I remember when Gerald Ford died a dozen years ago. I didn’t think that the media overdid it with the Ford grief. Everybody pretty much seemed to agree that he was a pretty good all-around guy and not the greatest president–he was a man of the old school at the point when things were rapidly changing and he struggled to keep up–but not a terrible one either. That damn Nixon pardon got relitigated though I don’t think anybody changed their minds about it. Still, even a sub-single term president is a consequential figure. Some remembrance is only reasonable.

Compare that with the recent George H. W. Bush spectacle. The media acted as though he were a beloved and revered figure and way overdid it, and the whole thing felt like another smarmy MSM encomium to the civility of old rich white guys (which Ross Douthat witlessly spelled out). The thing is, Ford was like Bush in many ways. Decidedly not wacko Republicans in their bones, one term or less in office with a failed re-election bid (or just plain election in Ford’s case), sort of bland, almost corny public personalities, relentlessly mocked on SNL, overshadowed by their more interesting spouses. But Ford was handled more or less appropriately while Bush was given hagiographies by just about everyone. How come?

The context, I think, matters enormously. In 2006, the–for lack of a better term–establishment was still quite powerful and Boomer-dominated: there was still nary a millennial in Congress and wouldn’t be for another three years. If you look at the presidential candidates in both parties in 2008, almost none of them is in any way out of the mainstream. Yeah, Tom Tancredo and Dennis Kucinich both ran that year, but it’s easy to forget the former given what a snore-inducing candidate he was (such was the state of white nationalism before the financial collapse) and the latter was barely making the effort that he had in 2004. I may have mentioned this before but I actually met Kucinich in 2008 when he spoke briefly in the town of Atascadero where I lived at the time. On the one hand, I thought it was pretty cool to meet an actual live politician. And yet, even at the time I thought: why the hell isn’t he in L.A.? And then he arrived and his wife was with him and I thought: oh, I see. A little tourism under the guise of campaigning. So yeah, not really trying there. But the point is that Clinton, Obama, and Edwards–the top three in 2008–all had virtually identical platforms. Given the winner-take-all nature of the contest and the strong incentive to differentiate oneself, this was a little peculiar, unless you figure that the establishment was incredibly strong that year. And it was much the same on the GOP side. Aside from Tancredo and Duncan Hunter Sr., all the Republicans sounded exactly the same too. I suppose Giuliani already sounded a little fascist before that became the norm, but that’s it. And outside of political parties, there was nary a threat in sight. The internet meant bloggers, who were mad fun of for wearing pajamas all day.

Now it’s 2018 and the notion that “the establishment” can winnow the field on either side is silly. The ruling class is unhappy and divided, increasingly it is questionable if they rule anything at all. With the Bush funeral, what seems different from Ford was that in the latter case they were burying a president. In the former case, they’re burying themselves. Quite soon the millennials will take control for good, much the way they did a quarter century ago from Bush. The very Baby Boomers who relished in their vanquishing of the old guard now are the soon to be vanquished old guard. The sad thing is that, whatever Bush himself did, his generation did accomplish many marvelous things. Some bad ones too. But the Boomers inherited a pretty good world. They’re not handing one over to us. So they can fuck their self pity. Climate change, Iraq, the financial collapse: this is the Boomer legacy. And it always will be.

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  1. Metavirus says:

    Bush 41’s beatification definitely was a dying gasp of the old Boomer third-way crowd, as well as the yearning of our modern reportorial class (Boomers) for, like you said, a mystical time of harmonious bipartisanship (indeed, if you were an old white guy).? The trauma of millennials being handed such a shit sandwich of a world is only just becoming manifest.? And, boy, it’s gonna be traumatic.

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