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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Movement Republicans Confuse Theme Park for Reality

It is interesting that Sarah Palin is framing her resignation from her first and only term as an actual Governor of an actual state as if it constituted a move into a deeper, more effective political engagement and leadership position rather than as a fairly conspicuous diminishment or even relinquishment of these, a framing all the more interesting given the widespread speculation that she means now to publish splashy Ann Coulterish books and flog them at store signings and on talkshows, and perhaps find her way to the helm of a talk show or radio gig of her own. Given that the most legible leader of the Republican Party at the moment is still Rush Limbaugh, himself a talk-radio celebrity rather than an elected official, and that another scandal-plagued no-longer actually elected official who signs book jackets rather than legislation, Newt Gingrich, seems to be one of the few remaining public faces of Republican "seriousness," there is a certain curious coherence in Palin's move here.

Superficial consistency aside, there remains in this gambit the rather bedeviing pickle of a would-be governing Party that has taken as its defining note the insistence of their smiley-face icon, Reagan (Nixon is the frowny obverse face of the icon, while W., I suppose, provides a supplementary clown face), that "government is the problem." Who, for long, thinking this way and hoping to maintain any kind of integrity would remain in elected governance so conceived after all? And who, for long, whether agreeing with them or not on such a conception of governance, would trust people who declare all government a gang of thugs and thieves while striving to attain that position to prove the truth of their declaration?

But my present perplexity has a slightly different object than that. Isn't it, after all, a little strange that after spending more than a generation endlessly demonizing "liberal" media and denigrating "cultural" politics and disgorging bile at "elite" "effete" "aesthetes" of the Academy and especially the presumably cra-a-a-azy "post-modern" "politically correct" English Departments (all in ways that were never particularly accurate, but that is beside the point), so many Movement Conservatives seem to have contented themselves with total immersion in a weird Potemkin Village version of the world they had already constructed in imagination and then projected onto their foes?

With every passing year their politics seem more and more a matter of whomping up phony best-selling ideological tracts that their phony intellectual think tanks buy up in bulk and then ladle out as incentives to entice donors into opening their wallets while the authors make their phony splashes at their personal little Regent "University" that only they attend and on their personal little Fox "News Network" that only they watch.

Rather in the way that no amount of ever more hysterically amplified self-congratulatory futurological hype actually managed to transform the phony economy of neoliberal financialization, logo-ization, digitization, cost and risk externalization into something other than the fraudulent blood-soaked looting and spending spree it always obviously was to the ruin of us all, so too the funhouse mirror into which Movement Conservatism is retreating now with such hysterical glee will never manage to reflect or replace the actual reality in which their failure is so manifest.

An ever-more marginal and ridiculous minority of white-racist queer-bashing science-denialist tax-evading government-hating patriarchal corporate-militarist theocrats might slap the logo "Real America" on their foreheads and segregate themselves into ghettos of like-minded idiocy and hate, but a self-marginalized minority they remain nonetheless, out of favor, out of ideas, out of touch, out of tune, out of chances, out of sight, out of mind, out of time.

The only reason why Movement Conservatism in its consummating retreat into Virtual Reality would ever find any continued purchase in actual policy, actual governance, actual public discourse at this point would be entirely through the failure of more reasonable people (progressive, democratic, actually conservative) to make an intelligible case in public for their ideas and aspirations and proposals. When reasonableness is silent, smug, or too preoccupied to make its case, there are and, to be sure, will always be plenty of facile superstitious and libertopian and authoritarian and futurological cartoon viewpoints ready to hand to provide easily digestible and compelling appeals to greed, fear, parochialism through which to scam the rubes and work the usual world-ruining mischief.


Anonymous said...

I think you really hit the bull's eye in your last paragraph when you referred to the possibility of a conservative success with a progressive failure. With the exception of the environmental movement and the Obama campaign, progressive politics and causes have been poorly represented in this country as far back as I can remember. It's been truly pitiful.

RadicalCoolDude said...

I'm concerned that the paleoconservative platform of Patrick Buchanan (articulated by someone else) may be the future of the Republican Party because of how many conservative Democrats will find it appealing:

1. Close most of our 1,000-some foreign bases and bring the troops home.

2. Stop meddling in other nations' affairs - eg. constantly telling Russia what to do and encouraging internal dissidents.

3. Secure our borders and culture (an effective double-line border fence, no-longer granting citizenship to the babies of illegals, crack down on employers continually hiring illegals, an Eisenhower-type deportation program beginning with all aliens convicted of felonies and every gang member who is not a citizen of the United States, mandate English as our official language, and a "timeout" on legal immigration).

4. Levy a 20% tax on imports and use the proceeds to lift taxes on our own manufacturers.

5. Purge the neo-cons and "cake-walk" crowd from government.

6. Return to federalism and Congressionally mandated restrictions on the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to help tamp down the culture wars.