To read Gore Vidal’s essays published in The Nation is, for the most part, to read those of his writings least likely to have stood the test of time. His politically minded writings of the last twenty years of his life do not, to my mind, read as particularly prescient; instead, they feel as naive without necessarily being idealistic. Some are not even very enjoyable to read for his inimitable style.
But, there are always nuggets on insight and joy.
I had forgotten that Jerry Brown – who should have a monument erected in his honor for his last two terms as governor of California – ran for president in 1992. Rather than spend his time writing about the then almost certain nominations of George Bush, père, and Bill Clinton, he sees something vital in Jerry Brown and Pat Buchanan.
I wrote that most of the essays do not feel prescient, but this one felt positively eerie in its foreknowledge.
His interpretation of how Brown and Buchanan represented the true and beating hearts of the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, seem to almost exactly match the current transformations of them today. He couldn’t have known it, but Vidal’s Pat Buchanan is a proto-Trump: racist, isolationist and intent on dismantling what Gore called the ‘American Empire’ on those terms.
Brown is similarly depicted as ‘post-imperial,’ but on the grounds that we must focus on humanity and the people writ large.