The politics of contempt, cont.

12 09 2011

Apostates tend to get attention—of the furious sort from those betrayed, and delight from those whose views such apostasy confirms.

So too with Mike Lofgren, the former GOP staffer whose resignation from the Republicans has been widely quoted, at least among those who agree with his analysis that his party has gone bonkers.

Now, I tend toward skepticism of the reception to such turn-coats, largely because his or her rethink matters less for the thought than for the fodder it provides in the endless schoolyard battle of “I’m-right-and-you’re-stupid/evil”. We welcome the other side’s apostate for the same reason the other side welcomes ours: their apostasy confirms our wisdom.

So, with the additional conditionals that I don’t know Lofgren, I don’t know his motivations, and I don’t know if he’s right, I want to highlight this bit:

I do not mean to place too much emphasis on racial animus in the GOP. While it surely exists, it is also a fact that Republicans think that no Democratic president could conceivably be legitimate. Republicans also regarded Bill Clinton as somehow, in some manner, twice fraudulently elected (well do I remember the elaborate conspiracy theories that Republicans traded among themselves). Had it been Hillary Clinton, rather than Barack Obama, who had been elected in 2008, I am certain we would now be hearing, in lieu of the birther myths, conspiracy theories about Vince Foster’s alleged murder. [emph. added]

That we’re in agreement on this dynamic of delegitimization hardly makes us correct. But it does serve to highlight as a problem something which so many of us have taken for granted as a feature of current American politics.

And yes, it is a problem.