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June 24, 2005

A thought on Rove, O'Reilly, Et Al

OK. Maybe I'll leave Al out of this one.

Rove says that any person to the left of the right wing of the Republican Party is a person who gives aid and comfort to terrorists. Bill O'Reilly calls for the tepid liberals at Air America to be locked up as "traitors." And the eliminationist rhetoric from the right grows, gaining acceptance and credibility.

I think every leftist goes through a period of thinking the fascist clampdown is just around the corner. I did. I was 14 years old. After I grew out of it, I derided people who thought that way.

Watching Dick Durbin go down in mild flames this week, I decided the over-under for the arrival of the crisis is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of October 2005. (I'll leave comments open on this until then so that you can all come back and mock me when I'm wrong.) There is a kind of ugliness gathering on the right that I have not seen in US politics before.

Then again, I have never seen as energized an opposition to the ruling party either.

I am no huge fan of the government of the United States of America. I love my country, but the government could vanish or be radically transformed and it would likely leave what I love about my country essentially intact. The culture, the landscape, the more-or-less good nature of the the average resident.

The people in power are pushing to eliminate all those things, however, and they thus compel my reluctant support for the US government as it was before they seized power. It was an evil, lying, murderous institution with a legacy of slavery and genocide, but it was my evil, lying, murderous institution with a legacy of slavery and genocide. And it had a Constitution that enabled people like me to work to ameliorate the worst of the evil, to correct the worst of the lies.

Here is my source of hope. The right is going after the targets of opportunity. It is a Darwinian process. One by one, they attack the opponents who will cave. Who will be left?

Those of us who will not cave.

It occurs to me that the endless infighting on the left may well serve to make us stronger after all. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond opines that one of the reasons Europe conquered the world is that Europeans had spent the previous two millennia in warfare between adjoining towns. They were just damned good at it by the sixteenth century. All that time we leftists have spent in circular firing squads has certainly sharpened our aim.

I won't go so far as to say that I look forward to the right taking on an actual fighting left activist, rather than labeling moderates as "leftists" and dogpiling them. But I will say that when they do, I suspect they are in for a rather spectacular bloody nose.

Posted by Chris Clarke at June 24, 2005 07:15 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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What I find amusing (in a black, cynical sort of way) is that I'm not even a leftist, except maybe really deep down, in my utopian heart of hearts.

The people that I think the Republicans will actually bump up against first are people like Howard Dean: Moderates who are tired of being called names, and who will fight, unlike the "centrists" who want to buy "civility" at the price of everything else.

Posted by: paperwight at June 24, 2005 07:45 AM
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Rock on Dean-Yee-Haw! =) I would have voted for him!

Posted by: limesalttequila at June 24, 2005 08:00 AM
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It's hopeful to read, Chris. Thank you.

There's another factor too, in all this. The Republicans and the Christian Right are getting bolder, less cautious. Sloppier and more careless. Some of the things they say these days would have gained them horrified censure from their own party, ten years ago.

October sounds good to me. Let's hope these progressively "selected" liberal prey animals, facing progressively sloppier right-wing predators, finally make that turnaround.

By the way ... the right-wingers think about stuff like this too. I have just assumed that this flag desecration amendment is the next monkey show coming down the tube to deliberately distract us from the more serious stuff.

If the Dems and moderate Republicans in the Senate pass it, say goodbye to rational debate or real news for the next year. Bush will sign it with choirs of angels at his back, and it will go to the states for a yelping chorus of patriotic yeas and traitorous nays that will put us all into a coma.

Posted by: Hank Fox at June 24, 2005 08:24 AM
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Paperwight (link above) makes a pretty good case today that the Karl Rove meltdown is actually today's monkey show. Go read his post!

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 24, 2005 08:33 AM
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I agree with much of what's been said here, but I think it's a mistake to focus too much on left and right, liberal and conservative. Those labels are veneers and they tend to obscure the nature of the confrontation that's coming, as well as offering cover to the "folks" who are really pulling the strings.

Posted by: tost at June 24, 2005 08:41 AM
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i think tost has a good perspective on the situation.

i have a headache from switching back and forth between nature and gardening on the one hand and politics and national repression on the other.

i had thought myself a sceptic and cynic, but i am amazed at how well the populace has been played for fools.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 24, 2005 09:44 AM
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Eloquently said. It is true that the social conservatives that are the mouth of the Republican Party as of now are running ramshod upon the civil liberties of the nation.

However if you notice, the small threads around their arguments are beginning to unravel, as more moderate republicans are beginning to speak out, George Bush's mantra, "Cause they hate America" will begin to encompass all but the most conservative of the republicans.

We must not back down from attacking the social conservatives; we must attack whole heatedly, never succumbing to their viscous attacks until the last of them has crawled back under the rock that they came from.

Posted by: Blue at June 24, 2005 09:51 AM
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Rove is an unmitigated ass and his comments were appalling. I recently had the misfortune of walking into a conference call of which good ol' Karl was a part. When I heard his speaker phone voice, I became immediately flush with anger. I despise the man and react irrationally when I see, hear or read about him.

In some respects I hope you're right, Chris, but I do feel that a country so polarized is in a very dangerous place. All the historical examples point to outright fallout, so I'm hoping that the moderates, on both sides of the aisle, will emerge and provide a valuable couterpoint. Frankly, I'm tired of being called a commie by the conservatives and a neo-con by the left. Here in New York, I defend the country bumpkin against unfair prejudice. When I visit my folks in rural Virginia I have to defend the "ivory tower liberals" against the unfair prejudices of the "bumpkin."

Something has to give.

Posted by: Hungry Hyaena at June 24, 2005 12:06 PM
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So let's compromise. Everybody call Hungry Hyaena a Neo-Commie!

I'm not sure I agree with my good friend tost about the focus on left and right. Sure, the linear spectrum is a limited one, and people can have opinons that place them in different places along the spectrum on different issues.

But I think the crucial thing here is that we are seeing an attempted coup d'etat by the far right in progress. The fact that they falsely characterize any national politician as "leftist" shows that they've staked out a very definite position. And what they are opposing is a raft of piddling little reforms that the (broadly defined) left has managed to get through over the last century or so.

This is class war. We might as well admit that we're in one and start fighting it.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 24, 2005 12:14 PM
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Oh, and DPR, I'd limit myself to writing about gardening and pets, but that wouldn't work either, because Zeke is a Communist and Thistle is a Libertarian-tending Neo-Con. Conflict is inevitable.

Harley's the proletariat, because he says nothing until his food runs out.

Also, Zeke's Jewish, but that's a story for another time.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at June 24, 2005 12:18 PM
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I suspect that DPR's agreement and CC's lack thereof are a function of the vagueness of my prior comment. (Writer's trap #18 is to leave out a fair amount of what's in your head and trust that your readers will understand your veiled refereces.) My apologies for being perhaps too ambiguous.

My point, stripped bare for all to see, is that a fair number of people on "the Right" have embraced greed, anger, fear and ignorance, just as a fair number of people on "the Left" have made a decision to work for the greater good. Yet these aren't absolutes - there are also wonderful Conservatives and hideous Liberals - and I believe it's counterproductive to focus too much on labels.

Instead, it might be beneficial to develop a new vision we can offer our society. We need to show the general public why, for example, sharing is better than hoarding, why tolerance is better than intolerance, why healing the Earth and moving toward a culture of sustainability are keys to humanity's survival, why unchecked materialism and consumerism lead to a particularly malignant form of insanity.

And if we're successful in this, if we can make our case openly and honestly and without bitterness, we will have exposed those who remain opposed to us for what they truly are.


Posted by: tost at June 24, 2005 12:49 PM
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tost---i took your reference to "the 'folks' who are really pulling the strings" to mean the Owners of it All and their agenda of owning and controlling even more. i would like them to be more openly identified. i still agree with your thoughts.

chris---class warfare it is, as revealed by their pre-emptive claim against the powerless of waging class warfare. too many of the middle class, perhaps even a majority of the class under attack, fail to see that they are the victims of attack.

i reserve the right to extend and modify my comments.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 24, 2005 01:34 PM
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October? Okay, I guess I don't have anything else going on. Bring it on!

Posted by: KathyF at June 24, 2005 02:16 PM
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Dread Pirate Roberts - There's one thing I've always wanted to say to you, in Sicilian.


On a slightly more serious note, you're pretty damn close in calling them "the Owners of it All" and naming their agenda "owning and controlling even more." At the same time, I'm not sure there's an easy definition we can agree on, especially given my unorthodox way of looking at the world. But let me try, if only by approximation.

Let's say that you can always tell the "folks" by the choices they make. Given the choice of selfishness or altruism, they choose the former. Always. They choose wealth. Always. They choose power. Always. They choose control. Always. In short, they've come to believe - mistakenly, I might add - that egoic gratification is the path to all that they seek. They're certain that their ability to accumulate "things" will eventually fill the emptiness in their existence, and that others - people, animals, whatever - can be, and should be, manipulated to provide maximum personal gain.

So I guess in my mind the definition of "folks" has to be broad. Does it include Dick Cheney and his ilk? Absolutely. Does it also include the factory worker who chooses to beat his wife and kids on a regular basis because it makes him feel better about his dead-end job? Yes, it does. Does it include the vast majority of us, who are neither good nor evil but somewhere in between? No.

I suppose that I should make a clear distinction - I'm talking about people who've made a choice to walk toward darkness, and who view the rest of us as a means to an end. But as to who they are - hell, they could be anyone. I read recently that there are over a million practicing Satanist in the U.S. alone. And I've run into a few of these "folks" over the years, individuals who would think nothing of sacrificing a cat or a dog in some sort of bizarre ritual to gain power. Or a child.

Crazy stuff, and it touches our lives every day, whether we realize it or not.

Posted by: tost at June 24, 2005 04:17 PM
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tost--i'm "down" with your definition of the "folks" who want it all, but i don't think all of them are pulling the strings. my reference to the Owners of it All refers more to people who have been very, very rich for generations and have a "club" of sorts. cheney might be brash and powerful enough to bully his way into the lower echelons. that factory worker may think he's got some power but he is light years away from pulling any strings. bill gates may have money, but he is parvenu to the berettas.

i too have met people who have made a choice to walk toward the darkness, courting it for power. they are dangerous. they are many. they are also pawns to be sacrificed if necessary by those with more power and they are oblivious to that status.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 24, 2005 07:35 PM
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and tost----mmmmmmmsicilian cooking!

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at June 24, 2005 08:56 PM
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My question on this continues to be *how* do we fight it?

I'm very lucky to live in a liberal city in a liberal state, and work for a company that balances being a major corporation with being mostly-progressive in its values. In other words, there's not much to push against, here.

Write LTEs? I'm not sure what that accomplishes, actually. I've written many, had few published. What impact do they have?

The RW is consolidating its hold on the political, economic and communications apparatus. They've been working on this for 30+ years. They set the agenda, they frame the issues, they have a ready chorus that leaps into action to spin, reiterate, reify.

My worry is that the shift is subterranean and institutional, and that progressives' efforts - already hampered by a lack of cash-heavy patrons, and the hostile/lazy/whatever mass media - are further compromised by our own self-balkanization. There isn't, SFAIK, a "strong progressive movement." There are, instead, disparate progressive groups: many of whom focus entirely on their own cause, many of whom allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good, many of whom seem to use public action as self-validating street theater rather than as a means to an attainable political end.

What can we actually *do*?

Posted by: CaseyL at June 25, 2005 12:17 PM
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