Author Topic: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism  (Read 2447 times)

Tarzan Trouble

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The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« on: November 12, 2012, 02:11:53 PM »
Some time ago, I posted an article about how the Tea Party was just the latest outgrowth of the John Birch ideology, but coopted rather thoroughly by the conservative GOP establishment.  I hadn't really given much thought to the continuous intellectual tradition that leads us from Goldwater to Romney through Pat Buchanan's Southern Strategy and Reagan, of which the Birchers are just an outlier.

Former CFA fellow Rick Perlstein, whose Wikipedia article is actually concise and comprehensive, knows more about this intellectual tradition than most, and in this article he links Mitt Romney's pattern of falsehoods back through the history of the conservative movement:

http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_long_con

I don't have much to add other than that I'd like this thread to be a discussion of the intellectual underpinnings of American conservatism and perhaps an opportunity to discuss just how far off the rails the Republican Party truly is. 

Nixon continued New Deal/Great Society liberal policies while using the tools of the right to stay in power, but as that economic system collapsed in the 1970's, Reagan came along and told us that you can cut taxes and raise spending and somehow get more prosperous.  As obvious a lie as that was when it was first told by Reagan, the guy who literally stood on the graves of civil rights workers murdered with state government approval and promised to restore "state's rights", it's become more radically apparent that it's not true now.  We have another center-right neoliberal party which is actually working for all the things Republicans say they're in favor of, and instead of developing a coherent platform, they're going deeper down the well of Randian fantasies and blatant racism.

Also, the following is presented without comment:
Quote
“In France,” Romney announced on the campaign trail, “I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up.” And just as Reagan was found to be reciting film dialogue and jump-cutting anecdotes from his on-screen career into his pseudobiographical reminiscences on the stump, so it turns out that Romney picked up the marriage canard from the Homecoming Saga, a science fiction series written by Mormon author Orson Scott Card.
...
Either deliberately or through some Reaganesque slip of the unconscious, Romney’s stump confabulations worked the same way that those legendary Viguerie direct-mail appeals did: since reality is never Manichean enough, fables have to do the requisite ideological heavy lifting—to frighten the target audience to do the fabulists’ will. That’s the logic of the pitch for the quivering conservative masses.

South Park is wrong.  The answer is not "somewhere in the middle".  The middle got left behind a long time ago and the country has been pulled down a political rabbit hole by a coalition of out and out racists and delusional plutocrats selling each other more and more absurd baloney.
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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2012, 05:41:45 PM »
The problem is that the old fusionist model has been dominated by extreme subsections of two of the parts of the model- Christian traditionalists (as opposed to law/order and crime traditionalism) and the anti-terrorist wing have, with the backing of the neoliberal corporate wing, come to define the party.

As a conservative, I'll say this- we need to shut up about Leviticus. Traditionalism does not mean "legitimate rape" and other craziness. We have allowed zealotry and rage to define us, and it does. not. work.

The great tragedy of the late 20th century for us is that we allowed the social reaction to the 60s to destroy us. 50 years on, the Silent Majority is no longer silent or even a majority. And the Religious Right, may they be damned, destroyed us just as Goldwater said they would. Reagan sold the soul of conservatism to Jerry Falwell, and the bitter fruit of the inclusion of God in Caesar's realm is only now baring itself. John Birch and Jesus Christ are strangling us to death. It is a mirror of how the New Left, even now, has hurt the Democrats.

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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2012, 07:53:17 AM »
A fascinating article. Here's a follow-up commentary found in The American Prospect, about the GOP's stubborn attachment to its demonstrably false alternate reality.

Putting Faith in the Conservative Creed

As conservatives lose battle after battle, believing in untruths is becoming an essential part of their identity.

As Democrats continue to bask in the post-election schadenfreude of watching Republicans weep and gnash their teeth at losing the presidential election, the sense that conservatives are the architects of their own misery is only enhancing liberal glee. It seems the initial shock hasn’t warn off: In a conference call with his fundraising team, Mitt Romney is still blaming his loss on those freeloading Americans who wanted stuff.
 
Clearly, the only explanation for all this delusion is that conservative media and campaign consultants, steeped in years of confidently lying about everything from global warming to the causes of the deficit, got a little too bold about their ability to create their own realities. The only question is whether conservatives will learn their lesson and exhibit more skepticism about their self-selected news media in the future.
 
The answer is almost surely no, for a very good reason: Conservative credulousness is so baked into the culture of the right that it could well be considered a defining feature. This has been true for as long as movement conservatism as we know it has existed, and there’s no real reason to think conservatives are going to sharpen up about this now.
 
Before the election, historian Rick Perlstein published an essay examining the long history of intra-conservative con artistry in The Baffler, with a heavy focus on the way conservative publications and mail-order fundraisers exploit audience gullibility to sell people snake oil and convince them to give to “causes” that never see much, if any, of the money. Perlstein’s aim was to explain why it is that conservatives didn’t seem to mind Romney’s nonstop lying, even though his constantly changing positions made it unclear which lie he’d be backing if he ever made it to the presidency. Perlstein argued that after years of training themselves to enjoy the garbage shoveled out by their media outlets, conservatives have come to rely on lying as a kind of comfort blanket, a way to know that they are with their own people.
 
It’s time, in other words, to consider whether Romney’s fluidity with the truth is, in fact, a feature and not a bug: a constituent part of his appeal to conservatives. The point here is not just that he lies when he says conservative things, even if he believes something different in his heart of hearts—but that lying is what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound, in pretty much the same way that curlicuing all around the note makes you sound like a contestant on American Idol is supposed to sound.
 
There are post-election lessons to be learned from how movement conservatism has long housed weirder claims than run-of-the-mill climate-change denialism. Perlstein cites examples such as claiming naps cure cancer better than chemo or that grandmothers can trust their dollars are going to Bibles in Africa, when they’re simply being pocketed by fundraisers. Stanley Kubrick mocked this tendency in Dr. Strangelove, when a character repeats a popular '60s-era right-wing urban legend about fluoridated water being communist mind control. (This fear still haunts the right, as demonstrated by Georgia state senators convening a meeting last month to discuss Obama’s supposed communist mind-control plot.) The lesson in all this for the rest of us: Right-wingers don’t really have the same relationship to the truth that we do. They aren’t just creating their own truth for comfort but also to mark themselves as members of the tribe.
 
Part of the problem is the word “believe.” In many cases, "believe" can be used interchangeably with words like “know,” “understand,” and “accept.” I believe that my dinner will be a burrito. I believe in the theory of evolution. But the word also stands in for ideological stances. Then there are “beliefs” that serve to align individuals with other conservatives. Believing that climate change is a hoax, that Obama is a foreign national, or that ACORN stole the 2008 election: These beliefs have more symbolic than literal meaning to those who hold them. They are to being a conservative what believing in the Virgin Birth is to being a Christian.
 
The mind-set, reaffirming core principles in every conversation, has become the dominant way of communicating in conservative circles. Some of this stems from the heavy overlap with evangelical Christianity, where evangelical-specific urban legends run rampant. Religion blogger Fred Clark used as an example the Christian myth that Proctor & Gamble was run by Satanists, pointing out that people who share this story do so to prop up their identity as loyal evangelicals more than to make a factual observation about the world.  Liberals understand very well how conservative nonsense serves political ends—by rationalizing attacks on reproductive rights or stalling regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions—but equally important is the way that bullshit plays this role in establishing that the bullshit-believer belongs to the conservative club.
 
The devotion to untruth serves right wing’s emotional needs as well. Movement conservatives take discomfort with the changing nation and channel it into a belief that everyone outside of the conservative tribe is out to get them. Everything else flows from that. If the real world is out to get you, reality-based knowledge—especially that mediated by perceived “liberal elites”—becomes suspect. So many urban legends in conservative circles center around the idea that the outside world is conspiring against them, such as fevered claims of “voter fraud” or Reagan-era claims of welfare cheats making three figures defrauding the taxpayer.
 
From characterizing everyone Not-Them as “moochers” to the persistent suspicion that Obama faked his birth certificate in an effort to take the presidency from someone who actually has a right to it: Conservatives fantasize that the mostly older, white population moving further and further to the right is being oppressed by the various groups liberals have forced them to power-share with. To give that up would be to completely reorder their world. As painful as it is to grasp the reality of Obama’s win, it’s safe to say they’re going to go right back to putting their faith in fantasy instead of the realities that the rest of us live in.
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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2012, 10:16:17 AM »
Those people aren't conservatives- at least, not of the civilized, William F. Buckley sort, the kind that could entreat with the liberals. They are the worst sort of backwoods reactionaries, who have hijacked our movement with their Obama attacks and general ridiculousness. It is time to get purge Ayn Rand, John Birch and the Book of Leviticus from the Party- to roll back on Christian social issues completely so we can focus on the size of government and the debt.

The problem is that the crazies all vote, and all have that dangerous/delusional crusader mentality that won't let them give on anything.

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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2012, 09:00:36 AM »
I think probably the most striking thing to me about how the radical wings and various crazies have taken a disproportionate amount of power in the Republican Party is just how much it has affected their attitude and strategy towards government. The crusader mentality, as Jehovah puts it, has taken hold to the point that it isn't about conserving the way things are anymore, but turning back the clock. Just look at the difference in philosophy between the rabid way some Republicans act about healthcare now compared to only a few years ago with the Heritage Foundation's original idea for Romneycare(and by extension, a large part of Obamacare), a plan for universal healthcare that was explicitly designed to keep things as close to the previous situation as possible(putting the insurance in the hands of private individuals and companies versus the government when possible). Suddenly, in the minds of some Republicans, every unemployment or welfare recipient has become imagined as some welfare queen, sucking off the government teat so they can refuse to work and buy 17-inch rims for their car or something, and the only response is to continually cut those assistance programs for everyone rather than look at real reform. Suddenly, it's not enough to say "No new taxes" anymore, there has to be even less despite the deficit. Unions are all evil takers from the captains of industry that don't deserve rights. Education, Social programs, Jails, the Military, all of these can be privatized and the Free Market will solve all their problems.

It's like the Republicans have decided that all of the developments to government, except those from their idolized image of Saint Reagan of course, since the 1930's are morally offensive and they want to get rid of them. All or nothing, no compromise.

I have to deal with a lot of pretentious college liberals who whine all the time about how Obama and the Democrats sold out the progressives, and they're right, but only to an extent. Things have changed. Instead of a conservative Republican Party that wants to keep things the way they are as much as possible and a progressive Democratic Party that wants reform and change, we now have a Republican Party that claims to want to preserve "Traditional America" but really wants to undo everything that's been done in the past 50 years, and a Democratic Party that wants to progress but instead has to fight to conserve every scrap of the foundation that has been laid down over the years. The Democrats, by necessity, have become the conservatives in this equation while delusional members of the Right are dragging their party into an even deeper rabbit hole of regressive Randian fantasy.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2012, 09:40:35 AM by Jord »
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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2012, 06:07:50 PM »
I'm curious to see what will happen now.  The obstructionist strategy the GOP adopted has obviously been a total failure, but the question is whether or not the party leadership can get enough support to actually engage in compromise.

There was a great Daily Show episode - "And now for what I can't believe needs to be a regular segment, 'A Republican Said WHAT About Rape?'  Thank God for the Tea Party.  They've single-handedly allowed the Democrats to retain the presidency and senate.  Romney was never the world's best candidate, but if he hadn't had to try to appease the Tea Party and struggle unnecessarily in the primaries, he would have been in a much stronger position against an incredibly vulnerable incumbent.

Did everyone notice how nobody mentioned gay marriage in this election?  It's because even among conservatives, nobody under the age of 35 or so gives a shit about it.  Instead, we've moved back, not just to abortion, but birth control, a 'debate' that was last settled some time in the Roman period.

There is a continuity of "intellectual" tradition between Goldwater and the Tea Party, except Goldwater was rational and intellectually consistent, and had the ability to evolve his thinking; in later life he abandoned all his social conservative views, whereas the far-right today is eventing new ones.

Every election has people wondering about a third party, but I don't see an out for the GOP - it's too far gone to the Tea Party to be able to shirt toward the center, and there needs to be a place for actual conservatives.  I wonder if it might not split into two parties, the larger part becoming a more reasonable GOP that absorbs non-rabid racist-homophobilc conservatives that now vote Democratic with distaste, and a Tea Party that sinks into obscurity.
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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2012, 06:34:48 PM »
 I doubt the Republicans are going to change their strategy. According to varying sources in wikipedia, Evangelical Protestants are either 14% or 26% of the US Population and according to this poll 79% of Evangelicals/born again Christians voted for Romney (same as Bush in 2004 and 6% more than McCain) whereas 69% of white protestant Christians voted for Romney.

 It should be noted that in the same poll, it says that Evangelicals/born again Christians make up 23% of the electorate, compared to Catholicism's 25%, Black Protestantism 9% and Judaism's 2%.


 Of course I can't vouch for these numbers, but it would seem that around half of the party are Christian Conservatives. How do you move to the centre without alienating half of your party?

 Lack of choice (perception is everything in politics and third parties are perceived as the option for fringe nutjobs and even Evangelicals would get that) could keep them within the GOP, but when most of the party proudly identifies as white Christian Party, what options do the guys in New England and California have? Even the Latinos who acknowledged that Obama deported far more people than Bush admitted that Romney would have been worse than what they are stuck with now.

 Their obsession with being the White Christian Party means they'll only get a few tokens like Jindal and Cain while 70% of the minority vote goes to the democrats, meaning that their only sensible strategy is to bet on independent voters (likely to be turned off) and disillusioned white people. Of course there's always the chance of a Democrat fucking up so badly that there's no other choice but to elect a Republican, or that they get a sufficiently charismatic candidate, but even then the Latino vote will keep getting bigger and I can only assume the same will hold true for some other minority votes and even the female votes. (Although that's not necessarily inevitable)

 

 

 
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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2012, 10:42:48 PM »
I doubt the Republicans are going to change their strategy. According to varying sources in wikipedia, Evangelical Protestants are either 14% or 26% of the US Population and according to this poll 79% of Evangelicals/born again Christians voted for Romney (same as Bush in 2004 and 6% more than McCain) whereas 69% of white protestant Christians voted for Romney.
Compounding the problem is the fact that an actual majority of Republican voters are young-Earth creationists. I'm aware that Gallup's credibility has taken a beating in the recent campaign, but if we go with their numbers, it's 52%. It's pretty hard to go back to sanity when more than half of the people who vote for you take their cues from Genesis and Leviticus.

That's also a factor in that electorate's propensity towards paranoid and delusional thinking. If you believe as an article of faith that Satan is active in the world, and that the entire scientific community is engaged in a cover-up of the Biblical truth, how hard can it be to also believe that Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim, and that the pyramid schemes pushed by Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter are the solution to your financial problems?
« Last Edit: November 19, 2012, 10:49:31 PM by Sounds of Salience »
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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2012, 03:12:22 PM »
All of the factors keep me in the Libertarian Party. If they could again become Goldwater Conservatives, then I'd join the GOP.

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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2012, 06:38:16 PM »
I have trouble deciding who I like less:  the GOP or most libertarians.
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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2012, 07:57:43 PM »
To be fair, I'm more conservative than libertarian- Christian right neocon Randian control of the GOP prevents me from conscionably joining it.

Some libertarians are too idealistic, too pro-corporate and too many turn to Ron Paul for guidance. I'm more of a classical liberal/Burkean myself.

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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #11 on: November 21, 2012, 07:35:28 AM »
I thought I might be libertarian long ago, but then I became acquainted with the real world.
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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2012, 11:23:46 AM »
I'm a Burkean conservative as well, but in a modern American context that means protecting the liberal post-New Deal establishment rather than demolishing it in the name of any unworkable ideology.

Read this article.  Hell, just skim the graphs and then try to tell me that Republicans and the Republicans in sheep's clothing who call themselves Libertarians have any answer to it. 

American liberalism works.  Republicans want to demolish it.  They have explicitly said this, all across the party from center to far right to Ron Paul.  Their reasons for doing so are grounded in fantasy.  They are kept in power, despite their vaudevillian-level evil stances and the staunch support by nearly all Americans for the New Deal establishment, by cynically playing the racist insecurity of white people, but that is finally cracking.

Anyway, a few Republicans have seen the light and are apparently going to adopt a reality-based stance towards fiscal reform:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/grover-norquist-has-more-to-lose-than-republican-leaders/2012/11/26/3431f8ee-37f1-11e2-8a97-363b0f9a0ab3_story.html
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Peter is a man and he is a very hansome and manly man.He likes women a lot and women like him too but men think he is compitishion.He has very long brown shiny hair everywhere and a little blue eyes that are mostly green but very hansome anywya.You can tell a lot of things from his eyes.He has a very big bulge in his jeans where the dick would be and it is not a sock because it makes all women almost orgasm with desire.Behind him is a very firm muscled ass that makes you want to slap it and play with it in lots of ways but only if your a women.If you are a man you will die if you touch it because Peter is strong and very not Gay.If you are a women he winks and smiles at you and thinks you have a nice personality.If you are a man again he frowns at you and it makes you not hit on him or on any women when hes here.He likes lots of women very much and likes very few men but not as boyfriends.And he has a shitr which is nice and blue.I mean shirt sorry.

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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2012, 01:33:46 PM »
I'm not in favor of keeping the New Deal (rather, I think we threw out the best and kept the worst- the TVA, CCC and other infrastructure programs are, despite the state, great ideas), but I am not really that much of an economic conservative. I don't trust corporations, and I have never cared about economics (on that, I am a pragmatist).

I wish that, rather than abolishing things like the TVA or the CCC, we had maintained civilian infrastructure programs as opposed to Social Security. What I am more against is the Great Society- the New Deal is too ingrained to abolish, and I wish the GOP were more pragmatic on the issue.

What I am against, in full spirit, is the New Left cultural liberalism that replaced the good MLK-style reformers with people like Jesse Jackson, or replaced the First Feminist Wave with the Third Wave people. I have never, and will never, be thoroughly invested in economic policy. It is why I am more a traditionalist conservative than the economics-dominated Libertarian.

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Re: The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2012, 04:14:49 AM »
What I am against, in full spirit, is the New Left cultural liberalism that replaced the good MLK-style reformers with people like Jesse Jackson, or replaced the First Feminist Wave with the Third Wave people.
I suppose women should have been content at getting the right to vote and shut their big mouths from that point on.
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