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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2009-09-13 07:25
Subject: [politics] A big thank you to Limbaugh, O'Reilly and their peers
Security: Public
Tags:politics
Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, on conservative acceptance of a black man as president. Or more to the point, lack thereof.

I've despaired for years of the bizarre circus that is conservative discourse. The cognitive dissonance required to maintain that viewpoint with a straight face is uncanny. A very simple example: Ronald Reagan ran up the largest deficits in history (at the time), yet then and now is hailed as a hero by fiscal conservatives. Another very simple example: more recently, the same people who demanded absolute deference for George W. Bush as a wartime president seem to have no issues whatsoever with attacking and undermining Barack Obama as a wartime president.

Liberal-progressives at least aspire to intellectual consistency, whether or not we succeed. Given the prideful anti-intellectualism and anti-reality bias of conservatism, I suppose it's too much to hope for the same from the other side. So we fail to communicate in part because people like me are looking for consistency in message and philosophy, and at least a notional link between the real-life facts and the positions taken.

All that is to say, I think I'm done despairing of conservative discourse. It was far more dangerous when Reagan was around — his genial warmth and inclusive rhetoric masked much of the strangeness that lay beneath the surface. Even George W. Bush, with his pre-election talk of "compassionate conservatism" and being "a uniter, not a divider", was able to carry the Reaganite meme forward. Dog whistle political speech really was largely inaudible in the mainstream through the 1980s and 1990s. That drew a lot of moderates, centrists and independent voters toward the Republican ticket.

But now instead of genial warmth and inclusive rhetoric, we have Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. The lunacy is on parade, day in and day out, and drives the most public and overt expressions of the Republican agenda. And while that makes me crazy — the rancid incivility, blatant counterfactuals, constant claims of victimization, and profound hypocrisy just pile higher and deeper — what I'm finally realizing is that the GOP is showing its true colors in a most public way. This is the face of Republicanism that's been obvious to me since the days of Ronald Reagan. Now it's becoming obvious to the nation as a whole, or at least that majority of the nation that doesn't drink the Republican bathwater as their morning coffee.

So I think it's time to stop condemning Limbaugh, O'Reilly and the rest, and start thanking them. You guys may well be the best thing that's happened to American politics in a generation, because finally through your mouths the truth is being told about the conservative movement, its goals and methods.

Originally published at jlake.com.

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fledgist
User: fledgist
Date: 2009-09-13 17:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's clear that Joe Wilson is a racist creep. And that the Republican Party has been shrunk down to a base of really crazy far-right ideologues. I don't know that that's the best thing to have happened to American politics in a generation.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-13 17:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Except they've always been racist creeps and crazy far-right ideologues. At least in my political lifetime (since the late Carter era). What's good about this is that the pretense of reasonableness has dropped, which is why they're shrinking. People in the middle who have been taken in by the small government, fiscal responsibility rhetoric may actually be able to wake up and smell the reality coffee, given that the welcoming big tent has been set afire by the wingnuts.
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fledgist
User: fledgist
Date: 2009-09-13 20:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The Republicans used to also be the party of people like Lowell Weicker and Charles Percy too. Richard Nixon was paranoid, possibly schizophrenic, but he actually was a political genius. What we have now is the cast of a bad French bedroom farce. The larger problem is that there is no actual set of alternative policies being offered to the milquetoast centrism masquerading as social democracy being purveyed by the Democrats. There's no actual debate over policy either (you can't call the yowling coming from the Republican Party debate). I had thought that the Clown from Crawford was rock bottom, but, lo, Caribou Barbie arose. Not to mention the current party leader Herr Limpprick, er, Limbaugh.

The Republicans have now become the old Southern Democrats, minus the courtly faction, plus assorted nutcases. Their only rallying cry is "How dare Barack Obama be president?"
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-13 20:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, the big brains (Atwater, Ailes, Rove) spent years dividing the old Democratic coalition and persuading middle class and poor voters to vote directly against their own interests by playing to a paranoid, racist, anti-intellectual pseudoChristian jingoism. Unsurprisingly, the GOP has become a party run by paranoid, racist, anti-intellectual pseudoChristian jingoists.
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theresamather
User: theresamather
Date: 2009-09-13 20:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In southern Utah, it's the same people who called everyone a terrorist lover traitor for not supporting the last Bush "110%" and screamed that you had something to hide if you were against the Patriot Act in any way that are screaming "communist" every ten seconds and decrying the "loss of our freedoms." The irony is mindbending to say the least.
But worse, personally for me, is the man we know who writes editorials for the local paper once a month claiming that hating Obama doesn't make him a racist while privately he forwards us old school "n" word style screeds proving to us that he most certainly is a racist without any doubt. He and a few others assumed we were on their side because of our stance on taxes... the garbage they forward one another has been astounding.
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spencimusprime
User: spencimusprime
Date: 2009-09-13 21:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I really don't see these nutty Republicans shrinking, though, any more than I see fundamentalist Islam going away as long as the situation creating it is around.

There's still a culture war in the US. A significant portion of the population holds some kind of opposition to homosexuality simply because they think "it's wrong." You can't argue that, you can't explain it, and for all the nice, friendly gay people out there, they will still disagree with the lifestyle even if they're not confrontational.

Same with abortion. You're never going to convince someone who holds to a religious conviction that life begins at conception. This is not based on reason. This is based on a blind belief about how the world works and usually how God works.

So if you hold these "moral" beliefs and you go looking for someone to vote for, who do you pick? Do you think about how abortion has already been reversed and it would be damn near impossible to reverse a Supreme Court decision again? Do you think about the fact that homosexual marriage will really mean sh*t to "the family," considering that marriage is on the decline already? Do you think that maybe Jesus would rather you focus on the sick and the poor than the queers and the baby-killers?

Well, as long as Reilly, Limbaugh, Wilson and anyone is keeping these issues in the media, you won't ignore these things. You will vote your "moral issues."

(This is why American life has really had nothing to do with Christianity as Paul or Jesus preached it; if they did, we'd be ascetic socialists.)

These "moral issues" will beat realistic issues every time. Obama wants to go to Afghanistan where Al-Qaeda, an actual threat, is, instead of chasing oil profits in Iraq. He wants to extend health care to the sick and afflicted. He offers people CASH IN HAND to get NEW CARS!

But he opposes these "moral issues" and he enunciates his words and he eats arigula, so he's on the other side.

I see this in my family and my friends. They're blinded by a few issues--to use another Christ reference, they strain at gnats and swallow camels.

As long as the Right can hold up the blinders of "socialism," "the family," and abortion, those opposed will see socialized health care, spending plans and the war in Afghanistan as evil causes.
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spencimusprime
User: spencimusprime
Date: 2009-09-13 21:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hell, Obama could lower taxes every time the teabaggers get their out on the street and he would still be evil.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-13 21:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Which is precisely why I think the admixture of religion directly into politics is toxic. As soon as compromise becomes a literal sin, it become impossible to make progress in a consensus-based system, which any functioning democracy is pretty much by definition.

Even if you grant the full presumption of good faith (so to speak) to religiously-driven political actors -- voters, politicians, bureaucrats -- how do we decide which religious view is privileged? There are half a dozen major religions in this country, maybe more depending on how you subdivide the Christian sects, and they don't all agree. So which set of sincerely held beliefs in an absolute religious framework governs when framework collide?

Even to the deeply faithful, that logic should be enough to reconcile them to compromise, simply to avoid the day when their religious framework loses to a more culturally and electorally successful religious framework.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-13 21:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And FWIW, I don't generally feel driven to grant that full presumption of good faith. Far too often religious beliefs are cited to justify personal prejudice or individual privilege. The history of Christian justification of slavery ought to make that perfectly clear, likewise opposition to female suffrage and Civil Rights. The Bible is a sufficiently large and flexible system that it can readily be shown to support virtually any proposition the speaker cares to name. To my mind, that voids the absolutist value of "because it's God's word" as a defense of a viewpoint.
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theresamather
User: theresamather
Date: 2009-09-14 00:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Here in Utah, the Glenn Beck 9-12 events were lead by members of the Utah Eagle Forum. (Beck is a Mormon, so he has many many followers here.)
http://www.utaheagleforum.org/
many members of our state legislature belong to it, and among their stated principles is denial of separation between church and state... in Utah, that means specifically the Mormon church, of course.
It is acknowledged that they essentially control the Utah house and senate, and dictate policy within the state.


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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2009-09-14 00:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Somehow I imagine they'd be all about separation of Church and State if Evangelical Protestants were controlling the United States Congress... No one ever really believes in demographic shifts, do they? Despite all the weight of history.
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2009-09-14 00:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Now if you really wanted an outcry for separation of Church and State, elect a Catholic. That'd get both Evangelical Prots and Mormons alike going.
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Josh English
User: joshenglish
Date: 2009-09-14 02:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
So we fail to communicate in part because people like me are looking for consistency in message and philosophy, and at least a notional link between the real-life facts and the positions taken.

I once asked a conservative about his hypocrisy and his retort was "consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." They have a cliche for everything.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2009-09-27 18:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The next time they tell you this, ask them if they knew that the person who said this was a liberal who preferred the cathedral of the forest to churches.
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theturbonerd
User: theturbonerd
Date: 2009-09-14 12:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And yet this vileness lives and breaths in otherwise good people. I have numerous friend and family who are good and decent people... except where politics is concerned.

A recent example: I was talking to a couple of my friends after a staff meeting for my local con. Both are well educated, well spoken, and generous people. They were talking about health care politics and knowing that at least one of them was a conservative of the current stripe, I thought I would try to find a middle ground. What I got was the following opinions: "why of course a substantial portion of $900million reform package will go to illegals" and "Joe Wilson was rude but not wrong". Note that the "Joe Wilson was rude" statement *was* their compromise position.

When I tried to walk through the Joe Wilson thing, again trying very hard to come to middle ground, I told them that the current bill and the President stated that no funding would go to illegal aliens, but I could see that conservatives were concerned that there were no explicit enforcement language in the bill. They seized on that and tuned out the rest of what I had to say.

Instead they went off on how "of course the Democrats are just going to slap the illegals on the wrist, give them amnesty, and then poof no enforcement problem".

It was like watching two people I care about morph into zombies. These are folks with masters degrees. Professionals. One is a writer. You could see them become more rigid and cold with each "hit" of a talking point. It was like a mantra of indifference. The more they spoke, the less they could comprehend any other view.

They were willing to let me "compromise" by offering up a bit of understanding that went their way, but were closed and motionless when asked to see beyond their own talking-point politics.

It was scary. This problem is deeper than we imagine.
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