When Resentment Isn’t Enough

There is widespread consensus today that McCain’s speech sucked out loud. And it wasn’t just McCain’s clunky delivery, which featured creepy smiles at inappropriate times (Dubya does that too, come to think of it). Attaturk asks,

So I say with some incredulity, how could his speech — which he had MONTHS to work on and was written especially for him (as opposed to Palin’s being adapted for her) SUCK. SO. VERY. MUCH?!

I say there’s something weirdly unfocused about the McCain campaign. It’s as if no one is really in charge, and the worker bees in it are just stumbling along as best they can.

The convention showed a video of 9/11 last night. I didn’t watch it. You may know I was in lower Manhattan that day, and I don’t care to relive the experience, thank you very much. As soon as the video came on I switched channels. Now some are saying showing the video crossed a line.

Yes, probably so. However, I wonder if 9/11 packs much of an emotional wallop to most people any more. Those of us who were there will always have a raw spot about 9/11. Righties cling to it because it stokes their much-cherished sense of righteous victimhood. But what about the rest of the country?

This misleading headline to the contrary, we won’t really know what effect the GOP convention had on the electorate until Tuesday or Wednesday. I’m no good at predicting these things, but I will be surprised if the Republicans get much of a bounce out of that mess of a convention.

Today Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein both talk about the politics of ressentiment. We know the one thing that fuels the Right, their raison d’etre, is their seething resentment of everyone who isn’t them.

Most of all, they resent liberals. Back when there was at least some part of the federal government they didn’t control, they got a lot of mileage out of scapegoating the “liberal elite” for everything that seemed to go wrong. Now they are singing the same song, as if they themselves hadn’t controlled both Congress and the White House and the entire federal bureaucratic apparatus for most of the past eight years. Tom Shales wrote,

He [McCain] used the word “change” at least 10 times in his bombastic speech — the convention’s emotional climax — but since the Republicans have controlled the White House for the past eight years, what does McCain want to change from? And to? It really is an audacious ploy, to tell people that the country’s got to correct the mistakes made by a political party when that’s the very party you represent.

It’s like staging a revolution against yourself — saying that the Republicans have got to go so the Republicans can move in and clean up the mess.

So, the pundits say, they are attempting to “rebrand” the GOP, to persuade America it’s not the party of George W. Bush any more. So McCain uses the word “change” a lot, and speaker after speaker called him a “maverick” (or “mavrick” according to one delegate with a home-made sign). But what do they offer?

  • A video of 9/11. Yeah, that doesn’t remind us of Dubya.
  • Tax cuts.
  • Lots of tributes to Ronald Reagan.
  • Tax cuts.
  • Tough talk against our enemies, whoever they are this week.
  • Tax cuts.
  • And seething, pulsing, sneering resentment of liberals.

This is “re-branding”?

They find one outsider, one fresh face, in Sarah Palin, and they gave her a speech to deliver that Karl Rove could have written himself. It was all sneer and snark. Same old product with a new product spokesperson. This is not “re-branding.” It’s not even “re-packaging.” But it’s who they are.

11 thoughts on “When Resentment Isn’t Enough

  1. 911 for me demonstrates how the republican can’t seem to get the job done. The never got Osama. They made no attempt to do anything about the hole in the middle of a major US city created by Osama. The arabs can look at the sea and image a city and build it.
    The levee in NOLA failed and the republicans spent billions of dollars to stick newspaper in the hole.

  2. Thanks very much for this. I tried again and again to watch McCain’s speech last night and I kept turning it off. After these past years of seeing W crucify the art of public speaking, I can’t bear to think of another president who is so painful to watch. Painful.

    Yes, I struggled with the whole defiling of the word, “Change”, which sounds like a promise when it comes out of Obama’s mouth and a lie when McCain says it. I was sickened by the unbearable whiteness of the crowd and having proof positive that the Republican party will possibly never change in that respect. How shameful it is, that party of privilege, when it is neither welcoming nor embracing of different colors or beliefs outside their establishment. No “change” to be found there!

    So my hope is that across the country people of all colors and beliefs will actually take a long look at stale McCain and say, “Oh, for pete’s sake. Not this same old crap!”


  3. Well, I for one hate 9-11. But not for the death and destruction that Bin Laden managed to inflict on the American people. I hate it because Bin Laden delivered into the hands of a bunch of twisted sycophants the most powerful and destructive propaganda tool to destroy America’s freedom. The maximum damage of 9-11 to America was not caused by the destruction of the twin towers, but by the capitalizing of political advantage and exaggeration of the threat posed to our nation and our liberties.

    I could say bad leadership in condemnation of Bush, but that could be construed as plain negligence when the fact is a deliberate effort was set in place to exacerbate fear and foster insecurity in order to steer and control a purely political agenda. And that is my primary reason for hating 9-11. They beat that horse to death..Or milked that cow dry?…Think Rudy 9-11 Giuliani..the f–ing ghoul!

  4. The Rs are definitely off their game with McCain in weird ways. He’s kind of like an old figurehead to replace the one the public’s grown tired of (GWB). He seems about 60-70% convinced of the stuff he says, and he has difficulty hiding this, which is amusing to watch. It’s almost as if there are two channels to McCain: the stuff he’s saying, and his honest if subdued reaction to it. And yet I could still connect with him, somewhat, emotionally, like a soft spoken semi-weird old uncle, if I didn’t pay too much attention to the words.

    I’ve read a number of comments from people who used to live in the Soviet Union. They say the “Country First” slogan is an old one used by the Communist Party. The media here has become more and more like that in the USSR – but we already knew that.

    From my own study, in the USSR, World War 2 never ended. The Soviets lost hugely in that war, but the Communists would constantly run propaganda about the war, thirty years later, to make it sound like it ended last week. They created a constant state of militaristic fear. Sound familiar? All 9/11 all the time.

    Both McCain and the Republican party have lost their way, much like Brezhnev and the Soviet Union. Unlike the Soviet Union, I see this failure not as a systemic problem heading toward collapse, but merely as marketing and leadership problems. The evil machine behind the Republican party is still very much alive, and will always be with us until fear and greed and selfishness disappear.

    They’re only caught off balance this year, with the cratering of their policies, and a weak bench, and a stronger opposition. Because they can’t talk about ideas, all they’re left with is their baseline resentment and nastiness fueled by big heaping doses of self righteousness. All of this comes from fear, fear of the other, fear of change, fear of losing control. They’re big nasty, babies in other words who never grew up.

  5. So many excellent points raised above:

    Swami: That “moran” with his “MAVRICK” sign– fire his incompetent teachers, posthaste!

    Jerri: The arabs can look at the sea and imagine a city and build it.
    I’ve seen it… a series of artificial islands created for development. Some oil money accomplishes amazing things. And we look like idiots by comparison.

    Moonbat: Like a soft spoken semi-weird old uncle, if I didn’t pay too much attention to the words.
    I’ve noticed it too, a kind of pity that I feel towards McCain. He is a different critter from Dubya. Not as arrogant, not as spoiled, not as anti-intellectual, didn’t have his brain eaten by televangelist zombies. I believe, once upon a time, he really did care about doing what’s good for the nation. Dubya has always looked out for just Number One… and his posse.

    More people watched McCain last night than watched Obama last Thursday. I can only hope a large percentage were so dismayed that they made up their minds to vote for Obama… or an indy candidate at the very least. Maybe McCain’s speech will translate into another “$10 million in 24 hours” for the Dems.

  6. joanr16… Maybe we’re getting it wrong, and the MAVRICK guy is a Democractic protester who knows how to subtlely get in a jab at McCain and the GOP and come away unscathed. I ran “mavrick” through babel fish to check that wasn’t a european spelling of the same concept —It wasn’t.

  7. I am so tired of dumb, stupid presidents. Reagan, Bush & Bush. They know how to count votes but the country has gone so far down hill under their inept stewardship.

    Kennedy, Carter & Clinton were/are bright people with a keen intellect.

    McCain is no brighter than Bush II. So he was a Naval officer who learned to fly an airplane, and he was not very good at that. McCain lost 5 of the taxpayers airplanes.

  8. I insist on adding something about the 9/11 video. What I find most shameless about the whole thing is the implied message that the US Government was completely innocent and blame less in the thing. I’ve talked to many foreign people about that day and they tend to say something like, “you had it coming.” Let me say this clearly: we trained Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan. When it was no longer politically advantageous ran away from Afghanistan without giving these warriors any option but to sit around in mountains and mope about how we screwed them. Why don’t the talking heads talk about this when they talk about 9/11? I think it speaks so much to our ignorance of the rest of the world and naivety about our own government. Here is an example of what I’m saying: there are people – probably many of them at that convention – who still believe George Bush and our government cared about spreading democracy to Iraq! To me they are children, so how do we learn to tell children the truth about things?

  9. #9 I too have talked to people from other countries. Before 9/11
    I was told the reason so many in the world have a problem with us is our sanctions. When we put sanctions on other countries, it kills their babies. The citizens can’t get the basics or medicines.
    I have also been told, to change Iraq’s leadership would be a mess. He was the only person holding Iran in check.

  10. S. I’ve been reading a great book by Misha Glenny called McMafia; Crime Without Frontiers. In the first couple chapters Glenny details how when the US put sanctions on what used to be Yugoslavia in the 90s the black market flourished. Countries couldn’t trade without sending trucks through Serbia and they couldn’t do that any longer so overnight we turned anyone hoping to export a tomato into illicit dealers! Naturally, cheap cigarettes and women are a lot more profitable than tomatoes, and Balkan governments had no other alternative but to implicitly or explicitly support these activities for tax revenue!

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