Friday, August 14, 2009

Apparently the only choices left for political opposition today are astroturf or racism

Recall this emblemmatic statement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the protesters at townhall meetings:

“I think they’re Astroturf,” Pelosi said Tuesday. “You be the judge.


Recall that Rachel Maddow wowed the Obama supporters by reporting that--surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say--large organizations mobilizing public protesters are uually backed by political organizers and money (hello, George Soros and Moveon.org).

And also recall that virtually all such protesters have been characterized as goons and the mob, with clear implications that (a) mass appearances at such meetings are not indications of widespread grassroots resistance to expanding government; and (b) are inherently more violent, eliminationist, racist, and anti-democratic than anything we have seen before in recent memory.

Tale (b) first.

Locally, Shirley provides some compelling visual evidence to the contrary, while Victor Davis Hanson [h/t Hube] pretty much demolishes the whole this has never happened before narrative:

During the bleak days of Iraq, demonstrators carried swastikas and Hitler portraits of Bush habitually. Nicholson Baker wrote a novel in which characters are contemplating killing Bush. Films were praised imagining the assassination of the president. Michael Moore, courted by the Democratic elite, lamented that bin Laden on 9/11 had hit a blue state — and once compared the killers of Americans in Iraq to Minutemen.

Al Gore customarily used excessive language like "brown shirts." Senators Durbin, Kennedy, and others compared our soldiers to Saddamites, Pol Pot’s killers, and Nazis. Ward Churchill compared the victims in the Twin Tower to “little Eichmanns.” Sen. Robert Byrd likened Pres. George W. Bush’s policies to what transpired in Nazi Germany. Linda Ronstadt, Harold Pinter, Scott Ritter, Ted Rall, and George Soros agreed with Fidel Castro, the Iranians, and North Koreans in comparing Bush to Hitler.

Jonathan Chait wrote in the New Republic on why “I hate George W. Bush.” Garrison Keillor likened Bush’s Republicans to “brown shirts in pinstripes.” Even old hero Sen. John Glenn said of the Bush agenda: “It’s the old Hitler business.” In 1984, the Guardian’s Charles Brooker declared:

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?


Democrats were furious that Rush Limbaugh wanted Obama’s agenda to fail, but I think it was their National Chairman Howard Dean himself who went way beyond Limbaugh when he said publicly, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for,” and, “This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good.”


Naturally, Hanson's piece will be ignored, because it appeared in National Review, but Salon.com is a lot harder for liberals and progressives to ignore, and there Gabriel Winant has come to the belated discovery that this is true grassroots organizing behind a lot of the townhall protest movement--even in Glenn Beck's 912 Project:

The 9-12 Project looked like a vanity project for Beck at first, a gimmick to promote his show. But apparently, it’s really taken off. There’s virtually no place in the country that doesn’t have a 9-12 chapter. They’re organized, generally, along the lines of Meetup.com, the online club-forming system that was the backbone of the then-innovative online presence of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.

I clicked through the websites of about a dozen 9-12 chapter websites. Every single one of them has got listings of upcoming congressional events in the district. (See Georgia’s here, for example.) The fact that organizations are helping to make the protests happen doesn't make the protests fake. The protests would be fake if the people raising a ruckus were just paid goons. They obviously aren't, and nor are the union folks showing up to support healthcare reform.

Beck talks some about the town-halls and endorses the protests, but this is clearly a freestanding, grassroots phenomenon.


Obama supporters would like to believe that there is no great divide in America today: only the 21%ers, birthers, deathers, the GOP hierarchy, and racist elements of rightwing militias.

While there is some truth to these assertions--all those groups are out there--they obscure [perhaps intentionally] a major point. If as much as 40% of the American population was crazed racist, rightwing, violent loons, this country would have degenerated into armed civil war a long time ago.

No: there remain tens of millions of people in American who are more concerned [or at least equally concerned] that the expansion of government and the steady march toward unlimited debt funded by foreign investors represents a greater danger to the Republic than the necessity to pass a health insurance reform bill NOW [that won't even take effect until 2013--a convenient date that allows President Obama to run for re-election on his success without having to show any actual improvements].

Most of these folks are politically homeless right now, because they don't trust the GOP any more than the Democrats did.

Yet if they want to oppose a Democratic super-majority in the Congress, where else are they supposed to turn in a nation that has essentially outlawed the development of any significant third party through ballot-access restrictions.

It was frankly inevitable that, as the Democrats moved further left, many others would react by moving further right, leaving the people who actually live in the center with no good choices at all.

Worse, the liberals and the progressives now seem to be engaged in a form of propaganda designed to de-legitimize virtually any political dissent as treasonous, racist or eliminationist, and to suggest that only those who agree with their perceptions of the need for, and direction of, reform can be trusted to hold political discourse.

Again: yes, there are nutcases out there who hate Obama because he's African-American, and there are people who would cheerfully set fire to the American experiment. They have always been there: their visibility rises and falls. When it rises, as it appears to be doing now, it always proves to be a convenient prop for those who want to paint all small-government [including libertarian] advocates of the primacy of individual rights as the real danger to society.

4 comments:

Perry said...

First of all, Steve, Obama claims he can pay for this health insurance reform bill. Then let us see when we have a reconciled final bill.

Secondly, just because there have been fringe elements on the left acting out in the past does not mean that we should be silent as the right fringe acts out now.

Moreover, in the past there were no Limbaughs, Becks, Malkins, or FoxNews, with huge audiences, stoking the flames of the fringe on the right with outright distortions and lies; therefore that in itself differentiates today's uprisings from those of the past.

Finally, I like the 2013 date, because we will know by then whether we have a growing economy and a decreasing deficit.

If anybody should be yelling and screaming now, it should be the middle class who have been screwed by Wall Street and the paid for Congress that we have had for several decades. Where are the fiscally conservative/socially liberal Libertarians on this issue?

Steve Newton said...

Perry, I worry about you, because you tend to forget what you have read and commented upon. Where were libertarians over the past decade? Speaking everywhere we could about need for sound financial management. I know you read this blog; I know you have read me calling for that.

Your mantra to wait for a final bill is unfortunately idealistic, given that, for example, cap and trade was pushed through within 48 hours of the final bill being written, and a 100 page amendment was appended 12 hours before the vote. If people don't have their voices heard now they will never have another chance.

You may like the 2013 but I think it is a political evasion--and tell me where it says in any of the draft legislation that if we don't have a growing economy then that health care reform will be postponed. It doesn't.

I don't think you should be silent about fringe elements on the right. I think you should stop trying to use the mere existence of those fringe elements as an excuse to portray all differences with your side's policy as fringe. (You in this case is plural, not singular.)

No Rush Limbaugh in the 1990s? Go back and look. If anything, the rightwing noise machine has less of a market share today than it did 4-6 years ago. But I wouldn't expect you to admit that.

Brian Shields said...

The Nazi comments are so overplayed, and show how childish the thinking of those who resort the the lowest possible denominator for a comparison for people they dislike.

When someone invades Russia in the winter, I'll start comparing them to Nazis, everything else is just silly.

Why must people resort to the nuclear option of arguing to prove their point? Such intellectual laziness bores me.

For instance, I liked what the Tea parties were supposed to stand for on Tax Day, but at the Laurel party they had the Obama Nazi signs and the signs putting his mugshot in a lineup with Stalin, Guevara, Castro, and the like. It was just over the top. For Christ's sake they said the Pledge of Allegiance to an upside down flag as a distress signal.

I understand that they were trying to "rally the troops" so to speak, but do it with some civility, some intelligence, and some respect for those who think differently than you.

Believe it or not it is working, but the mindless sheep who bleat the party line on command scare the ever living daylights out of me.

Happening on both sides, by the way. Listen, repeat, argue. No thinking involved. Freakin' scary.

Hube said...

Perry, I worry about you, because you tend to forget what you have read and commented upon.

Have pity, Steve. Perry is, after all, virtually a living fossil.