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“Why Resentment Is Key To Conservative Politics”: Making People Hate Each Other Is At The Core Of Right-Wing Politics

Jay Nordlinger raised an issue yesterday at The Corner that is really a fundamental part of American politics that people should make sure to understand:

Many of us have asked a question for many years, and especially in the last few years. It goes something like this: “How can conservatives win elections against Santa Claus, or Robin Hood? Against candidates offering free stuff? Against candidates who blame people’s problems on the greedy rich, keepin’ ’em down?” In other words, how do you beat the socialists?

Obviously, this came up during the 2012 presidential campaign. It’s materially the same as what Mitt Romney was ruminating about in his infamous 47 percent remarks, but it’s also how Romney explained his loss after the fact. To be generous about it, it is somewhat of a disadvantage to run for office promising to do less for people than your opponent.

Mr. Nordlinger enlisted the wisdom of British Education Minister Michael Gove to help conservatives understand how to win with an austere message.

“Tocqueville pointed out — though he wasn’t the first — that, in a democratic system, there’s always a tendency to gravitate to the guy who offers free stuff, or who is prepared to pander to achieve power. But I have more faith in human nature, in that people do want to think better of themselves, people do want to take control of their own lives and make an enterprise of their own existence. People do recognize that being dependent on others is debilitating, and people also have a low tolerance for lead-swingers and others who seem to be taking advantage of their own hard work.”

(“Lead-swinger” is a British term for “idler,” “slacker.”)

“I think the way to win the argument, however, is not just to rely on people’s desire to improve their own lives, and their impatience with those who are not being similarly strenuous, but to make the point that conservative ideas are the best way of achieving the sorts of goals that progressives profess to believe in.”

Once again, we can see how these folks divide the world into a bifurcated land of enterprising strivers and idle moochers. Conservatives have an easy time understanding the world as a “fallen” place where sin is ever-present and perfection always eludes even the best of bureaucratic planners, but they seem to have great difficulty in understanding that the world is also a place with broken people who through genetics, environment, or misfortune are in need of societal assistance. As long as there is some accountability, they are pretty good at forgiveness, but compassion and empathy are tremendous challenges for them.

But, quite aside from all that, we can see that resentment is the key ingredient in their political toolbox. Mr. Gove argues that conservatives have to do more than just appeal to folks’ impatience with people who aren’t as strenuously enterprising as themselves, but he does acknowledge that appealing to that impatience is the starting point.

There are severe problems with this. For starters, the way this tends to manifest itself is in scapegoating and stereotyping certain groups of people who are classified as insufficiently enterprising. In America, this means blacks and Latinos. So, while the political strategy may start out as colorblind, it immediately transforms into racism.

Secondly, this idea that being on government assistance is “debilitating” is an exhortatory argument that, while having merit, is no way to deal with those who are genuinely in need. Public policy is not the same thing as life advice. We give assistance to mothers with dependent children because the children need food and clothes regardless of why the mother is unable to provide these things herself.

Thirdly, this constant appeal to resentment is not morally edifying for the people who are targeted by it. Rather than telling them that they are doing a good thing by contributing to the upkeep of our infrastructure and the needs of the poor, they are told that people are taking advantage of them and that they should be able to keep all the fruits of their labor.

But this appeal to resentment is seemingly an indispensable strategy for the rich, who need it to rally support for policies that will allow them to grow ever-richer and avoid any kind of constraints on their activities, even if those activities degrade the environment, harm consumers, or lead to an economic calamity.

Making people hate each other is at the core of right-wing politics.


By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, Washington Monthly, May 7, 2014

May 8, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Politics, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Farsightedness To A Laughingstock”: There Are No Mainstream Republicans Left In North Carolina

The national Republican Party is exulting that the “establishment” won in North Carolina’s Senate primary yesterday. That’s only because they have redefined the term “Republican establishment” to include adamant adherents of a far-right ideology.

In yesterday’s voting, state House Speaker Thom Tillis won the right to face Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat, in November. He beat a series of fringe candidates like Greg Brannon, who believes food stamps are a form of slavery and wants to save the poor by abolishing the Department of Agriculture. But in fact Mr. Tillis is a far more dangerous candidate than Mr. Brannon and the other Tea Partiers. While he generally refrains from nutty soundbites (though not always), he has been quite effective as the point man in the state party’s anti-government project.

As speaker, Mr. Tillis has helped preside over what our editorial last year called “the decline of North Carolina.” State government, we wrote, “has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.”

Mr. Tillis cut federal employment benefits, and refused to pay back what the state owed Washington, leading North Carolina to become the only state at the time to lose long-term benefits. He cut back on education spending, prompting many talented teachers to leave the state, and repealed the Racial Justice Act, which gave death-row inmates a shot at proving they were victims of discrimination. He allowed new restrictions on abortion, blocked the expansion of Medicaid and rewrote the tax code for the benefit of the rich. He and his colleagues imposed also one of the most restrictive voter ID requirements in the nation, intended to keep Democratic voters, including minorities and the poor, away from the polls.

In February, a state judge blocked a program passed by the legislature to spend $10 million on school vouchers, allowing taxpayer money to go to private and religious schools. But Mr. Tillis and his counterpart in the state Senate tried to implement the program over the judge’s ruling. That led the editorial writers of the Raleigh News and Observer to say last month:

“It really is time to stop calling those who run the N.C. General Assembly conservatives. They are not conservative. They are reckless.”

On top of his actions, Mr. Tillis has made his own share of outrageous comments, suggesting in a 2011 video that Republicans need to get the truly needy to turn against those who are soaking government assistance programs.

“What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance,” he says in the video. “We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice, in her condition, that needs help and that we should help. And we need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point, ‘You’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you.’ And we’ve got to start having that serious discussion.”

The right-wing project led by Mr. Tillis, which turned a state with a reputation for farsightedness into a laughingstock, has infuriated many North Carolinians, leading to regular protests at the state Capitol. Ms. Hagan will have a great deal of material to use against her opponent in the coming campaign, if she can scale the wall of unlimited money that he and his wealthy supporters around the country are about to construct.


By: David Firestone, Editors Blog, The New York Times, May 7, 2014

May 8, 2014 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What White Folks Get Wrong About White Privilege”: For White People, Society Pretty Much Works As Advertised, Not So For Others

Tal Fortgang, a Princeton undergraduate, has become something of a hero on the right for bravely standing up for embattled whites everywhere who have been told to “check their privilege” when discussing politics. In a head-shakingly dense essay that tracks his family’s own underdog roots as poor Jewish immigrants, Fortgang says, “[T]hey can’t be telling me that everything I’ve done with my life can be credited to the racist patriarchy holding my hand throughout my years of education and eventually guiding me into Princeton.”

Perhaps. But Fortgang’s essay doesn’t even begin to scratch at the problem of white privilege. On a purely functional level, society simply works for white folks in a way that it doesn’t for others.

On the extreme end, just imagine if a black family had confronted law enforcement with a heavily armed militia, a la Cliven Bundy. Would the feds have simply walked away? Would conservatives be comparing them to Mahatma Gandhi and George Washington?

On the more mundane side, just consider this brilliant and terrifying post by Tressie McMillan Cottom about being confronted by an angry cab driver, in which she has to weigh the imperative to call the police against the consequences of putting a black man in contact with the criminal justice system:

As a black woman, I am the keeper of many things. Chief among them is the hope of black men. A black man introduced into the criminal justice system for any violation, no matter how minor, becomes a son who cannot care for big momma, a brother who can’t hold down his siblings, a mate who can’t promise a paycheck, and a father who is a parent only when the penal system says he can be.

Black women calling the police on black men has a long, tragic history. That history isn’t just about protecting black mens’ futures. It’s also about how that leaves black women trapped between a rock and a hard place beneath an open sky.

Last night I called the police on a black man. [Some of us are brave]

I highly encourage you to read the rest — it’s bracing stuff. What jumped out for me was that I have never in my life been burdened with such an excruciating decision. I can scarcely imagine what it would be like to experience the extreme emotional stress of violent confrontation, while simultaneously calculating the risk of getting yet another black man pulled into the crushing vortex of the prison-industrial complex.

This is the kind of situation that makes Fortgang’s “check your privilege” complaint even more petty. It also simplifies the issue for liberals, who often speak of their privilege with a distinct air of hair shirt self-flagellation, as something that must be constantly apologized for. In many cases, the system simply needs to work for everyone in the way that white folks take for granted.

How to achieve that is a more complex question, of course. But the end goal is obvious. Nobody should have to worry about calling the police if some strange, threatening man is banging on the door. Nobody should have to worry whether that person will be punished wildly disproportionately, by being put away for half a lifetime, or beaten to death for “resisting arrest,” or shot and killed.

They should be able to call for help without a second’s hesitation. This is just a case of bringing everyone up to the same basic level.

Of course, American law enforcement is by no means scrupulously fair when it comes to white folks either, especially not poor ones. In fact, as Radley Balko and others have long been documenting, cops are increasingly treating everyone with the same preposterous hyper-aggressiveness that has traditionally been reserved for minorities. Even being the white mayor of a city won’t save you these days from the SWAT team doing a no-knock raid on the wrong house and shooting your dogs for no reason. Or consider Cecily McMillan, convicted of felony assault yesterday for elbowing a police officer when he allegedly violently groped her.

It’s all the more reason for whites to be wary of the cruelties of the U.S. criminal system — and to understand what white privilege really means.


By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, May 6, 2014

May 8, 2014 Posted by | Racism, White Privilege | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“To Boycott Or Not Boycott”: Why Should Democrats Participate In The Ridiculous Republican Benghazi Charade?

House Republicans, as expected, are moving forward with yet another committee to investigate the deadly terrorist attack in Benghazi in September 2012, intended to complement the seven other congressional committees that have already held hearings on the attack. For House Democrats, there’s a straightforward question: is there any point in participating?

The answer isn’t necessarily obvious.

Objective observers can probably agree in advance that the new “select” committee is intended to serve a political, not a fact-finding, purpose. If the goal were to simply get objective information, lawmakers could rely on the existing congressional process and consider the independent, comprehensive reports that have already been published. After 13 hearings, 50 briefings, and 25,000 produced documents, the official record is already quite complete.

But since the available information doesn’t tell far-right conspiracy theorists what they wanted to hear, conspiracy theorists demanded a select committee, which in turn suggests this new investigation will be a partisan exercise – Republicans are starting with the answer they want, working backwards to find evidence to bolster the agreed-upon conclusion.

Why should Democrats participate in this ridiculous charade? Some are arguing that they shouldn’t – let Republicans play their election-year games, the argument goes, exploiting a terrorist attack for electoral gain, but let them do it alone.

For that matter, even if Dems do participate, is there any credible chance they’ll be treated fairly as part of a respectful and responsible analysis of the events in Benghazi? I suspect even many Republicans would find the very idea amusing.

Democrats could boycott the scheme and let the GOP committee members do what they intend to do anyway: keep the fundraising machine humming, give allied media outlets fodder, and use the process to keep the Republican base agitated in an election year. Why legitimize a probe with a fraudulent foundation? Why lend credence to an endeavor that appears to be scripted by Fox News producers?

There is, however, a flip side to this.

Greg Sargent had an interesting chat with Norm Ornstein.

In purely political terms, this isn’t necessarily an easy call for Dems, because there is some benefit in participating, even if the committee is constructed in a ridiculously partisan fashion. “Some of these hearings are going to be televised,” Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein tells me. “The question is, does it make more sense to be in there, participating in the process and pointing out Republican overkill again and again, or does it make more sense to further destroy the image of the committee by staying out of it?”

Of course, the question of how to construct the committee also presents Republicans with a dilemma. “The more the committee overreaches and tries to find a big scandal where there is none, the more Republicans run the risk of the American people seeing the Congress they run as utterly unconcerned about the things that matter to them,” Ornstein says.

If Dems are in the room, they can at least occasionally highlight facts for anyone watching the process unfold. During testimony, Fox will probably break for commercials whenever Democrats ask questions of witnesses, but for anyone else paying attention, at least a little pushback during the hearings might at least add some variety to the charade.

I’ll confess that I’m torn, and if I were in Democratic leaders’ shoes, I’m not sure what I’d do. Keep in mind, however, that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) argued today that Dems could participate, and in the interest of fairness, she called for parity – Pelosi suggested the committee, if it’s serious about getting at the truth, could be split evenly between Republican and Democratic members, who would share resources and information. If it’s not a political scam, she said, it should be a bipartisan, cooperative process.

Republicans are already poised to reject Pelosi’s idea.

Imagine that.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2014

May 8, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Conspiracy Theories, House Republicans | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Another Idiot With A Gun”: A Sign Of How Out-Of-Control The Gun-Owning Fetish Has Become

One of the many problems with the growing normalization of gun ownership is that a growing number of idiots will want to buy and keep guns for no particularly good reason, and a subset of those idiots will go on to kill people.

Witness the latest horror story, in which an 11-year-old New Jersey boy, Hunter Pederson, was shot dead by his uncle, Chad Olm.

Mr. Olm said Hunter and Mr. Olm’s son asked to see his collection of firearms. So he obligingly whipped out three guns, including a Glock 27 .40-caliber pistol with a laser sight. (Why Mr. Olm felt he needed such a weapon, or such an attachment, has not been explained, probably because there is no satisfying answer.)

After showing his 11-year-old nephew a deadly weapon with a laser sight, he turned on the sight, putting a red dot on the boy’s forehead. For laughs, or something. Mr. Olm said Hunter reached for the gun, and it went off, hitting him above the eye.

Mr. Olm said he keeps his guns unloaded (obviously not), but that he had not checked to make sure before he aimed one at a small boy’s head.

Mr. Olm was arrested and is facing charges of criminal homicide, recklessly endangering another person, and endangering the welfare of children.

Anyone with the slightest shred of sense knows that you check weapons for chambered rounds before you put them away — not when you’re showing them off — and that you should never point a gun at anyone unless you think you might need to shoot.

(My wife comes from a gun-owning family. When she was growing up her father would become enraged if any of his kids pointed so much as a plastic toy pistol at someone.)

Before the comments start piling up from the anti-gun control crowd, I am not saying that all guns should be outlawed or that a better background-check system would necessarily have prevented this senseless death.

But the killing of Hunter is a sign of how out-of-control the gun-owning fetish has become, and how little it has to do with anything the writers of the Constitution envisioned.


By: Andrew Rosenthal, Opinion Pages, The New York Times, May 6, 2014

May 8, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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