Gore Vidal and the Unfinished American Revolution
John Nichols on August 1, 2012 - 3:18 AM ET
Gore Vidal loved America in the way that the best of the founders did.
Indeed, he seemed at times, to be the last of their number -- a fierce defender of the purest, most revolutionary of ideals at a time when the contemporary political class prattled on about Constitutional principles they neither understood nor valued. (At the bicentennial, in 1976, Time magazine featured a cover with Vidal in historic garb; an honor that delighted him sufficiently to earn a place for the cover on the wall of his Italian villa.)
Vidal, who has died at age 86, was a great man of letters: an author (Julian, Burr, Lincoln, The City and the Pillar), playwright (The Best Man) and National Book Award-winning essayist (United States Essays, 1952-1992) on the literature of his native land and the world. To this he added status as a life-long challenger of the Puritanism that he regarded as the ugliest of American tendencies.
But I knew Gore as a political champion, who ran inspired campaigns for Congress, who demanded that presidents of both parties be held to account for high crimes and misdemeanors, who maintained a faith in democracy so deep and abiding that he called for a new constitutional convention to set right what was done wrong at Philadelphia and to realize the Jeffersonian requirement of revolutionary renewal. He was, as well, a scorching debater on topics political, as William F. Buckley learned to his chagrin in 1968.
Like most of Gore's friends, I came to know him first on the page.
His epic 1972 essay "Homage to Daniel Shays" -- written as "the land of the tin ear" voters prepared to reelect Richard Nixon; in confirmation of Gore's observation that: "At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice" -- remains the greatest contemporary statement of American Revolutionary principles.
This was where our relationship began. I loved Gore immediately, for his dangerous wit, for his savage style, for his truth telling. "Policy formation is the province of a bipartisan power elite of corporate rich [Rockefeller, Mellon] and their career hirelings [Nixon, McNamara] who work through an interlocking and overlapping maze of foundations, universities and institutes, discussion groups, associations and commissions," he observed. "Political parties are only for finding interesting and genial people [usually ambitious middle-class lawyers] to ratify and implement these policies in such a way that the under classes feel themselves to be, somehow, a part of the governmental process. Politics is not exactly the heart of the action but it is nice work—if you can afford to campaign for it."(continued)http://www.thenation.com/blog/169184/go ... revolution