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In my regular patrolling of the Internet I come across a lot of Conservative writing that is usually at best based in a kind of Zombie GOP fantasy that insists people are poor only because they are lazy, that it is better to bring an unwanted child into a life of poverty than to abort it, and that government is always the problem and unregulated Corporatocracy is always the solution. At worst it is just plain bullshit. An unthink piece in the Washington Post this Sunday by Gerard Alexander is a perfect example of the former most definitely and the latter most probably.
His opening paragraph does absolutely nothing to endear him to me,
"Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration."
Excuse me? Are we talking about the same Conservatives? How many times do the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter etc, refer to any Liberal or Progressive as an idiot, either directly or by insinuation? Or how about Michelle Bachmann who has said things like,
"I look at the Scripture and I read it and I take it for what it is. I give more credence in the Scripture as being kind of a timeless word of God to mankind, and I take it for what it is."
“Little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and perhaps they should try it.”
Most Conservatives these days thump their bibles or their constitutions and act as if any belief system other than their own is at best naive, and at worst wholly lacking in any moral legitimacy whatsoever. But oh the fun doesn’t stop with the opening paragraph.
“This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government -- and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever.”
So let me be sure I'm perfectly clear on this. The Right demonizes and belittles anyone who dares to disagree with them on anything, calling them weak, naive, Socialist, etc. But it's the Left that is "impoverishing American debates"? As for dialogue being valuable, well yes it would be and if Conservatives talking heads and politicians wanted to have dialogue that would be great. But instead what they want to do is spread lies, and sow fear, and when they make the mistake of going up against someone who is better at playing their game then they are, what do they do? Well they make sure they own the field of battle so they can simply edit things so they don't look nearly so pathetic. Psst Bill O’reilly I’m looking at you.
But wait there’s more.
"But these days, liberal confidence and its companion disdain for conservative thinking are back with a vengeance, finding energetic expression in politicians’ speeches, top-selling books, historical works and the blogosphere. This attitude comes in the form of four major narratives about who conservatives are and how they think and function."
Oh brother if only, I say if only Liberals had as much disdain for Conservative thinking as you want to claim. If they did then they would be loudly protesting our march towards perpetual global war. They would have told the banks what they could do with their derivatives and too big to fail. And they would have told the insurance companies you can either start offering meaningful coverage to everyone or we will break you. Instead what you get is what I call tea and toast liberalism. It’s easy to swallow for most people and while you won’t starve on it, it’s not exactly true nourishment either.
Now as to Alexander’s “Four Major Narratives”,
First up is an oldy but a goody,
"The first is the "vast right-wing conspiracy," a narrative made famous by Hillary Rodham Clinton but hardly limited to her. This vision maintains that conservatives win elections and policy debates not because they triumph in the open battle of ideas but because they deploy brilliant and sinister campaign tactics. A dense network of professional political strategists such as Karl Rove, think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and industry groups allegedly manipulate information and mislead the public."
Oh this is rich. Now I’m the first to admit that Hillary and her "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" came across to even the most Liberal Progressive amongst us as what it was, "Oops we did shady shit we shouldn’t have, we got caught, time to deny, deflect, and dodge."
But what I find really laughable is that Alexander tries to make it sound as if Liberal Progressive's think the "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" is just another name for the tactics they use to win elections. Do Republicans twist the facts? Do they use smear tactics? Yep absolutely. They also however do some things that are not morally questionable that I've stated in other articles Progressives must also learn to do, if we are to have any hope at all of competing. Stay on message at all costs. Reframe the debate. Call an enemy an enemy. And more. But it is classic misdirection by Alexander because he does not actually name what the conspiracy really is.
Simply put it is an attempt to destroy Government as the organ of civil organization, so that it can be replaced by the Corporatocracy. One of the best examples of this was seen in the Hurricane Katrina debacle. Under Bush Sr., the spending needed to properly overhaul the levees in New Orleans was cut drastically. Going forward in time we have Bush Jr., who appointed someone to FEMA who was wholly unsuitable to the position. Absolutely nothing in the mans background was even remotely applicable to running the Federal EMERGENCY Management Agency. The two combined, along with Jr.'s clear lack of concern for the people of the area and it left local organizations having to pick up huge amounts of slack, which gave the Republicants the poster child for "proving" that government doesn't solve problems. Well of course it doesn't. Not if you hamstring it the way that Conservatives have been doing as far back as Nixon, and certainly since Reagan. Kind of the way my car doesn’t run, if I don’t put any gas in the goddamn tank.
Oh are we having fun yet boys and girls? I sure as hell hope so because we’re only a fourth of the way through Mr. Alexanders little list of four.
"(I)f conservative leaders are crass manipulators, then the rank-and-file Americans who support them must be manipulated at best, or stupid at worst. This is the second variety of liberal condescension…."
Brilliant. Absolutely completely brilliant. He’s essentially lured us into a classic "Have you stopped beating your wife" trap. Because I'm sure he knows that there are two things people in general and Americans in specific hate to be called, one is manipulated, and the other is stupid. And since they don't want to piss off the people who elected, or may elect them, most politicians will run from this debate as if their ass was on fire and they were wearing gasoline soaked pants. But I'm not running for office, so I'm going to just say it.
The Republicants are indeed crass manipulators, and rank and file Americans are indeed manipulated at best or stupid at worst. Now frankly I could care less about the stupid. I can't help them. And frankly the stupid aren't voting based on any message. They are voting based on things that have absolutely nothing to do with anything of substance. Frankly if he hadn't been somewhat attractive especially compared to the very lemony looking Bush I doubt if Clinton would have done as well at the polls as he did. Simply put there will always be those people who will vote for someone that looks like they’d be fun to fuck or to hang out with.
My concern is for the ones being manipulated. Because they are not stupid. What they are is worn out and beaten down. Most of them have been on the Great American Treadmill for most of their lives. Working jobs that are usually physically exhausting as well as soul deadening. Trying to raise kids on limited means, and always feeling as if they are failing. These are people who frankly don't have a lot of time for self reflection or deep thought. That is why once upon a time they turned to a media that was at least in theory balanced and non partisan. But that didn't work so well for the Conservatives. It wasn't enough to have say a Walter Cronkite who was largely in sympathy with Conservative values. Because as far to the Right as Cronkite may have been, he wasn't far enough when it counted. He was too independent, and he actually believed that the media was supposed to be fair and balanced, presenting both sides of a situation. The solution quite clearly was to take possession of a media organ, so that way propaganda could be spewed forth all the while pretending to hold to time honored journalistic values. This is what has given us FOX News. So now working people get all spin all the time, with the mainstream media increasingly reluctant to call out the soldiers of the Corporatocracy, because they are as enmeshed as the politicians.
So people get fed stories full of scary images. Things that have no basis in fact like "Obama is a Socialist" get repeated over and over again, and people believe it. In part because the Corporatocracy has so completely insinuated itself into our everyday lives that most people don't really see any significant difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. So the winner is the one that shouts their message the loudest to the largest number of people, and that is usually the Republicants. On the rare occasion that the Democrats manage to come up with a winning strategy such as their use of grass roots activism that helped get Obama elected, they end up ceding the momentum by allowing business as usual to take over, and the Conservatives who may be many things but bone stupid isn't one of them, quickly adapt the tactics of the enemy to their own purposes which has given us the AstroTurf "Tea Party (Bowel) Movement". Because Conservatives do what they always do. Hijack the narrative at every opportunity and spin and distort, subtly telling people how they are supposed to feel about what they are being told, so that even facts become potent tools for programming them towards a certain way of responding.
Well I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to see what the next form of alleged Liberal Condescension is.
"The third version of liberal condescension points to something more sinister. In his 2008 book, "Nixonland," progressive writer Rick Perlstein argued that Richard Nixon created an enduring Republican strategy of mobilizing the ethnic and other resentments of some Americans against others. Similarly, in their 1992 book, "Chain Reaction," Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall argued that Nixon and Reagan talked up crime control, low taxes and welfare reform to cloak racial animus and help make it mainstream. It is now an article of faith among many liberals that Republicans win elections because they tap into white prejudice against blacks and immigrants."
This reminds me of a joke. "Bob and Bert have been friends for a long time, but lately their friendship has become strained. Finally Bob decides to confront his old friend. ‘Bert, I hate to say this, but I think you are having an affair with my wife.’ Bert looks at Bob horrified. ‘Why Bob what could possibly make you say such a thing?’ Bob replies, ‘Well Bert the fact that she’s giving you a blow job at the moment for one thing.’
The political version of this joke is embodied in people like Tom Tancredo,
"And then, something really odd happened, mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country. People who could not even spell the word “vote,” or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House, name is Barack Hussein Obama."
and North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor, Andre Bauer,
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better,"
Or it's in oft repeated slanders, like suggesting that President Obama is not really an American.
But of course since they don't come straight out and say the words, they can slither and wriggle away anytime their carefully code worded racism gets pointed out. Because they assume that people are stupid, and Liberals and Progressives are usually to worried about appearances to stand up for their convictions and bluntly say that they know damn good and well what the Conservatives are doing.
And finally Mr. Alexander presents his fourth condescension.
"Finally, liberals condescend to the rest of us when they say conservatives are driven purely by emotion and anxiety -- including fear of change -- whereas liberals have the harder task of appealing to evidence and logic."
This is brilliant. With his clever phrasing he does exactly what Conservatives do, he paints "Liberals" as the other, the "them" that is against the presumed "us" to which Mr. Alexander is speaking. Plus once again he takes a Conservative strength and makes it sound like Liberals think its a weakness. Plus he's just plain wrong. You see Conservative politicians are driven by greed and arrogance. And they use emotion and anxiety to highjack the debate and to push people, who I think are generally not as ideologically motivated as politicians would like them to be to vote for policies that in the light of cold reason are almost wholly against their long term best interests.
As for Liberals attempting to appeal to evidence and logic, well frankly a lot of that comes from the desire to appear, to be better than those whom they oppose. It didn't work. It hasn’t worked. It isn't working. It won't work. What Liberal Progressives need to do is get to peoples hearts. To make them afraid, but to make them afraid of the right things. And then when the Republicants try to cry foul (Because of course once they get smacked with a few of their own tricks then suddenly Conservatives care oh so much about reason, evidence and logic) have the facts to back up the rhetoric.
Finally in his closing remarks Alexander tries to cover his ass by offering this weak little disclaimer,
"Of course, plenty of conservatives are hardly above feeling superior. But the closest they come to portraying liberals as systematically mistaken in their worldview is when they try to identify ideological dogmatism in a narrow slice of the left (say, among Ivy League faculty members), in a particular moment (during the health-care debate, for instance) or in specific individuals (such as Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom some conservatives accuse of being stealth ideologues). A few conservative voices may say that all liberals are always wrong, but these tend to be relatively marginal figures or media gadflies such as Glenn Beck."
Of course, because that is one of the most effective part of the Conservative message, that Liberals are not really part of the mainstream of American life. That Liberalism and Progressivism is just for condescending elitists. In fact some Conservatives write articles out and out accusing Liberals of being condescending. Boy I'd love to get my hands on an article like that. Meanwhile of course the sad truth is that Liberals don't do themselves any favors because they have indeed lost touch with most of working class America. Oh and by the way, nice try on distancing yourself from "marginal figures or media gadflies" like the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this article but your attempts at obfuscation will not work on some of us. We are well aware that Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck et al, serve as a the very important propaganda wing of the Republican party, having the freedom to lie, spin, prevaricate and dissemble to push the Conservative message, leaving politicians free to appear to take the high road. But that doesn't make them free of blame. After all if I hire someone to kill somebody that doesn’t mean I’m innocent of murder.
And then in the final wrap up Mr. Alexander has the temerity to suggest,
"Perhaps most painfully, liberal condescension has distorted debates over American poverty for nearly two generations."
Because it's Liberals who have been demonizing the poor all these years. With trumped up tales of welfare cheats, and suggesting that if we just gotrid of this dirty welfare, and food stamps, and unemployment benefits, the poor would be "forced" to get jobs. Jobs which have always been more scarce than the official numbers admit, and now are more scarce than ever. Which of course is the fault of that other dirty Liberal plot, the minimum wage.
Oh before I forget, I seem to recall I promised Mr. Alexander an answer to the question posed in the title to his article.
The reason why "Liberals Are So Condescending", Mr. Alexander, is because they have mostly been bred and trained to act in a civil high minded way. And so when they encounter absolute bullshit, in attempting to hew to their high minded ethos it sets up a kind of passive aggressive response, that bears similarities in appearance to condescension. Or to put it more simply Liberals are so condescending because they are too well mannered when they run up against Conservatives blow dried spin doctored crap, to tell them to go fuck themselves. Boy am I glad I’m a Progressive and so suffer from no such psychopathologies.
Keep The Faith My Brothers And Sisters!