Fear Is Not an Idea

I’m so grateful to E.J. Dionne for writing that insensible column dissing Richard Hofstadter. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered to find and read Hofstadter’s work. Truly, the man was a genius (Hofstadter, I mean). This morning I want to look at something Hofstatder wrote more than 50 years ago and then add to it to something I read in today’s Washington Post.

In the mid-1950s Hofstadter embarked on some lectures and essays about pseudo-conservatism. To understand this fully, keep in mind that in the mid-1950s the New Deal coalition was the establishment. New Dealers had been in power for 20 years. Moreover, Hofstadter wrote, the “jobless, distracted and bewildered men” of the Depression had become comfortably middle class — well fed, well clothed, well housed — thanks to the New Deal, the GI Bill, postwar mortgage subsidy programs, and solid economic growth.

Hofstadter quotes Adlai Stevenson:

The strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party of this country — the party dedicated to conserving all that is best, and building solidly and safely on these foundations.

Yet in those days there were dissenters. We recognize that dissent now as the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy in fetal stage. Here is how Hofstadter described them — note I am adding some boldface and breaking up the long paragraphs into smaller bits to make it easier to read —

Representing no more than a modest fraction of the electorate, it is not so powerful as the liberal dissent of the New Deal era, but it is powerful enough to set the tone of our political life and to establish throughout the country a kind of punitive reaction. The new dissent is certainly not radical — there are hardly any radicals of any sort left — nor is it precisely conservative.

Speaking of what is or isn’t radicalyou must read this new post by Billmon. (If you want to read to the end of this post first, I’ll remind you about Billmon again later. But do read that post and this one together.)

Unlike most of the liberal dissent of the past, the new dissent not only has no respect for nonconformism, but is based upon a relentless demand for conformity. It can most accurately be called pseudo-conservative — I borrow the term from The Authoritarian Personality, published in 1950 by Theodore W. Adorno and his associates — because its exponents, although they believe themselves to be conservatives and usually employ the rhetoric of conservatism, show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions, and institutions.

Sounds familiar, eh?

They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism in the classical sense of the word, and they are far from pleased with the dominant practical conservatism of the moment as it is represented by the Eisenhower administration. Their political reactions express rather a profound and largely unconscious hatred of our society and its ways — a hatred which one would hesitate to impute to them if one did not have suggestive evidence both from clinical techniques and from their own modes of expression.

I haven’t read John Dean’s new book on authoritarian personalities and the “conservative” movement, but if any of you have, let me know if this sounds familiar —

From clinical interviews and thematic apperception tests, Adorno and his co-workers found that their pseudo-conservative subjects, although given to a form of political expression that combines a curious mixture of largely conservative with occasional radical notions, succeed in concealing from themselves impulsive tendencies that, if released in action, would be very far from conservative.

I like the part about “concealing from themselves.” One of the most consistent traits of rightieness is their utter blindness to where their own ideology is taking them. And us, too, of course.

The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere. … The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.”

Hofstadter tries to identify exactly who these pseudo-conservatives were. Pseudo-conservatism appealed to people across social classes, “but its power probably rests largely on its appeal to the less-educated members of the middle classes” (many of whom, please note, wouldn’t have been middle class were it not for Franklin Roosevelt). Further,

The ideology of pseudo-conservatism can be characterized but not defined, because the pseudo-conservative tends to be more than ordinarily incoherent about politics. The lady who, when General Eisenhower’s victory over Senator Taft had finally become official in 1952, stalked out of the Hilton Hotel declaiming: “This means eight more years of socialism,” was probably a fairly good representative of the pseudo-conservative mentality.

Compare/contrast something Joe Scarborough wrote (yeah, I know, it’s Joe Scarborough, but it’s not that bad) about right-wingers calling Bill Clinton a Marxist.

Hofstadter continued,

The restlessness, suspicion and fear manifested in various phases of the pseudo-conservative revolt give evidence of the real suffering which the pseudo-conservative experiences in his capacity as a citizen. He believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed, and very likely destined for total ruin. He feels that his liberties have been arbitrarily and outrageously invaded. He is opposed to almost everything that has happened in American politics in the past twenty years. He hates the very thought of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is disturbed deeply by American participation in the United Nations, which he can see only as a sinister organization. He sees his own country as being so weak that is it constantly about to fall victim to subversion; and yet he feels that it is so all-powerful that any failure it may experience in getting its way in the world — for instance, in the Orient — cannot possibly be due to its limitations but must be attributed to its having been betrayed.

This ties in to what I wrote in this post, about how the Right usurped the Left’s credibility on national defense and foreign policy through lies and hysteria. And it ties very nicely into “Stabbed in the Back!” by Kevin Baker in the June issue of Harper’s.

Hofstadter goes on for several very rich paragraphs about the social-psychological elements of pseudo-conservatism, and this essay is followed up by two more in this book. Right now I’m going to skip over several pages and quote one more paragraph, from the essay “Goldwater and the Pseudo-Conservative Revolt,” which Hofstadter wrote in the mid-1960s.

Writing in 1954, at the peak of the McCarthyist period, I suggested that the American right wing could best be understood not as a neo-fascist movement girding itself for the conquest of power but as a persistent and effective minority whose main threat was in its power to create “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.” This still seems to be the true potential of the pseud0-conservative right; it is a potential that can be realized without winning the White House, even without winning the Republican nomination.

The Right did indeed create “a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.” Unfortunately, once they had accomplished this they were able to seize political power as well. And now the very people Hofstadter wrote about 50 years ago have seized both the White House and Congress and have refashioned themselves as the mainstream, the center, the true patriots, the defenders of the American ideals they undermined and all but destroyed in order to gain power.

The pseudo-conservative movement started out as an intellectually incoherent reaction to the New Deal and the ideals and values that were mainstream 50 and more years ago. It was based on a complex of fears — fear of foreigners, fear of Communists, fear of the powerful forces in the world that they didn’t understand. Most of all, they were beseiged by doubts that they fit into a world that was rapidly changing but which they didn’t understand. They feared they were being pushed out of what they saw as their rightful place in American life. Exactly what that place was, and who was pushing them, cannot be clearly defined. Often they lashed out not at real enemies but at the very institutions that protected them and enabled social and economic stability. Theirs was an irrational attempt to erase the previous several years of world history and go back to an earlier time — before the Depression, before World War II — when they had felt more secure. It didn’t sink in that that old feeling of security had been delusional.

At some point, however, the Right managed to invent an ideological facade in which to hide their fears. In the 1950s they seized upon scholar Russell Kirk — I’m not sure Kirk was really One of Them, but they seized upon him, anyway — and William Buckley. Under Goldwater’s influence the pseudo-conservatives increased their influence within the Republican Party, which they re-invented as the “Party of Ideas.” Their “ideas” were the standard pseudo-conservative agenda of dismantling the New Deal while somehow becoming both more aggressive and more isolationist in foreign policy — neoconservatism is, at its core, proactive isolationism — but through their growing infrastructure of “think tanks” they figured out how to package their incoherent agenda to make it look like ideas.

But their “ideas” are all based on the conceit that if they could just brush away all the liberal crapola — dismantle the New Deal, deregulate everything in sight, and lower taxes to shrink government in order to drown it in a bathtub — that we would find ourselves living in Utopia. Somehow.

And this takes us to Harold Meyerson’s column in today’s Washington Post.

Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that Republicans were boasting that they were the party of ideas? They would privatize the commonwealth and globalize democracy, while Democrats clung to the tattered banner of common security in both economics and national defense. The intellectual energy in America, it seemed, was all on the right.

That, as they say, was then. In 2006 the campaigns that the Republicans are waging in their desperate attempt to retain power are so utterly devoid of ideas that it’s hard to believe they ever had an idea at all.

With fewer than 60 days remaining before the November election, the only two Republican strategies left standing are to scare the public about the Democrats collectively or to slime the Democrats individually. There’s nothing new about these strategies, of course, but this year they exist in a vacuum. Having run both the executive and legislative branches for the past two years with nothing but failure to show for it, the Republicans can no longer campaign as the party that will balance the budget, reform entitlements, lower energy costs, fix the immigration problem, create a more secure world or find a suitable way out of their endless war of choice in Iraq. What’s left is a campaign of scaring and sliming, with the emphasis on the latter. ..

…What’s a party to do when its high road leads nowhere but down? The Republicans tried privatizing Social Security, but their numbers never added up. They tried spreading democracy with unilateral, preventive war but instead unleashed a sectarian bloodbath. So the party of big ideas, of Milton Friedman and the neoconservatives, is now just one big Swift Boat flotilla, its ideas sunk of their own dead weight, kept afloat solely by its opposition research. For their part, the Democrats still champion common security; they call for a government that can build dikes and reduce the costs of college and medication and that knows that remaking the world becomes more plausible when some of the world is actually willing to go along with us. Those are, in the campaign of 2006, just about the only ideas in play.

We lefties are pragmatists who think that nothing is ever perfect, but through democratic government We, the People, can at least make improvements. (Bill Clinton spoke about this at length yesterday, but I want to wait until I get the transcript to quote him.) But pseudo-conservatives are utopians who have long believed that, if they could only have their way, they could create a perfect America and a perfect World.

Well, folks, they got their way. And they failed. That’s because their “ideas” were never really ideas at all; just fantasies that grew out of their fears. And fear is not an idea.

The Right can’t see that yet. As Richard Parker wrote here,

For America’s ”party of ideas,” it is still only their opponents’ ideas which have failed. To the fatal contradictions inherent in their own utopian principles, they seem to remain impervious.

But the facade is crumbling, fast.

I want to hop over to the Billmon post I mentioned above.

I see no reason to doubt the ultimate aim of Rovian politics is to dismantle the remaining framework of New Deal/Great Society liberalism. But most Rovians understand it’s a long-term project. And if offering the seniors a third-rate drug benefit (and greasing Big Pharma in the process) helps the vanguard party tighten its grip on power here and now, so be it. A revolution is not a dinner party at the Cato Institute.

Of course, such compromises (for the good of the movement, you understand) are also how radicals gradually morph into reformers and refomers turn into comfortable establishmentarians. And the Rovians, particularly the congressional branch, are obviously pretty far down that road. But there’s a difference between betraying your principles and not having any, and I think most conservative cadres within the Cheney Administration, like their brethren on K Street, are still loyal — in their hearts, if not their wallets — to an explicitly radical agenda.

Maybe the best way to put it is that the Rovians are radical reactionaries — so reactionary their aspirations to turn the clock back to circa 1896 actually sound like something fundamentally new, in the same way that “globalization” sounds so much more hip and modern than good old Manchester Liberalism. The conservative “Great Leap Backwards” probably isn’t attainable (and, considering the death toll from Mao’s attempt to jump in the opposite direction, thank God for that) but I’d be willing to bet there are Cheney Administration staffers who will be scheming, or at least dreaming, of “the day” until the day they die.

Unfortunately, as Billmon concludes, just throwing the bums out will not solve our problems. We will still have to deal with the pseudo-conservatives’ chief accomplishment — the political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety are impossible. I’m not sure even where to start.

21 thoughts on “Fear Is Not an Idea

  1. Our problems actually do involve going to the root of the word “radical”, i.e., down to fundamentals. The fundamentals of our social order tend to be passed along first in how we raise our childrene, though as this is by and large an individual matter, at the collective level, we have our educational system, which had been designed to train mindless industrial workers but has no been advanced to train mindless information workers (and in either variation, trained to be the perfect target audience for industrial consumer advertising). Then, of course, we pass on our social order in our economic/commercial relationships, with “the edges” of those relationships defined by our legal system.

    You’ll notice where our right wing radical attacks lie: we see an incredible effort to pack the courts with like-minded judges, not who will honestly apply rules (even rules made by like minded legislatures), but shift to outcome oriented results based upon advancing the interests of the particular party in the case (invariably the party that’s already more powerfuul). In economic/commercial relationships, incentives to deliver value to customers or shareholders give way to incentives to suck up to the boss, maintain personal loyalty and fiefdoms, and acquire business opportunity not through superior product or service, but through crony relationships. In education, we have right wingers decrying liberal teachers unions, and screaming for school vouchers, more national testing, and suddenly the states’ rights and individual local initiative people want the Central Committee in Wahington to save us from them, and David Horowitz manning the barricades at the academy, lest there be liberals involved in the liberal arts (nod to Professor Berube!).

    While we’re trying to grasp the big picture at once, Rove, et al. saw it a long time ago, and realized that it takes a long time, lots of discipline, infrastructure, money, and more discipline.

    The reason it works so well for the right is because of the self-sustaining nature of it: their side gives political contributions as investments, knowing that those who control the levers of power will then help them out in their tax problems, legal problems, regulatory problems, or whatever, lather, rinse repeat.

    On the other side, the business interests of teachers or other labor unions is far more abstract and diffuse… few individuals are likely to earn millions (or billions) of dollars from increasing the minimum wage, enforcing environmental or worker safety regulations, or for that matter, seeing to it that our citizenry have adequate provisions for their illnesses or old age. Indeed, the “profit” for individuals lies in dismantling these things.

    Billmon (and Mario!) are right, in that throwing the current rascals out will not be sufficient. It is, alas, necessary. The cliche goes to get out of the hole, first, stop digging. But that won’t be enough. The infrastructures have got to be developed, and some of the methods of making sure, institutionally, the sorts of socially regressive forces we are watching don’t take hold again… cleaning up our election process once and forever– if necessary, eliminating the secret ballot– to minimize the cheating; clean and fair election districts, even if it costs “our party’s” own incumbents easy reelection; ditto term limits; publicly financed campaigns once and for all so that shadowy campaign money is not the principal means of winning elections and getting access to government. Once we take power (if ever again), these means of permanently and institutionally preventing the Roves from lying, cheating and stealing their way back in have to be set up, even if at some short term cost to our own incumbents.

    In short… AS IF.

  2. I think that Hofstader accurately describes an element of the body politic and one that is exploited shamelessly by the right–think of Limbaugh, Coulter etc and their venomous hatred of any who disagree with them and their labeling of all such persons as “liberals”. Just as “states rights” were the code words for oppressing minorities in the South, the right uses “liberal” to tap into the insecurities of the Reagan Democrats– lower middle class, modestly educated people who have a chip on their shoulder about “elites” who they think are all “liberal” because that is what the right keeps telling them. They are the folks who will argue endlessly that “death taxes” should be repealed although short of winning the lottery, the issue will not affect them. Certainly, these folks have allowed Republicans to take control of the government but they are only a part of the Republican constituency–perhaps the least rational part- but I think that when all is said and done the single hallmark of Dumbya’s administration is to sell out the people of this country for the interests of the moneyed class, whether that be businesses who have made fortunes off the use of military might rather than diplomacy, the coupon clippers who have ceased paying anywhere near their “fair share” of the taxes, the business people who have been permitted to profit obscenely from the export of jobs to third world countries, the oil companies who have profitted even nmore obscenely by the government’s failure to do anything about this country’s prolifigate use of oil and natural gas, to the developers and polluters who think nothing of raping the environment for a buck etc. That is the real ideology of the current administration and they just cover it up by purporting to have some different agenda that appeals to a portion of their constituents..

  3. It’s fascinating that you, Billmon, and Digby have all posted about the psychology of the right today. I don’t know why today instead of any other, but the three independently-written posts are complementary and very interesting.

    Still, I’m not sure they’re very helpful practically. Attila probably had daddy issues too, but that’s irrelevant. It’s simply not possible to take the right wing of the republican pary out for an ice cream, get them to take their meds, and live in bipartisan harmony.

    Last night, O’Reilly’s show started out by stating that both the president and a new Senate study showed that there was no connection between Sadaam and Al-Queda. Then he proceeded to bring on people who claimed that there was indeed a connection. Dick Cheney said yesterday we had to attack Iraq because the terrorists who blew up the world trade center might have had nukes.

    This kind of psychotic disconnect has become dangerous, and I fear that Billmon is right; even if the dems win back the House, even if we win back the Senate, Bush and Cheney just won’t care. They have their fingers on the button. Sure, we can stop them from privatizing Social Security (again, sigh) but the larger danger will not go away.

    Understanding their psychosis is comforting intellectually, but will be of no help when they decide to nuke Tehran. Their paranoid delusions are leading us down the road to I don’t know what, and I fear that it’s going to take real revolution, real bloodshed in our own streets, real threats from Russia and China, to wake up the snoozing masses here.

    Oh, and maha, I want to hear more about lunch with the Big Dog. I’m jealous as hell.

  4. Waxman. Conyers. Investigations. Subpoenas. Uphold the rule of law and forever split the Pat Fitzgerald-type conservatives (most of whom aren’t really paying attention) from the Delays and Yoos and Addingtons, who will only get crazier if they lose Congress.

  5. I’m not sure they’re very helpful practically.

    Au contraire; the first step in formulating effective strategy is understanding one’s enemy. I think we need to attack the Right directly on the “party of ideas” nonsense.

  6. The righties run on “fear of foreigners, fear of Communists, fear of the powerful forces in the world that they didn’t understand” — just one addition, one that we skip over at our peril. Fear of brown, black, yellow, mongrelization. RACE. The paradigm for oppression in this country has always been our treatment of the Other, defined by color. (Rendered “of color” when not objectively discernably so, in fact — for example “Ay-rabs.”)

    Yes, first we have to get rid of our current rulers, if possible. Then we have to beat our new rulers back to sanity.

    Great analysis.

  7. 1) To merciless: I, too, have some fears of how far they will go in their last 2 years. I think Cheney is capable of anything. But Bush really does appear to believe that Repubs will win the next election (as capable of certainty in the face of overwhelming evidence as my ex), and exhibits enough fear (of, say, the fallout from the Hamdan decision) that I think he will cave when denial stops working. In fact, I think it will be highly entertaining.

    2) To maha: Didn’t Arthur Silber (sp?) of powerofthenarrative have a bunch of pysch stuff at his old blog? I never made the time to go through it, but at a glance it seemed to be this authoratarian business from a different perspective (if a child is not allowed to develop a distinct sense of self, he/she will delegate that role to an authority figure).

    3) I do believe that at the bottom, it is all fear. One hallmark is nostalgia for a time that never was. Or not recognizing that Norquists utopia (gov’t small enough to be drowned in a bathtub) existed in Somalia. Denial leads to interesting blind spots.

  8. Yeah, and when they hear someone speaking a foriegn language..naturally they think that that person is saying something negative about them. That’s why they’re so eager to insist on English only..Language is language and it’s neutral and beautiful. They project their prejudices and insecurities on anything they can’t understand.

    I was listening to Rush today…He says,” Liberals want to criminalize the conservative ideology” I also noticed how gracefully he can slip the label” elite” into his bellowing. If you’re not scrutinizing his every word his distortions are easily planted.

  9. I would like to suggest a place to start. The simple truth is that a movement does not die. It must be killed. The right, as it stands, is not so much a movement anymore as a legacy of those who have killed the previous movement: the social revolution of the 70’s; the economic revolution of the New Deal and the Great Society. The Right does not posit ideas so far as for the value of the ideas as for the detriment that idea wreaks upon an existing order. The collapse of the right was imminent as they must have something to attack to be valid; a Democratic victory in the Fall is going to do more to revitalize the Right than anything that has occurred since 9/11. It will even overshadow the revitalization that came after the War of Choice.

    But now on to the suggestion: we need to start attacking the intellectual underpinnings of the pseudo-conservative movement (brilliant blog entry, by the way). We must not negotiate with their ideology and therefore validate it. We must not try to meet them half way.

    We must kill their movement by constantly attacking their intellectual framework.

    To this end I would like to suggest that the first step be to divorce pseudo-conservatives from their claims to being conservative. Many people identify as conservative because the vast majority of the human species is reactionary. If given a choice between trying something new and maintaing what they have, most people are going to stick with what they have instead of risking it. This notion is inherent in the word conservative and challenged by the word liberal or progressive. It would be to the benefit of our growing progressive movement to hammer home again and again how those in charge now are not conservative, though they claim to be. They do not want to conserve the national order or return to a Past-That-Never-Was.

    They want to refashion the world into their own image and that image has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility, limited government or personal responsibility.

    The simplest way to attack the Right is for progressive politicians and intellectuals to stop sounding so reserved in their denunciations. They must be angry and dismissive of Republicans. Even Dean, some times, sounds like when he is on the attack he doesn’t want to be. Choice in the matter is long since unimportant as we have been placed into an ideological position that requires offense. The luxury of defense if no longer one we enjoy and will not be open for enjoyment until we have undone the Right at its very seams.

    Just a suggestion. 🙂 Sorry for being longwinded.

  10. the first step in formulating effective strategy is understanding one’s enemy…

    I’ve been wrestling with it all day, maha, and I think that it’s the word “enemy” that’s giving me the squidges. I don’t want the Republican party to be an enemy of mine. I know lots of republicans, am related to several, as you are. I don’t want to find myself looking across the battlefield like the generals did back then and seeing their old friends on the other side.

    And, I suppose, that’s where they have me, because the psychotic wing has no compunctions about calling ME the enemy, as if I were dangerous or something. It takes but one enemy to make a war, not two.

    Well, maybe we can just beat their ideas to death with better ideas, and maybe it won’t have to go any farther. Your blog is a good place to start. Thanks for the great day, maha.

  11. Great post, and you’ve hit a theme – “fear is not an idea” – that is reverbrating in my head, as I recall innumerable “conversations” if that’s the term for them, with so-called conservatives, whose entire spiel was based on conscious or unconscious fear, with a few ideas randomly sprinkled on top like some treat from the Dairy Queen. The random sprinkling, often expressed in language that’s been twisted or inverted, is an intellectual distraction, a smokescreen intended to catch rational people in the bramble. It keeps us off balance from addressing the fears that are driving these people toward their own particular kind of thuggery.

    It seems that two things are going on simultaneously: the right is foundering as their grand plans have hit the rocks, while simultaneously the left is wising up to their tactics, their origins, their aims, and their essential bankruptcy, in so many dimensions. They’re seeming far less invincible than they were a few years ago. The net is closing in around them, both as they falter and as we understand them better.

    There still is work to be done in understanding the enemy – and yes, that’s what they are, even though I have family who are Republicans. I’m speaking primarily of the ringleaders and enablers who, whether they know it or not are out to destroy my country, as Hofstadter spoke about.

    One of the big tasks remaining is defining and naming things correctly. For example, someone brought up the idea that they really aren’t conservatives, and yet we have no good, consistently agreed-to name or widely accepted understanding for what they really are.

    I use this particular ambiguity – if they’re not conservatives, what are they – as an example – once we can get this right wing phenomenon sufficiently understood, defined and named in the aspects that matter, it’s pretty much over, but for the cleanup. This process of understanding, defining, and effectively naming the opposition is like orphaning them onto an island, or circling them with troops. We then have effective memes and labels we can attack, and sink them with.

    And so all this psychology is important toward understanding and ultimately defeating this national pathology. Knowledge is indeed power.

  12. The one thing I’ve noticed about conservatives is that they are childish… They think short term about how they can get what they want right now without ever thinking about the long term consequences, even if the consequences are disasterous for them. They are selfish thinking of no one else but themselves and possibly their immediate family/friends/cronies. They like everything in simple black and white when they have to make decisions, and if it’s complicated, they want an authoritarian figure to tell them what to do and how to think.

    The Enron business model is Republican to it’s core. Deregulate so that they can loot the customers even faster with no regard for the consequences. It’s a criminal enterprise that is a reverse Robin Hood. Give as little product or service for as much money as you can get away with even though it means that in the long run your business will no longer exist and you may be jailed…but they don’t even think about that, they think they will get away with it and with Republicans in office they usually do for much longer than they should.

    How many of you know of children who are the same, they’ll eat candy for their three meals a day and snacks too if you let them. They don’t consider that they will get sick and lose all their teeth. Or how many of you know of a teen or two who goes and vandalizes the school, or burglarizes a neighbors home, has unprotected sex, or the zillions of other ways that kids get into trouble thinking they’ll never get caught or never pay any price.

    The same goes for the polluters. They obviously haven’t thought about the world they will be leaving for their children and grandchildren, it’s all about short term profits and pocketing them as fast as possible with no regard for anyone else.

    I have three herniated discs in my neck, so I belong to an online chronic pain support group. In that group I met a woman who is living in Sweden for the free medical care. She can’t afford it in the US. All she does is bash the Swedes in particular and Europeans in general. She one of those RAH RAH Republicans who think America is perfect and Europe is socialist trash. (And she wonders why she is so lonely and none of those Swedish snobs wants to befriend her) Anyone see a childish disconnect here? You can bet she would never advocate for universal healthcare here, but has no problem taking advantage of it over there. My point is that they see no advantage to welfare or other programs that advance the public good as a whole, even when they want to take advantage of those programs themselves. It’s like a little kid who doesn’t want another kid to have something they don’t, so out of spite they make sure no one has it.

    Talk to Republican family or friends and you see it pretty clearly. They havent thought about what this deficit will do to their children, they think somehow if they wish hard enough it will take care of itself, but at least they got a couple hundred tax rebate in the short term. Their overwhelming greed, ignorance, and fear leaves them open to all kinds of scams. It’s why simple marketing techniques are so successful with them, just like it is with children. They are the ones who thought ARMs were a good idea to finance their homes, so they can get the big McMansion now and don’t think about the future and will be crying and whining when the foreclosure notice comes.

    It’s liberals who think long term, who know that running up the national credit card is like running up the credit card at home. Hard times are coming and possibly bankruptcy. We knew that low interest rates were propping up the Bushies rotten economy and would not last, so we didn’t get ARMs. We know that a surplus is a good thing to have since you never know what will happen in the future. It sure would be nice to have that “nest egg” now to pay for the gulf coast reconstruction, just like having one at home is nice if the refrigerator dies, or the roof needs repairs, etc.

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  15. The place to start is clear enough. Start taking care of the details of governing. Persistently move competent people into key positions. Change the tax laws to improve budgets. Step by step. Meticulous. Steady.

    Some things come early, like: Fix the FCC regs on ownership to loosen up the echo chamber. Investigate, indict, impeach, clean out the corruption little by little.

    Dean has it right with the 50 state strategy. Do the necessary job in the obvious way to help the country over the long term.

  16. Here are some more pseudo-conservative contradictions:

    1) they support the individual against the collective (“Collectivism” is one of their hated forces) BUT they love the corporation and the interests of big business–the corporation being the one of the most powerful “collectives” in modern America.

    2) they hate “the State” and its depredation of individual liberty BUT they support the largest contributor to the growth of the modern state: expenditures for “defense” and “national security”.

    3) they oppose “the State” and its growing interference with inividual liberty BUT they want the state to outlaw abortion, regulate whether people can be removed from life support, outlaw same sex marriage–as 87 years ago they wanted the State to outlaw alcoholic beverages thus greatly increasing the size and power of the federal law enforcement bureaucracy.

    I have more at “Why “Conservatives” Can’t Do Foreign Policy”.

  17. I don’t like that essay from Scarborough.

    It looks innocent enough, but what is going to happen? Once the fighting begins again–as Scarborough openly hopes for here–what do you think will happen? Do you think he will be cheering for the Democrats, or for President Bush? If (i think “when”) the differences between Bush/the hardcore Republicans and the Democrats (along with a substantial chunk of the rest of the world)–differences Scarborough admits exist, as he admits his own allegiances even while he admits the destruction those allegiances have wrought–when those differences come to a serious point, with an inevitably brutal conclusion (likely impeachment and/or other legal trials), where do you think Scarborough is going to come in on?

    I read that piece by Scarborough as hoping there will be a war between the Democrats and Republicans so that he can, once again, go back to ignoring the corrosive effect he and his friends are having on American and the world and going back to blaming the Democrats for everything. It fills me with a still and shallow lake of fear for the future.

  18. Theirs was an irrational attempt to erase the previous several years of world history and go back to an earlier time — before the Depression, before World War II — when they had felt more secure. It didn’t sink in that that old feeling of security had been delusional.

    We can see this same thing in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Shortly thereafter, and continuing for years, you could scarcely go a day without hearing someone–be it locally or through the news or what have you–say “9/11 changed everything!” or some rather direct derivative of the phrase. I remember, for myself, being plunged into a world of confusion about this. People who i took to be sensible, honest, and pragmatic were suddenly suggesting that the entire world was warped drastically on one day.

    How could they, i thought, truly believe this to be true? It isn’t as though Al Queda was some aberration, or that they had suddenly sprung up from nothing to become the evil demons hiding under your bed. It isn’t as though people hadn’t tried to commit–and succeeded in committing–serious terrorist attacks against the United States before. True, not on the same scale–but scale alone was not sufficient to warrant such a drastic change in these people. Something has to be the worst terrorist attack in our history, and given enough time that will eventually be eclipsed by an even bigger.

    Furthermore, i was shocked by how many people suddenly became security-paranoid. As a professional fretter-about-security i couldn’t believe how safe they thought they were–or more accurately, had been. Did they really not think people could not slip through the cracks like that? Did they not read anything, ever? Were they all blind and deaf and just concealing it remarkably well?

    I still don’t understand it, except as a time when an enormous group of people in our country had their illusions–illusions of American supremacy and invincibility–shattered. And instead of going to seek the truth, they sought new illusions; illusions which the Bush administration were happy to supply. (In the form of psychotic “safety” personnel with combat-level rifles being implanted into our airports, among other things.)

    Another thing is that, i think, part of the reason we so often can’t figure out how to fix this mess of domination-by-the-deranged that we find ourselves in is that we do not understand the true nature–or depth, both in terms of penetration into our culture and the depths of history into which we must delve to find the true source–of the threat we face.

    I have my own theory that the current “conservative” madness is merely the latest manifestation of an ideological thread–a meme, or idea that spreads through a culture through “replication” despite the fact that those who hold the idea do not truly understand it or its implications–which has been in existence for not decades or even centuries but rather for thousands of years. Possibly it has existed since we first developed language, or even before that.

    We can see this same story play out–even as though it were fresh today–in, for instance, the trial and death of Socrates. So much so that i, if i did not know better, could scarcely believe the story was truly written in those ancient times instead of being a much more modern fraud. This madness which we are fighting is not new, and it is not (to my sight) a natural state of human affairs. Madness, itself, is its own goal. But we are not talking about madness in the sense that psychologists, for instance, discuss it. It is not some disorder of the brain, or a dysfunction of thought that is readily apparent and obvious. It is a philosophical, and not psychological (or perhaps more accurately: scientific) insanity that causes the thoughts, and not the mind, to become lost in itself.

    I know that sounds pretty dramatic and outrageous–i have serious doubts about my correctness on this matter, myself–particularly since it appears the whole world has a similar neurosis, but that i have only been able to trace an unbroken thread back to around the time and region of the Greeks–but it fits my understanding and is a clear explanation for why we are where we are and why we have had so much trouble eradicating it.

    This is already too long, so i will not continue onwards–what to do about it, which should become clear with thought, and whether or not i am actually right (that is: what is the unbroken chain we are now a part of?)–but it may be helpful.

    Anyway, i know this was long and a few months late. But here it is, nonetheless.

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