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McCarthy to Wilson...is history doomed to repeat itself?
September 23, 2009 12:06 PM   Subscribe

"The Obama Haters" is a horribly inaccurate title. The article itself is a 25-years-later review of Richard Hofstadter's 1964 essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Reading this essay (and the Slate article today) gives rise to thought on what led to the McCarthyism that Hofstadter wrote in reaction to, and what might lie in our very near future....regarding the Obama haters.
posted by Kickstart70 (73 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Doh...45-years-later. Sorry, I just noticed!
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:07 PM on September 23, 2009


Wait. Why does Obama hate Richard Hofstadter?

I didn't read the article, sorry. Too much time on the lol-er coaster.
posted by glaucon at 12:18 PM on September 23, 2009


In regards to conspiracy theories, an interesting companion article might be Adam Gopnik's review "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown:

Conspiracies invoked in a mode essentially cheerful, the occult revealed to be engagingly open-minded: Brown’s secret turns out to be the same as Oprah’s beloved “Secret”—you can have it all. Ancient myth and modern science, weird conspiracies and a job at Harvard—not to mention the affection of the heroine. This is the new conspiratorial normal.

The trouble comes not only when you recall real history but when you look around: the conspiracy theories out there today—the ones about the socialist fascists who are coming to get you at the behest of the alien President—are not cute. The old ones weren’t, either. Real anti-Masonic paranoia was a bad business, intertwined with the ugliest politics in European history. Fear and hatred underlie conspiracy theories; they always have. You can draw them away from reality, but you can’t really drain them of rage. There’s maybe something worrying about so many millions of readers entertaining a paranoia on the page that was, in its time, as crazy as the paranoia in the country today. As that twelve-year-old’s mom used to say, it’s all a lot of fun until somebody cries.

posted by KokuRyu at 12:22 PM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I imagine that most of us would have found the original American Patriots exceedingly disagreeable people to be around. Anyone would vociferously opposes what he perceives as government incursion into what he perceives as his rights is usually considered a dick by polite society.
posted by jefficator at 12:26 PM on September 23, 2009


Anyone would vociferously opposes what he perceives as government incursion into what he perceives as his rights is usually considered a dick by polite society.

I think I'm okay with "no taxation without representation." "No taxation at all, and fuck you everybody else" falls into the dickishness territory to me. Also, "all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights" is okay by me; Obama is a secret socialist Muslim foreigner, by comparison, is sort of jerky.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:30 PM on September 23, 2009 [31 favorites]


The very existence of the article is irritating insofar as it assumes extreme right-wing ideologues have a monopoly on idiotic thinking. Left-wingers who were pissed about the "(s)election" of George W. Bush held rallies constantly and chanted "Regime Change Begins at Home"--where's the media commentary on their lunacy?

Don't forget Jane's Law: The party in power are always arrogant pricks. The opposition party is always batshit crazy.
posted by jefficator at 12:30 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "paranoid" style did not return suddenly this summer. On the contrary, Hofstadter was surely correct when he wrote that while "it comes in waves of different intensity, it appears to be all but ineradicable."
I agree with this statement, but it stands to reason that more concrete detail can be given about these "waves of different intensity," a statement which otherwise to me implies a certain randomness, or unpredictability to these rising and falling tides.

I think the intensity of fervor around the paranoid conservative movement can be directly measured against how big the political threat from those in power is considered to be by the paranoid right. It's no accident that we're seeing this behavior rear its ugly head again, after laying mostly dormant during the Bush administration.
posted by Brak at 12:30 PM on September 23, 2009


So jefficator, does that mean that today's Teabaggers will write tomorrow's history books?

(Damn, I hope they have a spelling checker.)
posted by rokusan at 12:31 PM on September 23, 2009


And one more point: the distribution of power by seniority in Congress is utterly asinine. The only way an individual can garner enough authority to matter in Congress is by holding a seat longer than anyone else. The only people able to do that are the ones who come from the least dynamic, most ideologically hard-lined districts in the country. Nancy Pelosi? John Boehner? Do these people speak for anyone at all?

Only representatives whose districts are so ideologically skewed that loosing office is impossible rise to the top, and so the conversation is always controlled by the jackasses as the extreme ends of the spectrum. Constant back and forth. Idiots from the right and the left bating the poles of their base through inflammatory rhetoric. Absolutely insane.
posted by jefficator at 12:35 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


So jefficator, does that mean that today's Teabaggers will write tomorrow's history books?

Not necessarily. But someone will right tomorrow's history books. And we would likely be shocked at which ideas they select as relevant. Rarely do the actual precursors to the future go noticed. If they were noticed, we'd probably stop them.
posted by jefficator at 12:38 PM on September 23, 2009


write*

Damn.
posted by jefficator at 12:40 PM on September 23, 2009


idiotic thinking. Left-wingers who were pissed about the "(s)election" of George W. Bush

How stupid to think that votes should be counted. It's the perfect mirror image of thinking that the President wants to kill your granny.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:40 PM on September 23, 2009 [20 favorites]


But someone will right tomorrow's history books.

I sure hope so.
posted by hifiparasol at 12:42 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


today's Teabaggers will write tomorrow's history books?

You misspelled "burn."
posted by zippy at 12:42 PM on September 23, 2009 [58 favorites]


The very existence of the article is irritating insofar as it assumes extreme right-wing ideologues have a monopoly on idiotic thinking. Left-wingers who were pissed about the "(s)election" of George W. Bush held rallies constantly and chanted "Regime Change Begins at Home"--where's the media commentary on their lunacy?

...except that the article specifically mentions that conspiracy-theory-'lunacy' isn't only a right-wing phenomenon.

Also, I'm assuming that you're referring to the rallies held in response to the contested 2000 election. Besides the disappointment and anger one feels when their candidate loses, there's no real contention to the validity of Obama's win.

This article isn't so great. I like that it explores the shortcomings of Hofstadter's piece, but I felt misled when the author didn't then attempt to fill in said gaps.
posted by defenestration at 12:43 PM on September 23, 2009


Dang Zippy, best comment I've seen in a while.
posted by zzazazz at 12:47 PM on September 23, 2009


"Ironically, the historical portion of Hofstadter essay, though seldom cited these days by journalists, was groundbreaking, though not very controversial. It traced the tendency in our political culture, on the left and right, to see all-powerful conspiracies devoted to subverting the American way. In contrast, the essay's latter half, a portrait of the style and practices of the contemporary far right, is what usually gets cited."

...except that the article specifically mentions that conspiracy-theory-'lunacy' isn't only a right-wing phenomenon.


Failure on my part. The article expresses my own frustration. I just agree that

the author didn't then attempt to fill in said gaps.
posted by jefficator at 12:49 PM on September 23, 2009


ACLU says: In recent years, we have seen the executive branch engage in grave human rights violations, declare those activities 'state secrets,' and thus avoid any judicial oversight or accountability.

Those silly leftist conspiracy nuts. Don't they know that the party in power are always arrogant pricks and the opposition party is always batshit crazy?

Why be concerned with actual facts? We have an all-encompassing theoretical framework that disposes of everything with a condescending sneer.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:52 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


We have an all-encompassing theoretical framework that disposes of everything with a condescending sneer.

Thank you for disposing of my all-encompassing theoretical framework with a condescending sneer.
posted by jefficator at 12:55 PM on September 23, 2009


FTA: "irritable mental gestures that seek to resemble ideas"

QFT
posted by idiopath at 12:55 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


We still don't understand how fringe conservatism went mainstream.

Really? I have a pretty good idea.
posted by nam3d at 12:56 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The difference between the leftie protesters of Bush's politics and the extreme right's gun-toting protests against Obama is that the lefties were correct, and the rightist freaks are crazy. Other than that, yeah, 'bout the same.
posted by jamstigator at 12:57 PM on September 23, 2009 [11 favorites]


conspiracy-theory-'lunacy' isn't only a right-wing phenomenon

Now, where's that FPP from 5 or so years ago about the Bush Administration building concentration camps in the midwest?
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:58 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


jefficator: Left-wingers who were pissed about the "(s)election" of George W. Bush held rallies constantly and chanted "Regime Change Begins at Home"--where's the media commentary on their lunacy?

I'm sorry, I fail to see in the slightest what is "lunacy" about that. I was one of these people; if you choose to so insult me, at least explain your insult.

This false equivalent we're constantly being fed disgusts me. "Our side might be vilifying Obama as a Socialist and Nazi, but your side protested against the fact that the Supreme Court ruled against an election recount, so you're crazy too!"

The fact is that we "left-wingers" were completely correct. The fact that the election recount was stopped at the last minute continues to be deeply suspicious and regrettable. The war was not over in a few months, on the cheap as the right-wing claimed - it's still going and has consumed trillions of dollars.

So tell us again why we are lunatics. I'm very curious to see your answer.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:11 PM on September 23, 2009 [21 favorites]


Consider that something that was once a fringe of the right wing is now the public voice of the right wing in this country. There is a left fringe, but it very rarely writes the scripts for the news programs, and is pretty close to nonexistent as a voting bloc. Birthers today are a direct lineage of the fluoride and bodily fluid obsessed right fringe of the '60s. But no politician had to step up and deny the fluoride conspiracy.

Seeing the social change of the '60s (a worldwide phenomenon), the response of the American right was to start up think tanks, with the explicit program of moving what we now know as the overton window. The theory behind the overton window (right or wrong) says that if you expose people to a larger number of fringe claims from one side of a debate, the range of reasonable opinions about that issue will move in that direction.

The idea that there is any strong presence of the left in American politics seems absurd to me. One of the parties may be to the left of the other, but the democratic party is in no way a leftist party. We haven't had a real, active political left in this country since the early 20th century.
posted by idiopath at 1:11 PM on September 23, 2009 [17 favorites]


I know some left-wing conspiracy nuts. What distinguishes them from the right-wing conspiracy nuts is that they are regarded as conspiracy nuts by the mainstream left, rather than as the leading theoretical lights of the movement. The left doesn't elect them, appoint them to leadership positions, or give them radio and TV shows. They are reduced to posting 9/11 conspiracy videos on YouTube.

And jefficator, all-encompassing theoretical frameworks based on lazy cynicism deserve nothing but a condescending sneer. I'm sorry I wasted time providing illustrative examples of your FAIL instead of just sneering.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2009 [16 favorites]


Certainly there are some malfunctioning cuckoo clocks residing in the heads of a few of my fellow liberals. But when we talk about extremism across the ideological spectrum, we'd do well to remember two things: First, it's not true that all opposition to the Bush administration was necessarily leftist; Bush had his share of militant rightist detractors (there were plenty of nativists of the Stormfront variety, for instance, who opposed Bush for not constructing a perpetually burning river of gas along the US/Mexico border). The other thing to remember is that a very substantial portion of the right-wing extremist dialogue is eliminationist in nature.

Comparing the extreme left in America to the extreme right is a sticky wicket at best, and claiming there's rhetorical parity between the two is a pretty tough argument to make.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:13 PM on September 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


The fact is that we "left-wingers" were completely correct.

This statement is fascinating to me. Absolutely fascinating. Do you genuinely believe that those whose position is diametrically opposed to you would not make exactly the same equal-but-opposite statement?

The mind boggles.
posted by jefficator at 1:15 PM on September 23, 2009


Only representatives whose districts are so ideologically skewed that loosing office is impossible rise to the top, and so the conversation is always controlled by the jackasses as the extreme ends of the spectrum. Constant back and forth. Idiots from the right and the left bating the poles of their base through inflammatory rhetoric. Absolutely insane.

Uh, that's over 90% of them. Congress is in charge of its own redistricting.
posted by Diablevert at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2009


The other thing to remember is that a very substantial portion of the right-wing extremist dialogue is eliminationist in nature.

More recently from Neiwert: Does hateful rhetoric really lead to violence? History gives us the clear answer: yes
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


jefficator writes: "Left-wingers who were pissed about the "(s)election" of George W. Bush held rallies constantly and chanted "Regime Change Begins at Home"--where's the media commentary on their lunacy"

Not sure what you mean by "lunacy," here. Surely the phrase "regime change begins at home" is true enough in any democratic state. So, I guess your other claim is that only a bona fide "lunatic" could regard the Supreme Court decision in Gore v. Bush as legally questionable, the vote recount in FL as improperly handled, or Florida voter registration laws as exclusionary. Is that really what you're saying?
posted by washburn at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you genuinely believe that those whose position is diametrically opposed to you would not make exactly the same equal-but-opposite statement?

If lupus_yonderboy is guilty of anything in the statement you refer to, it's failing to more explicitly state that left-wing Bush protesters and right-wing Obama protesters are not simply goateed/non-goateed mirror-universe versions of one another.* The mainstream left during the Bush administration did not match the makeup of the mainstream right today. We kept our crazies on the fringe where they belong, as opposed to giving them talk shows and donations.

Saying that "we left-wingers were completely correct," I assume, refers to the fact that Al Gore demonstrably won the 2000 popular vote count that Republicans made blatant attempts to disrupt the democratic process. Or the fact that we now know for certain that the Bush administration deceived the American people during a vulnerable time so they could go to war. These are demonstrably correct in hindsight.

Whereas the right's claims -- Obama is a secret foreigner, the government is setting up death panels, we're going to offer free health care to undocumented immigrants -- are demonstrably incorrect.

So, yeah, the far right might believe they're right just as strongly as the mainstream left does, but it doesn't mean they can prove it in any way, no matter how many "long form birth certificates" they keep demanding to see.

*I got what you meant, l_u, but then I'm not the one picking nits.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:35 PM on September 23, 2009 [18 favorites]


In fairness, the left had a bunch of other insane consipracies concerning Bush, such as their assertion that there were questions about whether he completed his term of service in the <Texas Air National Guard, fears that he had manufactured the evidence of Iraq's weapons of Mass Destruction program, concerns that Valerie Plame was outed under his orders, fears that he was amassing power into some sort of secretive imperial executive branch, complaints that he somehow knew that Al Quaeda had planned to strike at the US before 9/11 and had done nothing about it. There was also an aburd story circulating that Vice President Cheney had shot one of his own friends in the face.

As it turned out, there was no merit to any of this, and they were the exact equivalent of claiming that Obama killed his own grandmother to keep her from revealing the fact that he was born in Kenya.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:36 PM on September 23, 2009 [32 favorites]


This false equivalent we're constantly being fed disgusts me. "Our side might be vilifying Obama as a Socialist and Nazi, but your side protested against the fact that the Supreme Court ruled against an election recount, so you're crazy too!"

One man's false equivalence is another's strawman.

I don't think anyone would say boo to a protest rally expressing legitimate outrage at the politicization of the Supreme Court, the Iraq war and torture memos. At the same time, I don't think anyone would say boo to a protest rally expressing legitimate outrage to mind-boggling deficit spending with no end in sight. Bush lied? Bring it. Teabags? Getcher hot water right here.

But it's when the Anti-Christ and Nazi symbols start showing up, on both sides of the "debate", right-thinking people want to push back from the table and say, "No, thanks. I'm headed for Denmark. I'm full up on my lifetime ration of bullshit."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:37 PM on September 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


Hey, I've got an idea for a new term for the extreme right: Beckies! As in Glenn Beck-ies. It sounds totally feminine which I'm sure they'd really hate. And nobody on this planet is more enamored of conspiracy theories than Beck. I'd probably cry a lot too if I thought the world was out to get me.
posted by jamstigator at 1:37 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


This statement is fascinating to me. Absolutely fascinating. Do you genuinely believe that those whose position is diametrically opposed to you would not make exactly the same equal-but-opposite statement?

"Fascinating", eh? Please don't be condescending.

Let's take the Iraq war as a prime example - since that's what most of my demonstrating was about, anyway.

The other side (yours?) claimed that the war would take a few months and $50 billion dollars, that US soldiers would be greeted as liberators, and that Iraq posed a danger to the world because it was full of weapons of mass destruction.

Our side claimed it would take years and consume hundreds of billions of dollars, that there were no weapons, just as the UN weapons inspectors said. We were told we were lunatics and traitors

We were completely right. The war took many years and at least a trillion dollars and is still not over. No weapons of mass destruction were found. Hundreds of thousands of people died, thousands of Americans, more than 9/11.

This isn't some "opinion" - this is objective fact. We made claims, the other side made claims - our claims were proved right, theirs proved wrong.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:40 PM on September 23, 2009 [20 favorites]


jefficator, I shouldn't let you divert here.

Why, exactly were anti-Bush demonstrators such as myself "lunatics"?

Please tell me, I really want to know.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:41 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


We kept our crazies on the fringe where they belong.

hifiparasol, I appreciate your point. I feel legitimately corrected in my understanding and have no problem with that assessment.

It does seem to be the case that--despite an even distribution of whackjobs on the fringes--that right-wing arguments do get more mainstream airtime. I concede.

I do insist on that even distribution of crazies, even if my ad-hoc example was not generous. 9/11 truthers would have been a much better example, I confess. That being said, is it possible that right-wing crazies are more monolithic, and this is why the "business" of news capitalizes more on their market share?
posted by jefficator at 1:43 PM on September 23, 2009


And nobody on this planet is more enamored of conspiracy theories than Beck.

Yeah, Beck is like what would happen if they put Joe McCarthy in charge of the X-Files. While watching him draw on his blackboard the other night, my girlfriend said, "I wanna see a National Treasure movie with this guy as the star."
posted by hifiparasol at 1:46 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


The left fringe is pretty darn homogeneous too. Every problem is caused by the private ownership of the means of production etc. etc. The difference is that the left fringe gets laughed off the public stage, and the right fringe gets their own TV shows.
posted by idiopath at 1:49 PM on September 23, 2009


I do insist on that even distribution of crazies, even if my ad-hoc example was not generous. 9/11 truthers would have been a much better example, I confess.

It might just be me, but I never found the "9/11 was an inside job" crowd to be easily categorized as left or right. If anything, I always associated them with the Paulites, which would probably put them on the right, but then, I always suspected many of Ron Paul's acolytes had politics that were somewhat different from the man himself, try as they might to deny it.

is it possible that right-wing crazies are more monolithic, and this is why the "business" of news capitalizes more on their market share?

I've always assumed that the right receives more media coverage because it is, at heart, pro-corporate.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:56 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love the sliding goalposts of "lunacy".

I don't remember any lefties showing up with guns as part of their protests. Or seriously claiming the president's religion was a lie designed to lead us to... doom? I guess? Or actual elected officials vocalizing that the union had frayed to the point of suggesting secession.

I mean, it's a lot easier to come to terms with the idea that your president serves the aliens/illuminati rather than just look at the fact that he was busy playing golf while thousands were being washed away in a national disaster of epic proportions.

Lunacy, indeed.
posted by yeloson at 1:58 PM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Nancy Pelosi? [...] Do these people speak for anyone at all?

*meekly raises hand*
posted by kableh at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


9/11 truthers would have been a much better example, I confess.

Trutherism is bipartisan stupidity. The left wing truthers think Bush knew, the right wing truthers think the CIA knew.
posted by stavrogin at 2:00 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lunacy is a no boundary condition. Chase your right wing delusions hard enough and you'll eventually bang into left wingers chasing theirs with equal passion ... somewhere on the dark side of the moon.
posted by philip-random at 2:04 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


This statement is fascinating to me. Absolutely fascinating. Do you genuinely believe that those whose position is diametrically opposed to you would not make exactly the same equal-but-opposite statement?

This kind of BS makes me want to scream.

Its a little bit like:

"GOP leaders today announced that 2+2=9. Democrats were quick to disagree. Your weekend forecast up next."

-
posted by General Tonic at 2:24 PM on September 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


I know some left-wing conspiracy nuts. What distinguishes them from the right-wing conspiracy nuts is that they are regarded as conspiracy nuts by the mainstream left, rather than as the leading theoretical lights of the movement. The left doesn't elect them, appoint them to leadership positions, or give them radio and TV shows. They are reduced to posting 9/11 conspiracy videos on YouTube.

Jimmy Havok nails it. I wasn't trying to validate any sort of false equivalency upthread; rather, I was pointing out to jefficator that the article did mention the existence—historically—of fringe left-wing conspiracy theorists. He insinuated that it did not.
posted by defenestration at 2:26 PM on September 23, 2009


This isn't some "opinion" - this is objective fact. We made claims, the other side made claims - our claims were proved right, theirs proved wrong.

Not to defend the right but (as I quote from the Big Bang Theory episode the other night...)
Sheldon: 'Evolution isn't an opinion, it's a fact.'
Sheldon's Mom: 'Thats your opinion'

They're quick to claim that your fact is an opinion and their opinion is a fact.
posted by SirOmega at 2:33 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Um, people wouldn't have been chanting "Regime Change Begins at Home" after the election of George Bush, they would have been chanting it after his weird back-and-forth over what "regime change" meant that he did when he was pretending that he hadn't already decided to invade Iraq.
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on September 23, 2009


This statement is fascinating to me. Absolutely fascinating. Do you genuinely believe that those whose position is diametrically opposed to you would not make exactly the same equal-but-opposite statement?

I'm sure they would. And they'd be wrong.
posted by brundlefly at 2:49 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, I've got an idea for a new term for the extreme right: Beckies! As in Glenn Beck-ies. It sounds totally feminine which I'm sure they'd really hate.

It makes me think of the Valley girls talking at the beginning of "Baby Got Back"
posted by brundlefly at 2:52 PM on September 23, 2009


Related? breaking news; Census worker found hanged with "Fed" scrawled on chest.
posted by emjaybee at 2:57 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're quick to claim that your fact is an opinion and their opinion is a fact.

That is not a refutation of the fact, merely a restatement of the fact that they claim to believe something that is factually wrong.

If I make a statement like, "The initial predictions that the Iraq war would take $50 billion and be over in a few months were completely wrong," this is an objectively true fact (existential and conspiracy theory quibbles aside) which I could prove beyond reasonable doubt.

Either words and logical arguments are to have meaning and require some factual or logical grounding, or they are simply meaningless and we can make up things to say as we please.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


First one to be considered a dick by polite society is right!
posted by Artw at 3:04 PM on September 23, 2009


Congress is in charge of its own redistricting.

State legislatures are in charge of redistricting the US House. In a few states, the legislature has passed this authority onto another agency. In states or parts of states subject to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, district plans must be approved by the federal Department of Justice or the DC District Court before they can take effect.

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:36 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


We still don't understand how fringe conservatism went mainstream.

I've got a pretty good idea.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:50 PM on September 23, 2009


Related? breaking news; Census worker found hanged with "Fed" scrawled on chest.

More here: Tragic Details About Census Worker Found Hanged
posted by homunculus at 4:09 PM on September 23, 2009


Wow. That's pretty freaky.
posted by Artw at 4:11 PM on September 23, 2009


whenever the topic of conspiracy comes up i like to offer the timeless bit of wisdom that CONSPIRACY and OPPORTUNISM are two different things.

it's quite easy to make the mistake of perceiving the past as the result of a conscious plot rather than a result of the immediacy with which political and corporate forces respond to events in a way that maximizes benefits and profits to those who have strategized to act decisively in times of crisis to further their own agendas.

any agenda has a nasty opportunist wing.

i was tickled when "shock doctrine" was published so i could finally direct people to a whole book on the subject.

and yeah i grew up in the district of conservative hero robert h. michel (R) who represented peoria voters consecutively from January 3, 1957 – January 3, 1995 when he retired. congressional seniority should not define debate. please.
posted by Hammond Rye at 4:14 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think it can be fairly argued that tactics, as much as topics, make both friends and enemies, and shape both support and opposition. In the future, I think Obama's insistence to make health insurance reform a single, large impact program will be viewed as less than stellar politics, simply because there was no inherent reason that making a subject as complex as health insurance reform into a single, all encompassing program, was either necessary, or politically prudent.

An alternative strategy, of crafting a nuanced, issue-by-issue political strategy, addressing, program by program, all of the various classes of Americans affected by Federal health insurance/health care policy, under the aegis of a fully empowered Department of Health and Human Services charged with gathering the facts and presenting the alternatives, could have reaped real benefits from the low hanging fruit of politically popular programs like SCHIP, Medicaid benefits delivery (.pdf link), and Medicare drug reform, without incurring the high risks of politically sensitive issues like single payer insurance alternatives. Instead, the Obama administration has deliberately chosen to have the "big fight," in Clintonesque fashion, hoping to wrap its vision of health insurance reform into a single "big tent" Federal program.

As an American, I think you can never wish a President outright failure, since that inevitably means some setback for the country as a whole. Accordingly, I do wish, at the top level of policy discussion, that Obama succeeds in generating a consensus for health insurance reform, and possibly even health care reform, that is meaningful, and empowering for the majority of American citizens. To date, the specifics of various proposals advanced by Congress towards this end, simply don't add up, numerically, or in policy terms, to what Obama seemingly wants to provide. $900 billion, over 10 years, will not begin to bring all Americans even basic healthcare, period, and whether the country can afford bigger programs, to the tune of 2x or 3x that cost in the same time frame, is hardly being discussed.

Worse, health care alternatives, and health insurance alternatives have become completely conflated in the current political debate, and the current Administration has failed miserably in keeping those discussions separate. Until the discussions of how health insurance billing and payment will work are conducted in appropriate, probably separate channels, to that of how health care will be delivered, I don't think productive political discussion is possible on these vastly different issues. And that is one big political policy failure of the "big single program" strategy of the current Administration.

The worst outcome of the current debate/struggle, will be that, if in the attempt to create the "perfect," aka a comprehensive, single program Federal approach to health insurance/health care for the whole U.S. economy, the many smaller "goods," in the form of targeted, specific, class by class, issue by issue health insurance and health care delivery reforms, are lost. Because that is the real tragedy of the Clinton years. Not only did Clinton fail to pass effective, comprehensive health insurance/health care reform, he so poisoned the waters for incremental, smaller health insurance/health care programs, that clearly non-political programs such as SCHIPS have had a checkered history of Congressional support, and an ongoing fight, to remain funded.

For all Americans, conservative, liberal, and centerist, it will have been a huge waste, if at the end of such a large and polarizing national discussion, we don't emerge with something tangible, even if that be a strategy for future consideration of these topics in a less politically charged environment. Maybe, we've really done this, as a nation, as badly as it appears we have, and the smart thing to do, now, is to put the issue off a few years, until political tempers have cooled, and natural consensus has formed around smaller parts of the issues under discussion. I hope it is still within the communal character of the larger American body politic to acknowledge this kind of hot headnesses, and to set a better discussion, and perhaps, in the meantime, some smaller discussions, for future times. We failed to do so with slavery, and did better with universal sufferance; perhaps there is some hope we can, eventually, have the nuanced and detailed discussion these topics demand, in greater than 15 second sound bites, and Presidential appearances sitting next to national network comedians.

If we must have it, as an all or nothing discussion, doing this debate with some mutual respect, in, say, 2013 is beginning to seem a better way, to this American, than continuing to hammer one another to pieces in 2009, with the risk that whatever we do now will just be the damaged political offspring of this too charged and, frequently, too over simplified national debate.
posted by paulsc at 4:19 PM on September 23, 2009


Census worker found hanged with "Fed" scrawled on chest.

I wouldn't want to get too far out in front of a story like that. let's see what the police say.
posted by empath at 4:57 PM on September 23, 2009


breaking news; Census worker found hanged with "Fed" scrawled on chest.

Yeah, that's not a good sign.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:13 PM on September 23, 2009


"Anyone (who) would vociferously opposes what he perceives as government incursion into what he perceives as his rights is usually considered a dick by polite society."

Which is weird, because the correct word is 'asshole'. Polite people! Forever getting it nearly right!
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 5:58 PM on September 23, 2009


Good Fresh Air interview today with David Weigel on the Remaking of the American Right.
posted by shothotbot at 6:04 PM on September 23, 2009


"I imagine that most of us would have found the original American Patriots exceedingly disagreeable people to be around."

Dude. Franklin.

"William E. Sparkman Jr. was a 51-year-old single father who once battled Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma while he pursued his teaching degree, according to a March 2008 article profiling the London, Kentucky man. Sparkman worked two jobs while he earned his degree and was treated for cancer."

Aaand he's got a kid. Yeah. Single dad.

"I wouldn't want to get too far out in front of a story like that"

Yeah, that's good level headed thinking. But the FBI is on it, and there seems to be a lot of confirmation of the "fed" thing. Don't know that anyone who was killing themselves would write on themselves. Looks like he had a pretty hard charging attitude too.

“I’d been knocked down, but I refused to be knocked out,” he said. “Those brick walls will appear from time to time in your career. Do not let them stop you. There are no failures, just teaching moments.

Always seems like it's some guy like this that gets it. Oh, I've read stuff about Judo gold medalists being attacked by dufus miscreants, but the real vile hate... perhaps that the nature of the cowardice in the equation. Always a group. Always pick on some individual probably never even picked up a weapon, last fight he was in was 5th grade. Not a hellbringer but some decent guy grateful for the blessings of his neighbors and his life.
Ah, maybe not. Maybe it just seems like it.

Either way, I'm off to kick the hell out of some folks and then head to the range. Not in a real charitable 'teaching' sort of mood.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:04 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


breaking news; Census worker found hanged with "Fed" scrawled on chest.

Rachel Maddow just reported on this; sounds like the local Census office is telling their workers not to go door-to-door, which may be an indication that law enforcement fears the killing may be exactly what it looks like.
posted by hifiparasol at 6:08 PM on September 23, 2009


Yeah, it just worries me when a story like that fits too neatly into someone's agenda (see the crazy lady that claimed she had a 'B' carved into her face).
posted by empath at 6:47 PM on September 23, 2009


Even though Jesus preached not to kill people, ever, I feel like the odds are in my favor when I predict that if they catch the person or people that strung up that poor census guy, they will identify themselves as freedom-loving Christians.
posted by jamstigator at 6:47 PM on September 23, 2009


Greenwald has an interesting piece on the Beck madness where he argues that the left-right paradigm is not always a helpful one.

http://mobile.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/09/22/beck/index.html

US politics is so insanely tribal it's hard to see how you look to the other side. Also you never get to hold your side to any sensible standards because you fear the enemy tribe so deeply. Look what the conservatives got when they elected Bush - nation building wars, Medicaid expansion, only trivial movement on their big social issues. Look what lefties get from Democratic presidents - doma, social security reform, continued wars. Loyal followers get shafted by their own leaders precisely because they can be taken for granted.
posted by Fiery Jack at 6:51 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


see the crazy lady that claimed she had a 'B' carved into her face

What? It sort of sounds like you're implying this guy may have done a similar thing, which is, um, unlikely. Or that someone with a left-wing agenda did it, planning to blame it on right-wing extremists. Which sounds like a Law & Order episode.

I may be misreading you. I hope I am.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:16 PM on September 23, 2009


The Republicans just hate being the minority don't they!?
posted by PhotoFilter at 9:29 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or somebody leaked a story to the news that wasn't accurate.
posted by empath at 10:21 PM on September 23, 2009


The Republicans just hate being the minority don't they

That's a big part of it. They feel like their ideology - the ideology of Reagan, that great American hero - was kicked to the curb in the 2008 election by an ungrateful country.

Frankly, I think Hofstadter is as right now as he was then. The question - which the Slate esay unsuccessfully tries to answer - is why. Fear, paranoia, economic dislocation - whatever it is, the bottom line is that ammunition is selling out, and armed right-wingers are showing up outside presidential events.

And there is a false equivalency between right and left-wing crazies here. Imagine - just imagine - if liberals had started showing up outside Bush speeches armed. But now it's OK and we say - well, there are left-wing crazies too. Stop apologizing for this sh*t; stop trying to explain it in sympathetic fashion.
posted by kgasmart at 12:00 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


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