Friday, February 11, 2011

Republican Voters on TV

In the comments section of a previous post, Dante wondered why I lump Glenn Beck in with the rest of the allegedly-conservative "right-wingers," such as Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh.

Maybe because these are the kinds of folks who explicitly stand with Beck? (HT: Daily Dish)

Now I wonder why I didn't lump Beck in with right-wingery of Iowa Republican Caucus-goers.



Here's what the President says that starts this discussion:

The President: "It is important to say that our only two options are not the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed Egyptian people" (though O'Reilly interrupts him during the last part).

O'Reilly (interrupting): "But you don't want the Muslim Brotherhood?"

The President: "What I want is a representative government in Egypt."


Here is where I wonder where any truly conservative individual, outside the general red vs. blue team politics of a situation, will have any problem with this. Right now, in Egypt, we don't have many options. The President of the United States can't tell the demonstrators in Tahrir Square to go home. He can't demand that citizens of Egypt not participate in self-government if they don't reflect our interests.

The President can express the opinions and interests of the United States to whatever government is currently sovereign in Egypt; he can use his influence with the current regime to decrease violent repression in the hope that the demonstrations do not turn anti-American; he can make sure the State Department is looking after US interests, and those of our allies, in that country while these demonstrations continue - which are all things he is doing.

Criticisms of the President, from a conservative standpoint, would wonder if there was anything more that could have been done to use US influence earlier, to move Egypt to a more representative government before people went into the streets in demonstrations that threatened stability. Another could look forward to other autocratic client-states of the US, and how we should begin using our influence there to promote democracy without the same instability (and the anti-American sentiment that might come with it) from happening elsewhere.

You'd think the responses of a real conservative would reflect something like that. I've read about a few, and I've posted a few. I sure hope conservatives who read this will add a few truly conservative thoughts to the Egypt situation.

But what we see in this video is the exact opposite. The responses from the "conservative" Republicans read like a litany of all that has been said by Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, Palin, Levin and O'Reilly over these last two years. Let's see how fast this "policy" conversation goes off the rails.

  1. He doesn't have a grasp on how serious this could be, doesn't know what the details are, doesn't know what we want or what we need as a country.
  2. Doesn't understand the difference between a Republic and a Democracy
  3. No coherent policy/Doesn't know what he's doing.
  4. Barack Obama is a Muslim, and that's guiding his policies.

That didn't take long at all. As a matter of fact, on video, that took exactly 36 seconds. Once that happens, you can see the affirmation of that thought process in the assembly. And before anyone says anything about this being a "liberal media setup," this was on Hannity.

The majority of individuals gathered for this panel think the President of the United States is a Muslim, that being Muslim is a problem, that the interests of Muslims run counter to that of the United States as a matter of foreign policy, and specifically as it relates to the Egyptian people demonstrating against a tyrant.

They also think they will be chided by "the media" for these beliefs. Not that some of these beliefs might be wrong, not that some of these beliefs may be erroneously held, but that they may be complained about by the media. This is what complete epistemological closure looks like: reality has no bearing here, and is seen as a conspiratorial boogeyman.

Who does that sound like?

Now, to be fair, there are some real conservatives who are surprised by this reaction on the part of Republican voters, or do not take this belief on the part of Republican voters seriously. Conor Friedersdorf explains this. On the other hand, I'm not surprised at all. If all people hear from their choice of "populist" media personalities is that the President is a Muslim, that Muslims are bad, and no one but "teh ebil liberals and medai" refute any of those ascertations, what do you think these people are going to think? What did you think they'd say on television?

Let's unpack this.

1. Taking the situation seriously? What we want or need as a country? This country has supported Egyptian autocrats for decades. This runs right up against the later comments in the video that claim President Obama:

  • Feels that the United States is to blame, and doesn't respect all the "good" the United States does in the world.
  • Will lead us down a "path of destruction," like Neville Chamberlain, through appeasement.
  • Always seems caught unaware in the event of a crisis.

What our country "wants" is stability and peace so that our goods and capital can flow to and from foreign markets, and we can access the natural resources we need and new markets for our goods. What our country claims to promote around the world is the dignity of human liberty, individual freedom and human rights. What our country actually does is attempt to reconcile those two things, and the result ain't always pretty.

But don't tell these people. They aren't real conservatives, because real conservatives would understand that foreign policy is an ugly mixture of realpolitik and idealism. For these people, this isn't a complicated issue - the United States does only good around the world, and anyone who thinks we do anything bad hates and blames the United States, isn't a patriotic American and is most likely a liberal (the most intolerant religion).

If our country supports autocrats and tyrants it is because their people can't be trusted with representative or democratic government and hate the United States because of Marxism or Sharia. After all, just look at what happened in Cuba, Iran, Lebanon, the West Bank and Iraq! Why, as soon as those people got out from under their dictators, they started hating the United States for no reason whatsoever. All they do is sit around hating the USA, and being ungrateful for all the wonderful things we did for them under Batista, the Shah, the Israeli occupation or by bringing Saddam Hussein to justice. All these intolerant liberals want to do is encourage that sort of behavior because they hate America.

As far as being prepared for unexpected crises, that's why they're called crises. You can try and be prepared all you want, but sometimes you're not going to be in control of a situation. Real conservatives would realize that.

2. Doesn't understand the difference between Republic and Democracy? Both are governments where the people hold real elections and are not ruled by autocrats.

3. No coherent policy, doesn't know what he's doing? Hell, I told you that earlier in this post. I'll repeat it here for simplicity's sake.
The President can express the opinions and interests of the United States to whatever government is currently sovereign in Egypt; he can use his influence with the current regime to decrease violent repression in the hope that the demonstrations do not turn anti-American; he can make sure the State Department is looking after US interests, and those of our allies, in that country while these demonstrations continue - which are all things he is doing.


I'm quite unclear as to what else our President should or is able to be doing at this time from a policy standpoint. Perhaps one of my conservative readers can clue me in on this as well.

From what I read and hear from the right-wing, however, the basic idea appears as "be outraged" and "blame Obama" and "no, you don't need actual reasons."

And, of course,

4. President Barack Obama is a Muslim. Which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about these people Fox News and Sean Hannity put on television to talk about politics. It tells you everything you need to know about what these people think of Barack Obama, Muslims, liberalism, politics and religion all in one. It tells you instantly what these people really think about the United States of America and our laws, our policies and our place in the world. And if I keep hearing Republican voters talk about this, I'm going to start ascribing this erroneous belief to the whole of the GOP and the Tea Party.

Because this is exactly the reason I do not identify with mainstream Republican voters. That is exactly why I do not trust many Republican elected officials. Put the "R" after someone's name on a ballot, and these people are who I think of. I try to rise above that, and think instead of the people I know who do not act like this, but the reaction has become a gut one at this point.

This is not conservatism. Conservatism focuses on policy, regardless of religion. What you see here is right-wingery, hackery and demagougery. That's what this is.

.

4 comments:

Dante said...

"Here is where I wonder where any truly conservative individual, outside the general red vs. blue team politics of a situation, will have any problem with this. Right now, in Egypt, we don't have many options. The President of the United States can't tell the demonstrators in Tahrir Square to go home. He can't demand that citizens of Egypt not participate in self-government if they don't reflect our interests."

He also can't force the people of Egypt into a democracy. I have no problem with the President wanting a representative government in Egypt. What I do have a problem with is the blind assumption that this mob will lead us to that representative government. That's a question Rush has been asking a lot lately and it's a question the United States government is both unwilling and unable to answer.

"Because this is exactly the reason I do not identify with mainstream Republican voters. That is exactly why I do not trust many Republican elected officials. Put the "R" after someone's name on a ballot, and these people are who I think of. I try to rise above that, and think instead of the people I know who do not act like this, but the reaction has become a gut one at this point."

So let me ask you this, what have elected officials actually done that make you think what the right-wingery says about Obama's religious views are even an issue? I'm not looking for words. I'm looking for action. You've called yourself pragmatic in the past, but I think you're mistaken. Where is the unsatisfactory result that makes you unable to support those with this view?

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I haven't seen Obama say he can force the people of Egypt into a representative government. From all I've heard, he has clearly stated his preference for that outcome, and has had the State Department communicate that to the Egyptian administration. That is about all he can do, and he is doing it.

There are no blind assumptions coming from the President. That's all talk-radio made up nonsense.

To address your further point, isn't just elected officials, but those seeking election. It also has to do with the constant creation of this atmosphere of fear and false belief. Even silent or near-silent Republican officials who let their national spokespeople carry on with this nonsense reflects very, very badly on the party - in my eyes.

The results of the Obama Is a Muslim/Muslims Are Bad narrative can be seen many places by elected officials, those seeking election and those "carrying water" (to use Limbaugh's term) for those officials. It infects many narratives currently popular on the right, and in turn infects narratives of our popular culture. Creating unchallengable falsehoods through political marketing work as a kind of concrete policy, because the narratives make actual policy and facts irrelevant in exchange for fantasy. Words become action to the party unable to enact policy. Words change culture, and culture matters.

Most immediately, there is the Egypt thing, with a chorus of elected officials, formerly elected officials, and Presidential hopefuls criticising Obama's foreign policy objectives here and cashing in on the Muslims-are-bad/Obama siding with Muslims theme.

Cantor's statment might be the most underhanded of all, and he even tricked the press into believing that statement wasn't criticism.

Moving further, there is, of course, the now innocuous "Birther" language constantly bandied about by GOP officials at the state and national levels, and doubtless at the local levels. And, yes, I bring up the birther thing along with the Obama-as-Muslim meme because they are fruit from the same poisoned tree.

How does this manufacture of an unchallenged culture of fear translate into policy? Numerous ways.

The cultural suspicion continuing from the Iraq War. Our nation's continued inability to close Guantanamo Bay or conduct effective trials of those we are holding there.

The Ground Zero Mosque. Unreasonable fear of Sharia in America translates to Oklahoma banning Sharia law.

Oklahoma banned Sharia law as if one day they're going to wake up in a caliphate. That's action these words have brought us.

Dante said...

Let's run down these for a minute.

Egypt:
Once again, your proof is something that is said, not done. Oh noes! Obama is getting criticized. And some of it is UNFAIR!!!

Bithers:
"And, yes, I bring up the birther thing along with the Obama-as-Muslim meme because they are fruit from the
same poisoned tree."

I agree, but one of them makes for a lot better jokes. The Muslim thing just doesn't get the same traction. The initiatives to require a birth certificate will merely confirm what we already know: Obama was born in the United States. The only was we get a different outcome is if Obama cannot produce the birth certificate.

Al Qaeda and Guantanamo:
Ok. Here's some action likely based on political posturing. Good job.

The Ground Zero Mosque and Sharia Law:
Some folks crying over the Mosque/Cultural Center/Zipideedoo did get the Mulsim group to drop the idea. But no one forced them to. And what is the response? To make illegal something that is already illegal. A swing and a miss, Pat. That law in Oklahoma does nothing.

There's a lot of talk in politics. Very little of it ever translates into action. That action is all that matters.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I believe that words affect culture, and culture matters. I believe those words can scare people enough they will support actions and policies based on make-believe (as Oklahoma demonstrates). That is why this important.

I didn't even bring up the most obvious action that has resulted from this Muslims-bad line of thinking - the torture of human beings at the hands of our government, and our society's wholescale hand-washing of that policy as part and parcel of our cultural desire for revenge coupled with our psychotic persectution complex.

I can hear the process: Why would the President make us less safe by stopping the torture of prisoners if he didn't "empathize" with the prisoners himself by being a Muslim who wants to destroy the United States?

Hell, I'm justified if I never vote for another Republican Presidential candidate based on the actual policies of the last one. You ask for proof that folks can run high speed rail correctly. I have proof that the last guys tortured people because they brag about it.

And all that time critiques of actual policy were summarily ignored or dismissed by words.

Because questioning Obama's religion is just fine, but calling what this nation did torture is unpatriotic, America-hating, spitting-on-veterans liberalism. At least, that's what I've been told.

Moving on, one underscored and subversive point is that these words undermine real laws and real policies enacted by the current Administration without subjecting them to credible and necessary reality-based critique.

These folks have the right to say and believe whatever they want. But the more they engage in this fantasy, and the more their candidates and officials continue to encourage the fantasy, my reaction is to take what they say with zero credibility.

Because if they talk about the President being a Muslim, Muslims being bad, and this affecting US policy, how can I believe them when they say Health Care Reform is bad for jobs?

I can't.