Houston’s airport – Bush International. I’m flying out of Bush and into Reagan, moving eastward in space and backwards in time: soon I will face the Beast, but before I do, I’m killing time and brain cells in an airport named after his father, after which I will fly into one named after the Patron Saint of Modern Conservativism. By the time I get there time will have moved forward, but the names of the airports serve to remind me that I will be spending the next few days in the company of those who want it to move backward. Back to the 1980s when Reagan first began to rid us of those troublesome layabout unions, back to the 1950s with a stop along the way to annihilate the dread specter of the Sick Sick Sixties, back to the 1920s before That Man nearly ruined America with his confiscatory helpfulness, back to the 1890s with their gilded edges and men of high finance who knew the world was put there for them alone. Soon I will fly through the names of the presidents and mingle with men and women who are using the technology of the 21st century to repeal the 20th.
I break my pre-flight fast with a quick meal at McDonald’s: quick, easy, and consequence free, the very spirit and image of consumer capitalism. No two countries have ever fought a war that both operated a McDonald’s franchise, they tell me, which must be why all the employees look so cheerful and fulfilled in their jobs. They know they’re helping to usher in a new age of global peace. Fuck it, I think to myself as I perform the nutritional operation of consuming a Quarter Pounder with cheese: if I’m going to do this, I might as well do it right. No mouthing off or hipster showboating this trip. My bag is different this time: a raw and ideologically pure dive into the FDA-approved dyes of the red states. For eight years I have been lectured about the pure moral good of the heartland and the values it is said to embrace, contra my own apparently horrid set of cultural preferences. And this time, I will listen. I will shed my pretentious, intellectually hostile beliefs and attend the Conservative Political Action Conference as the paragon of red-state values I am forever urged to become.
In preparation for the trip, I do not take either of my Cassini suits to the dry-cleaners. Instead, I stop at my local Wal-Mart, the blue and white gleaming savior of American retail power, and choose from the many tasteful offerings by Puritan and George. Surely none of the Washington conservative elite will sneer at my $50-suit and Chinese shoes! After all, clothes-snobbery is a signifier of the blue-state urbanite, with his poisonous moral relativism and insatiable latte-lust. Likewise, I am not fool enough to think that I can get through four days of hobnobbing with the likes of Richard Viguerie and Ben Shapiro without some kind of chemical enhancement. But I will forsake the trailer-park speed, that low sign of the white-trash enterprenuer, and the carefully smuggled tin of chocolate Thai: such indulgence, with its natural provenance and tendency towards sloth and mockery, marks me as a liberal at best or a hippie at worst. No, this trip, it will be strictly legal alcohol, as much of it as I can possibly stomach, and good old under-the-counter pills, fistfuls at a time. My muscles will be relaxed, my pain relieved, my sleep aided, and my brain fogged by 100% pharmaceutical-grade pills, designed by corporate chemists and sold by gigantic drug concerns. I will experience CPAC the way the rest of the attendees will, blitzed out only on their own sense of self-righteousness and semi-legitimate drugs benevolently provided by an American God the way the market intended. Best of all, some nefarious Californian has engaged in shenanigans with my check card and the bank has cancelled it in expectation of issuing me a new one, so I’m living on credit the entire weekend. Thus I will do as I am urged by our most perfect of all systems: spend like mad, don’t save, buy everything on easy credit, and leave open the possibility of a massive default that the taxpayers will have to bail you out of. If it worked for the ‘fiscally conservative’ Reagan Administration, then it ought to work for me.
Fully embracing my new role as a man who’s attending a convention of right-wing crazies with the idea that their maddened, self-serving efforts to run the country into the ground are actually a good thing, I’ve even crafted an alternate identity for myself. Gone is Mister Leonard Pierce, a freelance writer and small-time criminal who is fond of Scandinavian social democracy, gangsta rap and the writings of Terry Southern. In his place is the modestly dressed, all-American Leonard Pierce, lobbyist for the Texas-based American Milk Solids Council, who only reads books with the word “management” or “Bible” in the title and wants nothing more out of his politicians than that they lower his taxes at any cost, allow him to do business any way the market will allow, and maybe if there’s enough time keep the homo queers from marrying each other. It is through the ruthless management of this façade that I will survive a weekend with a group for whom 1968 is something that happened to other people. My mantra for the next four days: pills, populism, and participatory journalism.
I take a quick trip to the bathroom and, occupying a stall previously vetted for me by one of our fine young men in the Navy, prepare a quick pre-flight cocktail of Vicodin, Percodan, Darvocet, Lortab, and something my “doctor” assured me were codeine pills, and before I remember how to blink, my flight is boarding. See, our capitalist system can make time move forward as well as backward! All hail the market, I say, possibly out loud. I merge seamlessly with the crowd of pants-suits and Oxford shirts, feeling at peace with the world as I shuffle past the obvious blue-state snobs in First Class. If only those liberal jerks (fascists to a man, I’m sure of it – Jonah Goldberg will not be in attendance at CPAC to teach us all how even a slight deviation from the gospels of Sts. Reagan and Rand leads inexorably down the path of Mussolinity, nor will Ann Coulter, unexpectedly bumped from the schedule to make room for someone less prone to bad publicity, but Dick Cheney will be in the house, which is enough concentrated evil for any thrillseeker) knew the joys of sitting back in coach with your fellow (R)-voting prole! Let them have their leg room, their comfortable seats, their complimentary cocktails. I’m back here with the real Americans, not wearing a tie for the last time all weekend, with my Wal-Mart shoes and my Eli Lilly bloodstream, and the knowledge that I am what America is all about…