Monday, September 14, 2009

Explanations of rightist rage, post-9/12 edition

There seem to be many explanations for this phenomenon, and ones like this, while interesting, strikes me as overanalytical. I think Matt Yglesias's is the best I've seen yet:
I think the crux of the matter is that since 1928 or so, the Democratic Party has typically presented itself in national politics as representing a coalition of “outsider” groups—Catholics & Jews back in the day, nonwhites and seculars more recently. The actual identity of the leader of the coalition matters, but only at the margin. It could be a patrician from upstate New York or a war hero from South Dakota or a cracker from Arkansas at the top of the ticket, but fundamentally no matter who’s in charge the election of a Democrat represents the mainstream’s loss of power to the outsiders. Clinton’s win, notwithstanding Ricky Ray Rector and all the rest, still represented the triumph of the “cares what black people think” political coalition and thus enhanced power for black political machines. Thus the reaction to an actual black president is different, but not all that different, from what you saw previously.
This naturally appeals to my essential political realism. For all the talk about culture wars, the notion that the conflict basically boils down to political power strikes me as plausible. I think it's true, but it's not the whole truth: there are large sections of the right that literally believe that their fellow citizens want to put large populations of the public to death if they cease to serve society. For whatever reason--be it the segmentation of the country by geographic region, the preponderance of crazies thanks to cable news, etc.--it just seems to me that empathy is in short supply these days, and that strikes me as the biggest problem. I'll readily admit that I've been too glib at various points while writing this blog, but I look and listen and really try to learn what drives these people, and the only reasonable conclusion that I can draw is that they are (mostly) well-meaning people who have been led astray by demagogues and dimestore fascists with their own agendas. I do hold them responsible for not demanding accountability from their leaders and for not really trying to learn what drives the other side, though. To argue, to allow others to argue, to listen and rebut and to re-examine and engage, are not only the actions of a confident person who is truly interested in broadening their knowledge of the world and themselves, but also the fundamentals of little-d democratic politics and society.

Now, of course, democracy is fundamentally based on a struggle for power--albeit one that places confines on its use--and that debate is bound to get raucous and ugly on occasion. I do think the continuing existence of right-wing rage--which has incredibly survived the complete geographic reorientation of America politically, from when the strongest resistance to F.D.R. was in the Northeast and the South was his electoral bulwark, until the present time when the converse is true--has got to have something to do with a struggle for power. Indeed, that is the only explanation that really makes sense considering this anger's longevity. I'm still trying to figure out what else is feeding it.

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.