When he had time off from shooting 1900, De Niro visited an army base in Northern Italy and tape-recorded soldiers from the Midwestern United States, whose accents he thought might be appropriate for Travis’s character.

      With effort like that, you’ve got to make it big! Then someday you can star in Dirty Grandpa!

      • With effort like that, you’ve got to make it big! Then someday you can star in Dirty Grandpa!

        …after bringing yourself back up to speed by Uber-driving for a month or so. Oh, and renting out your actor’s trailer on AirB&B.

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