I've been busy trying to write my next novel. But two items online spurred my ire. And so, as "Contrary Brin," I will fairmindedly aim my hot scalpel toward both extremes of the silly, nonsensical "left-right political axis."
Of course we know what the biggest difference is, between liberalism and conservatism, these days. Both movements have their complete, gibbering monsters. Alas, one of these large American movements is now utterly controlled by its fanatical/crazy wing, and I'll start by aiming a harsh screed in that direction. The other movement is luckier; it is still run, overall, by its pragmatic problem solvers -- but that doesn't mean there aren't psychopaths on that side, too! And so, in a day or two, I'll set an example in contrary evenhandedness and shoot down some really horrid lefty flakes.
A truly excellent appraisal is given by the meticulous political blogger Russ Daggatt, of how, just in the last week, even "moderates" in the Republican establishment seem to have toppled into bona fide, certifiable, non-compos craziness. None of their "issues" has anything to do with old-fashioned "left-right" any longer, or defending markets or any"conservatism" that Barry Goldwater would even distantly recognize.
Goldwater believed in discourse, in science, in negotiation, persuasion, accountability and adult behavior. Now? With regret, I am willing to call off attempts to restart civilized discourse with "decent conservatives." There don't appear to be any left. Just a pack of these grumpy (and loony) old white men who make clear, by their scorched-Earth approach to politics, that they would rather see America fail than Obama succeed.
Read Daggatt. Devastatingly, he shows this via a dozen cogent points you may not have seen before.
On the other hand, I am also very unhappy with the playbook of the Democrats, who seem to think that they can reason their way out of Culture War. That has been their neurotic delusion, for a very long time, and it has made them very bad at playing the game.
Look, when you have a relentless and implacable enemy alliance, the trick above all is to break up their coalition. You start by analyzing it for unlikely bedfellows. Blatantly, the right-wing culture war army has three important components:
1) The string-pullers are made up of conniving plutocrats, led by Rupert Murdoch. The only overall winners from the Bush era.
2) The priesthood of the movement -- the Rationalizers -- make up the so-called "libertarian" wing of Republicanism. This segment has dwindled in the face of monumental GOP betrayal of everything that Adam Smith ever stood for -- no-bid crony contracting, arterial deficit spending, meddlesome-jingoistic imperialism, fiscal and financial blundering, stark power-grabs and violations of civil liberties have all left this segment quivering.
Those who can count have noticed that EVERY Supply Side prediction failed and every metric of national health collapsed under GOP rule. Those who can be swayed by facts are already moving on. Leaving two subsets behind... those who are in utter denial, covering their ears and screaming "nah!!"... and those who are whores, in the pay of the New Lords. No, there's little to be gained by trying any longer to reason with this layer.
3) Meanwhile the biggest clade -- those we see screeching at Town Meetings and Tea parties -- are largely white, male, non-urban know-nothings. And they matter -- a lot. They are as important to the New Lords as poor southern whites were, to plantation aristocrats, during the US Civil War -- ground troops who have to be stoked into a rage, in order to serve the lords' higher interests. Why else would Fox News push relentlessly the thinly buried message -- to hate half your fellow citizens? Especially anyone with a post-graduate degree?
Do these ground troops ever actually GET anything, from their masters? Across the GOP-led era, not a single agenda item promised to the fundamentalists, or nativists, or gun folk, or any other Deep Red group, was ever delivered. No effective changes in abortion law, no reduction in illegal immigration, no improvement (in fact huge declines) in military readiness. Drops in job security and net income. Oh, it's futile to point any of this out. Murdoch knows the buttons. Democrats simply cede this swathe to him. They just assume that, in their tens of millions, Red Populists are inherently and irreversibly in the right-wing camp...
...or are they? Might there be a way to turn the boiling rage of group #3 toward group #1? Veering the massive Red Populist movement against the plantation aristocracy? Surely that is the possibility giving the New Lords night-time sweats.
Impossible? Think about it. Murdoch keeps tapping a central theme -- one that is deeply American -- Suspicion of Authority (SOA) -- pushed in every song, legend and Hollywood film. We differ mainly over WHICH group each of us perceives trying to become Big Brother. Some dread corporations and aristocrats. Others -- faceless government bureaucrats and snooty intellectuals. Each of us tends to see only threats from the direction we chose to fixate-on. (Hence, my decision, long ago, to practice omni-directional contrariness!)
So far, Faux News has done a great job stirring Red America to actinic fury at government (even though the GOP ran it for so long) and at urbanites and anyone who actually knows anything. He seems to have the Red Populists all sewn up.
But remember, it wasn't so long ago that working whites fumed against greedy Mr. Potter types! The key question is: What would it take to make that happen again?.
The answer is really simple. A heap of great big scandals, that go farther than what we've seen, so far. Scandals that rub the populists' noses in how thoroughly they have been used by a different powerful group of authoritarians.
This is why I am ticked off at Attorney General Holder, for going after (and alienating) the CIA at a time when Halliburton's betrayal of our troops would make a far juicier target. The sole-source "emergency clause" no-bid contracts that cost our republic billions while stabbing the military in the back. The tax cheats with their offshore secret accounts. The parasites and monopolists, destroying mom & pop business, across the country. The Wall Street vampires. How many more betrayals-up-top can Fox spin? The answer? Keep them busy and let's find out?
The crux: Why has there been almost NO talk of a Special Prosecutor for Recession-causing crimes? Is Goldman-Sachs really that influential in the Obama White House?
Getting back to the overview: do mark my words, Culture War is the greatest overall treason committed against the republic since Secession. Perpetrated in very much the same spirit, with similar goals and methods, while tapping an identical thread in the national psyche. It is a deliberate, manipulative scheme to demolish America's enlightenment methods of deliberated problem solving. It has nothing whatsoever to do with safeguarding markets, capitalism or freedom. Indeed, those things can only survive by defeating it.
This is the fight worth winning, but Democrats seem to be clueless about how to begin. SO it may be up to the rest of us. We should be focusing on how to separate the ground troops from their masters. Divert populism and its ire back toward the enemies who ruined every other renaissance in human history.
I am NOT talking about "class warfare" against the rich. (Though the Murdochians are complete fools, if they think their road will not eventually lead to tumbrels, rolling in the streets. Smart int he short-term, imbecilles in the long.)
No, most of those who are merely wealthy earned it, fair and square. So this is only glancingly about "the rich."
I am talking about those who want to resume the ancient art of feudalism.
Find a way to waken Red America to that danger, and we may yet win back our brothers and sisters in fellow citizenship and common cause. In the only Revolution that ever changed humanity for the better.