Thursday, October 03, 2013

On shutdowns and shitheads. Or, "Boy! I asked for more tea!"

This morning I was chatting with another ex-Rodalian about the ongoing imbroglio over Obamacare, the government shutdown and related matters. I wondered if these Tea Party types, who had already wrought the shutdown, might actually have the stones to push us over the edge when it comes to the more momentous issue of the debt ceiling. There was a time when I really didn't think so, when I thought these jokers were all about brinksmanship and bluster and self-styled machismo (even if they're gals, like, say, Ms. Bachmann). I'm not so sure anymore. These representatives were sent to Washington in many cases by anarchic constituencies who refuse to recognize the federal government's dominion over them. They hate Washington in principle, so from their point of view, obstructionism is the proper approach for their duly sworn legislators: Any damage they inflict on The System is, by definition, a good thing. Plus, not by coincidence do a fair number of these Tea Party types hail from areas in rural Georgia, Kentucky and other precincts of the former Old South. Voters in such areas were never especially fond of Obama, in principle, either.

My former Rodale colleague and I also shared our astonishment at the huge blocs of Americans who continue to vote against their own practical interests because of their obsession with some overarching pseudo-ideology that often reduces to an "-ism" or "-obia." The other day as I was driving around, I got on the air with one of the more rabid right-wing radio hosts in Philly, and he actually let me make a few good points before (a) labeling me a liberal crank and (b) cutting me off. I told him that at one time I did a lot of writing for the Wall Street Journal (which is not at all where I am politically today, of course). My Journal period can be explained in terms of my Dad, who raised me in the tradition of William Buckley's philosophical/intellectual conservatism. I admired Buckley, and his writings, enormously. His was a conservatism based on a libertarian world-view and a sense of what best motivates Mankind to excel. I still agree with a lot of what Buckley had to say, in theory.

Then one day I looked around me and noticed that an awful lot of the people who'd crawled inside the tent with me were not exactly philosophical/intellectual conservatives in the Buckley tradition; they were racists and homophobes and xenophobes in the redneck tradition. They'd surveyed the political landscape in order to assess which party was a better fit with hurting niggers and faggots and gooks and bitches (I'm using their vocab here, not mine), and decided they were conservatives. Even if it took away the food stamps that their family desperately needed, they were gonna vote Republican as long as they knew that lots of blacks were getting hurt in the bargain. On top of that you had the Karl Rove-engineered influx of single-issue Christian zealots, who didn't give a shit what happened to America as long as we "upheld family values" and tried to prevent women from having abortions.

But did they then want any part of caring for all those extra babies? No effin way! In America you stand on your own two feet!!

Right before the radio host cut me off, I'd asked him, "Tell me honestly, if you subtracted the racists and the homophobes and the misogynists and the lunatic-fringe evangelists, what percent of the vote do you think you and your conservative pals would get in the next national election? 10 percent? 20?" He never did answer.


We would also do well to remember that in the most extreme cases, these are the folks stockpiling AKs, and food, and installing wall safes and building backyard bunkers as they await the Revolution (the one that's gonna try to take away their guns, for starters). They are faithful fans of the Glenn Becks and (slightly more literate) Mark Levins, talking heads who foment paranoia and rage in the guise of exposing "suppressed information." Have you listened to Beck's show of late, and cataloged the advertisers? It is remarkable, and a bit scary, how many of his ads seem targeted to the militia mentality. I can't say whether this is in fact a Beck advertiser, but it speaks to the genre.


roger o'keefe said...

Steve over the years you've written your share of extreme and insulting posts, but this one has to take the cake. So I'm a shithead for believing in limited government and lower taxes? I'm a racist or a homophobe by your definition?

I don't know why I keep reading your blog if this is the best you can do. I guess there is only one side to this debate as you see it. You owe me and millions of good Americans who believe what I believe an apology. Or take down the post.

Steve Salerno said...

I calls 'em as I sees 'em, Rog. And remember, I didn't say that all conservatives are shitheads; I was a member of the breed myself at one point, and I don't think I am/was a shithead for being so. I'm simply arguing that the GOP increasingly has become a convenient cover for those who are pure haters at heart.

If indeed you are a Buckley or Reagan conservative--and you also have your eyes open and have a conscience (I had my doubts about Reagan)--you should be as appalled as anyone about the way your party has been hijacked by, yes, shitheads. And I stand by my comment that if the only people allowed to vote Republican were those who could cite Buckley, or merely spell the word "conservative," you guys would get absolutely pasted in national elections, and even many local ones.

RevRon's Rants said...

I don't think that anyone is defining all conservatives as shitheads - not *real* conservatives, anyway. Problem is that some of those who call themselves "conservative" are anything but. I'm referring to9 those who proclaim to love our system of government, yet whose actions clearly indicate that they have no faith in it whatsoever, and that they're willing to destroy the very system they claim to love, all in their greater commitment to an extremist political ideology.

I'd suggest that these people read (and attempt to absorb) the words of the framers, and ask themselves - honestly - whether their political activities bear any resemblance to the founders' intent. In particular, I'd suggest studying Number 10 in James Madison's Federalist Papers, which Thomas Freidman discusses quite lucidly, saying, "if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled." (

I also believe that those who rail against having the wealthiest individuals (and corporations) paying a fair and equitable level of taxation, yet screaming against the notion of helping the poor, fall easily within the definition. And to those who assume this stance, while simultaneously claiming that the country is a Christian nation and should function according to Christian principles, I would add "hypocritical" to the definition.

Simply put, there is nothing "conservative" about harming one's country to achieve a partisan advantage. There is nothing "American" about subverting the will of the voters to achieve the same goal. And there is nothing "patriotic" about ignoring the failed results of 40+ attempts to kill the signature initiative upon which our democratically-elected President based two successful runs for office.

IMO, the fact that President Obama is black is merely icing on the TEA Party's cake, an additional factor with which to attract the most bigoted of voters. More significant to the right, IMO, is the fact that President Obama is a Democrat whom, despite having been elected by an egregiously gerrymandered nation, has no legitimacy in the eyes of his most ardent detractors. The same attitude was apparent during the l;ast Democrat administration, which was dogged throughout by "investigations" into anything and everything that he and his wife had ever done. I find it interesting that after years of effort and millions of taxpayer dollars spent, all the torch-bearers could come up with was something for which an awful lot of men (including "conservative" republicans) have been guilty: lying about sex.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that the Republican Party simply cannot bear losing elections, much less realize that they lose those elections because their platform is not consistent with the mindset of the voting majority. And when push comes to shove, they'd rather burn down the country than restudy that platform.

And before anyone claims that the Republicans represent the majority, bear in mind that the Democrats have won the popular vote in the last 3 Presidential elections, and that if voting districts were to be established objectively, rather than with the sole purpose of manipulating electoral counts in either party's favor, we wouldn't even be having this discussion today, because the Republican Party, and in particular the far right segment of that party, would be represented according to the will of the voters, and as marginalized as is their platform.

Anonymous said...

I am a crypto-paleo-con who's opposed to the Tea Party and GOP as well. I knew 20 years ago that the direction we're heading in is inexorable. And the outcome as well. Full speed ahead. I support the Camp of the Saints and the Bernie Madoff I.S. LLC economy we got here. I did a fist pump when I heard it'd be Yellen. QE all the way, baby! My wife and I don't have kids. We are in the one percent. We're cashing in our chips next year and are outta here.