Paul Krugman succinctly sums up the media’s belated understanding of the relationship among Fox News, Rightist Talk Radio, political extremism and now murders. He says in passing, “And at this point, whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.”
Here at STSOZ since the early 2000s we diagnosed the differences among the Movement, its various strands and ‘Republicans”. Long ago we tried to explain that the Movement is the controlling parasite astride its enfeebled Republican host. The Movement’s reaction to Obama’s 2008 victory only underscores the point.
Today’s ‘mainstream media’ still do not fully understand the dichotomy. Or its implications. They still treat ‘Republicans’ and Democrats as equivalent political actors playing the same game by the same rules for the same prizes. As long as relative neophytes view politics in this prism, the Movement wins.
What we here at STSOZ call the Movement within the conservative base always plays a different game for a different prize. The Movement may speak in normal political talking points from ‘Republican’ institutions. Yet it isn’t not committed to Dahl-esque pluralistic politics. It has never sought or tolerated compromise or ‘moderation’. That’s because for the Movement, politics is existential warfare. Compromise is defeat.
Because Krugman et al. fail to grasp the fundamental differences among the Movement, the former Republican and Democratic parties, talking heads tell Americans the Movement is just the ‘Republican base’. As if somehow the Movement and its Manichean zero-sum nihilism is the same as the Democratic base. Say like the Sierra Club or unions.
It wasn’t always like this, of course. Until 1992 the Republican Party remained the dominant organizational entity and kept the Movement as a subordinate coalition partner within bounds. But after the Bush debacle in ’92, the Movement learned to seize power on its own within and without the Republican Party. The signs began with the Movement’s no longer filtered rage, paranoia, and conspiracy fever in 1993. By the 1994 midterms, the Movement began to eclipse the Republican establishment. By 2001-2008, the Movement completed its eclipse and take over of the old Republican Party.
The Movement is a self-contained functional social, cultural and political creature. Under Bush-Cheney, it tasted unfiltered power for 6 years and hung on for 2 more. Its Counter-Enlightenment, racial, authoritarian /hierarchical impulse was the official American government. With Obama’s victory its rejection is not only personal; for the first time, in 2006 and 2008, it as dominant political force (not as a minor coalition partner within the Republican Party) was rejected publicly.
For the Movement, as we said, politics is existential. And when survival is on the line, pluralistic compromise is for chumps. The stakes are higher than something so trite as the Constitution, etc. We saw this in part through Addington, Cheney et al. with their view on the Unitary Executive. As I wrote a while ago, during a lunch with John Ashcroft after his tenure as AG, he quite blithely said the President is entitled to ignore Congress and its laws — the only thing that matters is the plebiscite on a president because it is national. He then added if the president is re-elected that by definition means the country ratified everything he has done, even secret stuff the nation doesn’t know about.
Existential combat in ideological struggle for survival with a natural affinity for hierarchical organizations and militarized speech and thought patterns. Do you see now why to the Movement any criticism of Bush as Warlord was akin to treason? It’s not only mere warfare for any given news cycle, but deeply rooted in the non-liberal democratic, pre-Enlightenment agenda.
The Krugman and Joan Walsh fantasy that some ‘Republicans’ are going to put a stop to the Movement is a joke. This is precisely why a moderate Republican is actually the Movement’s greatest enemy. More than any Democrat. It’s often surreal.
We spent time in DeLay’s, Armey’s, Hastert’s and other offices discussing Republican ‘moderates’. The rage can not be described. ‘Communists’ or worse – much, much worse. Same on the Senate side. As we’ve said here many times before, if Teddy Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi or Daschle/Harry Reid didn’t exist, the Movement would create them. They need them as foils and useful idiots. But a moderate Republican must be destroyed or marginalized where ever possible. (In polite company they are denounced as ‘squishes.’ In private, the language is eliminationist). It’s a psychology familiar to students of European radical political history.
The Movement is unable to accept loss of power or control through liberal democratic means. The Movement’s eschatology is to higher truths than liberal democratic government: race, security, nationalism, order, security. The Movement’s psychology generates the rage as its Counter-Enlightenment agenda is revealed, expands in power and then snatched away. This compels instinctive de-legitimization of any political figure or movement that does not share its essential values and cultural (including racial) agenda.
Who are ‘Mainstream Republicans’ the Joan Walshes of the world call out to take on the Movement parasite? Defenestration of Tom Davis in VA and Arlen are old news.
There continue to be so many dog whistles going on. Key issues like race unify the Movement up and down the educational and socio-economic ladders.
In the case of racism, overt comments allow all quickly to depict a discovered outburst as an ‘isolated, unacceptable incident’, etc. The nativism swirling around the immigration debates is an easy example. Pat Buchanan long swam in those waters now plied by Lou Dobbs.
But what Krugman likely knows and won’t say is that some of the most refined, intelligent ‘conservative intellectuals’ at the highest so-called education and socio-economic levels trade in racism behind hi tech euphemism. It’s by code word, by invitation. At its core is the same pseudo genetic ‘science’ from Chamberlain (not Neville), etc. Again, most of it recycled from the Old World. Now, trussed up with slick Silicon Valley tech talk these conversations seek to mask old racial tropes.
Gender hierarchy issues play out the same way. Religion and moral posings are used to mask more primal racial and reproductive control. Sound ridiculous? You’d be surprised. An interesting fault line is the position of conservative Catholicism for the Movement. It’s a dual edged sword. Movement proponents of genetic racial agendas embrace the Catholic predisposition against birth control, etc. Yet the Catholic Church is (along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) one of the biggest proponents of immigration leniency for its own narrow institutional interests.
The Movement’s loyalty to higher existential values rather than ‘mere process’ like democracy (something Buchanan in his prime fumed about all the time) is overt. When one understands this dynamic, then the relative silence about Dr. Tiller’s murder, or the right wing extremism that let to Officer Johns heroic courage makes sense. As a famous ‘Republican’ once told me, he’d rather live an American version of Franco than have to deal with multiculturalism. *That’s* how existentialism trumps liberal democracy.
The Stiftung over decades worked with and saw first hand the Movement’s use of covert signals while using pluralist political platforms. If the Stiftung has seen and heard this stuff from Capitol Hill to refined salons in the Imperial City and across the country, so has everyone else. Anyone covering politics seriously can not miss them.
Krugman above just touched on three overriding conversations critical to the nation: (i) can the rump Movement ever be reconciled to participating in a liberal democratic society?; (ii) what is the price we pay for a enfeebled ‘Republican Party’ host shell paralyzed by the more powerful Movement?; and (iii) how can American liberal democracy be served if the media itself really doesn’t understand what it is reporting — *or more damningly* — won’t?