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The Real Historical Roots of the Tea Party?
August 5, 2010 1:12 PM   Subscribe

The Rise of the Pseudo-Conservative. Out of context, one could be forgiven for reading the following words as a critique of the political philosophy embraced by the modern-day Republican party and the various Tea Party groups organized around it: "It can most accurately be called pseudo-conservative. . . because its exponents, although they believe themselves to be conservatives and usually employ the rhetoric of conservatism, show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions and institutions. . . Their political reactions express rather a profound if largely unconscious hatred of our society and its ways — a hatred which one would hesitate to impute to them if one did not have suggestive clinical evidence."

In fact, these words were first published in 1955, though now may be a good time to consider the relevance of the author's conclusions in a modern-day context:

"[In] a populistic culture like ours, which seems to lack a responsible elite with political and moral autonomy, and in which it is possible to exploit the wildest currents of public sentiment for private purposes, it is at least conceivable that a highly organized, vocal, active and well-financed minority could create a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible."
posted by saulgoodman (91 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
The specific values of "conservatives" have changed over time. (Same with liberals.) The core of conservativism is wariness of rapid change. But that's so fuzzy that it can (and has) been interpreted in many different ways. One conservative might oppose a war because war is a big change; another might be in favor of the way, seeing it as a way to protect society from an enemy that wants to change it.
posted by grumblebee at 1:21 PM on August 5, 2010


By one of the brightest minds and best historians of his time. (Slight typo: his last name was spelled Hofstadter.)
posted by bearwife at 1:22 PM on August 5, 2010


I'd call it fascism.
posted by mek at 1:23 PM on August 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


Clinical evidence ≠ presumptive evidence, and the definition of "Conservative" and "Pseudo Conservative" has changed a great deal since the '50s. The current definition of "Conservative" refers more to social conservatism than economic. In fact, it's arguable that Conservatism has not embraced the principles of small government in any other way than supporting business since the Reagan era.

This essay pops up online at regular intervals. The last time I heard it discussed in Dem circles was after Bush was elected in early 2005, when folks were pointing to his record and declaring that he wasn't a Conservative. He was, and is. Just not in the way they were used to. He embraced social conservatism, neo-conservative policies and a peculiar economic philosophy that was neither liberal, conservative nor libertarian. Worth noting also that the neo-con is not and never has been either an economic conservative, nor an isolationist.
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


And I'd add we should be genuinely terrified that American politics have been in near-total paralysis for the better part of a century now.
posted by mek at 1:27 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


They sound un-American to me. Perhaps we could set up some committee in the House of Representatives to investigate them. Informally, we could have them hounded off of school boards and other public offices, and have them blacklisted from sensitive industries. The worst of the are members of the you-know-what party. We could haul them up before our committee, and ask them, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the you-know-what Party?" With enough pressure, we could get them to inform on their friends.
posted by Faze at 1:28 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Who is the "highly organized, vocal, active and well financed minority"? Self identified liberals only comprise 21% of all Americans with conservatives taking a 40% share and moderates a 35% share.
posted by otto42 at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2010



Who is the "highly organized, vocal, active and well financed minority"? Self identified liberals only comprise 21% of all Americans with conservatives taking a 40% share and moderates a 35% share.


And yet we elected the most liberalist of liberals ever in the Senate as the president. (their words not mine) The thing is the labels are largely meaningless because they mean different things to different people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:31 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy Moley The following quote really resonates in this day and age:
The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere. . . . 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,
However, I cannot quite understand who these subjects were? What social group did they belong to? I cannot read the whole article as this time as I'm having severe vision and related eye strain problems. Can someone highlight what it says beyond the fears of communism and focus on the weaker (domestic) problems distracting from the world wide theater. One could easily substitute "muslim" or "socialist" in the descriptions I did read. I'm gathering, though, that the author is saying that this nearly violent non policy/practical/programmatic grousing is prevalent in good economic times. He seems to say that the country tends to focus more on panaceas and solutions during depressions. Why are we seeing a good economic reaction during a bad economic time?
We have, at all times, two kinds of processes going on in inextricable connection with each other: interest politics, the clash of material aims and needs among various groups and blocs; and status politics, the clash of various projective rationalizations arising from status aspirations and other personal motives. In times of depression and economic discontent — and by and large in times of acute national emergency — politics is more clearly a matter of interests, although of course status considerations are still present. In times of prosperity and general well-being on the material plane, status considerations among the masses can become much more influential in our politics.
posted by Librarygeek at 1:33 PM on August 5, 2010


The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere. . . . 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.”

Boy, does that ever sound familiar.

The restlessness, suspicion and fear manifested in various phases of the pseudo-conservative revolt give evidence of the real suffering which the pseudo-conservative experiences in his capacity as a citizen. He believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed, and very likely destined for total ruin. He feels that his liberties have been arbitrarily and outrageously invaded. He is opposed to almost everything that has happened in American politics for the past twenty years.


Plus ça change.

Every dissenting movement brings its demand for Constitutional changes; and the pseudo-conservative revolt, far from being an exception to this principle, seems to specialize in Constitutional revision, at least as a speculative enterprise. The widespread latent hostility toward American institutions takes the form, among other things, of a flood of proposals to write drastic changes into the body of our fundamental law.

It's like getting into a time machine, getting out, and discovering that you haven't gone anywhen. How depressing.
posted by rtha at 1:34 PM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


jinx Librarygeek.
posted by rtha at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2010


Rank-and-file janizaries of pseudo-conservatism

That sounds so much better than "Hoopleheads."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:42 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The problem with what most Conservatives want for America is that the America envisioned by your rank and file conservative never existed. It is a myth that has been perpetuated by people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean "fuck-face" Hannity, and Mark Levin. In the past it was conservative Republicans who were anti-war and isolationist. Paleoconservatives are a dying breed and besides people like Ron Paul and the people at antiwar.com they are for all intents and purposes an extinct species. I don't think it's really productive to say that they hate America. That being said there are definitely elements that hate certain groups of Americans; such as Gay/trans-gender individuals, Muslims, African Americans, Latinos, and any illegal immigrants.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2010


So this is basically the origin of that stupid "that's not real conservatism" derail?
posted by Artw at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2010


Amazing article. My favorite bits:

Who is the pseudo-conservative, and what does he want? It is impossible to identify him by class... although its power probably rests largely upon its appeal to the less educated members of the middle classes. The ideology of pseudo-conservatism can be characterized but not defined, because the pseudo-conservative tends to be more than ordinarily incoherent about politics. The lady who, when General Eisenhower’s victory over Senator Taft had finally become official, stalked out of the Hilton Hotel declaiming, “This means eight more years of socialism” was probably a fairly good representative of the pseudo-conservative mentality...

The restlessness, suspicion and fear manifested in various phases of the pseudo-conservative revolt give evidence of the real suffering which the pseudo-conservative experiences in his capacity as a citizen. He believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed, and very likely destined for total ruin. He feels that his liberties have been arbitrarily and outrageously invaded. He is opposed to almost everything that has happened in American politics for the past twenty years. He hates the very thought of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He is disturbed deeply by American participation in the United Nations, which he can see only as a sinister organization. He sees his own country as being so weak that it is constantly about to fall victim to subversion; and yet he feels that it is so all-powerful that any failure it may experience in getting its way in the world — for instance, in the Orient — cannot possibly be due to its limitations but must be attributed to its having been betrayed.


I don't think I can name a single personality on Fox News who doesn't share all of these values.
posted by atypicalguy at 1:45 PM on August 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


However, I cannot quite understand who these subjects were? What social group did they belong to?

The answer is rather complex.

In the 1950's (and the '60's and '70's) there were two groups of conservatives vying for power of their reactionary movement. They were primarily Caucasians who feared the social changes inherent to various civil rights movements and believed a variety of political groups (communists, etc) were a threat to America's stability.

Eisenhower had been elected in 1952. William F. Buckley, a religious Catholic, headed one group. He spoke eloquently about "Judeo-Christian" bible-based values -- by which he primarily meant "Catholic" values and any Jewish or other Christian sect's values, traditions and beliefs that agreed with his vision of Catholic ones. The other group was the John Birchers -- whose descendants are the extremist, racist Tea Partiers. In the 50's the Birchers had control, and were the face of the Conservative movement.

It took Buckley's National Review, founded in 1955, which he famously described as "standing athwart history, yelling "STOP!"" to organize and inspire the movement and shun the racist, extremist Birchers. The NR gathered a large, supportive and active audience, and Buckley himself and the other NR writers were able to then influence the political landscape. But that didn't happen until the early to mid 60's.
posted by zarq at 1:46 PM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


There is no such thing as rational conservatism, because conservatism is based on fear, which is largely irrational.

This is why they cannot be swayed by rational or intellectual arguments, and in fact are quite dismissive of them. If you are not also afraid, then you must be one of the perpetrators. Liberal. Communist. Socialist. Decadent.
posted by Xoebe at 1:46 PM on August 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


There is no such thing as rational conservatism, because conservatism is based on fear, which is largely irrational.

Sorry, but I respectfully disagree. I have many friends that are conservative and they are not anti-intellectual at all. We definitely have some fundamental disagreements about the role of government and imperialism but their world view is grounded in reality. I think you are confusing conservative with evangelical who votes republican.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:51 PM on August 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sure, in as much as you can make an intellectual argument for invading countries for non-existent WMD and treating gays as second class citizens.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:53 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


mek: “I'd call it fascism.”

Well, Hofstadter thinks that you're wrong. And I agree with him.
posted by koeselitz at 1:53 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone in the know really thought we were invading for WMD's. Your rank and file evangelical or joe-bob sixpack did. My buddies knew exactly why we were invading. And they argued for it rationally. I may disagree with their moral position but that doesn't mean it isn't a rational position.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:56 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no such thing as rational conservatism, because conservatism is based on fear, which is largely irrational. This is why they cannot be swayed by rational or intellectual arguments, and in fact are quite dismissive of them.

Lord knows I am no conservative -- I'm basically somewhere on the Green/Socialist spectrum -- but this is a lazy, not to mention historically inaccurate, characterization of conservatism from a broader historical perspective. I mean, you wouldn't seriously characterize someone like Edmund Burke as irrational and anti-intellectual, right?
posted by scody at 1:58 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Let me clarify that the subsequent invasion was bungled by the Don Rumsfeld and his career generals but that is irrelevant to the rational reasons as to why someone might argue that it was the right thing to do. In some ways I agree with the position that the situation in Iraq was untenable but I don't think that recommitting the same crimes we committed 12 years earlier was really the way to go.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:59 PM on August 5, 2010


That being said there are definitely elements that hate certain groups of Americans; such as Gay/trans-gender individuals, Muslims, African Americans, Latinos, and any illegal immigrants.

Well, depending on your definition of "America" as a concept, with that whole equality, liberty, justice, democracy by the people, etc. stuff, it's not a far reach to say they hate America.

Asking for equality for only some people is akin to trying to punch your way into the pacifist club.
posted by yeloson at 2:00 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is no such thing as rational conservatism, because conservatism is based on fear, which is largely irrational.

This is why they cannot be swayed by rational or intellectual arguments, and in fact are quite dismissive of them. If you are not also afraid, then you must be one of the perpetrators. Liberal. Communist. Socialist. Decadent.


What you are describing is not conservatism.
posted by rocket88 at 2:00 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


they hate America.

They being not all conservatives, but certain elements in the conservative movement. Just like the liberal/progressive movement has its bat-shit insane elements.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:02 PM on August 5, 2010


At the time this was written, "conservative" meant people like Robert Taft. They wore top hats and spats. They're all dead and buried now. The rise of "pseudo-conservative" was pretty much Joe McCarthy + Brown v. Board of Education.

They jumped the shark in 1964 with Goldwater.

The touchstone book for the transition is The Radical Right, edited by Daniel Bell. Most of the authors ended up fathering what we now know as neo-conservatism. Back then, it was a variant of liberalism, but by the end of the Vietnam War, it was firmly in conservative resurgence that led to Reagan and the Bushes.

Hofstader's famous essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics looks at things just as the Goldwater campaign was getting revved up.

The essay linked to in the fpp is an earlier version but very much in the same vein.
posted by warbaby at 2:04 PM on August 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


The pseudo-conservative, Adorno writes, shows “conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness” in his conscious thinking and “violence, anarchic impulses, and chaotic destructiveness in the unconscious sphere.

You know, conservative is as conservative does. This above description is not "pseudo"-conservative in any sense of the word as it exists in the USA. It is conservatism itself.

It took Buckley's National Review, founded in 1955, which he famously described as "standing athwart history, yelling "STOP!"" to organize and inspire the movement and shun the racist, extremist Birchers.

It should be noted that Buckley and the National Review were loudly and proudly in favor of maintaining segregation in the South. Maybe they were less racist than the Birchers, but it was a matter of degree, even if one accepts that this was coming from a place of "conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness."

I suppose there's a case to be made that there is some kind of Burkean/Disraelian conservatism that exists somewhere at political policy dinner parties that represents "real conservatism," but George W Bush was the leader of the conservative movement. Whatever he did and espoused can more or less be defined as "conservatism."
posted by deanc at 2:05 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no such thing as rational conservatism, because conservatism is based on fear, which is largely irrational.

Anyone remember that scene in Blade 3 where Ryan Reynolds' character regains consciousness, sees the vampire Pomeranian and says "What the fuck?.." thinks about it for a second, realizes the absolute wrongness of it all and follows up with a more earnest "What the Fuck?!"

Then I saw this, and his reaction in that moment was exactly the thing that came to mind.
posted by quin at 2:07 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


There is no such thing as rational conservatism, because conservatism is based on fear, which is largely irrational.

This is why they cannot be swayed by rational or intellectual arguments, and in fact are quite dismissive of them.


*snort* Have you ever read anything by Bill Buckley? Seriously. He wrote over 50 nonfiction books and a series of political thriller novels. The man had a vocabulary and wit that was simply astounding. He wrote for the National Review for decades, including this famous essay.

He was a UN Delegate under Reagan and ran one of the longest running political shows (33 years!) in this country's history: Firing Line. Watch this video. Then watch part 2. Does he sound like an anti-intellectual to you?

Reactionary politics can be fear-based. But Buckley was the father of Conservatism, and he was absolutely NOT an anti-intellectual.
posted by zarq at 2:08 PM on August 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's kind of funny to read a thread about conservatives being "fascists" and why it's wrong and outrageous to call people on the left "socialists."

les extrèmes se touchent
posted by BobbyVan at 2:10 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's kind of funny to read a thread about conservatives being "fascists"

You haven't actually read the thread, have you.
posted by biddeford at 2:13 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well, depending on your definition of "America" as a concept, with that whole equality, liberty, justice, democracy by the people, etc. stuff, it's not a far reach to say they hate America.

E Pluribus Unum*

*Some exceptions may apply. Offer void where prohibited. Offer may not apply to states where gayz, welfare queens, the libruls and assorted other political undesirables tend to congregate.

It's kind of funny to read a thread about conservatives being "fascists"

Actually, if you RTFA, you'll note one of the central claims is that the titular "Pseudo-Conservatives" aren't fascists. They're just problematic in other serious ways (largely due to their being so susceptible to the manipulations of private interests).
posted by saulgoodman at 2:13 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no such thing as rational conservatism, because conservatism is based on fear, which is largely irrational.

I also disagree, but because conservatism is a fear of outsiders and distrust of people who they cannot identify with. They don't fear George Bush having lots of secret police and taking away fundamental rights because they trust him to fight the outsiders. Anyone who they see as non-conformist to their narrow set of ideals, of course, cannot be allowed to wield the same power because he cannot be trusted.

This is the only way you can coalesce the broad view of new conservatives: either you're with us, or you're against us.
posted by atypicalguy at 2:14 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


It should be noted that Buckley and the National Review were loudly and proudly in favor of maintaining segregation in the South. Maybe they were less racist than the Birchers, but it was a matter of degree, even if one accepts that this was coming from a place of "conventionality and authoritarian submissiveness."

Absolutely right. So were many Democrats at the time. In fact, quite a few of them voted against the 1964 civil rights act.

Both parties had members who did despicable things. That doesn't excuse Buckley's group, but I do think it's important to keep all of this in perspective when we're proclaiming Republicans of that era to have some sort of pathological "clinically suggested" hatred of our society.

I suppose there's a case to be made that there is some kind of Burkean/Disraelian conservatism that exists somewhere at political policy dinner parties that represents "real conservatism," but George W Bush was the leader of the conservative movement. Whatever he did and espoused can more or less be defined as "conservatism."

To repeat: My point is that Conservatism as it exists today is not what it was in the 50's.
posted by zarq at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2010



They jumped the shark in 1964 with Goldwater.


Let's acknowledge and have a moment of silence for the Rockefeller Republicans, moderate socially, conservative fiscally.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:18 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]



I don't think anyone in the know really thought we were invading for WMD's. Your rank and file evangelical or joe-bob sixpack did. My buddies knew exactly why we were invading. And they argued for it rationally. I may disagree with their moral position but that doesn't mean it isn't a rational position.


You're just rewriting history.


Reactionary politics can be fear-based. But Buckley was the father of Conservatism, and he was absolutely NOT an anti-intellectual.


He was not the father of the modern Glenn Beck version of American conservatism, and this all goes back to the uselessness of the labels as I mentioned before.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:22 PM on August 5, 2010


@saulgoodman: I'm not referring to TFA, just the instinct to toss out the word "fascism" by comment #3 and mindlessly reduce all conservative thought to "fear".

And by the way, from TFA, Hofstader is kind of a weasel on the whole subject of the American right and fascism:

"the idea that it is purely and simply fascist or totalitarian, as we have known these things in recent European history, is to my mind a false conception"

He sure is knocking down a weak strawman there...
posted by BobbyVan at 2:25 PM on August 5, 2010


You're just rewriting history.

So you can go back in time and read the minds of my conservative friends and tell me what they were thinking? Sorry but you are wrong. They never once argued from the WMD perspective. They argued from the moral and geopolitical perspective. Which I happen to disagree with.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:27 PM on August 5, 2010


Resistance and hostility, finding no moderate outlet in give-and-take, have to be suppressed, and reappear in the form of an internal destructive rage. An enormous hostility to authority, which cannot be admitted to consciousness, calls forth a massive overcompensation which is manifest in the form of extravagant submissiveness to strong power. Among those found by Adorno and his colleagues to have strong ethnic prejudices and pseudo-conservative tendencies, there is a high proportion of persons who have been unable to develop the capacity to criticize justly and in moderation the failings of parents and who are profoundly intolerant of the ambiguities of thought and feeling that one is so likely to find in real-life situations. For pseudo-conservatism is among other things a disorder in relation to authority, characterized by an inability to find other modes for human relationship than those of more or less complete domination or submission. The pseudo-conservative always imagines himself to be dominated and imposed upon because he feels that he is not dominant and knows of no other way of interpreting his position.

I have never read this article before, but I did find it to be an incredibly apt description of certain currents in American society at the moment. Those opposed to the building of a mosque near Ground Zero remind me of this point of view. Apparently they sincerely believe that the mosque will be a staging ground for future attacks against the US and cannot see the fundamental unAmericanness of not allowing a religious group to build a structure on land that has been legally purchased.

Thanks for the link.
posted by Slothrop at 2:28 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Apparently they sincerely believe that the mosque will be a staging ground for future attacks against the US"

Really?
posted by BobbyVan at 2:29 PM on August 5, 2010


The best history of the American conservative ascendancy is Godfrey Hodgson's The World Turned Right Side Up. It takes you from the Taft conservatives up to Reagan.

Now we are in the decadent and decaying phase of that movement and it's not a pretty sight.
posted by warbaby at 2:31 PM on August 5, 2010


Conservatism (in the old sense) is basically another word for meritocracy - people should rise to the level of their capabilities with little or no government "interference".

That may be a good way to run a business (and I won't even give you that), but it is a truly shitty way to run a family or a country. Some, if not most, people will never succeed in an environment like that, and most of the ones who do succeed simply aggregate and consolidate the power they receive. If government doesn't exist to level inequities, at least to the point that the country as a whole benefits, then what's the point?

Conservatives (not necessarily Republicans) have been on the wrong side of every meaningful social question that has faced this country since slavery. 'nuff said.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:34 PM on August 5, 2010 [13 favorites]



So you can go back in time and read the minds of my conservative friends and tell me what they were thinking? Sorry but you are wrong. They never once argued from the WMD perspective. They argued from the moral and geopolitical perspective. Which I happen to disagree with.


I'm saying that is irrelevant, there is no Iraq war without the WMD argument. Anyone who was in favor of it even while knowing it was only happening because of a lie holds responsibility for that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:37 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is a legitimate and intellectual political conservatism, which is largely not what we are referring to when we discuss "conservatives" in the present, which is much more accurately described as "pseudo-conservatism" in the essay linked; if you read the article we could skip the semantics.

This confusion exists for a reason, as it helps an irrational movement appear rational. It's clear that pseudo-conservatism and the current Tea Party have a lot in common, most importantly that they are not coherent political movements: under even minor scrutiny it is apparent they lack even a basic comprehension of their self-described principles. The movement is based in frustration, fear, and dissatisfaction stemming from a loss of control, and only wears the trappings of political philosophy in an attempt to gain power, by denying rights to Others and generally undermining democracy - completing a self-destructive cycle, whereby perceived loss of control guarantees further loss of control. Because these movements are powerless and irrational they are guaranteed to be manipulated by someone with power who is capable of acting rationally. Hence fascism.

Not all may agree with the label, but reading both Hofstadter and Eco's articles it is painfully obvious that they are discussing the same thing, be it fascism or not. As Slothrop notes, the dysfunctional sexual undercurrent that both writers observe is particularly striking in its concurrence.
posted by mek at 2:39 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


He was not the father of the modern Glenn Beck version of American conservatism,

Actually he was. If it weren't for Buckley bringing conservatism into the mainstream, all subsequent iterations of the movement, from neo-cons on down, would still be marginalized.

Just because Glenn Beck's version (which not every conservative devotedly follows, by the way, just as not all conservatives are staunch Limbaugh ditto-heads, or craven Ann "Fourth Horsewoman of the Apocalypse" Coulterites, or falafel-loving Bill O'Reilly fans) happens to be more extreme and stupid than Buckley's doesn't mean that it doesn't stem from basic concepts promoted and championed by him

The National Review gave rise to and eventually embraced the Neo-Con movement. Not all conservatives are neo-cons. Just as not all of them support Israel, think Sarah Palin is G-d's gift to America or believe President Obama is some sort of Muslim anti-christ.

and this all goes back to the uselessness of the labels as I mentioned before.

Labels matter. This country will never be rid of Conservatives. The best that their opponents can hope for is to attract the moderates back to their side. Labels help you identify the extremists from those who can be reasoned with.
posted by zarq at 2:45 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Slight typo: his last name was spelled Hofstadter.

It's pronounced "Hfuhruhurr."
posted by kirkaracha at 2:47 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that is irrelevant, there is no Iraq war without the WMD argument. Anyone who was in favor of it even while knowing it was only happening because of a lie holds responsibility for that.

I agree.

It's clear that pseudo-conservatism and the current Tea Party have a lot in common, most importantly that they are not coherent political movements: under even minor scrutiny it is apparent they lack even a basic comprehension of their self-described principles.

Again I agree, but the Tea Party does not represent all conservatives. It represents a certain reactionary element within the conservative movement. I have no doubt that some republican politician opportunist will attempt to manipulate and use the Tea Party for their own gain. cough...Sarah Palin...cough cough
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:48 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually he was. If it weren't for Buckley bringing conservatism into the mainstream, all subsequent iterations of the movement, from neo-cons on down, would still be marginalized.

Ok, so yeah, he is the father in the sense they exist because of his actions, but they were clearly pretty estranged.


Labels matter. This country will never be rid of Conservatives. The best that their opponents can hope for is to attract the moderates back to their side. Labels help you identify the extremists from those who can be reasoned with.


I kind of feel like they do the exact opposite. How does it help that everyone from the moderate Democrats to the extreme of the extreme Libertarians and Republicans use the same word to describe themselves?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:50 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Absolutely right. So were many Democrats at the time. In fact, quite a few of them voted against the 1964 civil rights act.

Again, this goes to my assertion that conservative="me" and liberal="us". At the base, it's really that simple. Intelligent people are capable of making judgements outside of their self-described boxes. LBJ, for example, was originally opposed to accelerating civil and voting rights but came to the conclusion that it had to be done because " it's the right thing to do, even though it will cost us (the Democrats) the South for a generation."

That was the "us" side.

That lead the "me" side to the Southern Strategy.

Which is the more "American" approach - Civil Rights or Southern Strategy? I thinks it's obvious.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:53 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


BobbyVan: “He sure is knocking down a weak strawman there...”

No he's not. You're reading as qualifications words that are intended for precision. He has no problem saying that people who call American conservatives "fascists" are wrong. He's just pointing out that they have little idea what they're saying.

And they're right. American (pseudo-)conservatism is nothing like fascism. It does not wear jackboots, it does not demand racial and cultural purity, it does not demand governmental control not only of industry but of art and culture as well. It may in fact be worse than fascism; it is certainly less intellectual, and it has at least as much vitriolic passion behind it. But it is nothing like fascism on the level of ideas.

Again, I don't say that in defense of the Tea Partiers. Like I say, they might be worse than fascists. Nor is Hofstadter defending pseudo-conservatives. We're merely defending precision in speech. Fascism was/is a very real thing, and we shouldn't be so loose when talking about what it means, since its history is essentially part of the lessons that modernity must learn.
posted by koeselitz at 3:00 PM on August 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


And he's right
posted by koeselitz at 3:01 PM on August 5, 2010


Thanks, furiousxgeorge, for the info on Buckley. I wasn't aware of the distance he put between himself and the neoconservatives.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:10 PM on August 5, 2010


American (pseudo-)conservatism is nothing like fascism. It does not wear jackboots, it does not demand racial and cultural purity, it does not demand governmental control not only of industry but of art and culture as well

Are you suggesting that these elements do not exist in the American right or that they are not validly called pseudo-conservatives? Because it is very clear to me that these demands are made explicitly by a significant minority which are associated with the Tea Party. Anti-immigrant, anti-intellectual and anti-cultural sentiment is undeniably on the rise.
posted by mek at 3:14 PM on August 5, 2010


The best description you will ever read about how these people rose to prominence is Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians, which you can read in its entirety free online. Altemeyer isn't really a popular writer so the prose is a little rough in places, but he is a researcher specializing in the behavioral roots of this very behavior, research which was started after WWII as people tried to figure out why the German people went along with their psycho leaders.

Don't miss the recent postscript in which Altemeyer specifically addresses the Tea Partiers, saying in essence "thanks guys for verifying my theories so thoroughly."

What Altemeyer found, through a combination of questionnaires and role-playing is that a significant minority of the population are authoritarian followers who are inclined to passively worship authority figures and cut them all kinds of slack -- for example, forgiving transgressions like adultery or fraud in their leaders that they would condemn in their peers. But if you set a group of these people to running the world, while they do run it into the ground they don't start nuclear wars. For that you need authoritarian leaders, a much smaller minority who have the dangerous combination of (1) being egotistical and power mad and (2) coming across to authoritarian followers as "one of them" and therefore worth following.

Do look through the book, you won't want to miss the results he got when he sent the Power Mad index questionnaire to a bunch of politicians.
posted by localroger at 3:19 PM on August 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


I'd say, let's drop the "pseudo-conservative" label, and just acknowledge that for any organized platform, party or position that can be represented in the world, there are varying degrees of commitment, intellectual honesty and disingenuous behavior present in the membership as a whole.

Honestly, the best folks (I think) are the ones who find themselves unable to align fully with a given platform, party or position (including religious ones) without ongoing struggle and internal conflict -- for those are the people who are unable to painlessly reconcile the cognitive dissonance inherent in most organized groupthink. I want to party with those folks.
posted by davejay at 3:20 PM on August 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


in short: if you call yourself something specific and allow that label to define you, you're doing it wrong
posted by davejay at 3:21 PM on August 5, 2010


hey localroger, I have a question about Altemeyer in AskMe right now!
Conservatives (not necessarily Republicans) have been on the wrong side of every meaningful social question that has faced this country since slavery. 'nuff said.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:34 PM on August 5
Repeated for truth; I'd appreciate hearing any counterexamples.
posted by jtron at 3:22 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, I'll go further. Recently there was a MetaTalk thread in which it was discussed that right-wing points of view are relatively rare on MetaFilter, but I'm inclined to disagree. I think there are likely scores of members on this site who share many views espoused by the right-wing platform, just as there are for views espoused by the left-wing platform, and I'm certain there are lots of people who support a hodge-podge of views from both sides.

What I think MetaFilter has a lack of is people who uncritically call themselves right-wingers, and participate in that particular bit of groupthink. We also have a lack of people who uncritically call themselves Christians. Whereas there's a lot of folks here who do that on the left-wing side, or with other religions (or with atheism), hanging out at MetaFilter. I truly believe that if uncritical people from all groups were omitted from the user base, what we'd have left is a whole hodge-podge of overlapping viewpoints that averaged each other out. There aren't tons of that kind of person here, they're just more obvious and vocal as non-critical group members tend to be.

also, thread derailing would be on the wane
posted by davejay at 3:28 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


As recently as 1976, the Republican Party platform supported the Equal Rights Amendment:
Women, who comprise a numerical majority of the population, have been denied a just portion of our nation's rights and opportunities. We reaffirm our pledge to work to eliminate discrimination in all areas for reasons of race, color, national origin, age, creed or sex and to enforce vigorously laws guaranteeing women equal rights.

The Republican Party reaffirms its support for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Our Party was the first national party to endorse the E.R.A. in 1940. We continue to believe its ratification is essential to insure equal rights for all Americans. In our 1972 Platform, the Republican Party recognized the great contributions women have made to society as homemakers and mothers, as contributors to the community through volunteer work, and as members of the labor force in careers. The Platform stated then, and repeats now, that the Republican Party "fully endorses the principle of equal rights, equal opportunities and equal responsibilities for women." The Equal Rights Amendment is the embodiment of this principle and therefore we support its swift ratification.
They included it in every platform from 1940 to 1980.

On preview: for jtron
posted by rtha at 3:28 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


counterexamples.

Gun control?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Conservatives (not necessarily Republicans) have been on the wrong side of every meaningful social question that has faced this country since slavery. 'nuff said.

Since you asked for counterexamples, jtron, wasn't a significant portion of northern Democrats against equal rights for women and minorities? And wasn't Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) the one who warned us so stringently against the military-industrial complex (which isn't directly a social issue, but certainly impacts social policy)?
posted by davejay at 3:32 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


jtron -- I left a comment in your other thread, and will reiterate part of it here; back before he wrote his popularization, when Altemeyer's work was primarily found in academic journals, his work was John Dean's primary source for Conservatives Without Conscience, and it was Dean who suggested that Altemeyer write a popular version of his findings.
posted by localroger at 3:35 PM on August 5, 2010


davejay, the Democrats and Republicans have pretty much traded places since the early 1960's. The Republicans decided to woo the very people who make up the Tea Party now with the "Southern Strategy" of appealing to white rural racism, while the Democrats shifted toward the kind of reform that had been the Republicans' calling card for years. It was in the intersection as the two passed one another that things like the Civil Rights Act were passed.

A similar shift is occurring today as the Republican party splits apart; a few popular leaders have decided to remind the AF's that they didn't get squat from the R's when they had both houses of congress and the White House, and that they should take control of the party -- which they're doing, but they're going to lose their business wing (those guys Eisenhower warned us about) support in the process. It's not clear yet whether that power will go into forming a new party or trying to buy the Dems, since the Dems have problems of their own with the base who turned out to elect Obama. Obama certainly seems inclined to court them so far.

Meanwhile, the newly Tea Party-ized Republicans can forget about winning national and most statewide elections until they tone down the crazy.
posted by localroger at 3:41 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hint: the counterexamples so far are being presented as Republicans vs. Democrats. That's not the same as conservatives vs. liberals.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:46 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Woo, thanks for the responses!

The political realignment of the US GOP (and thus the Dems as well) between Lincoln and Reagan is one of my favorite historical topics.

And the "military/industrial complex" speech is one of my favorite in its category... unfortunately I don't think its point of view is something the conservatives at the name, and definitely not the conservatives now, supported.

I'm sure there were plenty of Northern Democrats against suffrage of women and blacks. The Democrats were the party of slavery for quite a while. Wasn't until FDR, if I remember correctly, that the black vote swung solidly Dem (in response to civil rights and anti-poverty measures taken by his administration). Don't think it was until LBJ's civil rights advocacy and the GOP's adoption of the Southern Strategy that things aligned to something resembling the coalitions we have today - and as recently as Carter it wasn't a lock that the evangelical/fundamentalist vote was Republican all the way. So it's tough to look at Democrats and Republicans of the past and assume they have a similar political outlook to the Ds and Rs of today. I think things get a bit clearer, though, when you look at each era's conservative and liberal political forces.

AEA: Gun control's a toughie, huh? I don't want to derail this with that, but I do accept that there are strong arguments on both sides. As much as I fear my government, though, I think gun control would result in less dead kids, less urban fear, and less rural terror.
posted by jtron at 3:54 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Or what Benny Andajetz said.
posted by jtron at 3:54 PM on August 5, 2010


Here's a little bit about Dave Neiwert's The Eliminationists. Dave particularly addresses the fascist question in the far right.

When he was working on this stuff, Dave and I had a conversation about the tendencies of the far right that people have been labeling fascist. Remembering Hofstader, I suggested "pseudo-fascism" as analogous to "pseudo-conservative." It didn't catch on and I'm glad.

When you dig down into it, fascism is defined in several very different ways. One big problem is Japanese fascism - nobody in the West (apart from some specialists like Chalmers Johnson) gets that at all. I mean, if you were to say "European facists," most Americans would have a fairly coherent idea of what you're talking about. But say "Japanese fascists," like describing Moon's backers like Sasakawa and Kodama, it's just blank looks.

Fascism seems to be an aberration in the transition towards democratic republics. All the historical examples started to make the transition and things went very wrong. Similarly, most Communist regimes had a lost war and collapse of central authority at their outset.

So maybe it's a developmental thing. Not that today's Tea Party wingwangs are going to develop, but maybe American society will.
posted by warbaby at 3:58 PM on August 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I will read that link, thanks, warbaby. I love Orcinus but just couldn't get into Eliminationists, which saddened me - I'd been looking forward to it for a while.

(And where's a good place to start to learn more about these Japanese fascist Moon-backers? Are they part of the traditional Japanese national right wing, or a new thing?)
posted by jtron at 4:05 PM on August 5, 2010


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

Back in the day we used to call this sort of person a misguided idiot. I'm not sure what's changed in the past thirty years except, perhaps, our tolerance for them.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:30 PM on August 5, 2010


There's not much in English, but these are the faction called militarists or imperialists. It was a complex situation because the Japanese Imperial Army was pretty much autonomous. Then there were the Imperialists closely related to the emperor. And then there were the Yakuza/ronin faction. Following the conquest of Manchuria, they were actually referred to as "China Ronin." Basically, they were political gangsters. And many of them ended up on top after the war as "anti-communists."

Blood Brothers, by Bertil Lintner, has one very good chapter on the postwar Japanese right and its connection to the Yakuza through Sasakawa and Kodama. Here's an article by him on Sasakawa.

Inside The League by the Andersons has a lot about the rise of Moon and the international fascists with the International Anticommunist League.

Yakuza by Kaplan and Dubro also gives good background on the Japanese connection to Moon.

There were a few books that came out around WWII, but they are very hard to find. The more recent books are much more accessible.

Though Moon is Korean, he grew up under Japanese occupation and was educated in Japan. In a nutshell, the religious nuttery is real, but it is also a cover for money laundering and economic expansion. So it's more useful to think of the Moon organization as an intelligence group that provides services to international fascists, particularly those in Japan. This is probably best explained in Inside the League.

Basically, what we are talking about here is the Dark Ocean Society and the Black Dragon Society, both extremist groups that engaged in political violence and merged into the Japanese Imperial intelligence organizations.

It's complex and deserves a fpp all of its own. Back to our regular programming.
posted by warbaby at 4:46 PM on August 5, 2010 [14 favorites]


And where's a good place to start to learn more about these Japanese fascist Moon-backers? Are they part of the traditional Japanese national right wing, or a new thing?

Not sure, but maybe he's talking about the uyoku? It took me a while to catch on to what those vans were blasting out of their loudspeakers, but I gather it's nothing nice.
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:47 PM on August 5, 2010


The political realignment of the US GOP (and thus the Dems as well) between Lincoln and Reagan is one of my favorite historical topics.

Indeed. As a matter of practical politics and the upcoming election, I wonder if might we not see a return of Scoop Jackson Democrats? Or Reagan Democrats? For those who find the Tea Party pointless or pathetic and Obama less (or perhaps too much more) than they had hoped for.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:53 PM on August 5, 2010


Yup, ultra-nationalists is one way they are described.

And it's World Anti-communist League.
posted by warbaby at 4:56 PM on August 5, 2010


Well, Hofstadter thinks that you're wrong. And I agree with him.

That's an unfortunate and ironic conclusion, given that the rest of Hofstader's article so very forcefully and so very strongly makes a case for how many aspects of classic Fascism describe the Tea Party/pseudo-conservative movement as a whole. So many so, that this cannot be simple coincidence.

Hofstader opens by pointing to the populist appeal of the pseudo-conservative and related movements:
It is impossible to identify him by class, for the pseudo-conservative impulse can be found in practically all classes in society, although its power probably rests largely upon its appeal to the less educated members of the middle classes...

He believes himself to be living in a world in which he is spied upon, plotted against, betrayed, and very likely destined for total ruin.
As well as the movement's opposition to change and modernization in any form:
[The pseudo-conservative] is opposed to almost everything that has happened in American politics for the past twenty years.
In classical Fascist style, like the average Tea Bagger, the pseudo-conservative desires to live in constant, eternal struggle against a vaguely defined "enemy", even to make a living from that act of struggle:
I am aware, for instance, that wealthy reactionaries try to use pseudo-conservative organizers, spokesmen and groups to propagate their notions of public policy, and that some organizers of pseudo-conservative and “patriotic” groups often find in this work a means of making a living — thus turning a tendency toward paranoia into a vocational asset, probably one of the most perverse forms of occupational therapy known to man...

Nor will they explain why those who profit by the organized movements find such a ready following among a large number of people, and why the rank-and-file janizaries of pseudo-conservatism are so eager to hurl accusations, write letters to congressmen and editors, and expend so much emotional energy and crusading idealism upon causes that plainly bring them no material reward.
There are the instinctive appeals to violent nationalism, the separation of real American and not-real American in present-day politics through ugly, racist and bigoted rhetoric:
In this country a person’s status — that is, his relative place in the prestige hierarchy of his community — and his rudimentary sense of belonging to the community — that is, what we call his “Americanism” — have been intimately joined... Because we no longer have the relative ethnic homogeneity we had up to about eighty years ago, our sense of belonging has long had about it a high degree of uncertainty...

In their search for new lives and new nationality, these immigrants have suffered much, and they have been rebuffed and made to feel inferior by the “native stock,” commonly being excluded from the better occupations and even from what has bitterly called “first-class citizenship.”...

Of course there is no real reason to doubt the loyalty to America of the immigrants and their descendants, or their willingness to serve the country as fully as if their ancestors had lived here for three centuries. None the less, they have been thrown on the defensive by those who have in the past cast doubts upon the fullness of their Americanism.
The extension of that nationalist appeal is disdain for intellectualism — a populist disdain for an intellectual elite, which we can find embodied in the appeal of empty-headed, folksy figures like Sarah Palin:
Some of the old-family Americans have turned to find new objects for their resentment among liberals, left-wingers, intellectuals and the like — for in true pseudo-conservative fashion they relish weak victims...

Naturally it is resented, and the demand for conformity in public becomes at once an expression of such resentment and a means of displaying one’s own soundness. This habit has a tendency to spread from politics into intellectual and social spheres, where it can be made to challenge almost anyone whose pattern of life is different and who is imagined to enjoy a superior social position — notably, as one agitator put it, to the “parlors of the sophisticated, the intellectuals, the so-called academic minds.”...

There has been, among other things, the emergence of a wholly new struggle: the conflict between businessmen of certain types and the New Deal bureaucracy, which has spilled over into a resentment of intellectuals and experts.
Hofstader comes so close to recognizing these aspects of the pseudo-conservative-cum-Tea Party movement before denying them altogether:
Indeed, the idea that it is purely and simply fascist or totalitarian, as we have known these things in recent European history, is to my mind a false conception, based upon the failure to read American developments in terms of our peculiar American constellation of political realities.
It can't happen here, he asserts, because Americans simply cannot fall prey to Fascism — it remains an assertion without any defense but its own incredulity at the very notion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:30 PM on August 5, 2010 [7 favorites]



I was actually feeling better upon reading this article, thinking "all this bullshit going on these days isn't anything new -- we've survived it then and we can make it through again". And then I read the last sentence in the piece:

However, in a populistic culture like ours, which seems to lack a responsible elite with political and moral autonomy, and in which it is possible to exploit the wildest currents of public sentiment for private purposes, it is at least conceivable that a highly organized, vocal, active and well-financed minority could create a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.

Oh shit.
posted by buzzv at 5:39 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


[Regarding Buckley's opposition to civil rights] Absolutely right. So were many Democrats at the time. In fact, quite a few of them voted against the 1964 civil rights act.

Both parties had members who did despicable things.


Whoa whoa whoa! This is true enough of the parties prior to the 64 act, but the parties exist as they do today because of the Democratic party rejected opposition to civil rights and the Republican party adopted opposition to civil rights in response to the political upheaval of the 64 act. Buckley was one of the people instrumental to that shift. "The Democrats were racists too!" misses one of the most significant changes in American politics in the last '70 years, and Buckley's role in that shift.

In the '40s, the Republican party supported federal civil rights legislation, while the Democrats were so split over Truman's civil rights commission that then-Democrat Strom Thurmond ran for president on the Dixiecrat/States Rights Party ticket. Meanwhile, the Republican party began to fracture as party members grew dissatisfied with the Eastern Republican policies that would come to be associated with "Rockefeller Republicans."

And so in the 1964 presidential election, the Republican party made a dramatic shift, electing Goldwater over Rockafeller. Goldwater, of course, opposed civil rights for the reasons that recently got Rand Paul into the spotlight. Significantly, Buckley was one of the most prominent Goldwater Republicans, mobilizing support for the movement through the National Review and the Young Americans for Freedom.

Although Buckley would, at age 80, say he regretted his stance on civil rights, he is nevertheless responsible for the shape of the modern Republican party. And I'm not sure his regret is worth much, since he continued to support Republicans during the most egregious employment of the Southern Strategy in the '60s, '70s, and '80s.

The Democrats, meanwhile, elected LBJ, an ardent supporter of civil rights (even if he was a crooked sonofabitch otherwise). Democrats had seen decreasing support for candidates in federal elections in the South since Truman and the Dixiecrats, but the 64 act sealed their loss of the South for a generation, as LBJ predicted it would. Republican candidates picked off white Southern voters through racist appeals of the Southern Strategy. Segregationist Democrats became increasingly alienated within their own party, and many (including Strom Thurmond) defected to the Republicans. Party identification held on through Reagan, with "Reagan Democrats" endorsing and voting for Republican candidates and policies, but white voters opposed to the civil rights program steadily shifted to Republican identification, with statewide and local politics seeing major party realignments around 1994. Some, like Zell Miller, remained Democrats long afterward, but insisted that the party had "left them" and that contemporary Democrats were not real democrats.

So, the Radical Republican support for Reconstruction in the 19th century notwithstanding, there really isn't a contest between the modern Republican and Democratic parties on the matter of civil rights, especially with respect to Buckley's role in helping that anti-civil rights contingent of the Republican Party become the dominant force in the Party.
posted by Marty Marx at 5:40 PM on August 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


Marty Marx nails it.

There have been three great political realignments in American bipartisan politics:
1) The rise of the Republicans in the Civil War
2) FDR captures the presidency and the Democrats control the Congress (organized labor being a big factor)
3) Civil rights triggers a backlash that results in the South going Republican for Nixon and cemented by Reagan's election as large numbers switch parties to the Republicans.

This glosses over a lot of nuances, but it would take a couple of books to put all the relevant pieces on the board and move them around. But as an approximation, it does the job.

Now the Reagan realignment is starting to crumble with the Republicans opting for lashing a shrinking base in frenzies with the same sort of wedge issues that Nixon introduced. Only it's not working very well. Meanwhile, the Democrats, having lost their base with the destruction of organized labor by Reagan have opted for the DNC/Clinton strategy of triangulation and trying to split the independent vote with the Republicans. The moral, intellectual and policy bankruptcy of this me-too-ism has left us with an electorate that is balanced on a razor's edge.

What it's going to take is some thing that will create a new and durable majority. The Republicans can't do it with a creature like Palin (even more a puppet of an image campaign than any previous talking hairdo.) The Democrats can't do it because they've conceded the policy initiative to the Republicans for thirty years. Failed initiative on both sides resulting in a deadlock. It's the WWI of politics. Now what?
posted by warbaby at 6:17 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


warbaby: Now what?

Dude, I don't know if you noticed but our same population who gave the smart guy such a slim margin over the dumbass in 2000 that it was stealable just overwhelmingly elected a BLACK MAN to be President. I for one never thought I would live to see that. The fact that said black dude doesn't seem to be living up to some of our expectations doesn't matter as much as the fact that WE, THE PEOPLE including all the dumbasses who we'd rather not let vote but have to managed to vote him in.

Now if the President's party can get over the case of PTSD it's had since 1980 (CALLING DR. FRANKEN) we might see some progress. Hell, we've seen some progress. The HCR/HIR/whateveryouwanttocallit may not make anyone happy but it encodes into law the idea that health care is a thing the government should try to fix, just as Social Security did for old age care. Now that that hurdle is passed fixing the fix will be a lot easier than getting the fix passed in the first place. Such is the way the sausage grinder of government works.

And every poll indicates that people under 30 are more liberal than their elders, and people under 20 are more liberal than them. Were you saying something about a new and durable majority? If this place stays a democracy in any sense of the word that seals the future for at least 2 generations.
posted by localroger at 7:18 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gun control's a toughie, huh? I don't want to derail this with that, but I do accept that there are strong arguments on both sides. As much as I fear my government, though, I think gun control would result in less dead kids, less urban fear, and less rural terror.

Rural terror? But yeah this isn't the thread for this argument. I will say, though, that I don't think giving away a fundamental right given to us by the founding fathers should be done because of the kids.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:25 PM on August 5, 2010


If this place stays a democracy in any sense of the word

*crosses fingers
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:27 PM on August 5, 2010


On preview: for jtron

The reason that isn't a counter example is that the GOP wasn't run by Conservatives until far more recently. The GOP's platforms were fairly progressive. Nixon wanted (some kind of) universal healthcare, for example.

But what they put in their platforms are rarely how they govern.

(Oh, and just for the lulz, King Reagan of the Right, gave amnesty to illegal immigrants. I don't know what he campaigned on.)
posted by gjc at 7:51 PM on August 5, 2010


Déjà vu.
posted by cthuljew at 2:58 AM on August 6, 2010


localroger - I did notice the last presidential election and I didn't see any major change in regional voting patterns. I also noticed the 1964 presidential election and everything you said about now was true then. I don't see any evidence for Obama's election being a realignment. Similarly, demographic trends did not cause realignments in the past - e.g. the non-event of the so-called "youth vote" in the 1972 election which famously didn't happen.

I think as strong a case can be made for the backlash against Obama being stronger than the still-over-the-horizon demographic trends. My "now what?" means I don't see any clear trend for the future and I'm concerned that the backlash seen in the Teapartys is going to be strongly felt in the upcoming mid-term election. I certainly don't see anybody predicting the Dems riding HCR into a new and unassailable majority. The current tea-leaf readers all appear to be predicting small gains for the Republicans.

The problem with the "pendulum theory" and notions of inherent homeostasis in politics is that it's an illusion. Occasionally the swing will loop right over the top of the bar and then all the rules change. The collapse of weak democratic republics into fascism in the last century is one example. Political realignments (with persistent change in regional voting patterns) is another.

It does seem that the pseudo-conservative element in American politics that so concerned Hofstader in the 1950s is still working at making the US ungovernable. I don't think that there is a critical mass of crazy that makes them implode into a black hole. I distinctly remember people saying that was what was happening in 1964 and the exact opposite happened instead: Nixon and Wallace moved the south from the D's to the R's. And it looks like they are going to stay there for a while.
posted by warbaby at 6:45 AM on August 6, 2010


davejay : "What I think MetaFilter has a lack of is people who uncritically call themselves right-wingers, and participate in that particular bit of groupthink. We also have a lack of people who uncritically call themselves Christians. Whereas there's a lot of folks here who do that on the left-wing side, or with other religions (or with atheism), hanging out at MetaFilter. I truly believe that if uncritical people from all groups were omitted from the user base, what we'd have left is a whole hodge-podge of overlapping viewpoints that averaged each other out. There aren't tons of that kind of person here, they're just more obvious and vocal as non-critical group members tend to be."

I'd have to agree with you davejay, but it also seems that the self-critical ones on perhaps the less represented side of things (conservatives, Christians) get pigeonholed to the "uncritical" group by throwing the No True Scotsman arguement around. The unfortunate consequence to this is that many worthwhile thoughts are disregarded.
posted by drewski at 6:56 AM on August 6, 2010


Marty Marx, that was well said. Thank you. :)
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on August 6, 2010


warbaby: I don't think that there is a critical mass of crazy that makes them implode into a black hole.

And what the tea leaf readers are missing is that there is, and the Tea Party is well over that line. Sharron Angle? Rand Paul?

The situation is almost exactly analogous to the infamous 1991 Louisiana governor's race. Buddy Roemer, a moderate fairly successful incumbent Republican was everyone's favorite to win. His opponents were Edwin Edwards, whose popularity was tarnished by a series of corruption scandals, and out-and-out Nazi whackjob David Duke.

Leading up to the election there were basically two opinions to be found; one group was certain there would be an Edwards-Roemer runoff and Roemer would win, the other was certain there would be a Roemer-Duke runoff and Roemer would win. The day that it was clear all three men were in the race I predicted it for Edwards. Nobody believed me, but my reasoning was: You've got about 35% who would vote for Duke even if he is running against Jesus Christ. You've got about another 35% for Edwards. No matter how you slice it up that does not leave another 35% to vote for Roemer and put him in the runoff. My numbers were a little off but that's basically how it froze out; it was Edwards-Duke and everyone held their nose and voted for Edwards because Duke was so offensive.

You'll see a few tea party candidates in the House, where regional concentration of the crazy can make them electable. Enough to make for a Republican gain? I doubt it.

And that is what is happening over and over right now; the teabaggers have enough strength within the Republican party to prevail in primaries, installing absolutely noxious candidates who are unelectable in a statewide (much less national) election. Sharron Angle is on her way to doing what nobody thought was possible a few months ago and preserving Harry Reid's senate seat.

I'm not basing this on some theory of momentum, I'm basing it on the math. So far the tea partiers are crushing moderate Republicans, and not one of those candidates is looking good against a non-insane D opponent. I really don't see how the Republicans overcome that in the next cycle or two, and I'd be mystified at why the pundits can't see it except that I saw how badly they missed it in 1991.
posted by localroger at 8:48 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if David Duke can be broadened as an example, but I take your point. The Tea Partys are not going to catalyze a realignment and they are going to win some and lose some.

Sorry if my colorful language about black holes obscured my meaning. What I meant was they can't crazy themselves into nothingness, regardless of their immediate successes or failures.

These folks aren't going to go away. As evidence, I offer the fact that we are discussing a 1955 analysis of the same phenomenon that bedevils us now. Not just similar, exactly the same stuff. For example, Glen Beck is drawing heavily on Cleon Skousen, who though not a Bircher himself was very influential on the Birchers. And is now central to many Tea Party groups indoctrination programs. The one here has been holding regular meetings based on teaching Skousen's views as expressed in The 5,000 Year Leap.

I'd draw your attention the the 1994 mid-terms. This is when the R's took control of the House. Much of it was catalyzed by fringe elements (in the Northwest it was Moon's Wise Use thuggery and crazed backlash to the passage of the Brady Bill.) The Republican's Big Tent got bigger by dragging in a lot of crazies who had previously stood outside of the electoral process. Many of these are the Tea Partyers of today.

Prior to that election, I was interviewing Alan Gottlieb, a CNP member among other things. He told me that the CNP was quite aware of the fringe mobilization and they expected to capture a majority of seats in Congress. The pundits didn't believe that one either.

My point here is that these loons are going to be part of the political landscape for a long time and even while they are mostly self-destructive, they still have captured a lot of initiative.
posted by warbaby at 10:48 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, I may have spoken too soon about the loons even having the strength to prevail in R primaries; they just got blown out by more moderate candidates in Tennessee, which puts them in a better position against the Dems in the general. It may be that the tea party will do "better" in the west and midwest than in the south, where more mainline Republican interests are better entrenched.
posted by localroger at 11:13 AM on August 6, 2010


I'm Voting Tea Party
posted by homunculus at 12:29 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm Voting Tea Party

My only complaint is that I wish the OBAMA WAS BORN IN THE DARKEST DEPTHS OF MORDOR t-shirt would ended THAT'S WHY THE TEA PARTY'S GONNA RAMBLE ON
posted by scody at 2:48 PM on August 18, 2010


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