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.

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7 responses

12 09 2011
dmf

ok, but hard really to tell how many people are seriously involved and how much of a difference it makes to the broader situation. I’m more worried that people on both sides don’t understand the limited domestic powers of the presidency (even with the post 9/11 illegal shadow supersecret branch at his/her disposal) and the institutional/constitutional relationship with the congress.
the prez is not our quarterback and cannot win over the electorate with stirring win one for the gipper speeches:
http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/0/6/2/5/2/p62523_index.html?phpsessid=dc75b0f57d56a63a8b24c2e88dce5d6c

12 09 2011
absurdbeats

I think the spread of polarization from the federal to the state levels is telling; what is less clear, however, is whether those voters will tolerate such polarization, and whether the demonization so prevalent at the national level will work when applied to one’s neighbors.

As to the power of the presidency, well, good luck with that. A compliant Congress (like the one GWB had) can magnify the effects of the president’s actions, leading people to attribute all such power to the president. Since Obama has had to deal with an obstructionist Congress, he appears weak by comparison. A citizenry which can barely be bothered to educate itself on the most basic elements of our political structures is unlikely to take account of the nuances of the legislative and executive processes.

As for the speeches, I’m not ready to give up on them, not least because I think the morale-boosting effect matters, but also because the media, which has its own (oft-deservedly maligned) role in the process, pays attention to these things. How much they matter or how much they matter relative to other symbolic and signaling actions, is up for debate, but I would be very surprised if they didn’t matter at all.

Finally, while I have been hammering this president, it’s less because I think he can do everything but that I question whether he’s done everything he can.

Still votin’ for him, tho’.

13 09 2011
dmf

having lived in several conservative areas/states in the last few years i think that the division/demonization is a bottom up affair, we just have more coverage of it now on the national news outlets. that said i don’t think this is a particularly recent development, wasn’t it always so since the days of the Constitutional convention?
oh i’m not just voting for him but doing what i can to promote him, what’s the alternative?

14 09 2011
14 09 2011
dmf

whoops, messed up putting my name in the above, sleep deprived and typing on autopilot, if you could fix that I would appreciate it.

14 09 2011
absurdbeats

That, at least, is one thing I CAN do.

15 09 2011
dmf

thanks absurdbeats genie

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