October 9, 2010

Olympia Snowe, Right Wing Operative

"Can't we all just get along?"

Olympia Snowe is cast by the Right as the archetypal RINO - Republican in name only.  Yet, it's people like Snowe, and DINOs like Evan Bayh, the supposedly "sensible center", that are really cementing the gains made by the Right since the days of Ronald Reagan.

At issue is not Snowe's various political stances, and she should be commended for at least appearing to buck the party lines when she thinks it's necessary.  No, the real issue is the idea - found anywhere from Sam Waterston's Unity08 movement to the petty excuses blubbering from Bayh's lips to even The Daily Show - that somehow the polarization in American politics can be blamed on the Left as well as the Right . . . or, as Senator Snowe puts it, "the red states are getting redder and the blue states are getting bluer". 

That is simply not the case.  America is a right wing nation.

I'm not going to get into the machinations of Mitch McConnell here: politics is politics, and Mitch is a master manipulator.  The swing to the right is about more than politics, it's about culture.  McConnell represents a specific set of political skills, Rand Paul represents a world view.  And that world view is right wing.

If there really were the Right/Left equivalence in American politics suggested by the "sensible center", then where are the left-wing analogues of Paul, Palin, Angle, O'Donnell, Bachman, et. al.?  Don't talk to me about Barney Frank, Dennis Kucinich, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Russ Feingold, or any of the Congressional Left.  If we want true counterparts to the Tea Party patriots, then we need to be running people who not only think that "big government" has a purpose, who may even go so far as to support national health care (Kucinich; anyone else?), we need candidates who question the very value of private property and the individual versus the collective, among other things.  We need candidates who aren't afraid to quote Marx and Lenin.  We need people we can point to and say "you think Obama is a commie?  Obama's not even really a liberal; now there's a communist!"

And it's not the polarization that's killing the American dialogue.  It's not even the vitriol.  It's the stupidity.

I have theoretical problems with Libertarians, but I have very concrete problems with those who claim to be Libertarians but still want the government all up in someone else's business, just not theirs . . . for example, you can be a Libertarian and a social conservative, but you must know that any laws codifying social conservatism are anti-libertarian (Ron Paul revealed his own Libertarianism as a lie when he caved on the gay marriage issue*).  And hey, if you are hating on the bailout and stimulus package from the laissez-faire capitalist angle, then shut the hell up about the unemployment rate.  That's just the system cleaning itself out.

I could (and often do) go on.  But, even if I am arguing the point from an obvious political position, the argument I'm making is not a directly political one.

The point is that our very speech has been bent into uselessness.  Our words and phrases mean nothing because they have no fidelity to a real idea: they are masks designed to slot into public conversations in a specific way to affect a specific reaction.  Our words and phrases do not reveal, they obfuscate.  If we are getting dumber (and I believe we are), it is because language is at the core of thought, and our language has been beaten into a dull, rusty blade.

Here, again, is that anathema to thought we call "common sense": Snowe's contention that the polarization of the right and left is to blame for the devolution of discourse in this country is common, but not true.  Any phrase or masked idea becomes common simply from repetition.  At some point, depending on who's driving the train, it moves from simply being common to common sense . . . Große Lüge, Hitler's "Big Lie", or, per Goebbels, "one should lie big and stick with it", which we can modify to read  "say anything often enough and loud enough, sooner or later it becomes commonly accepted as fact."  Common sense is like that.

 Again, no specific beef with Olympia Snowe, given that even John Stewart makes concessions to the "polarization" conceit**, but it is exactly at this point where the Right has had its biggest cultural success since 1980.  In that sense, Olympia Snowe is a much more effective champion of the right than Rand Paul ever will be.

He could have dodged the whole issue by saying that the government has no business endorsing any kind of marriage, hetero or homo, but he didn't.  He came out squarely against gay marriage.  I think at some point he tossed out some "states rights" bullshit, but decentralized government is not the same as small government (just look at California).  Libertarianism betrays itself if it cannot protect its citizens against the tyranny of the majority.  Of course, at the core of the issue is what Libertarianism can do . . . and the most convincing argument is that a Libertarian government can't do anything, and that's the way its supposed to be.  Do you think all the American Right, with all of its current angry demands, wants a government that does nothing?  Of course not.  They want a government that keeps out illegal aliens, restricts abortion, is tough on crime, keeps us safe from terrorists, cleans up our (whoops!  the petrochemical companies') spills, keeps Muslims from building, etc.  These people aren't Libertarians, they don't want small government, they want government to do what they want it to do and nothing else.
**  When trying to set a polarized equivalence, Stewart always seems to resort to 9/11 conspiracy theory for his example of left-wing extremism.  I think if he were called on it, he would probably say that 9/11 conspiracy is not a right or a left issue in the same way that Illuminati/Trilateral conspiracy is not a left or a right issue, and he would be right.  It's just a bit frustrating that he concedes to this fake parallelism when I don't think he really buys into it.

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