Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Explaining American Politics to Non-Americans – Part II: The Republican Party

Welcome again readers, to Culture War Reporter’s second installment of “Explaining American Politics to Non-Americans” [Part 1 here], in which yours truly attempts to explain the chaotic carnival that is our great democracy.

This week, we’ll be looking at the Republican party. Or parties, if things keep progressing as they do.

But let’s dive right in.

I won’t pretend I don’t have my own bias but I will try to be as fair as possible.

To say that the “Grand Old Party” has made itself unpopular abroad would be an understatement. The Bush-era wars, sanctions, and seemingly indiscriminate use of military force has created an international image of Republicans as blood-thirsty imperialists. While Obama has been far more liberal (pardon the pun) use of drone strikes, others point to the Republicans shaky relationship with environmentalism, science, and women’s issues to cast the GOP as backwards and puritanical.

But how fair are these assertions? If they’re true, where do they come from?

The History

The “Grand Old Party”, as it was once called was established in 1854, just prior to the American Civil War. Evolving from a number of groups, the Republican party came to stand largely for federal power and industrialization, contrasting with the emphasis on state’s rights and agriculture that the Democrats had (who we’ll get to next week). Indeed, while now struggling now to rid themselves of the accusation of being an “old, white guys’ party”, the Republicans of old were actually the more progressive, liberal and inclusive of the two parties. Although racism would remain an issue across the political spectrum, it was Republicans who could often count on the African-American voter demographic throughout much of the late 1800s.

Exactly when and why that stopped being the case is still a matter of heated debate.

Some would cite that the “Red Scares” (anti-communist witch hunts) of the 1950s pushed the party increasingly towards aggression, militarism, and social conservatism. Others might argue that as issues of civil rights, poverty, and the war in Vietnam caused many African-Americans to shift towards the Democrats, leaving the party almost exclusively in the hands of the white tycoons.

In spite of this shift, Republicans nevertheless have consistently managed to gain and often dominate American politics, the Reagan-era in the 1980s seeing massive cuts to government spending while increasing intervention in Latin America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. The short-lived presidency of H.W. Bush, however, would see the abrupt end to the Republican Golden Age, with economic downturn and issues from within the party leading to Democrat victories in the 90s.

And then came “W”.

Continue reading

The Presidents’ Day Post

It’s one of the few holidays we get in the US, and seeing as how the nation’s executive office is as much a part of our cultural identity as it is part of our politics, it’d be remiss if we didn’t cover the topic. Below are some of the most interesting topics about the men who’ve lived in the oval office and how they’re affecting culture even to this day.

George Washington

The Image: Heroic freedom-fighter who bled liberty and could speak to bald eagles.

The Reality: Slave-owner, who was apparently abusive enough that many of his slaves tried to escape to freedom. Also a pretty bad general, in the greater scope of things, having lost the majority of battles in his military career.

The Implications: The idea that our founding fathers were somehow demigods of democracy and equality is shoved down our throats at most every opportunity, and as a result we’ve got a culture that constantly asks “What would the founders have wanted?” whenever any big social debate breaks out. Rather than deal with the problem as-is, both sides of the aisle try to appeal to the interpretations of men who owned slaves. For all the good they did do, I’m not sure I’m going to care too much for their opinion on property rights (or immigration, seeing as how they were huge racists). Continue reading

Mashin’ It Up

Outrage doesn’t even begin to describe what fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja
Turtles felt when Michael Bay, producer of the franchise’s next live-action film,  announced that the quartet would be aliens. This was coupled with the news that Leonardo, Raphael, Michaelangelo, and Donatello would not only lose their alien status, but would not be teenagers either.

Ninja Turtles aside [that’s the working film title, folks], why should this matter to non-fans? From an objective perspective, this is simply taking two modifiers, “mutant” and “ninja,” and replacing them with another, “alien.” The original thing idea was already a conglomeration of extremely dissimilar parts. The seemingly mindless melding of genres.

Take the past decade in film for example. Jon Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens hit theatres in 2011, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, premiering this summer, causes us to branch out further still. The film is based on a book by Seth Grahame-Smith, the same person who authored Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Taking zombies into account, they’ve terrorized everyone and everything from strippers to ninjas to plants to the entire Marvel universe.

So where does it stop, and should it? Grant Morrison will be writing Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens, both a graphic novel and a feature film that will pit highly evolved dinosaurs against extraterrestrial invaders. This sounds utterly ridiculous, but if anyone can do it, it’s Morrison. His miniseries We3 features three mech-clad house pets and their escape from a government facility, and he finds a way to embody these animals and their experiences with more depth than you would think possible.

So clearly this can be done well. 2009’s Sherlock Holmes mixed detective work, martial arts, and some steampunk elements. Joss Whedon’s short-lived series Firely was a space western, meaning that it melded both the futuristic and the American Western. Genre mashups can and have worked.

At this point in time I think that we’ve oversaturated media with these films, books, shows, et cetera. In light of the fact that this summer’s The Avengers is essentially a gigantic hodgepodge of genres I’m postponing my embargo on such works for the time of being. Until then, please, for the sake of good entertainment, enough with the zombies.