Monday, November 12, 2012

Fear ............................................................................................... And Loathing

At some point, if it's going to have meaningful influence in America's political process, the Republican party will need to return to conservatism; because at this point, it's just the party of fear and loathing. I think of two readers of this blog whose comments we'd see from time to time before I decided to end commenting. They are the exact people on whom today's Republicans have counted, and to whose distorted views of the world they have appealed. I'd argue they represent pretty accurately the typical members of todays perverted, pigheaded, paranoid, propagandized, played, perturbed, pissed, patronized, and passively polluted population of a previously perfectly palatable political party.

The first is a nice lady, I'm sure, devout and sincere. And, because of the constant barrage of disinformation she's absorbed undiluted and unquestioned, she's scared shitless. Her comments were full of fear: she couldn't stop talking about the "New Black Panthers," a group of, like, four guys, who stood silently one time at one polling place, four years ago, doing nothing. But to Fox "news" and the rest of the RWS™ they were proof of some horribleness, the end or beginning of something or other, a threat to whatever it is they threatened, something bad and scary, no doubt about it. Then, this time around, there they were again, in the form of one guy, opening doors for little old ladies. To Fox, this was headline news, a shudder down the spine of the spineless. An excuse.

And she was scared of Obama's obvious plans to do something, something, something really really bad, with Putin, to whom he'd been caught whispering when Mr Putin was disguised as Mr Medvedev. Whatever the plan was, it'd be unAmerican and awful. Nor did she like Obama's "energy policy," the specifics of which she never got around to enumerating. But whatever it was, she didn't like it. Because oil.

I know this lady (from online only) to be a good person. But she was the perfect target, evidently, because she was officially and sincerely scared, and didn't really know of what. Stuff that hasn't actually happened in the past four years, and won't in the next.

The other commenter, who used to be a friend I knew in person, is a Republican because of his loathing. He loathes immigrants, he loathes black people. And Jews ("collaborators," he calls them.) Oh, he says he's not prejudiced; but he also believes Obama is gay, Muslim, and had a couple of other gays killed in Chicago; and he knows for damn sure the birth certificate was a fake. There's no more perfect target for the Foxorovian purse seine than this guy. He's a full-time hater, and when facts don't keep his hate burning hot enough, he makes new ones up. Rush Limbaugh's exact demographic, too.

Both of these people, by the way, claim to be good Christians. I don't know about the lady, but in many ways the man is (or used to be). Which just goes to show you... something.

What they're not, is conservatives. Conservatism wouldn't be sidetracked by fighting gays and birth control. It wouldn't be trying to make this country into a biblical theocracy; nor would it be marching alongside those who disbelieve science, who consider it the work of the devil. They wouldn't countenance attempts to suppress voting, or candidates who lie unashamedly. Conservatism, in fact, has no religious affiliation at all. It's a political philosophy. If some of them are evangelical, fine by me. But to the extent that they're blending the two, it's making their political prospects smaller and smaller. Same with their deliberate appeal only to whites. White Christians. White male Christians. And attacking -- attacking!! -- all the rest. How can that be a political strategy, in the world's greatest -- and most successful -- melting pot?

Conservatism, as I've always understood it, anyway, is about the smallest possible government able to do what needs doing; and it recognizes there are, in fact, needs. It's about free enterprise, within an environment of reasonable rules. It's about the sort of fiscal responsibility that allows both government and private enterprise to work. And it's about individual responsibility and accountability, of a sort that recognizes that it happens best within a functioning society. It's most decidedly not about absolute social Darwinism; nor is it about denying civil rights to gays, or taking charge of women's bodies. That sort of meddling in lives is the business of churches. Conservatism has nothing to say about it. In my view.

In a nation of immigrants, conservatism can recognize the value of allowing people to come here. Nor is it the sole province of conservatism to say that it ought to happen legally. If today's conservatives have a hard time accepting the rights of gays, it need not be a central philosophy. For a true conservative, it ought not matter, at worst; and it ought to be a thing they'd strongly support, at best. Less government interference. For liberal or conservative society, it's not a religious issue. Neither is contraception.

When conservatives question the limits and nature of the welfare state, it's a good thing. When they demand accounting for spending, it's a good thing, too. When they demand the lowest possible taxes consistent with the thriving of our society, who can disagree? These are conversations that we need to have. But neither conservatives nor liberals have a legitimate claim that their ideas are the only worthy ones, or that those who disagree hold their country less dearly.

If there are some liberals who are intransigent -- and there are -- it's not the central ethos of their party, the way it's become for today's Republicans. If there are extremes on both sides -- and there are -- it's only today's Republicans who've made their most extreme advocates their centerpiece, turned their party platform over to them. If there are a couple of liberal commentators who are rude -- and there might be -- it's only on the right that the likes of Rush and Sean and Glenn and Ann and Bill and Michael are considered heroes.

I don't want conservatism, true conservatism, to die away in this country. But as manifest today, it's a cancer. It's not their central ideas: it's what they've become. Science deniers, haters, theocrats, closed-minded, scorched-earthers, birthers, deliberate purveyors of lies, demonizers, conspiracy-mongers, misogynists, self-deluders, clingers to failed ideas, rejectors of reality.

None of that is conservatism. None of that is good.

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