OK. So watching Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention reminded me of King Lear. The initial similarity is pretty obvious – “Hey, there’s an old guy yelling at nobody. Reminds me of King Lear.” But when I started to think about, I realized that this metaphor extends beyond Dirty Harry. The entire Republican Party is King Lear. And it’s a tragedy.
Alright, see if you can follow this.
King Lear is a ruler of considerable power and wisdom. He’s Reagan in the 80s. He’s admired, revered, and respected – even by those who don’t necessarily love him. And then one day he (The Republican Party leadership) decides to divest his wealth and power to his daughters. For the purpose of this tirade, we’ll call them “Christian Right,” “Wall Street,” and “Middle Class.” The only daughter from Shakespeare’s play whose name I remember is Regan and that would just confuse things.
Lear devises this sick little game in which he asks his daughters to tell him how much they love him and the one who loves him the most, of course, will get the most stuff. Naturally Christian Right and Wall Street go all crazy on dad and drown him in platitudes and it’s all bullshit. His youngest daughter, Middle Class, the one who really values him and cherishes him most, knows that there are no words to adequately describe his importance and rather than join in the goofiness of a fake love-fest, she says nothing.
You know the story. Lear gives all his power to Christian Right and Wall Street while banishing his once-beloved Middle Class to the nether regions of the kingdom. Naturally Christian Right and Wall Street squander their father’s wealth and power on self-serving, greedy, and power-hungry quests, starting a few wars, turning allies into enemies, and generally screwing up the entire kingdom. Meanwhile, the banished Middle Class goes on serving her father by working hard, paying her taxes and waiting for the crazy old bastard to come to his senses and reign in her twisted sisters.
Tragically, it doesn’t happen. By the time old GOP realizes the error of his ways, Christian Right and Wall Street have thrown Middle Class into a dungeon and rendered their father completely powerless and bereft of his senses. In the last scene, we find a once-great old man raging in the wilderness at the injustice of the universe while an empty chair sits stage left and shakes its head sadly at how such a powerful body could be turned so inside-out by a couple of greedy daughters.
It’s kind of sad.