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[politics|repost] Voting totals, the myth of the Golden Age, and the righteous independence of Ameri - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-11-05 05:58
Subject: [politics|repost] Voting totals, the myth of the Golden Age, and the righteous independence of Ameri
Security: Public
Tags:funny, personal, politics, repost, videos
Something worth remembering, depending on how the election plays out tomorrow. In 2000 Bush lost the popular vote (0.5MM less than Gore) but won the Electoral College. This was just fine with the GOP back then.

I am absolutely certain the justly famed intellectual consistency of the conservative movement will prevail should Obama win tomorrow on the same terms. After, conservatives are about nothing if they're not about principle.




This is a repost of something from several years ago, because it seems highly relevant to tomorrow's election

So much of conservatism and libertarianism thought seems to rely on the myth of the Golden Age. This is the basis of William F. Buckley's famous declaration to "stand athwart history, yelling Stop" — the idea that things were better than they are, and that change is dangerous. It's a fundamentally emotional proposition, that strikes me as driven more by fear than any sense of opportunity or growth.

In this morning's link salad I included a wonderfully idiotic bit of Golden Age myth making, courtesy of The Edge of the American West. Which reminds me of a woman I worked with years ago, back in the mid-1990s.

She was about 30 at the time, divorced, living with her boyfriend who worked shifts in emergency services. She was an art director at the ad agency where I ran IT and production. She lived in a conservative exurb of Austin, attended an Evangelical megachurch on Sundays, and came in every Monday grumbling about how liberals were ruining America, about the Clintons and their crimes, and whatever else her preacher had railed about the day before from the pulpit. Her constant theme was how much better things were in the 1950s when the streets were safe, everybody had jobs, and America was powerful and secure.

I finally got fed up with this and asked her how much she knew about the 1950s. Did she know anything about the African-American experience in those days? What about other non-whites? The unemployed? When I pointed out that in the 1950s she wouldn't have had the job she did because it would have been given to a man who needed to feed his family, and that she wouldn't have been allowed in the door of her church as a divorced woman living in sin with another man, she got upset with me and said that wasn't what she meant.

She wanted the good parts of the myth of the Golden Age without having to acknowledge or accept the prices people paid for them. I'll bet good money this woman today is a Sarah Palin fan and a Tea Party member, because that's the depth of thinking I see from conservative America even now. Not all conservatives everywhere, but from those in political power and those with media voices.

I still think about her sometimes, because how the heck do I, as a liberal-progressive, even get her to see where her own thinking goes awry? She's like those Christians who demand literal subservience to Biblical truth, except for the inconvenient parts. There's no logic or coherent philosophy, only wishful thinking wrapped in justification.

Some of it is education and worldliness. One reason academia and journalism are so stereotypically liberal is people in those disciplines generally have to look at the world critically and think about the facts on the ground; at least if they're going about it properly. It's difficult to maintain my friend's level of denial and wishful thinking while engaging in intellectual honesty. Contemporary conservatism is a lot more about denial and wishful thinking than it is about intellectual honesty — look at the issues that drive votes: evolution denial; gun fantasies; fears of gays; climate change denial; magical thinking on taxes.

The myth of the Golden Age is as old as history. Children were always more respectful, the language always more well spoken, and times always better in the previous generation. But confusing the myth of the Golden Age with the reality of life is misplaced at best.

How to address that? Surely not through my rantings. But I'm not sure how to be more thoughtful in the right ways.

Added in November, 2012: The really weird thing about conservative longing for the past is it skips over their own recent political history quite conveniently. Anybody who cares in the slightest about fiscal policy, national security, defense, jobs or the economy cannot possibly want to return to the policies of the Bush administration, which manifestly failed on all those fronts by any objective measure. Yet this is precisely what Romney is running on — a return to and intensification of those same failed policies.




From a related post in 2007, I also produce this squib, which I believe has a lot of relevance to current conservative attitudes:

[info]safewrite mentioned in comments to one of my recent posts a bumpersticker which read "Imagine the world without liberals." I think that's a fabulous idea. You'd also have to imagine a world where women didn't have the vote, couldn't own property, couldn't get divorced without their husband's full agreement, where there were no protections from or recourse for domestic violence, where there were no weekends, 40-hour work weeks or paid vacation, no child labor laws, no workplace safety standards or workmen's comp, no clean air and water requirements, and a whole lot of other evils of liberalism. ETA: All of which were strongly opposed by conservatives, many of them with outright violence in their day.

I think even the most dyed-in-the-wool Bush conservative would just as soon enjoy many of those benefits.

The conservative movement, especially the Tea Party, really are the People's Front of Judea, aren't they?



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Clint Harris
User: wendigomountain
Date: 2012-11-05 15:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If I was a liberal, I would put that bumpersticker on my car. Because maybe people should imagine a world without liberals. I think liberals and conservatives are necessary, but there are days I wish people could think more independently instead of lockstepping with their party affiliations. The whacky highjinx both parties profess now just leaves me angry and frustrated.

Also: SPLITTER!!!!
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2012-11-05 15:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If Obama wins the Electoral College vote, he wins the election regardless of what happens in the popular vote. I think most conservatives will agree, although they'll be very snarky about the liberals who demanded in 2000 that the popular vote should be allowed to override the Electoral College vote but who now cheer Obama's victory.

On another subject, I invite you to realistically imagine a world without conservatives. You'd be living under Soviet rule, but you'd have government health care, so I guess that evens out.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-11-05 15:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't want a world without conservatives. (I'm no eliminationist, as you well know.) I'd strongly prefer a world with rational conservatives who reason from principle and evidence (tax policy, the proper role of government in social programs, etc.) rather than paranoid ideological fantasy ("Obama is a Kenyan Muslim socialist, oh noes the Gay!", Agenda 21, etc.).

Ie, people like you. (Well, except when we bitch at each other about climate change, I guess.)

Big believer in balance, here...
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ulfhirtha
User: ulfhirtha
Date: 2012-11-05 20:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ditto....Together we can better realize the country's promise and potential. I miss conservatives I can talk to, and who can answer the question Carl Sagan posed "what are they conserving?" reasonably and without resorting to paranoia or nostalgia, let alone to Golden Age -or Resentment-or Racial - Myths. Who might agree with propositions like "yes, grandma shouldn't have to eat dog food to get by in as rich and self-styledly great a nation as ours" and add in much needed practical caution to progressive exuberance. But as I see in too many ways the Democratic Party (if not many of its component groups) have *become* the GOP of past years and the actual GOP just gone insane, I despair of seeing that on any scale larger than person-to-person.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-11-05 16:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Empirical, fact-based reasoning is inherently an Enlightenment (that is, liberal) value. It doesn't mean that you have to be a political liberal to embrace that value, but it definitely explains the tendency.
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ulfhirtha
User: ulfhirtha
Date: 2012-11-05 20:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I recall in an interview that is also what Cronkite meant by saying that (good) reporters are liberal as well, in that same sense of skepticism and working from discoverable facts. I would venture to guess that same spirit of inquiry and skepticism which is fostered by education also explains this tendency around universities.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-11-06 13:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And it also probably explains why conservatives tend to hate education and honest reporting.

It's troubling when the only way you can avoid accusations of "liberal bias" is to deliberately embrace conservative bias, often at the expense of truth.
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Skellington
User: skellington1
Date: 2012-11-05 18:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My SO and I have been talking a lot recently about the ubiquity of the Golden Age Myth. Not just the American 1950s (though political discourse brought it up), but everywhere else the meme occurs. Our diet was perfect when we were hunter/gatherers, and so we were all healthy (apparently we ignore death by misadventure and infant mortality). No, the golden age for health was during the heyday of agriculture (only, hey, didn't a lot of people starve?). No, it was... etc. The idea that there was a perfect, Edenic time at some point in the past is pervasive. It's also dangerous, since once people decide that a specific time period was idyllic they ignore everything to the contrary.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-11-06 14:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Declensionist narratives are weirdly compelling. It's probably a quirk of memory -- we do tend to forget the worst of our past, so that it perpetually seems better than the present.
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Skellington
User: skellington1
Date: 2012-11-06 15:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That makes a lot of sense when we look at older people gilding the 1950s. It does less to explain the sudden vogues for being pure cavemen, or other tings beyond individual memory.

Of course, it could still be the answer, in a generalized "If I thought my past was better, surely the distant past was better yet." It seems like there's also an element of superimposing the idea of an individual's childlike innocence (another debatable concept) on the entire species.
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mevennen
User: mevennen
Date: 2012-11-05 19:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think we do this to some extent for the 50s but if you read diaries from the 50s in the UK they are full of people complaining about pretty much exactly what we complain about now: the govt, the Royal Family, the weather, the state of the nation....
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dionysus1999
User: dionysus1999
Date: 2012-11-05 20:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Judean People's Front!
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Reynardo the Red: acid
User: reynardo
Date: 2012-11-06 01:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:acid
Splitter!
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martianmooncrab
User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2012-11-05 20:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
ahhh, the 50's, when you could die or be crippled from Polio, seat belts were a myth, you smoked everywhere in public (in theaters, restaurants) tv had 5 channels at the most, physical punishment at school by the teacher or the princple, people kept in their place by police beating them for not being in their appropriate neighborhoods, yeah, it was all good.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2012-11-05 20:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My grandfather was a policeman in 1950s Virginia, and when a black driver yelled at him as they passed, my grandfather turned his squad car around and chased him at 100+ miles an hour all the way into the next county, until the driver fatally wrecked. He got reprimanded not for the chase, but because he drove out of his jurisdiction.

Edited at 2012-11-05 08:51 pm (UTC)
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scarlettina: Blood love and rhetoric
User: scarlettina
Date: 2012-11-05 20:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Blood love and rhetoric
Harking back to a conversation from last week, have you seen the < ahref="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/the-morning-plum-can-a-post-truth-candidate-be-elected-president/2012/11/05/0f053424-2738-11e2-b2a0-ae18d6159439_blog.html">Washington Post column about Romney's post-truth campaign</a>?
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2012-11-05 20:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
>>You'd also have to imagine a world where...<<

I've been hearing a lot again lately about the Republicans being the party that was anti-slavery, anti-Jim Crow, etc. (including the mistaken assertion that Martin Luther King, Jr. was Republican). When people tell me this I remind them that at the same time they were also pro-immigrant--which is why my immigrant ancestors joined the Republican party.
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Kevin Standlee: Not Sensible
User: kevin_standlee
Date: 2012-11-05 23:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Not Sensible
I think that I'm a Republican of the same sort as Theodore Roosevelt: pro-Environment (I spent many of my early years on US Forest Service bases), anti-Trust, pro-Freedom. But the parties have pivoted, as many have pointed out.
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mmegaera
User: mmegaera
Date: 2012-11-05 23:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Forcibly reminded of Midnight in Paris (imdb), for some strange reason...
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Amanda
User: cissa
Date: 2012-11-06 04:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Another governmental evil: the FDA. Because why would we NOT want to buy sugar that was half sand, or flour that was half chalk?
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