Thursday, December 2, 2010

Republican Radicals?

Poster Roidubouloi says today:

I can appreciate that it is very difficult for anyone who participates in a "civil society" to recognize when a powerful radical element has arisen. We strain to explain the behavior and rhetoric of such an element within the norms to which we are accustomed. It is the easiest thing in the world to denounce anyone who says that there is such a radical element, that it is large and dangerous, as paranoid. After all, there are always people around saying such things, that such and such, FDR for example, is a radical threat to the American way, etc., etc. Usually, they are paranoid nuts.

How then to distinguish the case of a genuine radicalized threat from paranoid delusions? I don't know of any rule or reliable method of doing so. One has to observe and consider constantly what particular political rhetoric and behavior portends. To me, the Democrats remain stunned, as they have been before, because they cannot accept the reality that they are no longer dealing with a Republican party that participates in the normal give and take and compromise of politics, but with a radical party that simply wants to destroy the Democratic party and everything it has ever achieved going back to the beginning of the Republic.

K2K up there complains about how awful it is to place political defeat of the opposition above the interests of the nation. But I am nobody posting on a website. The next Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner said exactly that a few days ago, out loud, in public, and the political world didn't even react.

I am no historian, sociologist, psychologist, or political scientist with the tools to explain and chart our descent. But it does seem to me to have begun in earnest with Reagan, when the Republican party discovered that it could tell preposterous lies and nobody cared, even when events proved the preposterous lies to be just that. Then Bush I, who was not a radical, lost the election because he, unlike his predecessor, attempted to govern from some standpoint of rationality. It was he after all who coined the phrase "voodoo economics" when contesting with Reagan for the Republican nomination in 1980. Those two events seem to have let slip something in the Republican party -- you tell preposterous lies, you win; you attempt to govern, you lose. Hence the sheer fury at Clinton who was hardly some radical leftist. Not even close.

How to tell a radical movement from a mere ideological tendency? Two things suggest themselves. One is this departure from rationality, the ability to claim, and apparently to believe, patently absurd things about the world. The other is the insistent nostalgia for a morally pure imagined past, unpolluted by the accretions of modernity. Rhubarbs pointed out the other day that the Tea party is simply opposed to modernity in all its elements. I think that is correct. And the Tea party is simply the vanguard trend of the Republican party. Sure there are old-timers who don't believe the nonsense, but they are being purged or cowed into silence. Boehner even suggested that he would accept a compromise with the Democrats on taxes and they were all over him.

I believe that the Republicans are no longer a political party in the sense that it has been understood for more than two hundred years in the context of our "two party system." There is no negotiating with them, no compromising with them. They are bent on power without regard to the needs of the nation. They say so openly. We ought to take them at their word instead of imputing some more benign interpretation to what they say. It is always thus in the relatively early stages of the growth of a radical movement, difficult to believe that the radicals could actually be that crazy. You have to listen to what they say and accept that they do mean it, and consider the implications if they succeed in imposing their agenda. Is that a world we even recognize? What will prevent them from doing just what they say?

Poster jackR:

Roid - I appreciate your clarity about the current Republicans. For someone like me who experienced benign politicians like Wilkey, Vandenberg, Eisenhower, Dirksen, Dole, Lugar, and many others, it's hard to realize we are looking at a phenomenon that could arguably be characterized as evil, but there it is. When you put together opposition to START, to extending unemployment benefits, to ending DADT, to passing DREAM, to confirming sub-cabinet and judicial nominees to saving the 700 billion that extending the Bush tax cut would add to the deficit, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that these folks don't have the best interests of America and most Americans at heart unless they happen to be very rich. They will oppose anything, however beneficial to the nation, if it will help take down Obama. So even though you haven't used the word, you are describing evil, and I believe that that perception should govern our response. Now if only our President could see this.

Me: (bringing up the rear)

...Roid - I appreciate your clarity about the current Republicans...

I'll second that. (And unfortunately I'm old enough to remember a more moderate, centred Republicanism.) It simply amazes me, for one tired, well trod, other instance, that anyone for one nano second takes the execrable Palin(ism) seriously and gives her a moment of their time save to scorn, bemoan and reject her wretchedness. I thought yours and jackR's very good posts and I repeated both elsewhere with attribution to both your user names here.


  1. Woo, pretty scarrry. But whatever happened to the notion of "radical" as meaning "going to the root"? Does that only work for lefty radicals? Or is anyone not a centrist -- like the good folks here -- just some version of clinically insane (paranoid, delusional, wretched, etc. etc.)? And what if defeating the opposition just is in the interests of the nation? I mean y'all think defeating the Republicans would be in the interests of the nation, no? Or is that another of those things that only works one way? I think you better look out then -- Sarah Palin's coming to town!

  2. Are you truly enthusiastic about the Palins, Becks and Limbaughs and whom all of their ilk else?

  3. "Enthusiastic" wouldn't be accurate, and I'll even admit that their styles, though varied, are not mine. Two of them at least are largely showmen. But what the ilk you've quoted above seem to be upset about are the Republicans per se, and no doubt the Tea Party phenomenon in general. And what seems to have driven them into a frenzy is the simple fact that these groups don't agree with them. I guess it can be maddening, perhaps literally so, to have to argue for things that, on a very basic level, you feel to have been long settled -- and all worse if you then find yourself losing the argument. Easier by far to resort to labels like "nutty", or "radical", or, best of all, simply "evil". Easier, perhaps, but not particularly effective unless you're already in the choir.