GM: For the paperback edition of Double Trouble I included an essay I wrote for The Guardian in 2000. Right before the election, at the end of Clinton’s second term, The Guardian asked me to write a piece imagining the next four years for Clinton, if Gore were to be elected, and if Bush were to be elected. So I wrote two parallel essays. I just let my imagination run wild; they are satirical essays in a lot of ways. But in both of them, you can see my liking for Clinton, my empathy for him. My country was a better place for his presidency. It was more what it was supposed to be. All kinds of people who had felt that they weren’t real Americans, that they didn’t count, that they should keep their mouths shut, that they had no real place here: that message that was so forcefully delivered under Reagan and under the first Bush, but it was never said, never demonstrated or acted out with Bill Clinton as president. He embodied and acted out a different America than Reagan and the first Bush, and then Bush Junior, did. So despite it all, this is somebody I liked.
SR: So does that mean that The Shape of Things To Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, written during the Bush and Cheney years — was that a return to the deep alienation of the eighties, for you?
GM: Nothing like it. Because Reagan really was an enormous and profound figure — a thousand times smarter and more willful than people want to give him credit for. The country he left us, the wreckage he left us, is the country and wreckage that he wanted to leave us. I’ve no doubt about that. George W. Bush, by comparison, was a piker. Walter Karp, who was a great political critic, once called Reagan “a vile tyrant” — you can’t go much further than that! And Bush would only love to have been. He was vile and there were tyrannical things about him. He wasn’t stupid, he just didn’t give a damn. He didn’t really care. Reagan did. He cared about horrible things. He devoted himself to horrible things. Bush did not exclude me and exclude other people the way that Reagan did.
The night that Reagan was elected in 1980, a prominent conservative thinker, now dead, was at an election night party in Chicago, and he was drunk and he said, “Now all those cunts and niggers are going to get what they deserve.” That’s what the election of Ronald Reagan meant to him. And that’s a lot of what the election of Ronald Reagan was about, that’s a lot of what its purpose was. So this prominent conservative thinker, now dead, read that election correctly, is what I am saying.
SR: A more decorous way of putting what he said: The goal of Reaganism was to reverse the sixties, all the gains of civil rights, feminism, and so forth.
GM: Everything that took away his primacy as a white male that got to rule the world, essentially.