… know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”
As Senator Obama said, “It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.” Truly, to a wingnut, Ignorance Is Strength.
Fantastic misgovernment of the kind we have seen is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entrepreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, all that follows: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we’ve come to expect from Washington. …
… The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school.
Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.
Too many Democrats have been in on the scam, of course. But, basically, we’re looking at the anti-government right wing; the descendants of Richard Hofstadter’s pseudo-conservatives. These are the people of whom Hofstadter wrote back in the early 1960s,
The difference between conservatism as a set of doctrines whose validity is established by polemics, and conservatism as a set of rules whose validity is to be established by their usability in government, is not a difference in nuance, but of fundamental substance.
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.”
And quoting Theodore W. Adorno:
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.
You can argue that there are two kinds of wingnuts — those who are in on the take, and those who are merely dupes. But I suspect a large part of those who have a personal vested interest in wingnut causes also are True Believers who can no more see the harm they do than they can fly to the moon on a pig. So, how much of what they do is calculated, and how much is social pathology, is very hard to measure.
The True Believers are a minority, but they are a minority with a lot of power because they’ve been underwritten by the Big Money interests that benefit financially from the destruction of government. (This, I take it, is the subject of Frank’s book, and also ties in with much of what Naomi Klein has been writing lately.) So, their point of view, if you want to call it that, has been vastly overrepresented in mass media, to the point that large parts of the population hardly know there is any other point of view.
There’s no more important task ahead of us than to discredit whatever you want to call “conservatism” these days in the minds of that part of the population capable of seeing reason. And I believe there is a substantial population capable of seeing reason if reason is ever presented to them. They can be bamboozled about foreign policy, but we see time and time again that when the Right tries to sell the American people on an idea that runs counter to their personal experience or something they’ve seen with their own eyes — on Social Security, New Orleans, Terri Schiavo — the American people on the whole are capable of seeing lies as lies.
From now until the November election, lots of progressives are going to be complaining about Dem politicians, especially Barack Obama, and how they are no different from the Right for this or that reason. And I agree ain’t nobody in politics who is pure. But, although we all may disagree with Obama sometime, on the whole he is less about “simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem” than any presidential candidate I can think of in a very long time. He’s not the whole answer, but he’s a step in the right direction. Er, away from the Right.
On a related note: Some “creative agency” in Los Angeles came up with an “Obama salute,” which looks stupid to me. Gavin at Sadly, No says the “salute” is a joke. (I didn’t get very far into his links before I decided I did not want to know what the joke is.)
As Gavin says, “So an ad agency not affiliated with the Obama campaign has released a joke logo.” But the word from Wingnutland os that the “salute” has already been embraced by the Obamabot Cult. The wingnuts are all over this, as Dave N. says, like stink on shit. It’s the sort of issue wingnuts, who are stuck in pre-adolescence emotionally, just love — trivial and easy to ridicule.