History

Frankbusters

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When I wrote my review of Tom Frank's The Wrecking Crew, there was a passage in the text that I didn't have space to address. It demonstrates the ways even the one genuinely worthwhile section of the book—Frank's history of '80s conservatism—can go awry:

When Conservative Digest asked Abramoff whom he supported in the 1984 presidential contest, the young roughneck exploded: "Are you kidding? Wally Mondale is a boring wimp." Others on the right taunted "Fritz" Mondale as a "quiche eater," after the squishy food for which "real men" were said to have no appetite, and a squad of CRs [College Republicans] mocked the "wimp" to the catchy theme from Ghostbusters, dancing and singing "It's Ronnie's time; Fritz is a slime." The group reportedly sold almost fifty thousand T-shirts emblazoned with their "Fritzbusters" logo and along the way gave me my first taste of the tradition of gleeful malice that is observed so carefully in conservative circles.

A footnote points out that "'Fritzbusters' images can be found wherever one digs in the right-wing student literature of those days, and the shirts and stickers can still be found in thrift stores and on eBay."

I don't have any interest in sticking up for the mid-'80s College Republicans, but as evidence of a particularly conservative form of "gleeful malice" this is pretty thin gruel. Not just because it wasn't especially malicious by campaign standards, but because it wasn't limited to the Republicans. As a teenager in North Carolina at the same time, I owned a "Helmsbusters" button with essentially the same design. And there was plenty of "Ronbusters" and "Reaganbusters" merchandise out there as well.

The striking thing here isn't that Frank is apparently unaware of the equivalent material on the left. At the time he was a conservative teenager in a conservative state, and I'm not surprised if he didn't see the buttons, posters, and T-shirts available on the other side of the spectrum—especially in a year when liberals weren't exactly omnipresent. What's striking is that he would use that CR kitsch as evidence of something peculiar to the right without checking whether Democrats also adopted what was, after all, a pretty obvious pop culture reference. If Frank was already running "Fritzbusters" searches on eBay, how much work would it have been to type in "Reaganbusters" as well and see what comes up?

NEXT: Eric Holder's Second Thoughts on Mandatory Minimums

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  1. Jesse Walker: Plowing through pages of douchebaggery, so you don’t have to.

    1. When I was in college in the early 90s, the College Republicans were quite forthright and nasty with their fag-bashing. I remember dating one of them once and asking him how he could be a fag and a fag-basher at the same time and he was like “well we’re about all moral values, not necessarily gays blah blah blah”. They weren’t about policy or economics or anything besides “morals”. And drugs.

      1. and asking him how he could be a fag and a fag-basher at the same time and he was like “well we’re about all moral values, not necessarily gays blah blah blah”. video bokep They weren’t about policy or economics or anything besides “morals”. And drugs.

  2. Frank self-identified as a conservative in his youth? When/what provoked the switch?

  3. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t have found a better crack-pot to offer a left wing point of view. Al Hunt, eat your heart out.

  4. When I was in college in the early 90s, the College Republicans were quite forthright and nasty with their fag-bashing. I remember dating one of them once and asking him how he could be a fag and a fag-basher at the same time and he was like “well we’re about all moral values, not necessarily gays blah blah blah”. They weren’t about policy or economics or anything besides “morals”. And drugs.

  5. “What’s striking is that he would use that CR kitsch as evidence of something peculiar to the right without checking whether Democrats also adopted what was, after all, a pretty obvious pop culture reference.”

    What would really be striking is if Franks was capable of an objective thought. For Franks, the difference between Republican jokes and Democratic ones is that Democratic jokes are funny! And TRUE!

    Even though I haven’t read the book (why should that stop me?) I’d say that Franks envies the right-wing’s bad-boy image, which is why he’s so anxious to ridicule lobbyists as, essentially, homos.

  6. Ebay search for “fritzbusters” returned:

    1970S VINTAGE T-SHIRT IRON-ON *FRITZBUSTERS* MONDALE

  7. If Frank really wants examples of “gleeful malice” he should review the anti-Thatcher propaganda created by his compatriots over the pond.

  8. Who the hell is Thomas Frank and does anyone actually bother to read him?

  9. I know Thomas Frank’s brother. He’s the one with the brains (he’s an engineer).

  10. If Frank can’t even get Kansas right, why do we listen to him on anything else?

    His whole first book is basically built on the idea that Kansas is Flint, Michigan. Which is pretty much the last part of the country that Kansas resembles, except maybe for Key West and the top of Mt. Denali.

  11. Hazel,
    In case you missed the much longer piece on Frank’s book, he’s a leftwing shill who’s gotten it into his head that libertarian=Bush-style crony capitalist. That’s more what the first article on Frank’s book was about.

    Thomas Frank also bears a surprising resemblance to Stephen Colbert?

  12. Now why did I punctuate the last sentence with a question mark.

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