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February 16, 2006
Politics, Parties, and Partisanship

Via the invaluable Ahistoricality, I arrived at Glenn Greenwald's entry, "Do Bush followers have a political ideology?"

First, naturally I agree with Mr. Greenwald that the loudest of the Bush Administration supporters aren't conservatives. (In fact, as Ahistoricality mentions, I've said this before. More than once.) Recently I pondered precisely what terminology to use to describe them and I find "authoritarian cultists" to be an appropriate label.

The combination here of rage and fear is potent and toxic.

What disturbs me about the Bush Administration is their willingness to find and tap into any pool of hatred (race, gender, ethnicity, religion) they can find in the voting public. If they hadn't courted these kinds of people, one hopes they'd be disturbed that they're the ones the Administration's "message" is reaching...and seemingly the only group, but they did court them and they continue to do so.

(What disturbs me more is just how many people they seem to be finding. This is toxic. Not only to the individual but to our society and to our political system. Maybe it was necessary for us to find this reeking swamp of bigotry in order to drain it, but I'm still deeply disturbed by it. I have been appalled to discover, in various forums that I've frequented for quite a number of years, that there are quite a few people who now feel emboldened to make blatant statements of racial, ethnic, or religious intolerance. Different rant, though.)

While I complain frequently about the weakness of the Democratic Party, most notably in standing up to the Bush Administration, they are at least still a recognizable UsofA political party. None of the Party's platforms are in any way "extreme." In fact, most of them are downright tepid compared to the Democratic agenda of even ten years ago. Not so the forces currently putting a face on the Republican Party.

You can tell this by listening to their most rabid and most enthusiastic endorsers. There's an open endorsement of hatred and violence that encourages the worst of our population to excesses that further polarize, and weaken our society.

That's not entirely why we are gathered here today, though. I mean, yes, I really think people should read the entry because I think a call to calmness and reflection should always be encouraged. However, there was a link in the comments that I followed and read that I also found of interest.

How Divided We Are, by James. Q. Wilson was recommended, so I popped over and read it.

Wilson says that political polarization of the kind we're seeing today isn't new to our country, and then cites two examples. It's interesting that his examples coincide (not at all coincidentally, I'm sure) with two critical points in USofA history. Times when major issues about the future direction of the country were under heated debate.

Wilson doesn't make this point (well, he wouldn't), but it seems to me that if today is another such time of polarization, maybe the issues we're facing are every bit as important as some of us have been insisting they are?

He discusses a theory that higher education produces markedly liberal people and that when highly educated "elites" get into political debate, they're responsible for polarization.

He goes on to argue that the real polarization isn't around the occupant of the White House but exists in Congress where low voter interest in primary elections allows highly partisan (wingnut) voters an influence in choosing candidates that far outweighs their numbers in the population. (He starts to discuss "safe" voting districts, but doesn't really cover the subject.)

He blames the commercialization of the media while simultaneously arguing that no one watches or reads the news because they no longer trust the media And, yes, special interest groups. He even winds up with a smack at the highly educated elites. Too much education gives people too much impact on the formation of public opinion. So, it's the rabidly partisan primary voter and the over-educated elite that cause our problems. All the usual suspects, in fact.

Wilson winds with no conclusion and offering no solutions. It seems the entire essay was directed toward scolding opponents of the invasion of Iraq (and the subsequent disasters) and claiming that polarization is all very well for domestic disputes (because who cares what kind of turmoil our society is in?) but just beyond the pale when it comes to foreign policy. In short, he advocates a position of, "my country, right or wrong."

I'm sure he's a Big Name and naturally I'm a Big Nobody, but I don't care. I still believe that when it comes to invading a country and killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians, foreign policy is exactly the place for dissenting voices to be heard.

Aside from his absurd conclusion, I do think there's food for thought in considering why and how we're becoming so polarized (so much so that just today, via e-mail, I told someone there was no use in talking with the Other Side because no one was going to have their opinion changed) and whether this is a temporary reaction to current events or a worrying permanent trend.



Posted by AnneZook at 08:55 PM


When I followed the link from Neiwert's site, I realized that I'd scanned the article before: Avedon had it listed, though she underplayed it considerably. But Dave put it into context for me much more effectively, as did the followup.

I think you're right about the Wilson piece, too. It's worth noting, which he didn't, that we came out of those times of struggle only with great difficulty and by finding a solid ground to choose rather than muddle about.

The footnote is going to drive me nuts. I know who Edmund Burke is (actually, I know at least two of them, one still alive; I'm assuming you mean the dead conservative), but I can't find any reference in the post or even an asterisk....

Posted by: Ahistoricality at February 17, 2006 01:35 AM

Study Reveals German Bank's Nazi Past

*Link: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,185235,00.html

Posted by: lj at February 17, 2006 02:39 PM

Sorry, Ahistoricality. I edited the reference out of the text, trying to shorten the entry down to something more reasonable, but forgot to remove the footnote! Doing so now.

And you're right about the "finding middle ground" issue to. Although I'd have to think about it for a while to find the potential middle ground for our current situation.

Posted by: Anne at February 19, 2006 09:42 AM

Luther - I'm not certain what relevance that link has?

Posted by: Anne at February 19, 2006 09:48 AM