“White Districts And White Sensibilities”: The Real Problem Republicans Have, They Don’t Want To Change Their Policies
You may have heard that in the incoming Congress, white men will constitute a minority of the Democratic caucus for the first time. That’s an interesting fact, but it’s only part of the story. At National Journal, Ron Brownstein and Scott Bland have a long, Brownsteinian look at how “the parties glare across a deep racial chasm” not only in the members of Congress themselves, but in the people they represent. “Republicans now hold 187 of the 259 districts (72 percent) in which whites exceed their national share of the voting-age population. Democrats hold 129 of the 176 seats (73 percent) in which minorities exceed their national share of the voting-age population. From another angle, 80 percent of Republicans represent districts more heavily white than the national average; 64 percent of House Democrats represent seats more heavily nonwhite than the national average.”
The implications for the GOP of the fact that most of their members represent mostly white districts are profound, touching on the continuous interaction between individuals and policy. Politicians are shaped by their political environments and the things they have to do to win, and the fact that most GOP members represent overwhelmingly white districts means that as they rise through the ranks, the time they’re going to have to spend talking to and listening to non-white people is going to be limited. Brownstein and Bland talked to some of the few Republicans who represent more diverse districts:
But even some House Republicans from racially diverse districts worry that many of their colleagues representing more monolithically white areas aren’t doing enough to court minorities. “Honestly, I don’t believe they are,” says Rep. Joe Heck, who won reelection in a diverse district outside Las Vegas.
Heck says he’s established beachheads among minority voters by working first with ethnic chambers of commerce. “For me, meeting with the members of the chamber was a door to building relationships with members of those communities,” he says. Then he hired aides to coordinate outreach to Hispanic and Asian constituents; during his campaign, he organized coalitions in those communities. “When I’m home in the district, we would do entire outreach days, visiting multiple Hispanic businesses, even ones outside of my district.”
As it happens, Joe Heck is an extremely conservative Republican. But he does all that outreach because he has no choice. And over time, that will make him more understanding of, and sensitive to, the concerns of people who aren’t white. It means that he’ll have a better awareness of the things that piss Hispanics off, and learning how not to piss different kinds of people off—with both substance and symbolism—is a big part of politics. This is important for both sides, and with a variety of constituencies. For instance, one of the first things you learn working on a Democratic campaign is that every piece of printed material you produce, from brochures to door hangers, has to have on it the tiny union “bug” that shows it was printed at a union shop. If it doesn’t, you can be damn sure you’ll get some angry phone calls from union members and representatives, because they notice. Republicans have I’s to be dotted and T’s to be crossed for their own constituencies as well. But somebody coming up through Republican politics in an overwhelmingly white district won’t have to learn, for instance, what pisses off Hispanics. So when they talk about immigration their speech is peppered with terms like “illegal aliens” that Hispanics find, well, alienating.
The advantage Democrats have is that nobody has to teach them how to talk to white people, because you learn that no matter where you live. It’s the same reason colleges don’t offer courses in White History or White Literature—you’re already learning it. Yes, there are subgroups of whites whom you can fail to understand, but it’s a lot less likely that you’re going to alienate them and end up losing the White House because of it.
So the real problem Republicans have isn’t that they don’t want to recruit minorities, because they do. They don’t want to change their policies to do it, of course, but they’re pleased as punch when they find someone like Tim Scott or Ted Cruz, a real-live minority who also happens to be rabidly right-wing, whom they can hold up as an example. Their problem is that they don’t know how to attract minority voters, because where most of them come from, they don’t have to.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January, 15, 2013
“2012, The Year Of Conservative Absolutism”: The Republican Party Embraces An Inflexible And Combative Conservative Ideology
Between now and New Year’s Day, I will occasionally post thoughts about the big political phenomena of 2012. The biggest was the decision made the Republican Party’s rank-and-file and leadership to embrace an unusually inflexible and combative conservative ideology as it sought to topple an incumbent Democratic president and regain control of the Senate. In my opinion, this counter-intuitive approach had more to do with the ultimate results than any other single factor, including the Obama campaign’s great strengths and Mitt Romney’s personal weaknesses, and the thousands of daily events on the campaign trail we all talked about. The only thing that perhaps rivaled the unforced error of the GOP’s basic messaging was the steady if unspectacular improvement in the objective condition of the country–from the economy to national security to the first positive benefits of Obamacare–which made it easier for Democrats to make the election a clear choice of future policy paths.
It didn’t have to be that way. In Mitt Romney the GOP had a presidential nominee who would have been perfectly happy to campaign as a different version of himself, among the many versions he has presented over the years. Republicans did not have to choose a list of Senate candidates so bad–many either open extremists or former “establishment” GOPers afraid to risk conservative criticism–that they managed to lose seats in a cycle when big gains should have been relatively easy. The party’s dreadful performance among younger and minority voters was largely self-inflicted. Nobody made them raise reproductive rights as an issue, particularly in a year when their own pundits and candidates constantly insisted–as though mumbling to themselves–that “social issues” were off the table.
Yet there they were, as prospects for winning the White House and the Senate slipped away, stuck not only with absolutist positions on abortion and LGBT rights that have become increasingly universal in recent years, but with equally absolutist and unpopular positions on tax rates for the wealthy, economic stimulus, health care, climate change, and “entitlement reform.” By the time Romney tried to pose as a “moderate” in the autumn, praying for media complicity in presenting yet another dishonest self-portrait, it was too late.
Yes, demographic trends played a big role in the outcome, but given economic conditions and what might have been a serious falloff in turnout for Obama’s 2008 coalition, a less ideologically rigid GOP would have had a decent chance to prevail.
This is all worth reiterating because there are scarce signs of any Republican reconsideration of basic ideological positioning following the election. Sure, they’ll move partway back to the George W. Bush positioning on immigration–though not without savage internal dissension–and will probably shut up about marriage equality in most parts of the country. Institutions associated with the Tea Party Movement, and some of its leaders, may decline in popularity–not that it much matters insofar as that movement’s point of view has now been largely internalized by the “Republican Establishment,” as Steve Kornacki notes at Salon today. But even as the image of an extremist party continues to sink in, and even as demographic trends make a party of old white people even less attractive to the entire electorate, the prospect of “better” candidates and shrunken midterm turnout patterns will almost certainly prevent any real internal change.
So those of us who thought Barack Obama deserved a second term, and who were horrified by what a Republican White House and Congress might have done–by now we’d be looking right down the barrel of the Ryan Budget being rammed through Congress via reconciliation–owe a lot to the many ideological enforcers of the GOP who made even modest accommodations to political necessity so difficult. And despite the frustrating inability or unwillingness of some in the Beltway media to grasp the basics of asymmetrical polarization, the conservative movement’s constant aggressions convinced enough self-conscious “centrists”–from Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein to yours truly–that something unsavory was going on in the Elephant Party which had to be repudiated. This enabled Obama and his highly competent campaign to lead a united coalition through thick and thin, and–who knows?–may now help him govern despite all the obstacles he now faces.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 27, 2012
“Speaking Ill of the Dead”: Robert Bork, An Unrepentant Reactionary Who Had Boundless Contempt For Modern America
What do you say when a public figure you find repellent dies? Do you hold your tongue, not speak ill of the dead, and wait some decent interval before saying what you really thought of them? After all, there’s no time like their death. Robert Bork died today, and the truth is that in a few months nobody is going to be talking much about his legacy. So now’s the time to weigh in, which Jeffrey Toobin does, in a rather unrestrained way:
Robert Bork, who died Wednesday, was an unrepentant reactionary who was on the wrong side of every major legal controversy of the twentieth century. The fifty-eight senators who voted against Bork for confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1987 honored themselves, and the Constitution. In the subsequent quarter-century, Bork devoted himself to proving that his critics were right about him all along.
Hard to disagree—Bork’s philosophy was a particularly nasty one, and he spent much of his public life expressing his boundless contempt for modern America, particularly the ways it had become more humane than it once was. For all I know he was beloved by his family, and I could offer them my sympathies, but that would be meaningless for them; they don’t know me from Adam.
I think it’s possible to talk honestly about someone’s contributions, and your criticisms of them, without getting needlessly uncivil. For instance, the media provocateur Andrew Breitbart died earlier this year at the young age of 43. That was a personal tragedy for his family and friends. But there are few people who injected as much poison into American politics in as short a time as Breitbart did, and when he died that had to be acknowledged. You don’t have to do that in a vulgar way, of course, but like Bork or anyone else who chooses to participate in a visible way, he chose the life he did.
Being criticized, even harshly, is the price you pay for participating in public life. If you can live with it while you’re alive, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem with having it happen when you die. So even though my death won’t be reported on the evening news, I’d like to state for the record that should anyone want to take the occasion of my demise to remind their audience that in their opinion I was a knave and a fool, go ahead and have at it.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 19, 2012
“Selfishness As Virtue”: The Narcissistic Politics Of Paul Ryan And The Servicing Of The Super-Rich Generation Of Termites
Often labeled a “reformer” for his determination to privatize Medicare and Social Security, Paul Ryan on closer inspection appears to be simply another Republican politician – like his new patron Mitt Romney – whose first priority is his own self-interest.
Both the ideology and the legislation he champions prove that he is utterly sincere in his admiration of Ayn Rand, the kooky libertarian author who elaborated her philosophy in a book candidly titled The Virtue of Selfishness. (The flavor of this 1964 essay collection can be gleaned from its original title, The Fascist New Frontier. Its first draft included a Rand screed that compared President John F. Kennedy with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.)
Ryan is a millionaire – one of the most affluent members of Congress – chiefly owing to a series of inheritances from his own family and the family of his wife, an Oklahoma heiress. And like Romney, he would certainly benefit from the tax proposals in the “Ryan budget,” which provides even greater benefits for wealthy families like his own than the Bush budgets that he supported during the past decade. The Romney-Ryan ticket’s chief policy preoccupation, in fact, is cutting their own taxes yet again while gutting government functions that serve the middle class (while raising taxes on them).
But the self-serving short-sightedness epitomized by Ryan’s ideas extends well beyond cutting taxes for himself and people like him. Consider his voting record on energy and environmental issues, where he has been a faithful servant of Big Oil and “skeptic” of climate change caused by carbon emissions.
That record happens to coincide perfectly with the interests of his wife Janna and her father, a lawyer representing oil and gas interests. Ryan and his wife have already inherited millions of dollars from a trust established by her family; and they own shares in several companies leasing property in Oklahoma and Texas to energy firms that benefit from taxpayer subsidies protected in Ryan’s budget. Although Ryan occasionally complains about “corporate welfare,” he and Romney both oppose any reduction in the multi-billion-dollar tax breaks enjoyed by the oil and gas industry.
As for Ryan’s own inherited wealth, it is money that mostly came from the huge construction company established by his great-grandfather in the 19th century. Ryan Incorporated’s success grew from the construction of railroads, then highways, airports, bridges and other basic public infrastructure – in short, from government contracts. (Its website proudly outlines the company history and notes that today “the Company performs residential, commercial, industrial and power site work, landfill construction and capping and full-service golf course building/remodeling for both public and private customers.”
But while Ryan benefited personally from more than a century of construction that helped to create American society and a prosperous middle class, his budget serves only the super-rich generation of termites who would allow U.S. infrastructure to crumble, rather than provide sufficient resources to maintain and modernize it. Should the Ryan budget ever become law, very little or no federal money will remain available in future decades for such basic purposes of government. That is fine with him, evidently because Ryan’s own fortunes are no longer tied to the family construction business. (His cousins who still run the company would be wise to vote for anyone but him.)
Then there is Ryan’s longtime obsession with abolishing Social Security as a public insurance system, which first drew attention to him during the Bush administration in 2005. The Bush White House suffered political disaster by pursuing a privatization plan as he urged them to do. Strangely, while Ryan is decades away from retirement age, he has already collected Social Security in the form of survivor benefits. For two years he received a check every month, following the tragic early death of his father when the future Congressman was only 16 years old.
Thanks to Social Security, Ryan was able to save money for college – a story similar to that of Senator Al Franken’s wife Franni, who lost her father at an early age and attended college thanks to federal survivor benefits. But while Franni Franken’s experience ensured that she and her husband became staunch defenders of Social Security, Ryan is eager to deprive future orphans of the guaranteed support that he received.
If selfishness is truly a virtue, then Ryan is without peer. His ideas comprise a taxonomy of narcissistic public policy – from taxes to climate change, infrastructure, and social insurance — that would surely gratify his idol.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, August 15, 2012
Gosh! When did I end up in bed with Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber? Could it be because I did specialize in blowing things up while serving my country for four years as an airborne combat engineer? I also watched human beings blown up. I had friends and Navy SEALs I was in battle with blown up. My own intestines exploded on the first of my four combat embeds, three in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Took seven operations to fix the plumbing. I later suffered other permanent injuries.
Yet now I find myself linked not only with the Unabomber, but also Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Or so says the Chicago-based think tank the Heartland Institute, for which I’ve done work. Heartland erected billboards depicting the above three declaring: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” Climate scientists now, evidently, share something in common with dictators and mass murderers. Reportedly bin Laden was scheduled to make such an appearance, too.
You see, I’ve published articles saying I do “believe in global warming.” Yes, I’ve also questioned the extent to which man-made gases have contributed to that warming and concluded that expenditures to reduce those emissions would be as worthless as they’d be horrifically expensive. No matter; just call me “Ted.” Or “Charlie.” Or “Fidel.”
This is nuts! Literally. As in “mass hysteria.” That’s a phenomenon I wrote about for a quarter-century, from the heterosexual AIDS “epidemic” to the swine flu “pandemic” that killed vastly fewer people than seasonal flu, to “runaway Toyotas.” Mass hysteria is when a large segment of society loses touch with reality, or goes bonkers, if you will, on a given issue – like believing that an incredibly mild strain of flu could kill eight times as many Americans as normal seasonal flu. (It killed about a third as many.)
I was always way ahead of the curve. And my exposés primarily appeared in right-wing publications. Back when they were interested in serious research. I also founded a conservative college newspaper, held positions in the Reagan administration and at several conservative think tanks, and published five books that conservatives applauded. I’ve written for umpteen major conservative publications – National Review, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, among them.
But no longer. That was the old right. The last thing hysteria promoters want is calm, reasoned argument backed by facts. And I’m horrified that these people have co-opted the name “conservative” to scream their messages of hate and anger.
Extremism in the defense of nothing
Nothing the new right does is evidently outrageous enough to receive more than a peep of indignation from the new right. Heartland pulled its billboards because of funder withdrawals, not because any conservatives spoke up and said it had crossed a line.
Last month U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican recently considered by some as vice-president material, insisted that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party, again with little condemnation from the new right.
Mitt Romney took a question at a town hall meeting this month from a woman who insisted President Obama be “tried for treason,” without challenging, demurring from or even commenting on her assertion.
And then there’s the late Andrew Breitbart (assassinated on the orders of Obama, natch). A video from February shows him shrieking at peaceful protesters: “You’re freaks and animals! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy raping, murdering freaks!” He went on for a minute-and-a-half like that. Speak not ill of the dead? Sen. Ted Kennedy’s body was barely cold when Breitbart labeled him “a big ass motherf@#$er,” a “duplicitous bastard” a “prick” and “a special pile of human excrement.”
The new right loved it! Upon his own death shortly after, Breitbart was immediately sanctified and sent to lead the Seraphim. He was repeatedly eulogized as “the most important conservative of our time never to hold office,” skipping right past William F. What’s-his-name Jr.
There was nothing “conservative” about Breitbart. Ever-consummate gentlemen like Buckley and Ronald Reagan would have been mortified by such behavior as Breitbart’s – or West’s or Heartland’s. “There you go again,” the Gipper would have said in his soft but powerful voice.
Civility and respect for order – nay, demand for order – have always been tenets of conservatism. The most prominent work of history’s most prominent conservative, Edmund Burke, was a reaction to the anger and hatred that swept France during the revolution. It would eventually rip the country apart and plunge all of Europe into decades of war. Such is the rotted fruit of mass-produced hate and rage. Burke, not incidentally, was a true Tea Party supporter, risking everything as a member of Parliament to support the rebellion in the United States.
All of today’s right-wing darlings got there by mastering what Burke feared most: screaming “J’accuse! J’accuse!” Turning people against each other. Taking seeds of fear, anger and hatred and planting them to grow a new crop.
Conservatism has also historically emphasized empiricism. Joe Friday of “Dragnet” must have been a conservative: “All we want are the facts, Ma’am.” When President Reagan famously said, “Facts are stupid things,” he meant to quote President John Adams’ observation that “Facts are stubborn things.” But how much fact was there in Heartland’s billboards, whose shock purpose has been likened to tactics of the hard-left animal activist group PETA, with whom I’ve repeatedly locked horns. Or in West’s assertion? Or Breitbart’s tirades? Rush Limbaugh compared Breitbart, who never wrote a single investigative report, to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the dynamic duo who brought down the thoroughly corrupt presidency of Richard Nixon. He actually said Breitbart’s work was superior. Oh, dear!
I know these words coming from somebody identified with the right are heresy – as defined by this new right. An invite to a marshmallow roast with you as guest of honor. Or worse. It’s to be labeled with the ultimate epithet: RINO. Republican in name only. GOP Sen. Scott Brown bears that mark of Cain. Coming from super-liberal Massachusetts, he only has a 74 percent American Conservative Union rating. There you go, then!
So there’s an auto-da-fé out there right now with my name on it. Torquemada is holding the torch; the wieners and s’mores are flying off the shelves. Truth be known, though, I haven’t considered myself a Republican since 1982. Why? That was the year of the massive Reagan tax hike. I figured that’s what liberal Democrats are for. Tore up my donor card and never gave again. By being a conservative at that time, I was a RINO. By being one now, I’m also a RINO. A very curious animal, that.
The hate, anger and fear machine
A single author, Ann Coulter, has published best-selling books accusing liberals, in the titles, of being demonic, godless and treasonous. Michelle Malkin, ranked by the Internet search company PeekYou as having the most traffic of any political blogger, routinely dismisses them as “moonbats, morons and idiots.” Limbaugh infamously dispatched a young woman who expressed her opinion that the government should provide free birth control as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
As a conservative, I disagree with the political opinions of liberals. But to me, a verbal assault indicates insecurity and weakness on the part of the assaulter, as in “Is that the best they can do?” This playground bullying – the name-calling, the screaming, the horrible accusations – all are intended to stifle debate, the very lifeblood of a democracy.
Meanwhile, these people who practice shutting down the opposition through shouts and smears accuse President Obama of having dictatorial dreams? A recent email I received, based on accusations from umpteen right-wing groups, blared in caps-lock fury: “BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA HAS SIGNED A MARTIAL LAW EXECUTIVE ORDER!” This specific message, from a group calling itself RightMarch.org, goes on: “THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! BARACK OBAMA IS TRYING TO VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION, BECOME A DICTATOR, AND TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS!”
Outrageous, indeed. Obama’s order updated a National Defense Resource Preparedness act, which was essentially identical to one signed 19 years earlier and actually originated in 1950. It granted no authority to Obama that he did not already have under existing laws.
President Obama is regularly referred to as a Marxist/Socialist, Nazi, tyrant, Muslim terrorist supporter and – let me look this up, but I’ll bet probably the antichrist, too. Yup, there it is! Over 5 million Google references. There should be a contest to see if there’s anything for which Obama hasn’t been accused. Athlete’s foot? The “killer bees”? Maybe. In any case, the very people who coined and promoted such terms as “Bush Derangement Syndrome, Cheney Derangement Syndrome and Palin Derangement Syndrome” have been promoting hysterical attitudes toward Obama since before he was even sworn in.
No, I’m not cherry-picking. When I say “regularly referred to,” interpret literally. Polls show that about half of voting Republican buy into the birther nonsense (one of the more prominent hysterias within the hysteria). Only about a fourth seem truly sure that Obama was actually born here. In her nationally syndicated column Michelle Malkin wrote regarding Limbaugh’s slut remarks, that “I’m sorry the civility police now have an opening to demonize the entire right based on one radio comment.” In a stroke she’s expressed her disdain for civility and declared the new right’s sins can be dispatched as an itsy-bitsy little single faux pas, “one radio comment.”
No, Michelle, incivility – nay, outright meanness and puerility – rears its ugly head daily on your blog, which as I write this on May 23 has one item referring in the headline to “Pig Maher’s boy [Bill Maher]” and another to “Jaczko the Jerk,” [former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko]. She calls Limbaugh target Sandra Fluke a “femme-agogue” and her supporters “[George] Soros monkeys.” Pigs? Monkeys? Moonbats? It’s literal dehumanization.
Sure, there are enough hate-and-anger mongers on the left to go around. Among the worst was Keith Olbermann, who once called Malkin a “mashed up bag of meat with lipstick on it.” Very edifying, Keith! But as the Christian Science Monitor reported, his ratings recently collapsed from an average of 354,000 viewers a night when he debuted on Current TV, to 58,000 viewers by the first quarter of 2012. He was recently fired. Again. Air America was intended to counter right-wing talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh. I was on Al Franken’s show while he made fun of a soldier from my first battle who is now permanently paralyzed. Touché, Al! But Air America also failed.
Malkin, who revels in playing the victim, says that she’s been called all sorts of horrible things, many based on her Filipina heritage. But most of what she cites come from email or anonymous comments on blog sites. It wasn’t usually from paid professionals with large audiences, like her, aimed at paid professionals like her. It’s thus hard to compare with the host of the most popular talk show host in history taking shots at an unknown 22-year-old woman. (She’s hardly that now; Limbaugh himself promoted her to a national spokeswoman.)
Incivility is hardly the domain of the new right. American society grows ever coarser. But this is cold comfort. Conservative ideology demands civility of conservatives; demands, yes, self-policing. Let others act as they will, bearing evidence of the shallowness of their positions. It also demands respect for official offices, such as the presidency. When our guy is in office, you give him that modicum of respect – and when your guy is in office, we do the same. The other party is to be referred to as “the loyal opposition,” not with words the FCC forbids on the air.
Muckraking becometh buckraking
In the grief-fest at Breitbart’s death, forgiven (and indeed practically forgotten) was his crucial role in building the single most popular liberal website, the Huffington Post. Some of Breitbart’s friends admitted he was absent of ideology. “I don’t recall Andrew Breitbart ever mentioning electoral politics,” wrote Tucker Carlson. “It bored him.” Breitbart’s inspiration, then? George Washington through Benjamin Franklin – printed in primarily green ink on cotton stock.
Limbaugh pulls down a stunning $38 million annual salary. Leaked Heartland Institute documents revealed it’s gotten over $14 million in the past six years from a single individual. RightMarch.com accompanied the Obama-cum-tyrant message with an offer to “Blast Fax” every member of Congress for $139 – for a profit of about $139. Surely these people have their fingers crossed that President Obama is reelected.
I personally know a lot of the leaders of this new rabid right. Most are very nice on a personal basis. Honestly, you’d be shocked. Unlike Breitbart, some began as real conservatives. One called me her mentor in her first book and attended my wedding. Many once sang my praises. Again, unlike Breitbart, Malkin was once a true investigative reporter. You can still see elements of actual research in Ann Coulter’s work, too.
But when times changed, and it became profitable to move from honorable advocacy to shrill name-calling, they changed too. They cashed in their reputations, as well as their ideology, for lucre. Those who didn’t – because conservatism runs against screaming, extremism and sensationalism – began disappearing from the talk shows, magazines and store shelves. They were replaced by pod people.
You cannot be identified by what you oppose, only by what you stand for. But this curious creature’s main claim to the title of “conservative” is that it hates liberals – as do liberals and lots of others on many points of the political spectrum. Obama is routinely bashed in such places as the Nation. The right-wing Nation?
Indeed in any violent anti-democratic revolution – Jacobite, Bolshevik, National Socialist – the first goal is to eliminate the real competition, those with ideals. The guys who really believed in liberty, fraternity and equality or rule by the proletariat were identified, isolated and eliminated early on to leave only two extremes to choose from. “It’s us or the Bourbons! It’s us or the Romanovs!” In Germany, the conservatives and liberals were dispatched to the labor camps before the Nazis felt safe to send the Jews to the death camps.
The new right cannot advance a conservative agenda precisely because, other than a few small holdouts like the American Conservative magazine or that battleship that refuses to become a museum, George Will, it is not itself conservative. Pod people are running the show. It has no such capability; no such desire. I find that disturbing for obvious reasons. But, based on my own conversations with liberals, I think – nay, I know – that if more of these allegedly godless, treasonous people understood real conservatism a lot would embrace many conservative positions.
Thus everybody realizes government spending has lost its airbrakes. But while the new right screams the most about big government, it nonetheless supported President George W. Bush as he presided over the largest expansion of government spending since uber-liberal FDR and left us with a massive debt before President Obama was sworn in. Why? Silly rabbit! Because the left opposed him.
The same has been said for the right’s otherwise seemingly unfathomable enchantment with Sarah Palin; it’s a defense of their damsel in distress. The veracity of the left’s claims about her are irrelevant. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Or so thought that uber-liberal FDR about good ol’ “Uncle Joe” right to the end, even as conservative Winston Churchill tried desperately to convince him otherwise. And so fell the Iron Curtain.
Eating its own
Obsessed with attacking, the new right will carpet-bomb positions of the old right if the left comes around to it.
Thus the right has traditionally opposed government subsidies. My first cover story was in Buckley’s National Review, arguing against ethanol subsidies that ultimately grew to $6 billion annually. But when the Senate sought to repeal the subsidy last year, right-wing guru and Jack Abramoff henchman Grover Norquist fought it – with the stunning argument that cutting a government subsidy is actually a tax hike in disguise!
And how ironic that for decades liberals unfairly accused conservatives of “McCarthyism” to shut down debate. (Oh, how I remember!) Yet now the right countenances a prominent congressman who has literally outdone “Tailgunner Joe.”
McCarthy’s infamous list comprised only 57 Communists who were merely State Department employees, not “78 to 81” of the nation’s top elected officials.
Pity the poor Onion; there’s nothing left to satirize.
Apart from gaining fame and fortune for a select few, all the new right is accomplishing is turning Bismarck’s words upside down, making politics the art of the impossible. It demonizes the opposition even as it brutally enforces “team loyalty.” So nothing gets done, and bad trends just get worse.
- Drastic action is required now, nay yesterday, to start bringing expenditures in line with income. About half our government spending is fueled by borrowing, and that spending accounts for a fourth of GDP. Without borrowing, then, our GDP would drop 12 percent or more – well into depression range.
- Entitlement spending, that which requires no new legislation, is en route to consuming all tax revenue.
- Excluding the very top earners, household incomes have been declining for a decade.
- The real employment level has been trending downward since the mid-1980s. Unemployment for a year or more, the kind that just sucks the heart and soul out of people, is about double what it was in late 2009 – and yet in the 1960s it was essentially nonexistent.
- Income inequality is the highest since before the Great Depression, understandably fostering resentment.
For many, the American dream became a nightmare long ago. It’s little wonder that Americans are afraid and angry.
One member of the new right seemed to acknowledge that reckless character assassination was merely stalemating the system. “Let’s come back to the issues,” he told NPR in an interview last year. “Let’s come back to talking about how do we set the conditions here in Washington, D.C., for long-term sustainable economic and job growth.” Unfortunately, that was congressman Allen West.
The right didn’t create this reservoir of fear, anger and hate. But it has both tapped into it and roiled it. Indeed, the right-wing mass hysteria is what sociologists call a “moral panic.” It occurs when a society is undergoing a wrenching transformation. Somebody then comes along and creates a “folk devil” both to provide an explanation for bad conditions, real or imagined, and a target. Kill the devil; eliminate the bad conditions. But the right has no serious incentive to help solve or ameliorate these problems. Indeed, as with the reelection of Obama, it will benefit from their continuation or worsening.
So animosity has now reached levels both hysterical and historical. The last time anything like this occurred was during World War II, when at least it was aimed outward. Before that? Just before the Civil War.
Back then a tall bearded Republican declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Just another one of those idiot, moron, “duplicitous bastard” RINOs.
By: Michael Fumento, Salon, May 24, 2012