By Rawlein G. Soberano, Ph.D.
(March 9, 2010) – Conservatives relentlessly make a straightforward public case based on syllogism: Big government is responsible for the mess – strictly a capricious, unfounded and unproven statement. Ergo, the mess is the fault of Barrack Obama and big-government Democrats. It is absolutely simplistic and misleading. How many people have they misled throughout all these past three decades?
It’s their strategy to win elections. You have to admire the audacity of conservatives who can parrot these lies with a straight face, and who are quick to “discipline” those who stray by saying or doing everything in their power to humiliate them or threaten them with expulsion. When they were in power, their talking points did not help them and showed their inability to govern.
Their expertise is fear-mongering, as shown consistently by one of their leaders, Rep. John Boehner of OH, Minority Leader of the House who rationalized his opposition to the “healthcare bill by saying that this bill is the greatest threat to freedom in the 19 years I have been in Washington. It’s going to lead to a government takeover of our insurance for you.” True to form and good soldiers that they are, like ducks following the leader in single file, they scrupulously follow the advice of their pollster Frank Luntz to say these “bullet points” and repeat them over and over again. It works because Conservatives really believe that the issue is freedom (it was inculcated in them time and again) and it fits their moral system and how they see the world.
CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) 2010 rose from the ashes of John Birch Society once ostracized by William F. Buckley and other sane conservatives but brought back into the mainstream by Glen Beck, Ron Paul and a conservative movement of angry teabag nuts gone totally off the rails. Ever since the election of Pres. Obama, the movement has become more amusing in spite of its appalling heritage of conspiracy theories and paranoia. Not a single GOP politician or right-wing blogger has blinked that they’re sharing CPAC with this group of creeps, creationists, racists and extremists. It was once a venue for the right fringe of the GOP but now provides the litmus test for presidential aspirants as to who is really a true Republican.
What you hear from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement (TPM) is nativistic, jingoistic hate that emanates from fear and ignorance. They fear the changing face of America (as if this county has a static character). That fear is also rooted in the realization that control over their lives is really not there. This provides some legitimacy to it. Palin is attractive because she connects the reactive politics of resentment. Limbaugh, Lundtz and Beck all tap into this resentment to turn us against each other. This is not the first time in our history but today is different due to the possibility of reaching so many people with misleading facts and outright lies through the Internet, a fractured media and emails. Many emails are geared only to inflame the anger and then ask us to pass it on. People do it without reflection. It may be populism of the past, but it is poisonous.
Today you are either a right-wing Republican or a Republican in name only (RINO). To be a moderate is not acceptable. Take the case of AG John Ashcroft who “mirandized” the Shoe Bomber, and Bob Barr who lambasted CPAC participants for their criminal propensities and reminded them that “water-boarding” or “enhanced interrogation techniques” to give it a pleasant sound, is torture. When the Obama administration did exactly the same with the Nigerian bomber, he was immediately labeled as weak and soft on terror. What hypocrites! They will do anything, including breaking the law to win elections. They got away with this strategy for 30 years. It won’t be the same in the 2010 elections. Because their election would mean bringing back to Congress a party and its candidates whom we know were unable to govern.
CPAC’s attendance this year was full. They had an array of speakers but one whose absence was conspicuous was Palin. I guess she did not come because there was no fee for speakers. Glen Beck was their keynote speaker. If they expected him to hold their hand, they were disappointed. He lambasted them as no different from the Democrats for their big spending habit, followed by their other major flaw – inconsistency and the hypocrisy of candidates they support. They tried to take credit for the election of Sen. Scott Brown in MA when everyone knew it was the votes of the independents that got him elected. It was a vote against Obama and the Democrats who failed to deliver on their promises. MA Citizens for Life (MCFL) sacrificed their principles on abortion to reveal their real priority: elect a GOP to the US Senate regardless of his values and position on abortion (he’s pro-choice) in order to kill healthcare reform which has many shortcomings.
It is difficult to understand how the defeat of healthcare reform can be considered a “pro life” position when 40,000 Americans on average die every year for having no health insurance. Despite all the misinformation from the TPM, other extremists regarding and paid surrogates for healthcare, the bill offered by the House and the Senate will allow poor and low-income individuals much greater opportunity to access needed medical care. What will be surprising about CPAC’s candidate in the MA elections is if he doesn’t cash in on his new celebrity status. Everyone seems to be doing it. His story certainly defies stuffy Senate stereotypes: a tumultuous childhood, with both parents married 3x, sternly lectured by a judge at age 12 for shoplifting LPs including a Black Sabbath record, sing nude for Cosmopolitan magazine, and riding a wave of populist anger to snatch Ted Kennedy’s seat for the Democrats.
Many people don’t know much about the populist movement of the 1890s. Practically all the historians who have written about populism understand its true nature. They disagree on many things, often very harshly, but they understand who has a left-wing economic movement. Among political scientists however, there is very limited understanding, and many of them accept the various conservatism and racist characterization of populism. I think they just accepted the ahistorical ideas that populists were reactionaries without really understanding the real movement.