We choose to see ourselves as innocent victims of an escalating right-wing fanaticism. But too often we serve as willing accomplices to this escalation and to the resulting degradation of our civic discourse. We do this, without even meaning to, by consuming conservative folly as mass entertainment.
Liberals Are Ruining America. I Know Because I Am One. | Steve Almond
This slavish coverage of conservative scoundrels does nothing to illuminate policy or challenge our assumptions. On the contrary, its central goal mirrors that of the pundits it reviles: to boost ratings by reinforcing easy prejudices. These ratings come courtesy of dolts like me: liberals who choose, every day, to click on their links and to watch their shows.
But the real problem isn’t Limbaugh. He’s just a businessman who is paid to reduce complex cultural issues to ad hominem assaults. The real problem is that liberals, both on an institutional and a personal level, have chosen to treat for-profit propaganda as news. In so doing, we have helped redefine liberalism as an essentially reactionary movement. Rather than initiating discussion, or advocating for more humane policy, we react to the most vile and nihilistic voices on the right.
Liberals Are Ruining America. I Know Because I Am One (via azspot)
Regardless where you stand on immigration issues, a border fence, amnesty, etc., or on same-sex marriage and equal rights for LGBT citizens, how can you be in favor of making it easier to commit violence against LGBT or immigrant women? I cannot believe our national debate has come to this point – where we are singling out parts of the population and making them more vulnerable to violence.
Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) criticized the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act saying the bill passed on Wednesday puts women’s lives in jeopardy because it excludes access to services for immigrant, LGBT and Native American women. (via nbclatino)
I mean, “singling out parts of the population and making them more vulnerable to violence” is what institutional oppression is - it’s just not always as visible as this.
But yes, this whole thing is fucking ridiculous.
› Welcome to the Most Racist Election of Our Time | Charles Pierce
All day yesterday, the pundits told us that exposure of the borderline obscene, nakedly racist advertising plan put together on the dime of millionnaire crackpot Joe Ricketts to resurrect that Jeremiah Wright issue for the 2012 campaign was going to drain allsimilar poisons from the election. Sunlight. Disinfectant. The whole thing.
As much as it may harsh the mellow of Willard Romney, this kind of thing has become such an inherent part of the way his party does its business that he might as well decide that he no longer wants the Republicans represented by an elephant. The “Ricketts Plan” may be dead, but you’ve got career charlatan Ed Klein out there pimping his latest garbage. (Yesterday, Arianna’s joint bit for Klein’s claim that the Obamas were heading for divorce court after the president lost a congressional race to Bobby Rush. Klein’s book is now called “controversial,” which, of course, makes anything in it “newsworthy.”) And Drudge went all red-light-alarmy this morning over a report that appears to be a misunderstanding involving the president’s original literary agent.
This is likely going to be the most obviously racist presidential campaign the country has seen since people went out a’whispering about Warren Harding’s black ancestry. Even if Willard Romney has the stones to unequivocally denounce the entire network dedicated to boosting this stuff into the mainstream, which he doesn’t now and never will, he can’t stop it. It’s a feature of conservative politics, not a bug.
› Against Law, For Order
When neoconservatives say that they are the party of “law and order,” it is important to remember that they care less for the rule of law than they do for the rule of order.
The modern law and order movement kicks off in 1964 with Barry Goldwater’s speech accepting the GOP nomination. Then a minor issue, law and order had particular resonance in the South, where George Wallace was gaining a following with a similar message. Goldwater, while suffering a major loss in the election, did particularly well among Southern states using this message, something Richard Nixon would put to good use in the next election.
There were good reasons behind the law and order movement’s success in bringing the South into the GOP. Some of these reasons have to do less with a neoconservative project than with a very old conservative project. As historian Robert Perkinson explores in his book Texas Tough, there has always been a distinctly repressive character to the Southern prison, with its chain gangs, forced labor, and limited attempts at reform. These vicious practices, born out of the era of slavery, remain and shape the modern prison. As Perkinson says of the penal labor farms in East Texas, “Nowhere else in turn-of-the-millennium America could one witness gangs of African American men filling cotton sacks under the watchful eyes of armed whites on horseback.”
As political power moved to the Sunbelt and conservatives successfully realigned the South rightward, these brutal tactics became wedded to the Republican Party. The prison is part of the conservative project of race control. As Michelle Alexander argues in The New Jim Crow, mass incarceration locks people of color into permanent second-class citizenship much as the Jim Crow system of de jure and de facto segregation did in the past. Legalized discrimination, political disenfranchisement, and segregation, instituted through techniques like job licensing restrictions and legal requirements for voting, are features of both regimes.
› AP: North Carolina voters have approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, making it the 30th state to adopt such a ban.
(Source: kileyrae, via jayaprada)
So when conservatives begin arguing that we don’t want equality of outcome, just equality of opportunity, look closely at what it is they’re arguing against. More often than not it’s the most modest of efforts to make things a just a bit easier for people who aren’t at the top. Not a full scholarship to an Ivy League school, just some student loans you’ll have to pay back. Not free nose jobs, just a guarantee of health insurance, so you know you won’t lose your home if you get sick. Not enough money to buy that Cadillac, just a minimum wage high enough that you’ll be able to feed your family. Not anything like real equality of opportunity, in other words. But even that is too much.
The Opportunity Society (via azspot)
Today, American conservatism has degenerated into an intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology. It offers nothing more than bumper-sticker slogans that pander to the prejudices and ignorance of the lowest common denominator in order to enrich and empower an oligarchic elite. Angry, cruel and sneering, it is exemplified by the carnival barkers on talk radio and Fox News. High in volume, but devoid of substance, it has no long-term future because it lacks credible solutions to the range of very real problems American society is facing. Indeed, what passes for “conservatism” today is actually nothing of the sort. Modern American conservatism has forgotten its rich legacy and betrayed its best traditions. It has become infected with a virulent strain of extreme libertarianism heavily influenced by the thinking of Ayn Rand.
A Phoenix Rising: Common-Good Conservatism (via azspot)
Conservatism is, first and foremost, a defence of (and deference to) the existing class structure and the hierarchy implicit in that structure. Historically, American conservatives may have seemed more calm and reasonable, but this type of reactionary backlash isn’t necessarily new - I hesitate to say this “conservatism is nothing of the sort”. These ugly strains have appeared, disappeared and reappeared throughout the history of conservative thought.* This isn’t to say that modern conservatives aren’t obstructionist fuckwits, just that this isn’t a novel instance in American history or in the history of reactionary politics.
*See Corey Robin’s book “The Reactionary Mind” or vist his website, coreyrobin.com for much more eloquent discussions of this idea.
Blessed are the rich, the reign of this world is ours. The rich rule the world, and the rest suffer and die, often in misery. Do not let this be you my brothers! Easier to use your riches to genetically engineer very small camels that can fit through the needle’s eye… Blessed are the violent and the invincible, the proud and the powerful, the domineering and oppressive. We can have it all! And let our status of power be the proof that we are deserving of the fruits of the labor of the middle class and poor… Blessed are those who show no mercy. No mercy to the poor, to women and children, the elderly and the homeless, victims, outcasts, enemies, refugees, the hungry, the undocumented, the unborn, those on death row, those who are different, those we don’t like. And of course, those who happen to be in the way of what we want… Blessed are the warmakers. Yea I say unto you, if we were not making war, we could not be said to be making much. That is what China is for! Lo, the Lord looked at China and said “Let it be the worlds factory floor,” and it was good…
GOP Je$us (via azspot)
A marker has been laid down. Heed it well. Universal healthcare is the Trojan Horse in Obama’s radical religious crusade to undo orthodox religion. Could a notion so crazy possibly have legs? Crazier things have penetrated the fog before — and this one has the advantage of tickling the most abiding anxiety of conservative-minded citizens: that liberalism is contributing to the sexual dissolution of their very own homes and hearths. Romney’s recycling of the smear may already have helped him assuage the doubts of the religious right that he is one of them. And Democrats losing their nerve, backing away from defending desperately needed reform out of fear stepping on mysterious “deeply held” beliefs that are actually the invention of hucksters with right-wing agendas? Well, that’s happened before, too.
Rick Perlstein (via azspot)
› If I wanted America to fail…
If I wanted America to fail, I would encourage homogeneity.
I would give in to the Christian Right and back their agenda of making this a truly Christian country. I would discourage other faiths by offering up exclusively Christian prayers at every civic event and meeting, recruiting primarily Christian chaplains for the armed forces, and prohibiting tax-exempt status to non-Christian or non-credal churches. I would base our foreign and domestic policies on a narrow interpretation of the Bible.
I would give in to the nativists and back their agenda to discourage immigration. Legal immigration should be strictly limited to acceptable ethnic groups who will be most easily assimilated: Christians and Europeans (or those of European descent). I would round up all of the illegal immigrants, using every law enforcement and military resource at my disposal, and repatriate them en masse. They can “appeal” from where they came from. I would block those who cannot prove their citizenship from medical care, education, jobs, and housing. I would make the stigma of being illegal something that carries over to their children: no more citizenship by right of “jus soli.”
I would give in to those who want traditional roles for men and women. I would end programs that encourage women to pursue unnatural careers and vocations, such as Title 9. I would encourage a two-tiered pay system for men and women to encourage men to appreciate and embrace their devalued role as Breadwinners, Fathers, and Heads of Households. I would end public support for early childhood education, preschool, and childcare to encourage women to perform their primary function: stay-at-home moms. I would outlaw contraception, divorce, and prohibitions against domestic violence. I would reinstate the term “bastard” on the birth certificates of the illegitimate and work to stigmatize them and their mothers. I would reinstate sodomy laws and restore the ability of employers, landlords, and social institutions to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation to force homosexuals back into their closets. I would repeal anti-bullying legislation so that kids can keep their potentially-homosexual classmates in line.
By now it seems self-evident that the neocons were drawn into Iraq for the sake of a grand idea: not the democratization of the Middle East, though that undoubtedly had some appeal, or even the creation of an American empire, but rather an idea of themselves as a brave and undaunted army of transgression. The gaze of the neocons, like that of America’s perennially autistic ruling classes, does not look outward nearly as much as it looks inward: at their restless need to prove themselves, to demonstrate that neither their imagination nor their actions will be constrained by anyone or anything—not even by the rules and norms they believe are their country’s gift to the world.
› Starving the Beast | Matthew Bruenig
One interesting and behind-the-scenes strategy of American conservatives is to starve the beast. Under the Starve the Beast strategy, conservatives embed themselves into government and cut taxes as much as possible whether they can offset the tax cuts or not. The usually articulated goal of this strategy is to force the United States government to accumulate a massive amount of debt that will eventually force it to cut back on social programs and government spending.
The first time I heard this strategy articulated, it struck me as far-fetched and risky. After all, how can you be sure the country will react to a tax-cut-induced government debt by demanding cuts in social programs. They might just as reasonably (and I would argue more reasonably) demand that the tax cuts be rolled back instead.
But I realized later that my skepticism and confusion regarding Starve the Beast comes from an incomplete explanation of the strategy. For conservatives, it really does not matter one way or another whether the end consequence of the tax cuts is reduced social spending or not. Even if the public reacts by demanding a reinstatement of the tax cuts, the well-off still benefit.
The reason why the well-off still benefit is that tax cuts that are not immediately offset force the government to borrow money. It is generally the well-off who loan the government money because they are the ones with the money to invest in government bonds. When conservatives successfully cut taxes without reducing government spending by an equal amount, what they effectively do is swap taxing the rich with borrowing from the rich. They swap tax revenue from the rich with loans from the rich.
In the long run of course, this is beneficial to rich people no matter what. Even if taxes on the rich are reinstated later in order to pay down the federal debt caused by the tax cuts, the rich still benefit. In such a case, we will be taxing the rich in order to pay back the rich, with interest of course.
So really the Starve the Beast strategy helps conservative ends no matter what. If the response to the ballooning federal debt caused by tax cuts is to destroy social programs, then conservatives win. If the response is to reinstate the taxes on the rich, then the wealthy holders of government bonds still get a payday, and conservatives win. No matter what happens then, the Starve the Beast strategy redistributes money to the rich, which is the goal of many conservatives. In that sense, it is actually quite clever, even if nefarious and unjust.
› Why libertarians apologize for autocracy | Michael Lind
Libertarians and conservatives, to be sure, can point to many examples of naive liberals in the last century who embarrassed themselves by praising this or that squalid, tyrannical communist regime, from the Soviet Union and communist China to petty police states like North Korea, communist Vietnam and Castro’s Cuba. But the apologists for tyranny on the left were always opposed by anti-communist liberals and anti-communist democratic socialists. Where were the anti-authoritarian libertarians, denouncing libertarian fellow travelers of Pinochet like von Hayek and Milton Friedman?
For that matter, where was the libertarian right during the great struggles for individual liberty in America in the last half-century? The libertarian movement has been conspicuously absent from the campaigns for civil rights for nonwhites, women, gays and lesbians. Most, if not all, libertarians support sexual and reproductive freedom (though Rand Paul has expressed doubts about federal civil rights legislation). But civil libertarian activists are found overwhelmingly on the left. Their right-wing brethren have been concerned with issues more important than civil rights, voting rights, abuses by police and the military, and the subordination of politics to religion — issues like the campaign to expand human freedom by turning highways over to toll-extracting private corporations and the crusade to funnel money from Social Security to Wall Street brokerage firms.
An old piece, but worth a read.
[In his new book, The Republican Brain, Chris] Mooney discusses dozens of different experiments shedding light on how conservatives ‘motivated reasoning’ leads them astray, convincing them of what they’d like to believe rather than what is actually true. Many of these findings are particularly damning of conservative close-mindedness. Regarding Tea Party members, for example, one survey on global warming found that ‘not only were they the most factually incorrect, but they were also the most overconfident and close-minded, and least likely to want to inquire further’.
'The Republican Brain': Probing the limits of Left and Right