Shameless Self Promotion
CARNAGE REPORT: What got you into writing about politics?
TOM DEGAN: I'm just barely old enough to remember the assassination of JFK. I can remember what my dad was wearing when he told me, "The president's been shot". As young as I was, I knew that something dreadful had occurred and that everyone - myself included - would be affected by it. A few years later I followed the 1968 presidential campaign closely, or as close as a nine-year-old kid possibly could. I was rooting for Bobby Kennedy, the late president's younger brother - not for any deep, ideological reason - but just because I liked him. When he was shot and killed in June, I was completely devastated. It took me years to get over his death. For the longest time I refused to accept the fact that he was gone. But it was the Watergate hearings five years later that changed me forever. I became a hopeless political junkie at the age of fifteen, although I didn't start writing seriously about politics until 2000 when George Dubya sought the nomination. I knew damned well that if he ever got into the White House it would be disastrous for America. I called that one, didn't I?
CR: What inspires you to write?
TD: Comedy and tragedy. There's so much unintentional humor out there - particularly from the extreme right wing. Sarah Palin, for instance, is a satirist's dream; the gift that keeps giving and giving. She just won't go away - and I almost hope she never does. Someone once remarked how prolific I was as a writer. I told her that I really wasn't one/tenth as talented as she thought. Given the pathetic state of American politics, these things tend to write themselves. And then there's tragedy. What happened in Newtown, Connecticut in December moved me as you might imagine. I can usually mine a little humor out of any situation regardless of the tragedy. Newtown was the exception to the rule. My little niece attends a school less than ten miles from Sandy Hook Elementary. That one really hit home, let me tell you.
CR: In your blog, The Rant, you have a healthy streak of pessimism towards the political system and the establishment in general, what would you like to see happen in the US to ease your disappointment with both?
TD: There are a few things I'd like to see happen but I'm afraid that I've become too much of a cynic to think that we'll ever have meaningful change. Whenever the thought crosses my mind that there might be a brighter day down the road - not just for the United States but for everyone on the planet - I dismiss it as naive self-deception. Maybe it will happen; I hope so, but I'm convinced that not much will change in my lifetime. Degan men tend not to live too far into their sixties. I'm fifty-four. C'est la vie.
CR: What do you think of the need for a third party?
TD: I think that a third party is a grand idea. But what I would love to see even more than that is the utter destruction of the Democratic and Republican parties. The Democrats have been thoroughly corrupted and the Republicans completely so. In fact, it would be a misnomer to refer to the GOP as a "political party" so to speak. They've devolved into an organized criminal enterprise. There are some Democrats whose hearts are in the right place - Sherrod Brown of Ohio comes to mind - and a few others. But for the most part I've given up on them.
CR: What other blogs do you like to read or would like to recommend?
TD: AlterNet is a good site - although I'm a tad peeved at them at the moment. They will no longer allow me to post a link to my blog in their comments section, the bastards. I guess I've become a bit too controversial for them even - which is an unintended compliment, I suppose. The Huffington Post is still pretty good, although it's lost some of its bite since it was sold about a year ago. I love the columnists Gail Collins, Paul Krugman, Leonard Pitts, Frank Rich - and I miss Molly Ivins like nobody's business, God rest her soul. Hunter Thompson was another of my heroes. His suicide in 2005 sent me into a complete funk that took me a week to come out of. He was a great influence on me.
CR: What do you think of the state of the left in the US?
TD: Actually it's doing quite well at the moment. I think the sleeping giant of the American left is awakening from a long and troubled slumber. During the so-called "Reagan Revolution", they (we) were sound asleep. America has come to realize that it is more liberal than it ever imagined. What people have to understand is that Ronald Reagan was essentially a mask - with a twinkle in its eye and a fine, Irish smile. Remove that mask and what is revealed is the twisted, hideous smirk of George W. Bush. That's the real face of the Reagan Revolution.
CR: Why do you think that leftist parties have not, as of yet, achieved the political gains that far right movements such as the Tea Party have managed in the US?
TD: Again, they were in such a slump for so long that it's taken some time for them to get their act together. For over thirty years the right wing used the word "liberal" as an expletive. People believed that liberalism was responsible for America's decline. They didn't understand their own history. It was the radically progressive administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt that saved this country - and the average voter had forgotten this fact. That's starting to change. The plutocracy no longer has the political upper hand. The American people (or at least enough of them to make a difference) are fed up with conservative policies. That's what the Voter ID laws were all about. The GOP will never rehabilitate themselves - so they tried to make it impossible for the traditional progressive constituency (city dwellers in particular) to cast their ballots in the 2012 election. They failed miserably of course. The first piece I ever wrote on my blog was called "George W. Bush: The Last Republican President". At the time I was only being cheeky. I didn't really believe it then. I believe it now.
CR: We often hear the refrain that the people get the leaders they deserve, do you agree with this statement?
TD: Do you mean, did the American people deserve George W. Bush? Yeah, absolutely they deserved him - or at least the ones who were silly enough to think that sending the half-witted little frat boy to the White House would be a really neat idea. They most definitely deserved him. For the record: I'm blameless.
CR: Do you have any political heroes or political figures you admire?
TD: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. About two months ago I was staying at a hotel across from the FDR Library in Hyde Park, NY. I woke up at about three AM, unable to go back to sleep. So in the dead of night I walked over to the rose garden where they are buried for a few moments of meditation. It was a very peaceful experience. We owe the both of them so much. I loved Teddy Kennedy. Although a flawed man personally, he was always on the side of the angels. I really miss the guy. By the way, I'm pretty flawed myself. Ask anyone who knows me.
CR: Final Question. What’s next for you on The Rant?
TD: Nary a clue. There's so much to write about I don't know where to begin. It's almost like playing darts blindfolded and hitting a bulls-eye every time. Any suggestions?