A bunch of conservative moderates demand that Americans shut up and civilly do what they want them to do
The anti-partisanship nonprofit political organization No Labels kicked off its nationwide campaign for civility yesterday with panel discussions featuring MSNBC pundit Joe Scarborough and a theme song composed and performed by R&B superstar and conflict diamond profiteer Akon. (You are invited to use the song to create a music video, if you’re a complete weirdo.)
Early reviews are mixed. Specifically, partisans from both sides of the aisle mocked the entire enterprise relentlessly, while the brain-dead nonpartisan press mostly just repeated No Labels’ claims to be representing “the center” or whatever it actually claims to represent. The “radical middle,” said David Gergen (of course). Or, as Morning Joe himself said: “It has nothing to with politics, it has nothing to with ideology, it has everything to do with civility.”
Sadly, civility doesn’t have much of a constituency.
As independence mascot Michael Bloomberg himself acknowledged at yesterday’s event, the only thing standing in the way of the No Labels campaign for nonpartisan cooperation and civility is democracy. When he tried to push for nonpartisan elections in New York, both parties came together to attack his plan, in the sort of display of true bipartisanship that people always say they wish we had more of until it happens.
“It’s not clear that the average person feels themselves disenfranchised or wants a lot of the things we are advocating,” Bloomberg said. “In the end when you have an independent candidate it is the two major parties that get most of the votes.”
Of course, getting the most votes was something a number of panel participants — hello, Charlie Crist! — have had trouble with.
No Labels is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that refuses to divulge its donors, but a couple of crazy-rich people have been mentioned, and considering that it’s led by longtime Democratic fundraiser Nancy Jacobson and former Bush media guru Mark McKinnon, one can safely assume that the funders behind the organization are the usual gang of terribly wealthy coastal elites from the “Georgetown cocktail parties” and “Upper West Side penthouses” that everyone likes to complain about.
(Oddly, this slick and professional organization blatantly ripped off its logo, apparently without permission.)
Rich self-declared independents, we have been trained to believe, have no ideology. But the ones who support Mayor Bloomberg and fund centrist organizations like this tend to be conservative Democrats — or, more accurately, Calvin Coolidge Republicans. Coolidge was the original reasonable moderate! Silent Cal supported an invisible regulatory state and anti-lynching laws. (Only one of those priorities survived filibusters, of course — a tax cut for the rich has always been easier to get through Congress than protections for a minority group.) And his pro-business policies led to so much growth, for everyone, until … they didn’t, not long after his powerful commerce secretary succeeded him as president.
Much as New Yorkers decided that the richest man in town must also be the city’s wisest leader, the Republicans of the 1920s had financial titan Andrew Mellon running the Treasury Department — the guy knew money, right?
The idle rich can be excused for fantasizing that they’re smarter than everyone else. When times are good they can sometimes even convince voters. But times are not good right now, except for the insanely wealthy, and I can’t imagine that much of the nation will be receptive to either the ripped-from-the-Democratic Leadership Council platform of No Labels or its calls for everyone to just shut the hell up and do what the Serious Centrists want. (“Compromise Begins with Extension of Bush Era Tax Cuts,” according to the No Labels blog.)
Evan Bayh is the perfect embodiment of the fetishization of bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship. In his time in the Senate, he never stood up for anything, right or wrong. Looking back on his tenure, he recalls periods of awful nationwide crises with great fondness.
Bayh, a former Indiana governor who retired from the Senate after two terms, said he had seen the Senate behave in a bipartisan fashion only a handful of times, such as after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“It may take that kind of exogenous event, that kind of forcing event, to make it happen” again, Bayh said.
Only when America faces an existential threat can both parties put aside their differences and … do horrible, horrible things like pass the USA Patriot Act, decide to topple the government of Iraq, and use billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out the institutions that caused the worst global financial meltdown in generations, thus consolidating even more money and power into even fewer and more systemically connected mega-banks.
The existence of No Labels’ Issues page aside, anyone listening to the round-table discussions yesterday would’ve come away with an impression of a group that had no ideas for how to accomplish anything beyond begging everyone to sit down in a room and play nice. Joe Scarborough seemed to be there on behalf of an organization dedicated to ensuring that people are civil to Joe Scarborough. He had some harsh words for bloggers — Cheetos-eating bloggers, in their underwear, in basements — who, we were told, are always attacking Joe Scarborough, because he loves civility so much.
Scarborough and Bayh are self-righteous and sanctimonious enough to make the most dedicated centrist long for the company of Barney Frank and Jim DeMint. But what’s truly depressing is that there exist technocratic centrists who could use the No Labels money to fight for actual policy ideas (besides the usual proposed gutting of entitlements under the guise of “reform”) instead of fighting for Joe Scarborough’s right to never have to be criticized by liberals.
There are a million nonpartisan good-government reforms — specific ideas, not vague platitudes — that could use as much money and attention as this silly project. The No Labels “Election Reform” section, for example, is heavy on sturm und drang about redistricting, but it never mentions instant-runoff voting, or the National Popular Vote compact, or universal voter registration. Everyone complains about gerrymandering; why not try to convince people to expand the size of the House of Representatives? Why not fight to reform drug laws and free nonviolent offenders from prison?
It’s fun to dream of a bunch of millionaires getting together to push for Senate procedural reform — or maybe even the abolition of the Senate itself! — instead of yet another gang of moderates dedicated to crowing about the deficit.
But if the No Labels crowd wanted to actually make headway in solving the problems that they claim partisanship is exacerbating, they’d have to pick solutions to problems facing America today, and then they’d fight and campaign for those solutions — and when you begin fighting for what you believe in, it can be hard to remain “civil.”
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Mobile Entertainment: 9 Amazing Drive-In Movie Theaters Still Standingclose X
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Two-for-one for Everyone — West Wind Solano Twin Drive-In, Concord, Calif. This family-friendly attraction with several spots across the U.S. (including California, Nevada and Arizona) prides itself on offering first-run double features (save for premiere events) on the cheap — which is quite the deal, considering their 65-foot screens are among the biggest in the biz. And if you have great car speakers, even better: squawk boxes of old have been replaced with Dolby quality audio piped through your car’s FM stereo.
For the Four-legged Friendly — Warwick Drive-In, Warwick, N.Y. Northeast city slickers looking for a place to watch their favorite movie stars under the stars need only veer six miles east of Vernon, N.J. What began as a family affair in 1950 has since become a seasonal institution offering rural and urban (and pet!) audiences two movies for the price of one on any of its three giant screens.
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See Stars Collide — Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, Dearborn, Mich. Open year-round (unlike many of its surviving contemporaries), this five-screen staple of the Midwest known as the “largest drive-in in the world” plays host for up to 3,000 cars on any given night. And if the double-feature doesn’t hold your attention, relax; you’ve got the best (car)seat in the house for the occasional overhead meteor shower.
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A Hole (Lot of Fun) in One — Wellfleet Drive-In, Wellfleet, Mass.Built in 1957 and still offering original mono sound boxes for those looking for an authentic experience (or not, as FM stereo is available as well), the summer-exclusive theater hosts double features of first-runs on its giant 100’ x 44’ screen. Come for the movies, stay for the mini-golf and flea market (on select days).
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Go Big or Drive Home — Bengies Drive-In, Baltimore, Md. The only thing bigger than Bengies’ prolific history (57 years and going) is its main attraction — boasting the biggest theater screen in the U.S. at 6,240 square feet. That’s 52’ x 120’ of pure anamorphic presentation. Complementing its time capsule of a snack bar (unchanged since ’56), previews old and new occupy the venue’s old-timey intermissions between features.
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Proof That Film is Forever — Shankweilers, Orefield, Pa. While we’re on superlative street, consider stopping at this roadside treasure: America’s oldest drive-in. Operating since 1934, it may not have the frills and pony rides of nearby Becky’s Drive-In, but it’s defied hurricanes and the wear and tear of time. Worth the one-hour drive from Philly.
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The Gritty Hollywood Reboot — Corral Drive-In, Guymon, Okla. Like a slasher movie menace that died (several times) in the ’80s only to be rebooted years after, the long-vacant Corral Drive-In was resurrected and restored in 2009, providing big entertainment at a nominal fee. And if the $6 adult admission doesn’t make you feel like a kid again, the venue’s inflatable bouncers most definitely will.
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Hop the Healthy Highway — Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, N.J. Less than an hour’s trip from Atlantic City, New Jersey’s only drive-in offers the best of both worlds — old school aesthetic outfitted with modern tech and healthier food choices to boot. Open seasonally, with first features beginning around dusk.
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Bring Your Backyard to the Big Screen — Starlight Six Drive-In, Atlanta, Ga. As much a backdoor barbecue as it is a night out at the movies, this six-screen Atlanta drive-in encourages what most in the theater biz forbid: bringing your own food and grilling it. Those looking to add a hip twist of the theatrical to their Labor Day getaway need only stock the cooler and pack some brats or burgers for the Starlight’s annual “Drive-Invasion,” which features a hot-rod show, live music, and B-movies galore.
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And really, what better way is there to cruise the nostalgia highway of old Hollywood than in a MINI Roadster? Allowing all the headroom one needs to see the stars on the screen and those directly above, the 2013 convertible goes the distance where it counts — on the road (obviously), not to mention the discerning driver’s wallet. Never mind that its fun-size frame also makes motoring in and out of tight traffic all the more enjoyable (or parking in even tighter spots for cozy romantics all the more convenient).
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