An article on Salon asks "Why Can't We Have Smarter Right Wingers?"
It's been my own stark plaint for a decade -- and not from any lefty reflex. Rather, as one who openly avows some libertarian and classic "conservative" views, sprinkled in a mostly-progressive goulash.
Shouldn't there be clear-headed voices, articulating the attractiveness of balanced budgets, national readiness, genuinely competitive free enterprise, and caution in international entanglements? Isn't it good to have someone in the room demanding: "Prove that something really is broken, before using the the blunt instrument of the state to fix it"?
I've long felt that the best minds of the right had useful things to contribute to a national conversation -- even if their overall habit of resistance to change proved wrongheaded, more often than right. At least, some of them had the beneficial knack of targeting and criticizing the worst liberal mistakes, and often forcing needful re-drafting.
That is, some did, way back in when decent republicans and democrats shared one aim -- to negotiate better solutions for the republic.
=Does The New Right Even Have an Agenda Anymore?=
Alas, today's Republican Establishment seems not only incapable but uninterested in negotiation or deliberation. It isn't just the dogmatism, or lockstep partisanship, or Koolaid fantasies spun -up by the Murdoch-Limbaugh hate machine. Heck, even though "culture war" is verifiably the worst direct treason against the United States of America since Fort Sumter, that isn't what boggles most.
It's the stupidity. The vast and nearly uniform dumbitudinousness of ignoring what has happened to conservatism, a transformation of nearly all of the salient traits of Barry Goldwater from:
* prudence to recklessness
* accountability to secrecy
* fiscal discretion to spendthrift profligacy
* consistency to hypocrisy
* civility to nastiness
* international restraint to recklessness
* efficiency to no-tomorrow wastrelness
* personal rectitude to flagrant licentiousness
* cleanliness to filthy habits
* logic to unreason
...and more, reversing:
* from respect for science to incantatory voodoo
* from an almost pedantic love of history to near total ignorance of the past
* from individual-based deliberation to lockstep party-line voting
* from belief in federalism and states' rights to excusing monolithic presidential power
* from negotiated problem-solving to strawman-based politics
* from a bookish love of statistics to justification by anecdote
* from country-first patriotism to the flagwaving kind that can instantly turn into rants about secession, the killing of civil servants and praying for the president to fail, even if that means the country going down with him.
This is not about classic left-vs-right anymore. (As if that metaphor ever held cogent meaning.) Not when every measure of national health that conservatives ought to care about -- from budget balancing to small business startups, to military readiness, to States' Rights, to the economy, to individual liberty, to control over immigration at our borders -- does vastly and demonstrably better under democrats. With nearly 100% perfection.
(Fact avoidance is even worse when you encompass ALL of history. Ask today's conservatives which force destroyed more freedom and nearly every competitive market, across 5,000 years. Which foe of liberty and enterprise did Adam Smith despise? Hint: it wasn't "socialism" or "government bureaucrats.")
No. Given their lack of any other tangible accomplishments across the last fifteen years, one must to conclude that the core agenda of Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch and their petroprince backers really is quite simple.
To find out just how far they can push "culture war" toward a repeat of 1861.
=Is the Agenda Civil War?=
Does that sound florid and paranoid? Well, I do try to be entertaining!
Anyway, bear with me a bit, because the parallels are eerie. Not only on the geographical electoral map, but in the way that vast swathes of the South would only see or hear just one point of view (in uniformly pro-slavery newspapers, back in 1861, or via talk radio today), or propounded from every white pulpit -- an incessant drumbeat of regional, ethnic and partisan hatred. With predictable results: the demolition of national discourse, along with the murder of census workers and the bubbling froth of a new wave of Timothy McVeighs.
Obviously, this is blatantly the agenda of Murdoch and Limbaugh and their foreign backers, since they do not even offer their own measures or agenda for deliberative negotiation with the party and president chosen by the American majority. They never even try to assert that any tangible improvements in national health occurred during their long tenure in power. Indeed, can you name any effective accomplishment -- consistently pursued and unambiguously achieved -- other than to push America toward Civil War?
Why they have been doing this is open to speculation. I have my theories. You may have yours.
But even without knowing their true motives, one can look ahead to outcomes. And so, I have to ask these fellows one question --
Let's say that you succeed. Suppose, driven by your potent and effective propaganda, America's "red" population rises up and Culture War finally goes all out... do you actually think that subsequent events will be to your liking?
=The Mistake Made by All Our Enemies=
Step back for a minute and note an important piece of psychohistory -- that every generation of Americans faced adversaries who called us "decadent cowards and pleasure-seeking sybarites (wimps), devoid of any of the virtues of manhood."
Elsewhere, I mark out this pattern, showing how every hostile nation, leader or meme had to invest in this story, for a simple reason. Because Americans were clearly happier, richer, smarter, more successful and far more free than anyone else. Hence, either those darned Yanks must know a better way of living (unthinkable!)... or else they must have traded something for all those surface satisfactions.
Something precious. Like their cojones. Or their souls. A devil's bargain. And hence -- (our adversaries told themselves) -- those pathetic American will fold up, like pansies, as soon as you give them a good push.
It is the one uniform trait shown by every* vicious, obstinate and troglodytic enemy of the American Experiment. A wish fantasy that convinced Hitler and Stalin and the others that urbanized, comfortable New Yorkers and Californians and all the rest cannot possibly have any guts, not like real men. A delusion shared by the King George, the plantation-owners, the Nazis, Soviets and so on, down to Saddam and Osama bin Laden. A delusion that our ancestors disproved time and again, decisively -- though not without a lot of pain.
But let's get back to my question for Murdoch and Limbaugh and their puppetmasters. All right, so you are pushing us toward another 1861, betting that we'll tear ourselves to shreds, and that the "red" portion will dominate whatever's left standing.
But do you even remember what happened in 1862? In 1863 and 1864 and 1865?
(A side bet? Ask any of the flag-waving jingo-patriots you know, "Have you ever fantasized about riding with Nathan Bedford Forrest?" (Name's unfamiliar? Wiki him and read it all.) My experience, asking that question? A shockingly high percentage of the loudest "patriots" have daydreamed about riding with that brilliant traitor, cutting down their fellow citizens -- both blue and black -- with a whoop and a holler, while screaming damnation at the United States of America. Some patriots.)
=Have They Really Thought It Out?=
But all right, Rush and Rupert and Sean and Glenn and Tafik. Go ahead. Push hard enough to finally wake up the real United States -- the "Blue America" that seems all mushy because it always tries reason first. The citified sophisticates who have, for generations, sent vast net-flows of their taxes toward the red counties that then bit that generous hand with rants about the "decadent cities..." even though those cities have proved to be more moral, by far. (Compare rates of divorce, domestic violence, teen sex, STDs and yes, even abortion!)
Even though those cities are the front lines in the modern war on terror. Even though it was city folk who proved their courage and resilience, standing up for their country on 9/11.
Remember what finally happened almost a century and a half ago, Rush. Pushed too far, and as a last resort, those "decadent" Americans rose up. They donned that color blue and wore it proudly to defend the Union -- and the dream -- with their very lives.
(And this isn't just regionalist bigotry, speaking. In every state of the Confederacy -- except South Carolina -- regiments of volunteers marched off to wear blue and fight for the country they had given sacred oaths to defend, showing even more courage than boys from Indiana or Maine. Ultimately, it wasn't North vs South)
So, Sean and Glenn. Do you have any solid reason to believe things will go differently, this time? That we, the heirs of Fremont and Hancock, are made of lesser stuff? Really? You think so?
Well, you seem determined to find out. So keep pushing. The Union will awaken. It always has. We always will.
=Is it Useless To Say Any Of This?=
Folks, the truth is, these guys really haven't thought it out.
It's never occurred to them, for example, to ponder the reason why liberals aren't even tepidly trying to pass Gun Control laws, anymore. Because, after eight years of power-grabbing, centralization and abuse by the Bushite Cabal, they came to realize that they might need protection and militia recourse, someday, after all. Especially at a time when their red neighbors are packing away bullets so fast that the factories have to work overtime, while screeching about using violence against their own freely-elected government.
No, Hannity & co haven't thought that out, so wedded are they to the Decadence Assumption. The smugly satisfying but ultimately fatuous notion that wimpy cowardice is all you can expect from anyone with a post-graduate degree. (Tell it to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Tell it to George Marshall.)
=Why Do All Fools Think They Are Wise?=
And so we have circled back to where we started -- the sad decline of American conservatism into cartoonish idiocy. The puppeteers may be rich. They may be talented provocateurs and con artists... but talent does not equate to brains. Not when the GOP has driven off almost everybody in America who actually knows stuff, including nearly all the scientists, the skilled innovators, and most of the U.S. Officer Corps.
Alas. This is no longer even about "conservatism" anymore. Barry Goldwater lived long enough to denounce what he saw happening to his beloved movement, and things have plummeted even father, since that great man died.
Nowadays, bottom-to-top -- and especially at the very top -- it is all about stupidity.
* Oh. There was one exception to the rule that all our foes have committed the Decadence Assumption. Ho Chi Minh never underestimated America. His avowed hero was George Washington and he remained in awe of the U.S., all his life. He remains the only enemy leader who ever defeated us at war, and then only because our hubris (not decadence) got the better of us.