Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Inauguration Notes, or the Other

Marvin at the Ivy Bush says, It'd have been a great one if he'd meant what he said.


GWB:as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny -- prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder -- violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat.

There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion:

The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.

Bill Scher at Liberal Oasis suggests that Bush's patent dishonesty gives democrats a rhetorical opening:

"before Bush, it would be considered hippy-dippy to argue that addressing the root causes of terrorism, such as oppression and disenfranchisement – as opposed to mere brute force -- is the only way to truly and completely defeat our enemies. Now, it can treated as accepted fact.
We can’t stop Bush from continuing on this dangerous path for the next four years.But we can, and should, lay the intellectual groundwork for what should be done after his policies fail."

Bush's inauguration address gave me the creeps-- of course he doesn't mean what he said; he meant what he "said": he's successfully brainwashed millions of people into accepting the rhetoric of liberation and nation-building as a series of coded messages giving them permission to feel "ok" about their bloodlust and continue to be good Christians or whatever*.

(Hal Lindsey, meet Dr Phil.)

Fortunately, it's still a mite uncouth to actually come out and say "lets go kill more brown-skinned people, because it was so much fun the first time." I guess it would look bad or something. That, as I see it, is our opening. Although distressingly large numbers of Americans have essentially become proto-fascists who'll snap at you for showing weakness or being in league with the terrorists for objecting to torture or the patriot act or the war, they're still in the minority. The democratic party needs to figure out how to drive a wedge between, well, the moderate Christians and the crazy Christians.

I myself wince at the indelicacy of what I just wrote, but there's no other way to say it. For years now the movement conservatives and the radical Christian right have worked to make the worldviews of extremist fundamentalist Christians seem mainstream and non-threatening, primarily to give the extremist right wing more power, and so far it's been working. In order to help moderate republican voters(we once called them "Reagan Democrats") see the radicalism and danger of George W. Bush's agenda, it helps-- to give them an "other" onto whom they can project their own darker impulses, so they can more easily make the transition to rejecting Bush Republicanism without having to see an attack on Bush policies as an attack on their own values, which would make them psychologically defensive and highly resistant.

How? Democrats need to simultaneously attack and re-marginalize the crazy Christians (like these, for example: godhatesfags.com/main)
while redefining what it means to be a moderate religious person, part of the mainstream of a civil American culture. The attack on the un-Christian-ness of the policy statements of Alberto Gonzalez would be a good start. Aren't there latino Catholic clergy out there who have criticized Gonzalez? Their statements would help model a religious stance with which moderate republicans can identify. The GOP loves to showcase minorities saying conservo-stuff . Since people are unconsciously familiar with this trope, Democrats can do the same thing, except with progressive verbiage, and the resistance to the message is diminished because the viewers have (ostensibly) heard, or at least seen, the message before. Also, from the conservatives who'll respond by defending torture, the more heatedly irrational and blood-thirsty among them also need to be called attention to, made into the "other". Bill Clinton did this to Sister Souljah. Why are we afraid to do this to Michael Savage?

*I first started a post on the subject of separating moderate republican voters from the republican party nearly two years ago, after watching ex-comedian Dennis Miller ranting about Iraq on Leno in April of 2003, then I filed it away. Before this particular show, I was completely unaware of Miller's conservatism, let alone his racism. He made fun of the war protestors, predictably, but also of the criticisms related to the looting of the Iraqi Museum. I paraphrase: "Who cares about their stupid museum? It was full of crap. Their whole country is crap. They made crap thousands of years ago, and they still make crap, because that's all they know, so they can make new crap to put in it, and nobody will know the difference." The audience seemed to find this amusing.

He continued: "I'm glad about what Bush did, and I don't think he needs to stop there. After we're done in Iraq, we should go after Syria and Iran and Saudi Arabia, then go after France and finish off by nuking the socialists in Berkeley." At this point there was an uncomfortable silence, and Miller sensed that he lost the audience. He backtracked: "All I know is, when I see the joyous faces of all those little kids we liberated I know it was all worthwhile, and nobody can tell me any different."
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
courtesy BBC News

How many Americans think like this? Millions? Our last election certainly suggests this is the case. But while we can't become a majority party again by hectoring them for their hypocrisy and probable bigotry, we can make them shudder with rejection when we show them more and more conservatives having a nuke Berkeley moment.

see also:
Stephen Zunes, The Rhetoric of Bush's Inaugural Address versus the Reality of Bush Policy
(via the Hamster.)


"A nation of religious illiterates, Stephen Prothero, Christian Science Monitor.
(via Shadow Media.)