Monday, January 25, 2010

Stop Taking the Bait!

My friend David Kaplan believes that the USA went a little funny in the head with the Vietnam War, and hasn’t been quite right since. He may have a point there. So much of our politics and public life seem to have been driven by alternating bouts of euphoria and bitterness ever since. The historian Richard Hofstader pointed out 40 years ago that there has always been a dark crazy aspect to American politics, that resentment and paranoia have always played large roles in our history.

Thus, the abiding weakness of liberals and progressives, we never recognized this reality even when it bit us over and over again. Liberal progressives are true children of the Enlightenment who believe that people are fundamentally rational, that all you have to do to change minds is present the arguments and evidence and people will come around. The Fox News Network has no such illusions. Reason and rationality, as the right knows, have precious little to do with politics. Politics has everything to do with dark tribal passions of Us versus Them. My dad couldn’t have cared less about policy arguments. All he knew was that the same people who hated Nixon hated him. Ironically, Nixon was a better Democrat than Bill Clinton or Obama. Nixon couldn't win a primary race for dog-catcher in today's far right Republican Party, a party he built.

Let’s face it folks, the religious and political right is all about spite and resentment. That’s all. The right wants victory. It wants revenge. It wants to see all the heads of its many enemies on spikes over the city gates. It wants to laugh at those bloody heads and say, “Who’s your daddy?”
That’s what the right really wants in its heart of hearts. If they fear us lefties at all, it is because they assume we want the same end for them. They can’t imagine anything else.

You can’t argue with paranoids. So, we should quit trying. We should stop trying to answer and rebut every crazy slander that comes our way. We are only letting them control the debate and set the agenda. Stop taking the bait.

They had 8 years of near absolute rule. Let’s remind ourselves and everyone else what they did with it. They crapped all over themselves, the country, and the world. The current Great Recession is a direct consequence of their policies. Invading Iraq after 9/11 made about as much sense as invading Peru after Pearl Harbor. Billions that could have been spent on improving life for all of us in this country and the world went down the sink. The only real winners were the mercenaries and government contractors who got rich off the war. The past 30 years have seen the biggest transfer of wealth in our history; from the rest of us to our owners, the same people who screwed us all and left us to dangle in the wind. The Republicans want to give them an even bigger share of the public treasury. That’s their only solution for the last 30 years. Republican policy toward the financial industry was “fire all the cops and let the Free Market Fairies do their magic.” You don’t have to be a Nobel Prize winning economist to figure out that if you fire all the cops, the robbers will run riot, and that’s just what happened over the last few years. Corporations turned into giant ponzi schemes and the financial industry turned into a giant casino. When it all came crashing down, the rest of us were left holding the bag while the crooks cashed in their chips.
And now, the right is trying to sell us all again the same snake oil that they’ve been peddling for decades; the poison that made us all so sick in the first place. Economist Duncan Black suggests that we might as well make zombie Ken Lay Treasury Secretary.

The right is all about tribal identity, about “Real America.” All of them from O’Reilly to Gingrich bang on and on about rich liberals lording it over decent hard working Americans. Who do we think we really have to persuade that this is plain false? Why should we try? We all came from that same “real America.” A lot of us came from blue collar families in red states. I know that all the young hipsters that I saw pack the polls on Election Day 2008 to vote for Obama live 4 and 5 to a tiny apartment with at least one of them unemployed. We all know people who are out of work, or we are out of work ourselves. A lot of us have debt problems, are paying outrageous interest on credit card bills, have taken salary cuts, and have seen our retirement accounts shrink drastically. Some of us have lost our homes and our savings. We all know this is true. Why do we feel the need to convince a bunch of fat white bastards on Fox otherwise? Fuck ‘em! Let’s take care of ourselves, and our country, first.


I doubt this will be news to anyone who reads this blog regularly, but the Teabaggers are only the latest incarnation of the old post World War II paranoid far right; the same folks who said Eisenhower was a communist after their presidential candidate, Senator Robert Taft, got shoved aside by the Republican party leadership in 1952. Indeed, I grew up with these folks back in the days when they all read J. Edgar Hoover's Masters of Deceit and were card-carrying members of the John Birch Society.

Hat tip to Digby.


Well, well, well! Look what the FBI caught in New Orleans yesterday trying to bug Senator Mary Landrieu's office!

Alleging a plot to wiretap Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.
Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

Hat tip to Atrios


Wormwood's Doxy said...

But how DO we respond, Counterlight? If we can't convince people with reason, logic, and data, what do we do?

I'm teetering on the edge of despair here. I've watched a bullet-proof Democratic Congress piss away everything they were elected to do. It will be a cold day in Hell before I ever knock on doors for a political candidate again--and I may not even vote the next time out. What's the use? Congress and the President don't give a rat's ass about me, and now the SCOTUS has said that a corporation has really more rights than I do (since it can line people's pockets with lobbying $).

How do we take care of ourselves and our country? I'd really like to have some hope that it can be done...


NancyP said...

agreed - Republicans practice the politics of resentment, and it pays off. It is always easier to get people to sit on their duffs and have a Two-Minute Hate than to get the same people to feel enough hope to do something constructive. For a very large percentage of people, the pleasure of hate is greater than almost any other human pleasure, including sex.

toujoursdan said...

What frightens me is that we have example after example of [groups of] people who are willing to wreck a country and its people in order to gain power. They would think nothing of scapegoating minorities and women, destroying the intellegensia and wrecking its political and educational institutions in order to rule.

The naiveté many moderates and liberals have is that we believe that at some point our right wingers are going to wake up, realize they are causing a great deal of harm and stop. We think that our "democratic culture" and basic human notions of fairness are enough to stop people from going too far.

I have serious doubts about that.

Katy said...

Maybe its because I live in Texas and was raised by a good o'boy southerner, but non of what you said particularly surprises me.

I wish I could say that being immersed in their environment has given me insight into how to reach them, but I can't. They're arguments are illogical and they believe the lies that are spoon fed to them by Fox, Limbaugh and all the rest.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Will pinch this for FB, if I may.

June Butler said...

Look at the operation of Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, and you see in microcosm the US under Republican rule. You see the beginning of the destruction of state institutions and the privatizing of the governmental functions. It's true that the state has a huge budget deficit, but the only two agencies in the state budget which can be cut are Health and Hospitals and Higher Education. The funds of the other agencies are dedicated, and I believe constitutional amendments would be required to fix the situation. That will not happen.

Draconian cuts to the budgets of the colleges and universities have already resulted in cancellation of classes and pending major reductions in staff.

The same is true for Health and Hospitals with budgets for services to the poor and to children and adults with disablilties, always the most vulnerable amongst us, being cut back drastically and privatized.

As to what we are to do, I don't have answers.

The historian Richard Hofstader pointed out 40 years ago that there has always been a dark crazy aspect to American politics, that resentment and paranoia have always played large roles in our history.

That is quite true. I blame the English. ;-)

Not really.

Anonymous said...

There are times when I feel like the only option left to us really is prayer and Divine intervention.

JCF said...

I'm thinking more and more about Stanley Fish's seminal essay, "There's No Such Thing as Free Speech and It's a Good Thing, Too."

Countries like the Republic of Germany have made a rational decision: "Holocaust Denial will have NO place in our nation. It's against the law. Full-stop."

...yet the U.S. of A.---our Constitutional, Representative Democracy---is expected to withstand the FACT-FREE assaults of FAUX and Limbaugh and Wingnut Talk Radio, ad nauseum.

Can it? Really?

Differing opinions are one thing . . . but differing facts? [Or, I should say, people differing between ACTUAL FACTS (Barack Obama was born in Hawaii) and FALSE "Pseudo-Facts" ("Barack Obama was born in Kenya---there's No Birth Certificate to prove otherwise!")

Sigh . . . and yet.

"Electoral Tests" were used to discriminate in the South (failing the test . . . to be white!). The Soviet Union locked up rational dissenters, merely CALLING them "crazy".

But I can't help thinking, "What if we had a test to screen out Irrational, "Conspiracy"-Obsessed Crazy People at our Polling Places?"

...but WHO would adjudicate what's Fact, and what's Crazy? There are simply NO COMMON AUTHORITIES anymore!

"There was no King in Israel; everyone did what was right---or Right Wingnut---in his own eyes": Sigh.