Thursday, September 16, 2010

Violence and demagogues

Nicholas Kristoff in the NYTimes asked last weekIs this America?
This is one of those times that test our values, a bit like the shameful interning of Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the disgraceful refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe.....

Astonishingly, a Newsweek poll finds that 52 percent of Republicans believe that it is “definitely true” or “probably true” that “Barack Obama sympathizes with the goals of Islamic fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.” So a majority of Republicans think that our president wants to impose Islamic law worldwide.

That kind of extremism undermines our democracy, risks violence and empowers jihadis.

Am I the only one who seriously questions how the Republican party expects to govern with candidates who are, frankly, unhinged? The major success of the tea-party appears to be promoting a libertarian agenda that will favor no one so much as the oil billionaires. For example,
Joe Miller, candidate for US Senate in Alaska
...he's poised to be among the most radical lawmakers to serve in the chamber in decades. In addition to the usual nonsense -- Miller has birther tendencies, demands the elimination of all abortion rights (even in cases of rape or incest), wants to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, rejects global warming science, and is eyeing the elimination of the Department of Education -- he also believes unemployment benefits, Social Security, and Medicare are both wrong and unconstitutional. Miller also hopes to see Republicans shut down the government next year.

Sharron Angle, candidate for US Senate in Nevada:
In an interview she gave to a right-wing talk show host, Angle approvingly quoted Thomas Jefferson saying it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years -- and said that if Congress keeps it up, people may find themselves resorting to "Second Amendment remedies."

One thing I find disturbing about this is the idea that somehow, if your side loses the election you are entitled to revolution. The way our system is supposed to work is that each side gets a turn. Can you imagine what the right wing megaphone would have done if the Democrats had pulled this kind of thing, after the Bush v. Gore decision? There is actually no question of governance here, with its patient compromises and crafted solutions: it's a take-no-prisoners obstructionist approach that seems to have no goal beyond protest.
Meanwhile, the rhetoric of violence and guns escalates, as they demonize the left.
David Neiwert, a veteran journalist who has covered violent right-wing groups for years, calls the worldview that informs this twisted sense of moral purpose “eliminationism.” It’s the belief that one’s political opponents are not just wrongheaded, misinformed or even acting in bad faith. Eliminationism holds that they are a cancer on the body politic that must be excised — either by separation from the public at large, through censorship or by outright extermination — in order to protect the purity of the nation.
So we end up with a list of events like this, where men with guns plan attacks on liberal enclaves and shoot it out, or this, where a tea-party leader in Montana laughs about anti-gay violence. Yet somehow, people ignore the links. We have violent rhetoric, followed by attacks on government, and attacks on people identified as "the other". Why are people not making the connection?

Stanley Fish picks it up:
The formula is simple and foolproof (although those who deploy it so facilely seem to think we are all fools): If the bad act is committed by a member of a group you wish to demonize, attribute it to a community or a religion and not to the individual. But if the bad act is committed by someone whose profile, interests and agendas are uncomfortably close to your own, detach the malefactor from everything that is going on or is in the air (he came from nowhere) and characterize him as a one-off, non-generalizable, sui generis phenomenon.

The only thing more breathtaking than the effrontery of the move is the ease with which so many fall in with it. I guess it’s because both those who perform it and those who eagerly consume it save themselves the trouble of serious thought.
The only adults left appear to be comedians like Colbert or Jon Stewart. Everyone else seems terrified to challenge the Right Wing Noise Machine, and the media colludes in making some of us "other".

I thought the McCain/Palin ticket was a case of the Republican party jumping the shark. In an increasingly complex world, I didn't understand how glib demagoguery appealing to the most base stupidity could be even remotely competitive. Now, with all these additional candidates, whose "qualification" for office appears to be inexperience, incoherence, and strident rhetoric, I'm wondering if there are any intelligent adults left in the electorate. And the Koch brothers laugh all the way to the bank.


PseudoPiskie said...

Whenever anyone says they think Palin would be a good president because she's real, I ask if they feel qualified to be president. If they say "No" I ask why they think she is. I usually get blank stares or odd mumbles before they change the subject.

IT said...

And then there's ODonnell in Delaware, a whole load o' crazy...

Erika Baker said...

IT, is this just mid-term voter protest or would enough people actually vote for this madness in a presidential election?

IT said...

Erika, I would have said they hadn't achance, except enough of them are winning (in part because our side is generally demoralized and not voting).
Crazy voices are always magnified in primaries.

it's margaret said...

You can stay at my home!

Counterlight said...

The only reason these kookaboos are getting anywhere is because of bad economic times and low voter turnout. Chistine O'Donnell finally won the Republican primary for Senate in Delaware (after 3 previous tries) because only 57,000 people out of a state population of 900,000 bothered to vote in the Republican primary.

Rand Paul would be just another ranter with a worn copy of "Atlas Shrugged" in a prosperous economy.