Posted by: Rick | Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Hidden Strength Of American Conservatism

Without words said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceania was at war with Eastasia!  The next moment there was a tremendous commotion.  The banners and posters with which the square was decorated were all wrong!  Quite half of them had the wrong faces on them.  It was sabotage!  The agents of Goldstein had been at work!  There was a riotous interlude while posters were ripped from the walls, banners torn to shreds and trampled underfoot.  The Spies performed prodigies of activity in clambering over the rooftops and cutting the streamers that fluttered from the chimneys.  But within two or three minutes it was all over.  The orator, still gripping the neck of the microphone, his shoulders hunched forward, his free hand clawing at the air, had gone straight on with his speech.  One minute more, and the feral roars of rage were again bursting from the crowd.  The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed.  — George Orwell, 1984

Barack Obama is getting savaged by progressives.  They see his endless quest for bipartisanship as a betrayal of Democratic ideals and a sabotaging of Democratic programs.  Hardly a day goes by on the radio that Ed Schultz or Thom Hartmann doesn’t take the president to the woodshed over some senseless capitulation.  (Their callers are even more riled up.)  And as for the liberal blogosphere — well, I’m doing my part in my own crappy little kingdom, and the big boys and girls seem about ready to storm the White House barricades.

The right has also had it with Obama, but their wrath is focussed — like Bill Clinton’s laser beam — on a single issue.  No, it’s not Obama’s birth certificate.  (Good try, though.)  Do you know what it is?  You’ll never guess in a million years.  Okay, I’ll tell you:  Conservatives are in a panic over the federal budget deficit!

I knew you wouldn’t believe me.  You remember the last regime only too well, don’t you?  Two wars (not with Eastasia or Oceania, but awfully damned expensive), a big prescription drug plan (not paid for, of course) and a slew of tax cuts for rich people (budget-busters to the max).  The result?  A vast sea of blood-red ink Charlton Heston couldn’t part.

Democrats have experience cleaning up Republican messes, but they’re burdened politically by two inconvenient constraints: a commitment to principle and a desire to effect solutions.  (Naturally, I’m excluding the Lieberdems here.  May they rot in hell!)  Modern American conservatives — I prefer to call them wingnuts to distinguish them from their rational Burkean forbears — possess neither.

Now, you’ll often hear Sean Hannity and others of his ilk boast about how they held George W. Bush’s feet to the fire over his irresponsible fiscal behavior, but believe me when I tell you they did no such thing.  As a political junkie in the days before the arrival of liberal talk radio, I listened to every right-wing lunatic except Bill O’Reilly (who’s quite compelling on his own television show but absolutely godawful elsewhere).  They didn’t give a shit about anything but killing Muslims and questioning the patriotism of people who disagreed with them about killing Muslims.

Domestically, wingnuts believe in two simple ideas: taxes may never be raised and government can’t solve problemsPeriod!  Everything else is window dressing that politicians are free to change at their whim for political expediency.  Republicans have no plans to “govern”.  Governing is for liberal weenies.  Tax-cutting is for patriots.

In Orwell’s 1984, when the Party decreed that Oceania had gone to war with Eastasia, it said it had always been at war with Eastasia.  That was the new reality.  The old reality simply ceased to exist.  In the same fashion can today’s Republicans, unburdened by any practical rationale for their involvement in politics, ignore the historical fact of their complicity in the very deficits they now rail against.  Reality is irrelevant to power.  Besides, Dick Cheney himself said deficits don’t matter.  (He said it. Go look it up.)

That’s the strength of American conservatism.  And Democrats will always be at a political disadvantage in terms of calibrating their message to fit the times.  The Democratic base is a little harder to please. 

We demand more than loud noises, shiny objects and somebody to hate.

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