Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
I didn’t watch the Democratic debate, part 1. I decided I’d prefer to catch up the next day, piecing the event together from memes on Twitter. Find out what the jokes are and mentally reverse engineer them to build a vague impression of the inciting incidents. Because everyone knows that, whatever members of the Twublic are making the most persistent jokes about, that’s what will be setting the larger public’s nerves vibrating throughout the news cycle.
The first meme I encountered was Beto speaking Spanish, while the camera slowly dollied in on Cory Booker’s amusingly taken-aback face, looking wide-eyed and side-eyed at Beto, as the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme played. I love those Curb memes. I hate to see the passing of the Sad Trombone, but the Curb theme says so much more. It says your discomfort is comically petty, yet at the same time there’s something serious, perhaps even sexually threatening, underlying it. Something transgressive, maybe fatal. Maybe you, on whom the camera is dollying in, have transgressed, and been exposed, if only to yourself, or perhaps your perturbation is due to a transgression on the part of the person you are observing, whose words or actions are causing your comical expression, a transgression of which only you, with your particular knowledge or singularly-informed pettiness, can understand the full significance.
And, of course, the entire situation is a comment on the myriad shallow frustrations of contemporary life. It conveys a comical disgrace far more fraught than any sad trombone can express, or indeed any morose, put out, or discomfited member of the brass section. Larry David has given post-modernism its last great cultural gift. That is, late post-modernism. The worst kind of post-modernism, a used-up post-modernism, worn like a groove in a broken record, to put things in a vinyl idiom. A post-modernism completely out of ideas. A post-modernism sorely in need of cultural gifts. Thank you, Larry.
Booker’s face as he observes Beto’s Spanish soliloquy says it all. “Oh no he di’n’t. That white boy did not just take the reins of the people-of-color bandwagon with his fluent Tex/Mexspañol.” Don’t worry, Cory, we all know what’s going on. We’re watching. We know Beto is only barely even an honorary Latino, with all the white privilege of a rebel-punk-rocker-in-his-youth suburbanite. But admit it, anyone on that stage is privileged, so why the hell shouldn’t Beto swagger outside the white lines on the electoral discourse freeway? Burn all the fuel you have in this debate, this is your one chance, the world ends tomorrow. Or soon. Next phase: Thunderdome. And then Fury Road. “Deedle-ee-deet dee deedle-ee-deet, dee deet dee-dee, dee-deet-dee deedle-ee-deet dee deedle-ee-deet dee-dee, boom boom.” It’s that tympani at the end that really sells it, as if there’s a bowel disturbance in the psychic pants of the distressed subject. That’s all of us, Cory. We’re soiling our drawers along with you. Not at you.
I could just leave it at that. What more do I need to know? Well, I need to know how Elizabeth Warren did. Remember, she’s the standard-bearer of anti-corporate rhetoric on this Day One of the debates. It sounds from all account fragments like she acquitted herself quite well. If the Nazi twitterati were at all upset, it didn’t register during the time I was exposed to the twitmosphere.
Even Ann Coulter, that orthopedic catastrophe, the right’s pseudo-intellectual Famine Horseman of the Apocalypse, whom one used to be able to count on for truly asinine comments on the regular, could only muster a backhanded compliment about Warren having a nice complexion for someone so old. There’s little doubt that, seeing the spectre of The Reaper beckoning on the horizon, Coulter is vainly hoping to bank some good will against the day when she will be wishing for exactly such a grudging compliment from the enemy quarter.
And then there was the tweet, “boring,” from our ever-articulate bladder-in-chief. Supposedly he tweeted it around the time the border atrocities were being discussed. Children abducted, caged, mistreated, neglected, how boring.
The camera dollies in on Bernie Sanders, played by Larry David, aghast but helpless, as the toilet-enthroned orator, off-camera, prattles on about how much he cares about everyone, how no one loves children more than he does, and they love him, too, more maybe than any other people do, believe me, children adore me, this is really all about humane, the humane, a humane immigration policy. Boom boom, oh, god, you know what that tympani means.
The last vibration I felt was the sentiment that Warren needs to pick a centrist running mate, and the best choices would be Kamilla Harris or Julián Castro, the latter because he’s a real Latino, unlike Beto. It would perfectly balance the ticket for almost all the Democratic voting base, fractured as they are along lines of identity politics, class consciousness, intersectional resentment, nihilistic rage, and fear of change – divided as those overlapping factions are between rebuilding the broken and bleeding system and putting a few Band-aids and some glue on it.
“Deedle-ee-deet dee deedle-ee-deet, dee deet dee-dee, dee-deet-dee deedle-ee-deet dee deedle- ee-deet dee-dee, boom boom.”
That Cory Booker Curb Your Enthusiasm meme is exquisite. It’s sublime. It holds everything about the current condition of the Democrats in its grasp, yet holds it lightly, the way Koko the gorilla held her kitten. If the Democratic Party were smart, or if they were to stop smarting from the 2016 disaster and become smart enough to stop outsmarting themselves, they would use it as their campaign slogan for 2020: “Curb Your Enthusiasm – Vote Democrat.” Believe it or not, there are a lot of rightwingers who love that show. You could pull them into the tent. “Oh, hell yes, I’m voting for the self-hating Jew Larry David party.”
It’s a sarcastic yet sincere call to arms: Curb Your Enthusiasm, it’s the Democrats(!) It would definitely be the necessary slogan for a Joe Biden candidacy: Curb Your Enthusiasm, don’t get excited, don’t get your hopes up. Simmer down. Sober up.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!