Man, am I ever going to catch hell for this post.
Contemporary Democrats simply cannot understand why the electorate no longer trusts them to defend America. They have basically settled on blaming poor political marketing and/or Republican mind-control rays.
I think there is a very simple explanation that just about everyone but diehard Democratic partisans can easily recognize. To whit:
Voters who think that America sucks vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
Let me just quickly make it clear what I am saying and not saying. I am not saying that all, most of, or even many people who vote Democratic think America sucks. Just because someone votes Democrat doesn’t mean they have a negative view of America. I am saying, however, that people who do hold highly negative views of America will vote for the Democrats much more often than they vote for the Republicans.
People who hold negative views of America feel more comfortable voting Democratic and the rest of the electorate sees that. When you read somebody claiming that America is a racist state, built on exploited labor and mass murder, whose democracy is a sham and whose foreign policy flows entirely from a desire of corporate profit, etc., you can be sure that that individual will vote Democratic every time. Why should the general electorate, and particularly the non-partisan electorate, trust the Democrats with national security when they are the natural home of those who don’t appear to think America is actually worth defending?
Democrats bristle at any suggestion that they harbor any anti-American views, yet many diehard Democratic partisans do have such a dark view of both historical and contemporary America that one is forced to ask why, if they have a moral bone in their body, they aren’t anti-American. For example, in the area of foreign policy, many far-left Democrats have no problem asserting that, regardless of which party has held power, the foreign policy of the US has been motivated by nothing more than corporate greed and that millions have died as a result. How could anyone support a state so brutally flawed? How many people would someone have to believe America has selfishly murdered before he could honestly say he had become an anti-American?
The far (and perhaps not-so-far) Left want to have it both ways. They wish to be able to say that America is basically a corrupt state, culture and society, responsible for most of the evil in the world, but on no account may anyone question their commitment to protecting that corrupt entity. Riiiight.
The people are not fooled. The far Left is, or at least should be, anti-American and the Democratic party has no problem with that. Actions speak louder than words. The Democrats can stand up and say, “We are just as committed to defending America and American values as anyone else,” but the electorate can easily see all those Democrats in the background who might as well be wearing tee-shirts that say, “America Sucks, why can’t we be more like Europe?”
Until they can stop sending conflicting messages, the Democrats are going to keep losing. Fewer and fewer people want to be associated with the America sucks crowd.
56 thoughts on “The Party for America Suckers”
To expand the thought a bit: many of these people don’t just think that the *government* sucks and/or the *economic system* sucks…they think the *society* sucks and dislike the majority of the people in it.
I understand that in German there’s a distinction between the words for “treason against the state” and “treason against the country” (Ralf? Is this right?)…perhaps we need some sort of similar terminology distinguishing those who dissent against particular policies from those who wish the entire society would just disappear.
Though I think there are people who think America sucks in the anti-American way you depict (people who feel they would gladly move to Denmark, renounce their citizenship and never look back if they had the balls to actually do that) I think that you mischaracterize the garden-variety “America-sucker.” Most of these folks truly do love what America stands for but their just bummed out by crappy implementation of it.
But I do agree with you that the Dems are oddly good at losing. Crappy messages are just one of their many problems. They suck. (And by suck I mean that what they stand for is cool but the implementation has been crappy.)
Shannon, I call this crowd the “Chomskyites.” Your slant is excellent.
Eric over at Armed and Dangerous has a similar post involving the many elements of cold war propaganda that have been adopted as standard talking points by those on the left, even though the source has now been exposed and discredited.
The coup that occurred in 1972, when the New Left took over the Democratic party mechanism and nominated McGovern, has been institutionalized. It is an axiom of faith with that ideological view that the US is an evil, capitalist (read exploitive), imperialist force for repression and misery in the world.
Nothing that happens in the real world can ever be allowed to interfere with that message. No matter what the US does, it is wrong and must be opposed. And this goes double for any military action.
People who think this way are easy to spot. Just say something positive, or even neutral, about US culture or its actions in the world. They will immediately bring up something negative, and claim that your positive statement is an expression of a naive and immature viewpoint.
The “sophisticated” and “informed” view is that the US is evil, and that is all there is to it.
However, if you then question their patriotism or affection for the US, you are sternly told that this criticism is done out of love for what we should have been, and that dissent is the truest form of pariotism.
The left, old and new and under any other guise they may adopt, has been a fifth column in this country for over a century. In a very real sense, their allegience is not to this nation, but to an imaginary utopia which has never, and cannot ever, actually exist.
One thing the left wing can’t seem to understand about the polls. There are many of us who are not happy with the way the country seems to be headed and the war in Iraq is just one of the things we are not happy with–not the war itself but the way it was and is being fought. But even though we are not happy that doesn’t mean that we would lower our standards to vote for a left wing democrat. I for one would rather for for someone like Bush and puke in the voting booth after I voted than to see a left winger such as Hillary Clinton in the White House.
I was raised in a Democratic Party household where all sources of information were from the MSM (CBS, Time, Newsweek, etc.) But 2 things changed the way I saw the world in the spring of 2001 in college.
1. I heard a pro-Republican message for the first time in my entire life. It was from a college professor in an intro economics class. And although I was angry at the things he was saying because I had always been led to believe that Republican=evil, I had to acknowledge that at least there was another way to look at the world.
2. In a political science class I noticed that the people who were fanatically anti-Bush were the same people who were fanatically anti-American.
I can certainly say that there are many good and decent people in the Democratic Party but at the same time the people who loathe our history, traditions, military, economic sysytem and religiosity do need a party to call home and that is the left half of the Democratic Party. And I’ve never seen any evidence to the contrary.
Such malcontents are a tedious pain in the posterior. The cacophony of their collective caterwaul has acquired whiskers. They wouldn’t know a blessing if the Good Lord was standing before them. It’s my further contention that if they knew he was, indeed, present, they’d throw stones in attempt to strike him down. Imagine, too, if America came to resemble Europe? We’d be reduced to a pool of fetid pus — no better than the like of Spain or France.
Most of these folks truly do love what America stands for but their just bummed out by crappy implementation of it.
Well this raises an important question: do I want people who hate the actually reality of America to be in charge of protecting it?
I think veryretired makes a good point that there are a lot of people who seem either embarrassed or even actually angry if ask to say something positive about America. Just as an experiment, ask your Leftist friends to list say 3 things America does better than any other group of people. See how many snarky answer you get. The idea that America might represent something unique in human history is profoundly threatening to most Leftist.
I think the idea that US foreign policy is carried out almost entirely from greed borders on a “mainstream” Leftist idea. Its an idea that is taught in every college in the country. The idea that US invaded Iraq just to benefit Haliburton and oil companies is not an extremist idea for most on the Left. Moreover, they think this kind of corruption is the NORMAL operation of the US government. They think that killing tens of thousands just to put a millions into the pockets of a few corporate stockholders is just another day at work for America’s institutions and that this has been going on for as long as there has been an America. Why would anyone who actually believes this think that America was anything worth preserving?
C P Snow once referred to “people who are both cynical and unworldly, which is one of my least favorite combinations” (quoted approximate) I think higher education as now structured..especially in the humanities and the social sciences..tends to mass-produce people with this unlovely combination of traits–which, in turn, easily leads to the “American sucks” belief.
I have friends who believe every bit of wealth any one of us has is due to exploitation of black people, poor countries, or the “working class”, which they of course claim membership in and claim that they’re being exploited by capitalists like me (even though some of them make far more money than I do!) I have friends who believe the US should not try to spread its influence abroad because we’re so incredibly corrupt and the rest of the world is so wonderful. That’s such a confused view of the world that I simply can’t bring myself to vote for candidates those friends would support.
The way I usually state this is “Bush/Republicans must be doing something right, because he’s/they’ve got all the right enemies.” The Che t-shirt wearers, the Palestinian terror supporters, the America haters, the race-baiters, and Osama all repeat Democratic party talking points. This, combined with an incredibly moronic view of abortion (see: Clinton’s veto of the partial-birth abortion ban), means the Dems won’t see my vote for a long long time.
That’s such a confused view of the world that I simply can’t bring myself to vote for candidates those friends would support.
On political and public-policy issues that I have difficulty evaluating on the merits, I find that often the most economical way to make a decision is to take the opposite position from people who are usually wrong. This heuristic works well because people who are always wrong are much more frequent and easy to identify than are those who are usually right.
I find it amusing that the same tranzies/lefties who support unrestricted/uncontrolled immigration into the US, don’t grasp –
1) There has to be something positive here that attracts so many of the ‘downtrodden’.
2) That these same ‘downtrodden’ must think things suck far more in from where they’re leaving than where they’re going.
3) That given the model of those in case 2, why they don’t avail themselves of the same mobile opporunity.
It goes without saying that the nature of America’s two-party system also works against Democrats in this regard.
When there are only two nationally viable political parties and a system that effectively protects them from anything beyond one-off third-party competition, it’s inevitable that the two entrenched parties will include moonbats that would otherwise simply form their own party. It’s also inevitable that those moonbats will color their respective parties’ public images. So, when it comes time to vote, part of the decision is which party’s moonbats you’re less uncomfortable getting in bed with. I think it’s safe to say that, all else being equal, most voters would rather vote for the party of Pat Robertson than for the party of Cindy Sheehan.
“That these same ‘downtrodden’ must think things suck far more in from where they’re leaving than where they’re going.”
Playing devil’s advocate here, the leftist would say that the country they are coming from sucks because of evil U.S. imperialist policies. And that they only think the U.S. is great because of the imperialist lies of Hollywood and the media.
You said, “Just as an experiment, ask your Leftist friends to list say 3 things America does better than any other group of people.”
I will do this today.
That is an astonishing position to take. Conservatives still love America and we have been out of power for literally 150 years (except for one brief period during the reconstruction).
We’ve watched Jackson stymie economic progress with his “bankers are evil” policies
We’ve watched the populists make themselves pawns of the robber barons because of regulatory capture etc…
We’ve watched the 16th amendment be passed and taxes start skyrocketing
We’ve watched – helplessly – as FDR bullied the Supreme Court and ramped up the New Deal, and doubled the size of the government.
We’ve watch even more helplessly as Johnson destroyed families and increased dependence with Great Society and double the size of the government
We watched Jimmy Carter implement every left wing academic idea possible
Even though we’ve been out of power for 150 years, we still love America. But leftists have the nerve to claim that they are the ones dissatisfied with the current implementation? You’ve had 150 years of ramming through your implementations. Six years of Bush is nothing, and besides you guys started hating America back in the 1960s.
That is also six years of a not very conservative Bush. Reagan was the closest thing conservatives had for an antidote, but was still hampered by a Democratic congress.
The Democrats have had the great misfortune of bringing up the reactionary end of the sweeping political trends of the last quarter century. Socialism isnít dead yet — there’s been no bang, but I sure hear a lot of whimpering. Itís coming from the would-be technocrats and statists as they watch their dreams of orderly central planning and state paternalism recede into the past. I think its less hating America than lashing out in frustration as they lose the great race. The Democratic Party is stuck in a vicious circle catering to this reactionary segment as their cognitive dissonance leads them to explore the arguments of the true America-haters — but I think that this last category is exceedingly small. Itís really a shame, because the Republicans are not exactly reliable guarantors of the new freedoms, either.
Oddly, I watched Jimmy Carter: deregulate airlines, oil prices, railroads, and trucking; sign a huge capital-gains tax cut into law; start a massive buildup of NATO — and appoint Paul Volcker. To be sure, many present-day Democrats do not welcome being reminded of these facts.
I think, in a very serious way, we are approaching a period when the relentless anti-Americanism of a significant group of our fellow citizens will be clarified for what it truly means, and whence it comes.
The progressive/socialist internationalist ideology that became so powerful at the end of the 19th and dawn of the 20th century was very beguiling specifically because it was new, claimed to be scientific, was intended to help and support the common working man and woman, was against the “fat cats and plutocrats” that nobody really liked, and, most importantly, had never been tried anywhere, so there was no negative baggage that could be used to discredit it.
Certainly there were economic and philosophical arguments against these collectivist doctrines, but they were often arcane and complex, while the appeals and slogans of the “revolutionary” new ideas that the socialist movement was offering were very simple and appealing to the poor, uneducated, disgruntled, often bewildered blue collar workers and farmers who felt themselves buffeted by impersonal forces they did not understand.
Around the world, some places obviously much more than others, a theory of government as a positive actor which could be used to control the predations of greed and exploitation was generally accepted. There were soft socialist variations, marxist-leninist variations, fascist variations, and democratic welfarist variations.
The 20th century was a gigantic labratory experiment in the efficacy of the “state as benevolent entity” theory of social organization. Obviously, as numerous supposedly legitimate nations and societies were operating under the framework of these ideas, the people who promoted this ideology were able to claim a certain legitimacy, and point to this nation or that and say, “Look, it’s working just fine here and here—we should do this in the US also.”
I was reading a thread just the other day in which the Scandinavian states were mentioned repeatedly as exemplars of the type of caring, social welfare model we should be following.
Basic to all of this, from the very beginning, was an intense hatred of capitalism, private property and enterprise, profit, corporate entities, business people, successful industrial or corporate concerns and their management, indeed, we are all familiar with the indignant litany of evil that is imputed to every aspect of our society because it has been, and is still, “infected” with the greed and corruption of the pursuit of profit.
An entire century, and more, has now gone by, and the results of these various experiments in collectivist ideology are available for inspection and critique around the world.
From the marxism/leninism/stalinism of the Soviet Union, to the fascism of Germany/Italy/Japan/ Argentina/Spain, and there many emulators in the developing world, the maoism of the Chinese and Cambodians, the militaristic marxism of the Vietnamese, Cuba, North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe, and on and on, the record is undeniable.
Hundreds of millions of people have died as a result of the wars, famines, pogroms, concentration camps, gulags, and purges enacted by totalitarian and authoritarian states around the globe.
A catalogue of horrors of the magnitude that can be documented during the 20th century would be equivalent to the period known as the Dark Ages,when an enormous empire fell and civilization was near collapse, or the plague centuries when the black death, or influenza, or yellow fever swept away entire societies and populations.
There is no longer any hiding place for those who continue to claim that Western, democratic, market-oriented society is evil, and the collectivist vision is a desirable alternative. The cover of supposedly functioning societies is gone. They are left with such monstrosities as an impoverished and increasingly repressive Cuba, a lunatic N.Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma, AND very pointedly, the corrupt theocratic fascisms of states such as Saddam’s Iraq, the Mullah’s Iran, the Baathists Syria, the utterly disfunctional Palestinian Authority, and a few other equally disreputable, repressive regimes.
We are now involved in a world-wide conflict with a very aggressive, fascistic form of militant Islam. While the conflict had been ongoing for decades, the 9-11 attacks braought it out into the open, and caused a major response by the US and her allies.
This response has been under constant attack by the left, who have more and more moved into a sympathetic relationship with Islamic fascism as a vehicle for their mutual hatred and contempt for the US, and Western democratic society in general.
Regardless of the outcome of the current battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is clearly a showdown coming with Iran, and possibly Pakistan, as the core of religious fanatacism gains more and more control of those countries.
If and when this confrontation finally occurs, it will become crystal clear to many in the US who still don’t comprehend the depth of leftist hated for this country that they are, in fact, allied with militant Islam based on a shared hatred for Western capitalist society so profound that even an utterly alien belief system such as Islam is preferable to the left than the idea that the US and the West might prevail.
When that realization finally hits home, it may very well be the case that the relentless drumbeat of statist and collectivist propaganda will finally be met with the informed rejection that it deserves, and the followers of an ideology that has always been totally inimical to open, democratic, Western society will be seen for what they have always been—implacable enemies of individual liberty and constitutional government.
My apologies for the length of this comment.
Half Sigma, it is a sign of their delusion that lefties, who control Hollywood, would think that Hollywood is a part of the VRWC.
veryretired, I suggest one of my own pieces for reading:
Bringing back the point of the Great Revival, notice that both the Left and the Islamists in general believe not only in intellectual narcissism (if only everyone thought and acted like me, the world would be perfect), but both have spawned more radical branches that are willing to effect violence in order to achieve such goals. If the world really did run the way they wanted it to, there would be no room for argument, except possibly in regard to tactics during the run-up to the Revolution.
Chalk me up as another data point in favor of Shannon’s thesis. I really dislike George Bush, and would have liked nothing better than to throw him out of office in 2004, but I held my nose and voted for him. If he ran against Kerry again today, I would do the same thing. I had a little problem with his collaborating with the enemy and comparing us to Genghis Khan while I was still in Vietnam. I had another little problem with Michael Moore’s bright shiny face figuring prominently at the Democratic Convention. Not every Democrat thinks the history of the U.S. has been one long episode of genocide, enslavement, exploitation, wars launched to serve capitalist greed, etc., etc. However, the party is unwilling to disassociate itself from that part of its base, and insists on appeasing them. As long as they do, I will never vote for them, and there are many others like me.
>>”Democrats bristle at any suggestion that they harbor any anti-American views, yet many diehard Democratic partisans do have such a dark view of both historical and contemporary America that one is forced to ask why, if they have a moral bone in their body, they aren’t anti-American.”
This hits the nail on the head. After all, the country has been around for 230 years. Do these people think that, if they’re right, and our history has been one long apotheosis of evil, all we have to do is put the right people in charge, and things will suddenly be hunky dory? If you really believe our country’s history has been nothing but a series of sins and evils from day one, the conclusion all will be fine if we just elect John Kerry is irrational. If you accept this point of view, there is something drastically wrong with the system, and it must, therefore, be drastically changed. It cannot be changed from within, because, within, it is hopelessly evil. The system must, therefore, be overthrown. If you accept the sinful, evil America worldview, then, it is irrational to be “pro-American” at the same time. By the force of logic you are, objectively, anti-American.
Again, as Shannon has also pointed out, people who think this way are a small minority of those who vote Democratic. Nevertheless, the party insists on cultivating their support. As long as they do, I will never vote for them.
This is where Shannon’s thesis about holding your nose comes in – we have no where else to go so we are beholden to the worst rent-seeking segmants of the Republican party. If the Democrats kick out the “America sucks” crowd and discard their worst redistributive tendencies, a lot of Republicans would switch sides (not me, I’m too socially conservative). This would force the Republicans to be less corrupt and more fiscally accountable.
Volcker was forced on Carter because of the massive Keynesian-created stagflation. I am not familiar with the history of deregulation (perhaps someone else could jump in?) although I do know that you are correct – it began with Carter. But I also suspect that like Volker, it was largely forced on him. Now he takes credit for it, much as Democrats take credit for Clinton (finally) signing welfare reform.
>”This response has been under constant attack by the left, who have more and more moved into a sympathetic relationship with Islamic fascism as a vehicle for their mutual hatred and contempt for the US, and Western democratic society in general.”
Great comment, and well worth reading. The 20th century was one of great technological and industrial progress, but it was also a century of tragedy. It crushed the optimism, hope, and belief in an inevitable happy future via the “state as benevolent entity” of many of the best and brightest minds of the 18th and 19th centuries once and for all.
Marxism was, perhaps, the most significant manifestation of the “state as benevolent entity” paradigm, and we have now all witnessed its malignant Stalinist reality and demise as a serious worldview. I often wondered what new philosophy would come along to fill the vacuum for the world’s true believers. It’s interesting that, in much of the world, the vacuum wasn’t filled by any new messianic worldview, but an old one, Islamism. As noted by others, it has now acquired a thick and incongruous leftist veneer. This strange alliance of “progressive” leftists and reactionary Islamists is one of the most striking features in today’s political landscape. The “progressive” leftists would do well to remember the example of Stalin. Once he had taken power with their help, he liquidated every “progressive” leftist fellow traveler he could get his hands on.
I suspect Carter doesn’t take credit for Volcker. ;^) Funny that he has a reputation for being a lousy president and a good ex-president — I’m beginning to think just the opposite.
I don’t want to get into a big Carter debate, but I will say that I was a working stiff trying to raise a family during the Carter years, and he was lousy then and is even worse now.
His paralysis in the face of an act of war by the Iranian fundamentalists in 1979 was the first of many disastrous errors by the US as it was confronted, and repeatedly attacked, by an utterly implacable enemy.
I was seriously surprised by Justin’s concept that liberals have been running the country for the past 150 years. Geez, there’s hardly any presidents from the 20th century that were especially conservative or liberal. Astonishing. But that’s why I read this blog, for the interesting perspectives that folks have. (BTW, Justin said, “You’ve had 150 years of ramming through your implementations.” Who are you referring to when you say “you”?)
It is true that there have been a lot of Republican Presidents, but that should be attributed to voter concerns about a Democratic Commander In Chief, not because of an underlying Republican dominance.
According to data from the First Measured Century Democrats have had an advantage throughout the 20th century in both houses of Congress. This has been particularly true during the New Deal era and the Great Society era. The overwhelming majority is what allowed the Democrats to pass extremely liberal policies despite Republican opposition.
Except during the Reconstruction, there has never been a period when Republicans have had that kind of dominance.
No big ideas, but an anecdote that will make you laugh/grumble.
Here in deeply conservative southern Utah I heard an English professor say at a party the other day that America didn’t win the Cold War.
But … being conservative and a guest in someone else’s house I let it slide.
This doesn’t break down to a neat division in which the repubs are are one side and the dems are on the other.
I’ve thought for a long time that the Civil War, and esp. Reconstruction, were the periods when a lot of “big government” thinkers really became attached to the idea that they could use the power of the state to start remaking society the way it “should be”.
And, in passing, it’s worth remembering that the progressive party at the turn of the century was the republicans, with LeFollette and TR and the “trust busters”. The Upton Sinclair wing of actual socialists was low key about what really informed their basic beliefs. As far as the sympathetic media of the period was concerned, they were just “concerned liberal reformers”.
Presidents who tried to govern without exercising their statist muscles were condemned as doing nothing, and are not highly considered, such as Coolidge, Hoover, and to a lesser extent, Eisenhower.
Eisenhower was reviled for years until the stupidities of LBJ, Nixon, and Carter caused some historians to reconsider the fifties as a better time than they had thought.
Hoover is still reviled, even though any number of historians have concluded that not only was the economy starting to recover when he was defeated for reelection, but the chaos of the FDR administration actually retarded recovery until the demands of WW2 jump started things.
The democratic party I grew up with was not this soft socialist, semi-pacifist, anti-the US imperialist capitalist running dogs group of New Leftists. They took over the democratic party after the collapse of 1968, and during the run up to the election of 1972.
Their candidate, George McGovern, was the model of an unfocused, apologetic, “America could be a nice place if we had lots of big social programs and unilaterally disarmed”, pre-Carter type of viewpoint.
McGovern lost by one of the biggest landslides in our history, but that didn’t faze the leftists. They just got angrier, and more determined that the US needed to be radically punished, and reformed into something different than it was.
But now, as they ally themselves with a bizarre, violent, and completely foriegn movement such as Islamic theocratic fascism, they stand out in stark relief, and can better be seen as not just reformers, but enemies of much of the fundamental ideas and customs that make up the US culture and society.
And that development, oddly enough, may turn out to be a very positive result from this whole dangerous and costly confrontation.
I fear things are far simpler than we imagine.
For many people to feel “good” about themselves, America has to be “bad.” Its far more about emotional identity than politics or history.
What is ironic is so many of these people are clustered in the cultural professions.
Jay: Carter appointed Volcker because he had to. His team had brought the US to the brink of financial ruin. the fed was about to lose control of the Dollar, intrest rates were headed for the stratosphere and inflation was soaring. He also completely #$%& the Iran hostage crisis. All in all the worst perfomance by a President in the 20th Century.
*sigh* I hate to bring a note of realism into these magnificant phrased jeremiads, but, well, no. No as in “that isn’t the way it is”. Sorry.
Lets actually take a look at a few of these statements.
I agree with Shannon’s original statements. But it isn’t as simple as that.
I just spent some time over at several progressive blogs doing experiments in understanding the reasons behind their attitudes. It was quite enlightening.
I study institutions (as a hobby), those laws and social norms that govern the choices we make. In this case, I decided to probe what institutions controlled the choices the group you call “America sucks” (AS) makes.
And I found out that no, they don’t hate America, thats just how it appears; a symptom of their true issues.
“very retired” is quite observant in many ways, but he completely missed the reasons behind the AS group’s choices. Here is what I think is happening.
Institutions guide all our actions; it is human nature, we would be paralyzed if we had to make decisions about every little thing we encounter.
The members of the AS group are convinced many of those American institutions the rest of us still follow, no longer exist…and they are at a loss as to what to replace them with.
So the members of the AS group replaced them with institutions relevant to only the AS group; essentially, they became an extended gang or cult, not acknowledging membership in a wider society.
Notice I said acknowledging, not hating. The AS groups institutions structure their lives, their understanding of the world, and they are trapped there.
Because they can’t even see any institutions in the wider world; they see the wider world as lawless, and what sane person could take up step out into a void? They would fall to their deaths.
The only safe thing for them to do is see everyone outside the AS group as an enemy, because they can’t recognize the institutions that govern the actions of anyone outside the AS group.
But that is fear, not hate.
What can be done about it? We need to rebuild faith in American institutions among the AS group; get them to recognize that there still exists a stable wider society.
The institution we need to rebuild in them first is the concept of a “loyal oppostion”, that you can disagree with someone without being their enemy, without hating them.
And then convince them that you can win an argument by means other than going for the throat, that compromise and negotiation and partial wins are not a bad thing; that losing an argument doesn’t mean the end of the world.
The right hand cannot war against the left forever, we need to fix this, not overcome it. We need to reach out to them, not oppose them.
“The right hand cannot war against the left forever”
This is inconsistent with what you said about “a loyal opposition”. One side will always oppose the other side, forever.
“We need to reach out to them, not oppose them.” No, we need to defeat them in elections, or when there is some policy initiative being initiated. The rest of the time we are free to ignore each other.
The people who have to be reached out to are the ones in the uncommitted middle. Their votes are up for grabs.
As to whether these people hate America or “merely” think that its institutions no longer exist, which makes them feel lost, I’d much prefer the former. At least hatred could exist alongside a firm grip of reality. But as a practical matter, the exact nature of the subjective pathologies of these people is irrelevant. They have their positions and they are advocating. Fortunately, for now, they are doing so in a way that is electorally ineffective. Long may they stay that way.
The exact nature of the subjective pathologies is entirely relevant, if for no other reason than that if we’re in a debate trying to reach the swing voters, we know which buttons to push to show where the other side is completely insane.
I think there’s a little bit to the “institutions don’t exist” meme being a driving force for the “America sucks” people, but it’s not quite accurate. They think America sucks precisely because they don’t like the institutions that are currently in place. It’s not that they think those institutions don’t exist, it’s that they think of them as failed institutions. As I mentioned in the recent thread on overprotective parents in the workplace, these are people who view failure as an extreme evil, so if “the institution” fails to live up to perfection even once, they discard it as worthless.
That’s why they harp on things like slavery almost 150 years after it was abolished — it was a failure of the government institution, and in their eyes, that means the whole system of government is worthless, so they think we should throw out capitalism and states rights and the second amendment and so on. That’s why they harp on Abu Ghraib and intelligence failures about WMD and not finding Osama and so on… not because they want those specific things corrected, but because they think the mere presence of those failures makes the whole venture worthless.
In other words, they think America’s failures mean America sucks, and we have to completely replace America with a failure-free version. Of course, these are people who think it’s possible to create something that never fails, as long as white males are not in power. Many of the institutions they try to create are those that can’t “fail” in any meaningful sense of the word — “cultural studies” programs, welfare (an institution that masks the symptoms of failure), etc. The rest of us think America’s failures mean there is room for improvement, and we need to figure out how to do better next time. They’re interested in replacing America with some new America based on failure-proof institutions, while we’re interested in enhancing the pretty good but not perfect America we already have and fixing the pretty good but not perfect institutions we already have.
This also explains why they tend to be uncritical of people like Milosovic, Saddam, Arafat, etc. — they haven’t seen their institutions firsthand, so instead of thinking of them as running failed institutions, they think of them as being oppressed by OUR failed institutions.
Well Randy, I read your comment about three times and, aside from the condescending attitude, I can’t figure out what you’re on about. I’m glad you were able to spend some time with progressives, even electronically, and that you have everything figured out, but maybe some real life contact would be alittle more instructive.
I agree there’s a void involved in this problem, but it’s not a void of “institutions”, a nice, vague, utterly meaningless word, it’s a void of internal cognitive mechanisms for recognizing and evaluating reality.
I agree there’s fear involved, but it is a fear that they don’t, in fact, deserve anything they have received as a gift from this “evil” society, such as health, education, living standards, etc., and that if they were on their own, they wouldn’t last a week.
The wellsprings of New Left angst are guilt and hatred.
Guilt because they know, down deep in their hearts and minds, that they are the priviledged heirs of centuries of intense mental, physical, and emotional effort, and they can’t match up.
Hatred because nothing is perfect enough, or even good enough, about the society and culture that has nurtured them, and, therefore, they must exert themselves in some way to improve it.
But, if you buy into the various myths of the leftist, collectivist worldview, then you realize there is no way to reform a society based on exploitive capitalist economics and liberal democratic fraud. It must be destroyed, overturned, transformed into something perfect, something like paradise, something utopian.
When you accept an ideology that tells you that you can achieve heaven on earth, if only you believe, and get everyone else to believe, that everything would be just fine if that terrible capitalism were gone, and that terrible profit motive was done away with, and if everyone would just do as they’re told, it would all turn out just great—then of course you hate the things that stand in your way.
If you want to call them institutions, go right ahead. A lot of people were on about “institutions” back in the 60’s and 70’s.
But if you add all those institutions up, the result is the US, warts and all. Some people hate it, and want it to go away. Some of us don’t.
Lotharbot. I can’t argue with what you say, mainly because you present no evidence that can be examined. You might want to to examine a few mainstream sites, like The Coffee House http://www.tpmcafe.com/ and specify a few examples so that we can examine your thesis in light of examples we can all look at. It certainly is an interesting thesis, but without concrete examples, I have a certain amounf of difficulty forming any conclusions on the matter..
VeryRetired: There are some of us who have received different responses than hatred from AS groups, even though we have strongly disagreed with them.
I have generally found accusations of mental illness (or even arrogance) not conducive to a free exchange of thoughts and ideas. You might consider a different approach.
Perhaps I ought to explain how I came to my conclusions. I study new institutional economics. Economics is the study of how we value things, and new instutional economics is the study of how institutions affect how we value things. It is a very legitimate area of economic studies, and has been for decades; look up New Institutional Economics on Google. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=new+institutional+economics&btnG=Search
I normally study Sino-American relations (expecially the guanxi networks) but I was struck by some similarities in American political groups such as your AS groups.
In this case, I was studying the costs that were acting as a barrier to members of the AS group expanding their influence outside their group by carefully introducing alternative ideas and observing thier reactions.
I have to admit, I confused their reactions for hatred at first. But they aren’t.
Here is an experiment you can try that will illustrate this point.
Choose any AS group that hasn’t had any previous contact with you (so you don’t bias the results) and discuss some issues with them. Be sure that you don’t give the slightest hint of an attack on the groups institutions, but do present another point of view. It is easy to do so, I have done it a number of times with a number of different groups.
Yes, there are a few hatred reactions, such things happen in any group. But if you persist on keeping the conversation at an adult level, if you don’t attack the institutions, but do disagree with the views and ideas, eventually, even the haters come around.
The important point I observed was that, as long as they don’t feel threatened, and understand how you think in terms of even alien (to them) institutions for the most part, they are capable of coherently considering even extremely different points of view without rancor. That isn’t a hatred reaction.
I also cannot claim to have seen anything indicating a guilt or self hatred attitude. Could you cite some expressions of this in mainstream progressive literature; it certainly would be a valuable insight if I could also present some tangible evidence to support it.
What can be done about it? We need to rebuild faith in American institutions among the AS group; get them to recognize that there still exists a stable wider society.
Never try to teach a pig to sing — it wastes your time and annoys the pig. You have more faith than I do in the susceptibility of anti-American leftists to logical persuasion.
My experience in numerous discussions and arguments on ideological topics is that very few people change their minds about deeply held beliefs except in response to long, repeated and painful personal experience that contradicts their received views. Members of anti-American leftist groups who are capable of such personal growth tend eventually to leave. Those who remain tend to be insensitive to evidence. Anti-Americanism is a religion for them. Try to reason with them and they will deny the reality of your evidence or attack your motives. Arguing with such people is like trying to teach the pig to sing.
OTOH, as the anon commenter above (Lex?) pointed out, it’s much more effective practically (i.e., politically) to accept the anti-Americans for what they are and instead aim our persuasive efforts at the large number of ideologically uncommitted people, both here and abroad. A lot of people in this latter group will be receptive to education and pro-America arguments — without which, at the least, some of them would be swayed by the facile appeals of the anti-Americans.
Oh, well Randy, pardon me. I didn’t realize you were studying something that just happened to be the secret key to explaining the universe.
I remember having that feeling my sophomore year also.
Good luck on your semester tests. The Junior year is harder, but I’m sure you’re up for it, since you’ve got everything all figured out and all.
In a case like this, “evidence” would consist of listing off my experiences and interactions with people ranging from the Democratic Underground crowd to thoughtful leftist friends at work. But because you weren’t there for those experiences, whatever I present will be inadequate evidence — it’s already colored by my interpretation. Even internet discussions I might present are colored by the fact that I chose to select them, as well as by the fact that they took place within a context you weren’t present for (if you weren’t on website X when discussion Y took place, you don’t know the outside influences on discussion Y.) I fear it’s impossible to present a reasonable case for my position just by linking you to my experiences.
So, as an alternative, I have presented a model which you can keep in mind as you gather your own evidence from interacting with these groups. That’s the best I can do.
Jonathan: Our experiences are apparently different; I have discussed issues with groups of all political persuasions over the decades, and had little trouble. That might be because I never argue ideas; I discuss them. Scientist in me, I guess.
And I still have seen no evidence for anti americanism in the mainstream progressive left; at least one commentator in the TPM blog I quoted is a former cabinet level secretary (Reed Hundt).
You might want to consider this. The mottos on the masthead of this (ChicagoBoyz) blog express a need for differing views as am integral American institution, if you marginalize any group as large as the progessive left, you are contrary to that spirit. More importantly, these are the beliefs that caused America to coalesce into a nation. Do you really want risk reversing that process?
American history is rife with examples of former enemies becoming allies, the British, Germans and Japanese, for example. The American civil war is still fresh in the minds of many Southerners, the confederate flag still flies in parts of the country, yet we still manage to interact.
veryretired: hehe, Your wishes are a bit belated; I am afraid my last semester tests were over three decades ago. I barely remember them. Crerar was still at IIT back then; I am well over a half century old.
However, I do find it interesting that you could conclude that. Was that assumption also in effect when forming your conclusions about the AS groups?
Lotharbot: Of course I will keep in mind the model you expressed. But please forgive me for not accepting the statements as fact, I am a trained scientist, I find it difficult to form conclusions without examinable evidence.
I too have interacted with a wide variety of Americans over the decades, often by living in their communities. Right now, In Chicago alone, I have lived on South King drive (one of the poorest neighborhoods), Schiller Park, Lisle and now I reside in West Rogers Park/Lincoln Bend area of Chicago, one of the most mixed ethnic neighborhoods in the country; All this in periods ranging from the 1950’s to the 2000’s.
And in my experiences, at least, almost none of the people I knew delighted in America’s failures. There often was anger and disappointment, and always a disagreement with policies…and always very strong feelings.
When did we forget that is a good thing? From the very beginnings of America, it’s citizens have been encouraged to disagree,it’s our greatest pride and strength.
And when did expressing good things about other countries become anti american? Supreme Court Justice Scalia recently appeared on CSPAN a couple of weeks ago to discuss international law and praising learning from other countries, I can hardly believe he is anti american.
When did we forget that is a good thing? From the very beginnings of America, it’s citizens have been encouraged to disagree,it’s our greatest pride and strength.
Frankly, the whining attitude envied by your comment makes me want to vomit. I am so sick and tired of Leftist claiming that they are being criticized for “disagreeing.” Lose the martyrdom. Its a strawman argument and everyone who isn’t a Leftist knows it.
In fact, your are being criticized not for disagreeing but for not acting as a “loyal” opposition. The arguments against the war in Iraq by Leftist, for example, don’t dwell on the specifics of conditions associated with Iraq but are instead mostly about the imagined sins of America or the West in general. Look at the evolution of the Lefts opposition to US Policy in the region since 1991. The Left opposed the liberation of Kuwait, then they opposed arms inspections, then they opposed sanctions (fabricating a huge body of “evidence” that the sanctions were killing hundreds of thousands). When war threatened they suddenly decided that the sanctions were working great. The Left has consistently taken the side of the Fascists every single time. In fact, the behavior of most on the far Left is utterly indistinguishable from those paid agents of the enemies of liberal democracy. They have problem adopting these positions because they really truly believe that the ultimate cause of all the worlds problems resides in the worlds liberal democracies. In this or that case, they might be correct but they make the same argument every single time in every single instance. That is not a loyal opposition.
Even if you, personally, do not hold such extreme views you have demonstrated that you are perfectly willing to hold hands with people who do. For example, all the large anti-war rallies in the US were organized by ANSWER which is a front group for the Workers World Party which is an unrepentant Stalinist communist group. Leftist all the way to the center thought the anti-war protest were a grand thing.
If some group of Rightwing protesters found out they were going to a protest organized by the Klan they would bail so quick it would make your head spin. Yet there is virtually no extremity of viewpoint on the Left that even moderate Leftist will not associate themselves with.
Prior to the 1960’s the American Left projected an attitude of “American is the best, lets make it even better!” but now they have become “America is a pile of shit but lets try to salvage something from it.” Frankly, I just don’t trust people with that attitude to protect America and American values and I don’t think anyone else who isn’t Leftist does either.
>>”*sigh* I hate to bring a note of realism into these magnificant phrased jeremiads, but, well, no. No as in “that isn’t the way it is”. Sorry.”
>>”The right hand cannot war against the left forever, we need to fix this, not overcome it. We need to reach out to them, not oppose them.”
Do you find that condescension, patronization, and intellectual arrogance are effective tools for “reaching out?” Just curious.
“And in my experiences, at least, almost none of the people I knew delighted in America’s failures. There often was anger and disappointment, and always a disagreement with policies…and always very strong feelings. When did we forget that is a good thing?”
I didn’t say anything about delighting in America’s failures (nor has anyone else here.) I didn’t criticize anyone for anger, disappointment, or disagreement. I have not said these are bad things, either. Perhaps, in the spirit of reaching out and understanding, you should read what I and others have said more carefully.
The group I’m talking about is angry and disappointed about America’s failures. That doesn’t make them any different from me or Shannon or anyone else here. What makes them different from us is that they treat these failures as evidence that the whole system needs replaced — that liberal democracy itself is a failure and must be replaced with some sort of socialist, isolationist regime. This is a group that views each individual failure as evidence that the whole system has failed.
Now, some of them really DO react with delight (among other emotions — don’t ignore this!) as a result of America’s failures. I know several who had huge smiles on their faces when the Abu Ghraib photos and the fake Koran-in-a-commode story ran. They were angry and disappointed, but they *also* were delighted that they had more ammunition to use in their arguments. It’s kind of like how I take delight in hearing Howard Dean or Al Gore rant about something — yeah, I’m mad that we don’t have a sensible, viable, loyal opposition party, but at the same time, the faster they fail the sooner we’ll have a replacement for them.
Now, this crowd thinks every failure makes their argument stronger, but what they don’t realize is we all already recognize those failures. We just reject the model under which they view the failures. We see those failures and we think “we can do things better” and we set about doing so, while they see the failures and think “see! This proves AmeriKKKa is a KKKapitalist nation beholden to KKKorporations!” and set about trying to destroy capitalism and liberal democracy.
Thank you “veryretired”. I would love to see your very clearly written comment published in the “letters” section of every US newspaper. We could start with our local rag:
“Man, am I ever going to catch hell for this post.” So far, the only “hell” anybody’s catching is for being insufficiently anti-Leftist. I enjoy poking the occasional stick into the left-wing badger-den/hornet’s-nest/metaphor-of-your-choice as much as anybody, but as of now all the stirring up seems to be happening on the other side.
Having said that, I’d like to offer another framework. I think Randy’s notion of perceived institutional absence, or perhaps failure, is a good start, especially his suggestion (“[i]nstitutions guide all our actions; it is human nature, we would be paralyzed if we had to make decisions about every little thing we encounter”) that institutions in the widest sense have a transaction-cost function, analogous to business enterprises in market economics.
Telling the average resident of the Upper West Side or Berkeley that America’s institutions are the best-functioning in the world — which I do believe — is unlikely to elicit a positive response, unless phrased very carefully, or uttered by someone with a prior reputation for trustworthiness in their subculture (ie not most of us here, and certainly not me), and perhaps uttered in a non-election year.
So I’m taking a different tack: risk management. I hypothesize that many leftists think of societal methods of managing risk not only as a function of government alone, nor even as a function of the highest available level of government alone, but as a choice between one of only two strategies — risk avoidance and risk acceptance. What am I talking about? Permit me to quote myself:
Again via Glenn Reynolds, the magisterial Freeman Dyson reviews Michael Crichton’s Prey, and it’s all about risk management:
“What is the appropriate response to dangers that are hypothetical and poorly understood? In this matter, as in other situations where public health hazards and environmental risks must be assessed and regulated, there are two strongly opposed points of view. One point of view is based on the ‘precautionary principle.’ The precautionary principle says that when there is any risk of a major disaster, no action should be permitted that increases the risk. If, as often happens, an action promises to bring substantial benefits together with some risk of a major disaster, no balancing of benefits against risks is to be allowed. Any action carrying a risk of major disaster must be prohibited, regardless of the costs of prohibition.
“The opposing point of view holds that risks are unavoidable, that no possible course of action or inaction will eliminate risks, and that a prudent course of action must be based on a balancing of risks against benefits and costs. In particular, when any prohibition of dangerous science and technology is contemplated, one of the costs that must be considered is the cost to human freedom. I call the first point of view precautionary and the second point of view libertarian.”
Notice, however, that at the extremes, these are merely risk avoidance and risk acceptance; other risk response strategies, transference (“seeking to shift the consequence of a risk to a third party together with ownership of the response”) and mitigation (“seek[ing] to reduce the probability and/or consequences of an adverse risk event to an acceptable threshold”) are not explored (definitions are drawn from the PMBOK).
If right-wingers — or at least non-left-wingers — truly wish to distinguish themselves, they might emphasize the full range of strategies for managing risks to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Other than that, have you all considered a decaffienated coffee? ;^)
Isn’t part of “risk acceptance” the understanding that there is no free lunch, that all of us are flawed (including leaders & bureaucrats), and none of us are going to get out of here alive? Accepting this also tends to mean accepting the very different ways each of us wants to live our lives & assess our risks. This is constrained, tragic and yet, in the end, optimistic – since, once we accept that, we figure we might as well try. This seems very much the position of people who thought Iraq was a gamble but one worth taking; that think charter schools are a gamble, but one worth taking; that think social security private accounts are a gamble but one worth taking.
On the other hand, risk accepance can lead to people who like risk for the sake of risk. Yeah, that’s scary.
And I’ve got to say that I’m not much good at talking to lefties because I’ve come to an understanding of what I feel/think relatively late in life & am on the defensive. Also, I can discuss ideas with people, but I become emotional when people argue Jews are better off in Arab countries than Arabs are in Israel, when they argue that anti-Semitism in Europe is exaggerated, when they say the local officer’s corps are fascists – you know, things like that. These are not people who have ever thought twice about anything. But, of course, I am most upset because I realize that not so long ago, I, too, had not thought twice. Coming back to my roots – in literature & life – led me to this place.
This is partially because in my social milieu the consequences were seldom visited upon the speakers. That is, no one remembered that last year they said that there would be massed evacuees at the border of Iraq or that a bloody door-to-door combat in Baghdad would decimate American forces – or before that, that we would be bogged down in Afghanistan like the Russians and God knows how many armies before. They didn’t even really have to face the fact that their insane “word only” reading pedagogy or their “multi-cultural math” was going to produce children who could neither read nor add. They just said they weren’t getting enough money.
Okay, so that’s why I’m not good at arguing with leftists – defensiveness, simplicity, and, well, I guess some anger at myself as well as at them.
Actually, that sounds more like risk assessment that risk management — a precursor to selecting the appropriate strategy, with an implicit realization that there are multiple strategies available.
I get pretty upset myself at what I call the six-impossible-things-before-breakfast crowd. My favorite examples of this on the Left are (quoting myself yet again): “Stop global warming — but don’t build nuclear power plants. Feed the hungry — but don’t use genetic engineering to do it. ‘Address the root causes of terrorism’ — but don’t use the American military to like, y’know, kill some terrorists. And so it goes.” But there’s thinking like this on the Right too. Self-awareness is key, and you just demonstrated some. Let’s hope it spreads.
Has there been a followup on the “reading more carefully” front?
Although I’m entering this thread at the tail, I think there’s a couple points worth adding.
First. The US electorate doesn’t fall into a neat left-right gaussian bell curve. Nor is there a communitive relationship between left-Democrat and right-Republican, as in the Jacksonian two party system that defines US federal electoral politics, the parties represent constantly changing umbrella coalitions of widely diverse regions and sectors and issue blocks. Yet because the voting electorate today identifies itself as 34% Republican, 26% Democrat, and 40% other, Independent, or issue specific, it has become possible for a vocal faction to gain control of a Party without any pretense whatsoever of representing a consensus view even within it’s own Party coalition.
This is exactly what’s happened to the Democrats. For various historical and organizational reasons, the New Left, or “Progressive” faction within the Democrat coalition was able gain, consolidate, and now retain control of the Party organization (by following a version of the old National Front strategy). This doesn’t mean “Democrats” are now dialectical materialists or New Left progressives… nor are most Democrats “leftists” or “anti-American”. Nor do I think it’s fair to Democrats to assume the “America Sucks” crowd uniformly votes the Democratic ticket.
Paging Randy Gordon… paging Randy Gordon… the train for “reading more carefully in the spirit of reaching out and understanding” is about to depart.
Bravo! Right on target.
The Republican Party is a collection of bumbling fools.
Thank the Maker for Democrats.
You’re right Simon. I do wish there was another, sane, group to allign oneself with.
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