♪ The night wind blows the window closed
It shatters and leaves quite a view
But no kind of lie could ever justify
What you put me through
I’m not used to this
To be the fool by your side
Is this my fate?
Well, honey, that’s a long slide … for an out
Maybe that’s what your love’s about ♪
— ‘80s Americana takes Uvular back to the house that love built.1
Warren Zanes, author of the preceptive and revealing Petty: The Biography, played guitar for Del Fuegos. Tom Petty declared himself a fan of the band. Record executives and booking agents championed the Boston-area quartet. MTV even placed the above video in regular rotation for a brief period.
Del Feugos immolated within three years of releasing Stand Up, from which “Long Slide (For an Out)” served as a single.
Zanes sketches out his personal account of this oft-told tale of a musical almost-ran in the foreword to Petty to establish a theme for Tom Petty’s ascension to fully deserved rock ’n’ roll superstardom. People achieve outsize career success in two ways: They get extremely lucky or they pursue success to the exclusion of all else while also enjoying uncommon luck.
Talent matters, but only to the extent that performing well draws attention. Whether people appreciate the work matters less than who does the appreciating and how much clout the appreciators wield.
Timing and identity also play huge roles. Sister Rosetta Tharpe invented or perfected every guitar lick your favorite guitarist ever stole. But recording as a Black woman primarily in the 1940s relegated her to obscurity outside the smallish circle of 1950s guitar lick stealers.
Someone willing to work their way to the top must also endure interminable delays, persevere through innumerable indignities, and get away with a metric shit ton of bad actions, any single one of which would derail a person who possesses a healthy sense of self-preservation or the option to do anything other than plod along their present path.
Politicados, as smart and worldly-wise navigators of the interconnected tubes we call the Internet, surely know these things. Why would your axe-grinding Weekend Politics Thread host drag you over this corduroy road? To explain why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now commands a battalion of ballot box brown shirts. Obviously.
As of April 25, 2022, America’s contiguous states’ dangly bit boasts an Office of Election Crimes and Security. The enabling legislation creates positions for 25 state investigators answerable solely to the governor. Picture a praetorian guard that, instead of protecting the emperor, oppresses the plebians.
Georgia put a similar law into effect a day later. Florida’s fez2 stopped short of standing up vote-suppressing shook troops, but both new laws put simplified registration, early voting, voting by mail and curbside ballot collection boxes on the chopping block.
Michigan looks to follow suit, and noisy attempts to do so continue to roil capitols from Harrisburg to Carson City. Four intentions motivate each instance:
- Suppressing turnout among by groups likely to choose Democratic candidates;3
- Subverting elections by portraying them as illegitimate and untrustworthy by design and in practice;4
- Writing legislation that empowers Federalist Society-packed courts to plant precedents that permit overturning election results;5 and
- Portraying the act of casting a ballot as participating in a criminal conspiracy to cancel the very people who wish to cancel elections.
Look back at what DeSantis asked his Tallahassee toadies to title his coterie of cops. The “Office of Election Crimes and Security” smacks of “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” The mission morphs from providing naturalization services to enforcing laws that close down corridors to citizenship. Symbolism meets metaphor the way a baton collapses a skull.
But how does any of this excuse the seven paragraphs on Zanes, Del Fuegos, Tom Petty and the vagaries of musical demigodhood?
Well, think how Ron DeSantis attained the office that empowers him to singlehandedly dismantle the machinery of participatory democracy while writing a script for other godforsaken governors to follow. The Florida native graduated from Yale before earning a law degree from Harvard. At both universities, he attracted the sponsorship of GOP kingmakers.
A detour into the U.S. Navy, probably the most liberal military service, did not moderate him. A rapid rise through the Florida Republican Party only gained steam after he kowtowed to Marco Rubio on a 2016 U.S. Senate run.
Then, county election officials’ incompetence compounded a resurgence of out, loud and proud racism to give DeSantis the narrowest of victories in the 2018 governor’s race. Becoming a pet, persisting in contrarian ways, submitting to debasement, doing a disgrace, refusing to feel shame and failing upward foisted the confabulation of all of Captain Ron’s worst traits onto the fine folks of Florida and the rest of the unwelcoming world.
The elements that agglomerate to shape the best of us also forge the worst of the rest. It takes a village of the damned to make a DeSantis.