The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Back to the Future?

The return of the The Church Lady to Saturday Night Live raises an interesting point: How is it, in 2016, that we are watching a battle of the 1980s vs. the 1990s?

Back in July 2015, I suggested that:
It has been, I think, the Obama Presidency's burden to try to maneuver through the interstices of the now long-stale battle between orthodoxies of the Right and Left that no longer address the conditions or issues of the day--the felt necessities of the time are not summed up in the 1980s anymore. The battles between Democrats and Republicans these last years have a weirdly formulaic resonance--we know what each side will say before they say it, and it's done with so much less conviction than before. The generations of Reagan and Carter, of Clinton and McCain, have battled themselves to exhaustion. (And what of Hilary Clinton? Will she, if she ever takes the stage, fit either or neither?)


Whatever. The long 80s are coming to an end. On their way out, we're all winning and losing the battles that defined the era. Marriage Equality? Chalk one up for the liberals. Austerity in Europe, and only a partially Keynesian response in the US? Tie. The Right to Bear Arms sacralized? Conservatives on the board. You get the idea.

But somewhere under the ice, again, whether for weal or woe, is stirring a new Era to replace the long 80s.
And yet, the real 1980s, in the form of Donald Trump, the icon of the "greed is good" era, has reasserted itself by banishing the idealized "purified" version of Reaganism espoused by Ted Cruz. Trump, blustery, big-haired, full of swagger, represented the reality of that era in a way that Ted Cruz did not. Trust me, I was there.

And so, just as Bill Clinton rode out to battle Reaganism, Hillary Clinton rides out to defeat Trumpism?

Well, maybe. Hillary Clinton's issues page doesn't really savor of what we who lived with it think of as "Clintonism." (Her effort to woo Republicans put off by Trump has a familiar feeling to it though.) Still, the symmetry is bizarre: Trump is the last gasp of the 1980s spirit, stripped of the Gipper's folksy facade; against it, avatar of the 1990s?

And so the Church Lady, whose regular appearance spanned 1986 to 1990, must return.

After all, we are, if only for now, revisiting her era.

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