FIGHTING FIRE WITH WATER
(for a change)
Over at Tiny Cat Pants, Aunt B. writes about this GOP anti-Clinton stunt. You can read about the stunt, and then read B.’s post, just for clarity. B. makes an aside that speaks to what’s on my mind, though:
(Plus, this is neither here nor there, but it pisses me off that I have a reputation for being vulgar among Republicans, and yet I have never created a t-shirt or a 527 Organization designed to mock anyone’s genitals or their bad attitudes.)
B., that’s the whole point.
As this letter writer to the NY Times points out—
Conservatism failed in the 1890s, again in the 1920s, again in the 1980s, and again at the beginning of the 21st century….Conservatives failed because conservatism is a failed ideology. The greatest periods of American history all rejected conservatism in favor of the ideals our nation was founded on.
–the right wing in this country can’t stand or argue on its accomplishments, because its accomplishments have brought bounty to a select few and crap to the rest of us. The right wing can’t argue ideas, because its ideas in practice have proven destructive. We’ve all come to understand that our country is at its best when flexing its liberal and progressive ideals, and when conservatism is relegated to watchdog status.
Right-wingers argue in bad faith, forming specious arguments that fall apart under even minimal scrutiny. In fact, they’ve spent decades building up an industry of bad-faith political arguments (often called the Right Wing Noise Machine). And it isn’t just the professional right-wing bullshit peddlers who argue this way; specious, bad faith arguments have become a staple of the rank and file, as well. As Stephen Colbert (in character, of course) has said, the facts have a well-known liberal bias. Lacking factual support for his position from the get-go, the average right-winger must come at you with bullshit (sometimes even voluminous or well-crafted bullshit) and hope that you won’t have the patience or stamina to shovel it aside. And let’s face it: the right wing has deep pockets and has proven it can afford to throw down a hell of an avalanche of bullshit.
This brings me to an admonishment that the ever-gracious and charming Aunt B. makes down in her comments section:
Also, people, let’s argue ideas, not personalities.
Ay, B., there’s the rub. When the barest glint of light exposes the holes in your tissue-thin arguments—or when you don’t want to invest the effort needed to hoist up those arguments—all you’ve got left are the politics of the personal. That’s the other pillar of right-wing success in this country.
From the Southern Strategy to the demonization of Jane Fonda and the Dirty Hippies to the Purple Heart Band-Aid™, the right wing has driven its faithful to the polls with racism, character assassination, and other assaults on civilized and honest discourse. When such overt venom as open calls for segregation fell out of fashion, the Right Wing Noise Machine didn’t miss a beat; it simply found new ways to flog the old scapegoats. That was the biggest contribution of the Reagan Administration to the right wing: its stunning aptitude for dog-whistle politics.
The worst part of all this that the right-wing movement has been effective. Their lack of constructive substance, and their skill at pushing through their agendas behind shields of dishonesty and vitriol, has worked hand-in-hand with the corporate-dominated nature of our campaigns for higher office to create a gravitational well that pulls everything toward the right. The ‘center’ is meaningless except as the threshold to the right, as eight years of the centrist Clinton administration proved quite ably.
The effects of this dynamic radiate far beyond questionable civility in blog comments sections. This paragraph from the introduction page to the Campaign for America’s Future puts it quite succinctly:
After three decades of conservative dominance in American politics, we Americans are threatened with economic disintegration, environmental devastation and international isolation.
Think of our republic as a wonderful, luxurious house built from a marvelous and radical design. Unfortunately, the house was built on sandy soil, and some serious quality control compromises were made during construction. Furthermore, disagreements over the intent of the original design have led to serious issues with maintenance over the years.
Our house still stands, and it is still luxurious and impressive. People of all political stripes can still enjoy some of the best features of its design. Sadly, though, for the last few decades we’ve handed over maintenance to those who choose to buy giant flat-screen TVs and booming sound systems for their own private rooms instead of fixing the plumbing, repairing the roof, and updating the wiring. The gutters are shot, too, and the spillage is eroding the sand underneath. (I could stretch this analogy to include mortgage issues, but you get the point.) It won’t be long before our home is no longer livable.
So what am I suggesting, you ask? We’re past the point where we can argue for better policy in government. Hell, we’re past the point where we can presume to engage in polite discourse with people whose behavior and philosophies are ruining our future and have already made our present tenuous (at best). I’m not suggesting that the liberal, the progressive, or anyone else with a conscience and a working brain should charge out of the gate ready to trade insults with right-wingers. However, it is not virtuous to extend a polite hand of greeting to someone you know has a knife aimed at your ribs. Not unless stupidity has become a virtue, that is. Also, as I was taught in EMT training, if you see someone responding to voices in their head, it isn’t sound medical practice to pretend those voices are real. In short, I’m saying that you must always come correct with your facts, and make sure that your opinions are based on such facts. But you also have to be willing to call “bullshit” and let the offending right-winger know that you know he is full of shit. Then, if it is worth your time and effort, tell him why he is full of shit.
If we aren’t willing to make the effort to do this, if we aren’t prepared to ruffle a few feathers on the birds who have been pecking at our eyes for decades, then we will keep showing that we are willing to tolerate compromising what remains of our ideals so that we can get along quietly. That’s what the right-wingers are counting on. They are counting on us not wanting to push back against the social and political pressure they’ve so carefully and laboriously mounted. They are counting on us to sacrifice our sense of justice for the sake of avoiding friction. When we do that, we not only enable their obvious operatives in the GOP, but we wind up with an ‘opposition’ party that poses no meaningful opposition (and often marches in lockstep).
Make no mistake, the pushing won’t stop just because you don’t push back. As history is my witness, friend, it will only keep getting worse, worse even than some who think themselves conservative can currently imagine. If you don’t want to see that, then you’d better be ready to offend some people’s sensibilities right now. Make sure that your politics are honest and well-meaning, but as nasty as they need to be. Understand that correcting our course will mean telling some who want to get a closer look at that lovely iceberg to go fuck themselves. In the long run, it’s for your own good (and probably theirs as well).
I leave you with the advice of a movie character, edited for relevance.
If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they’re not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead….They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue….Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?