Meet the New DFHs

Catch this guy:

I watched part of this rant on Rachel Maddow’s show last night. It would have been so perfect if the crowd had burned a flag and then all their Social Security and Medicare cards.

Oh, and for the record, Sam Houston opposed secession.

Gregory Rodriguez writes in the Los Angeles Times about a new book by Sam Tanenhaus. In it, he discusses William F. Buckley’s response to the end of Lyndon Johnson’s political career:

The columnist in 1968 was, of course, William F. Buckley Jr., and on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s abrupt withdrawal from the presidential race, he was nothing if not circumspect. Why? Because as a classic conservative, Buckley understood the importance of stability and found the “burn, baby, burn” drumbeat from the left, which had forced Johnson’s decision, deeply unsettling.

In his column that week, Buckley opined that “instant guidance by the people of the government means instability, and instability is subversive of freedom.” In other words, Johnson’s withdrawal was too responsive. For Buckley, maintaining social order was of paramount importance, even if it meant helping to preserve the welfare state he deplored.

“Movement conservatism” began in part as a reaction to what the classic conservatives saw as anarchy from the Left. The DFHs of he 1960s were angry, and they burned flags and smarted off to cops. At the time, conservatives and the “Silent Majority” (who weren’t all that silent, truth be told) were more upset about the loss of social order and supposed lack of patriotism the “hippies” represented than they were about the DFH’s call to end the war in Vietnam. The war was never wildly popular.

So 40 years later the backlash to anarchy has come full circle and is becoming anarchy, and the extreme fringes of it are admitting to America-hating. I think if (dare we hope?) a reasonably good health care bill with the public option intact is passed, we’re going to see at least a couple of years of spreading secessionist fervor among the tea-partiers.

Back to Rodriguez:

Just listen to the ruckus over healthcare. Are there problems with the Democrats’ proposals? Absolutely. But the tenor of criticism from so many on the right suggests they’re more interested in destruction than resolution. As Tanenhaus puts it, the contemporary right defines itself “less by what it yearns to conserve than by what it longs to destroy.” They call themselves conservatives, but the “I hope Obama fails” rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh is more reminiscent of the tantrum-throwing far left of the late 1960s than of classic conservatism.

The analogy between the DFHs of the 1960s and today’s anarchist mobs is not perfect, for reasons Rodriguez explains here;

Hofstadter points to the fundamental rootlessness and heterogeneity of U.S. society, and the “peculiar scramble for status and [the] peculiar search for secure identity” that those qualities inspire. Without, say, a traditional class system — a “recognizable system of status,” in Hofstadter’s words — Americans suffer from “status anxiety.” During times of great social flux, these fears play out in politics as people seek out enemies (which helps them reaffirm their own standing) and, at the same time, damn a social order they feel they can’t dominate.

The DFHs of the 1960s were not a monolithic group. The genuine freaks — “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out” — generally (there were exceptions) were not the same people who took over Dean’s offices in universities. Although there were some vocal anti-capitalists, the majority of people who showed up at protests weren’t planning to overturn the capitalist status quo (which was pretty sweet at the time, at least for middle-class whites). Although many sympathized with Abbie Hoffman, for most the counterculture was a last hoorah before they put on their gray flannel suits and melded into corporate America. The bulk of the angry Left of the 1960s were not suffering from status anxiety, I don’t believe.

No; status anxiety expresses itself in a brainless, right-wing reactionism. That’s what we’re seeing now. I fully agree that the people who show up to scream about socialized medicine are acting out inchoate anxieties that have nothing to do with any particular policy. They care more about having an enemy to hate and blame than they care about the facts of the health care issue.

Another difference between 1960s hippies is that, conservative fantasies to the contrary, the antiwar movement really wasn’t being orchestrated by the International Communist Conspiracy. The most radical of its leaders were more like free-floating pot-stirrers than anybody’s fellow-traveler. However, the rage and energy on the Right today is definitely being stoked and manipulated by special interest elites.

This gets us into the topic of yesterday’s Krugman column, titled “Missing Richard Nixon.” Krugman makes some of the same points as Rodriguez:

No, I haven’t lost my mind. Nixon was surely the worst person other than Dick Cheney ever to control the executive branch.

But the Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.

I had to think about the “America is a better country today” line, but we have come a long way in regard to racial and gender discrimination. And we could debate whether Nixon was worse than the recently retired Bush.

We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.

And now that this system exists, reform of any kind has become extremely difficult. That’s especially true for health care, where growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon’s day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

Basically, capitalism is eating itself, and the peasants are revolting. I’m thinking maybe I should keep a bag packed for my escape to Canada so I can get in before they close the borders.

Update: Nice article at The Nation by Patricia Williams, “Reverse Nazism and the War on Universal Healthcare.”

If you are watching the healthcare town-hall ruckuses with only common dictionary meanings in your head, you will be struck by the protesters’ general incoherence and outright nonsense, bearing no rational connection to the actual draft of the healthcare bill. As Representative Barney Frank demanded of one constituent who likened the bill to Nazism, “On what planet do you spend most of your time?”

But if you listen as though deciphering pig Latin and realize that this demographic is speaking from a well-managed, near-hypnotic looking-glass world where every word from the mouth of a Democrat (or a liberal, or a Latina, or a Canadian) is a lie, a betrayal… then it all makes sense. Their world truly has been turned inside out, by the election, by the economy, by the precarious conditions that threaten us all. But for those whose sense of identity has been premised on a raced, masculinist, conservative Christian hierarchy of American power, the world must seem even more emotionally terrifying than any actual facts would indicate.

So reversal is key to understanding what’s going on. It’s not just “lies”; it’s the expressive angst of people whose felt power relations have been turned upside down. It’s not factually accurate, but this is how they feel. Obama is Hitler! Health insurance for all means euthanasia for me! “My” country is suddenly “their” country.

However, if special interest elites had not fed these fears, encouraged the hysteria, and even taught people what to say, I think most of these people would be uneasy but not raging bat-bleeping crazy.

17 thoughts on “Meet the New DFHs

  1. As much as I always hated Nixon, he was better than Bush. Nixon was, in many respects, our last liberal President (don’t laugh). We got OSHA, clean air, and a lot of other programs that couldn’t be passed now. And no Democratic President since has had the power or willpower to try to be progressive, let alone Liberal. And it certainly seems Obama doesn’t want to even hear from us. Or maybe he can’t hear us over the shouting. Yeah, wishful thinking…
    They have successfully shifted the debate so far to the right in the last 40 years that what was once centrist, is now viewed as deeply radical. And that is what those ‘protesters’ represent. Any deviation from what is now the center is viewed not just as a warm embrace of Marxism, but tongue-kissing, if not full on coitus.

  2. Buckley’s comment on the ‘instant guidance of the people’ goes right along with the classic conservative belief that there are those born to rule and those born to be ruled. That belief justified millenia of rule by monarchs.

    (Buckley would have also been on the side of those in the British Admiralty who questioned giving the command of a ship (the Bounty) to one (Bligh) on the grounds that his station at birth made him unfit to command a ship, and of course the eventual Mutiny served to support their misgivings.)

  3. I agree with c u n d gulag – Nixon was, in my view, quite progressive. And insane. Interesting combination.

    What has deteriorated since the early 70’s is the Democratic Party. When I think of Nixon v. Bush II, I wonder where the new Sam Ervin got off to. No one was willing to stand up to the guy. Had we had a Sam Ervin, would we be where we are today?

  4. The key is in meaningless phrases such as “the country is under attack” and “freedom is under attack” and “this could mean the end of America.”

    Because we are in the position we’re in in the world’s power structure, we’re not actually under attack. But these brainless types want to be part of a Grand Struggle for America without actually getting off their duffs to go fight in Iraq or Afghanistan despite all the lip service they pay to those wars’ importance.

    So you get to scream at a town hall meeting and tell yourself you’re Defending America, all without traveling more than a few miles! And you’re home in time for O’Reilly!

  5. Ken Wilber’s integral theory characterizes mythic spiritual intelligence with the terms tribe, nation, ethnocentrism, us vs. them, stability, group beliefs, conflicts, conformist and conventional. These traits appear to fit very well the “raced, masculinist, conservative Christian hierarchy of American power” mentioned above.

    Some time ago Bill O’Reilly railed spot on about the fears of the white male majority, but instead of that subgroup being under ignominious attack, they are simply enduring the stresses of change in a society evolving towards modernity and post-modernity as a center of gravity. The dominant culture for so very long is giving way to evolution and that may not be much fun to those who have grown used to holding sway for so long, but really; compost happens.

    FYI, Wiber and Father Thomas Keating have a DVD entitled “The Future of Christianity” which I found fascinating, even as a non-Christian.

  6. The perils of universal health care (a Canadian story):

    Today I saw my GP. She was a good hour late in seeing me because: a) she always gets in late and b) she spends a long time (longer than planned) with each patient.

    Despite having lost a bit of weight over the past 8 months and doing more exercise, I have developed a mild case of high blood pressure. Her secretary gave me an appointment for an echocardiogram next week.

    Cost: $0 and a bit of a wait.

    Terrible isn’t it?

  7. Maybe we could just let them leave, on condition of taking all the teabaggers with them. Send Dick Cheney, too, but keep an eye on him 🙂

  8. Rick nails it upthread – these melodramatic weenies are afraid of their own shadow but like to act tough like Rush commands them to. Mace the cocksuckers and let ’em experience real pain. They wouldn’t be back. Therein lies the difference with the left-wing radicals of the 1960’s.

  9. DoubleCinco touches on what is really going on here. Throughout history, any time there have been upheavals in the status quo, a small but virulent group has always fought the change they know is coming. In fact, they not only fight to stop the advance, but try to push society “back” to a time they romanticize as being better.

    Think of the luddites at the start of the industrial revolution.

    The conservatives sense a sea-change where the age of America being the greatest _______ (insert whatever you want here), to being part of a world where we play on a more equal footing with Europe and even South America, and certainly Asia…where in fact they may have surpassed us in some areas. They see society here in America changing (mostly for the better) and allow themselves to be convinced that rights are a zero sum game…if gays get marriage, straights lose something. If African Americans get an American President, white people lose something.

    These folks are easily scared, and today this fear is magnified by moneyed interests who play off that fear to support their own gains. Eventually the change comes, but often not without violence and some degree of upheaval. I’m not sure we are near the end of this cycle of change yet, and I expect it will get worse before there is a breakthrough and it gets better.

  10. Maha,

    The best analysis I’ve seen on right-wing-mania. There seem to be a majority of older white folks that, for reasons that elude me, have moved to a different planet.

  11. Chief,
    The resaon that they’ve appeared to have moved to another planet is the usual race and class-based prejudice.
    Here’s the brilliant way the conservatives have positioned it (and not just for senior’s): You will have to lose something of yours if “They” are to get anything! Death panel’s and books are just icing on the cake. And if you don’t want to share the cake, you sure as Hell won’t share any icing.
    They hit the fear ‘c-spot’ and whammo, those who have no clue all of a sudden are experts on any subject – unless you actually ask them a question. In which the “c” in “c-spot” stands for confused.
    Listen to any one of these imbeciles. They can spout a talking point, but don’t ever ask them what it means. They just know what it means in their gut’s. And the gut-bone is not connected to the brain-bone by any means in their version of anatomy.
    You can substitue that young woman in front of Rep. Frank with any senior carrying a ‘No socialized medicine – but don’t you dare touch my SS or Medicare!!!’ banner. The difference is she’s cute and young, and they’re cute and old.
    They’re all brain dead, because what they perceive to be free-will is nothing more than spoon-fed doggerel. What’s sad is that they are unable to tell the difference, and will tell people who DO think that they are lemming’s.
    See Freud and projection. ‘Nuff said, there…

  12. I think if they were maced, the tree of liberty would be watered with “patriots”pissing their pants.
    I’d like to know how the dip shit gets away with calling himself a right wing terrorist, And is applauded by the crowd to boot!
    He’s a terrorist, ship his sorry ass to gitmo.

  13. Wish those darn fools in TX would just pull out of the union and annoint chimpy their very own “dur chimpfurher for life”.

    They would get what they deserved and the rest of America could get on with its business, which largely consists of cleaning the pee and poo stains left over from 8 years of repug/neocon rules.

  14. Most of those in the crowd look like they could stand to learn the patience required to wait a bit for a Canadian doctor, then get their BP and cholesterol checked.

    These crowds, no matter where they are, are uniformly white, overweight, and about 70 percent male. If someone with a clipboard walked among them handing out and then collecting basic IQ exams, I bet the average would come in at right around 100. As Forrest Gump might say, “Stupid is as carries a stupid sign.”

    What I wonder is, what percentage of the electorate are these people? In fact, how many of them even are registered voters?

  15. I remember when Buddhism was about looking into one’s own greed, anger and ignorance and having compassion for “others”.

  16. Watching the anger, and wanting to understand it, I’ve made a bit of an effort to figure out what I DO have in common with these people. Sort of an exercise to get beyond the almost demonic insanity out there.

    My “gut” empathy feel is that a lot of the right-wing protestors are people who actually don’t have a grasp of how the world works – they impress me as being intellectually/culturally isolated. Normally not a huge issue except we live in a changing world and country that has its own issues. They lack the ability to understand what is going on and respond, and egged on by others manipulating them, they easily lash out.

    This is not a rational activity by any means. They are scared, they are frankly ignorant, and they are being manipulated – and as this goes on their lives are getting worse in a downturned economy and a changing world. These people are being wound up, and honestly they are terrified and angry.

    As for a solution? Well beyond people to stop manipulating them, that’s tough. My honest thought is that like a toddler, they may need to scream themselves into exhaustion so they can’t throw a tantrum, and so they’re not useful to others. We have to outlast them, and look for cracks in their walls of ignorance.

    Unfortunately they seem inclined to violence, and I do expect more of it. In that case I think swift, decisive action and condemnation is needed. Yes, they’ll whine – but in their enraged and ignorant state, I think they may back off even as they protest louder.

    It’s not easy.

Comments are closed.