Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who are the real social conservatives?

Dennis Prager is at it again, promoting one of the latest memes in the echo chamber known as the rightosphere, that it was some sort of injustice for Barbara Boxer to request to be called by her title. Admittedly, he makes one good point: military officers use the sir and ma'am honorifics as a matter of training. But I suspect that a man who has had bullets fired at him [I'm speaking about the general here] could give a damn about things like this. It's just another chapter in Teh Librulz Hate The Troops. But this is rather stunning:
Liberalism has lowered expectations of behavior for everyone in America except white Christian heterosexual males. They are the only Americans from whom dignified and mature conduct is always expected. Liberals treat women, blacks, Hispanics, gays, and many non-Christians, with what is known as the soft bigotry of low expectations. Many liberal women, blacks, Hispanics, and gays know that and use it to get away with conduct and speech that no WASP heterosexual male could. People rise or descend to the level of behavior expected of them.

His justification is partly that Barack Obama doesn't bristle when people address him as "sir", but I think that this betrays a lack of knowledge of protocol. Military officers are initially supposed to address Obama as "Mr. President" and subsequently as "sir". I don't know what the drill is for Senators, but it doesn't seem out of line to insist on something similar. Additionally, Prager evidently doesn't understand that using a black man as an example of a supposed example of white restraint undermines his whole argument, such as it is. And he really overreaches here:
That is why those 17 seconds in the U.S. Senate were so revealing and worthy of
attention. They encapsulated the way in which modern liberalism has lowered the
bar of civility for so many in America.

I have to think that being a wingnut requires a total lack of irony. This quote is completely meaningless, although it makes perfect sense if one replaces "liberalism" with "the conservative movement." I mean, just listen to Mark ("If I were your husband, I'd put a gun to my head." "WHY DO YOU HATE YOUR CHILDREN? WHY DO YOU WANT THEM TO BE IMPOVERISHED?") Levin or Rush ("They're going to have to call it the Ted Kennedy Memorial Health Bill before it's done." "I hope he fails.") Limbaugh for examples of the extremely low standards of civility in the public discourse. And it's the right that is far more in cahoots with trash culture these days than the left--Kim Kardashian rates an interview on Hannity and Fox News spent weeks covering the death of a stripper, while it's highly unlikely that you'll see similar antics on Rachel Maddow. At some point, hopefully, people will realize that today's liberals are, in every way, much more authentically culturally conservative than the so-called conservatives. One hopes that the cavalcade of Republican infidelities will help cement that impression.

The ultimate problem here for the GOP is that what is perceived to be culturally conservative in America is basically what can be counted as Midwestern values, while the GOP has become a Southern party, which has rather different standards of self-presentation. The reason why Democrats have an edge on social issues right now is that, from Obama on down, the Democrats have become adept at coopting the rhetoric and sensibility of Middle America while the Republicans are only really able to appeal to Texas, where the two most ubiquitous sorts of buildings are churches and topless joints, as well as places similar in mindset. I'm not sure if there's a larger argument to be made here, but this all strikes me as pretty solid. Then again, it does depend on the definition of "cultural conservatism", though I find it hard to believe that any real conservatism can be based on incivility, bombasticity, profanity and excess.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.