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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Unprincipled Can't Be Hypocrites

Lefties really do seem to overestimate the efficacy of exposing Republican hypocrisies endlessly. Of course, truth matters and telling the truth matters. But how's this for a truth? Republicans lie. They lie about what they will do, they lie about what they are doing, they lie about what the have done, they lie about the consequences of what they do. They lie and lie and lie and lie. Republicans lie and cheat to win. At what point does the serial exposure of examples of this cease to seem like a particularly stunning insight?

My point is not to "normalize" this behavior, my point is not to pretend honesty, consistency, and adherence to facts don't matter. Of course I think these things matter. I'm a Democrat. I'm in the Party the membership of which cares about these things. But it is not true that Republicans also feel this way. They don't. Part of what honesty and reality-based politics presumably means is that Democrats should be aware of this and act in a way that reflects this awareness.

Republicans rail about Democratic deceptions and frauds (you know, like climate science, macroeconomics, evolutionary biology), but this is not because they eschew dishonesty or fraud -- they do so precisely because they know Democrats care about these things as they themselves do not. For much the same reason, Republicans delight in declaring "racist" any Democratic exposure of Republican racism. Accused of deception and fraud, Democrats drop everything to demonstrate painstakingly that these accusations are unfounded. Accused of the same, Republicans just lie more.

When Democrats indulge in outraged exposures of Republican hypocrisy, be very clear: all Republicans see is that Democrats are outraged and this fills their broken poisonous hearts with joy. When Democrats are mad, Republicans feel like winners. Enraging and upsetting liberals is pretty much all that Republicans live for, apart from stealing things and bullying the vulnerable.

Once again, in saying all this I do not mean to excuse Republican lies, frauds, hypocrisies. Quite the contrary. I am insisting that the recognition, exposure, and documentation of a Republican lie, fraud, error, or hypocrisy is not an end in itself and indeed is usually politically altogether useless or even counterproductive: It must be a point of departure, it must a prompt for action and organizing and not a substitution for action and organizing.

(Part of the problem here is that the same impulse that seems to seduce so many on the "sooper-left" into preferring exhibitions of purity over compromised struggles for progress, the same attraction to feeling right over getting work done, also makes the serial exposure of hypocrisies as an end-in-itself enormously attractive to that portion of the left that likes to bring a lecture to a knife fight.)

As a rhetorical matter, I propose Democrats shift their focus from documenting the hypocrisies of hypocrites to putting a suffering face on each and every dangerous and damaging Republican policy and then provide narratives to get a winning coalition of voters to identify with each and every one of those suffering faces. Then repeat slogans supporting a liberal-multicultural alternative worldview over and over and over again until these slogans feel like commonsense to that same winning coalition.


jimf said...

Interesting article in today's _Times_:
Why Rural America Voted for Trump
JAN. 5, 2017

One recent morning, I sat near two young men at a coffee shop
here whom I’ve known since they were little boys. Now about 18,
they pushed away from the table, and one said: “Let’s go to work.
Let the liberals sleep in.” The other nodded. . .

They are conservative, believe in hard work, family,
the military and cops, and they know that abortion and socialism
are evil, that Jesus Christ is our savior, and that
Donald J. Trump will be good for America.

They are part of a growing movement in rural America that
immerses many young people in a culture — not just conservative
news outlets but also home and church environments — that
emphasizes contemporary conservative values. It views liberals
as loathsome, misinformed and weak, even dangerous. . .

Political analysts have talked about how ignorance, racism,
sexism, nationalism, Islamophobia, economic disenfranchisement
and the decline of the middle class contributed to the
popularity of Mr. Trump in rural America. But this misses
the deeper cultural factors that shape the thinking of the
conservatives who live here.

For me, it took a 2015 pre-caucus stop in Pella by J. C. Watts,
a Baptist minister raised in the small town of Eufaula, Okla.,
who was a Republican congressman from 1995 to 2003, to begin
to understand my neighbors — and most likely other rural
Americans as well.

“The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that
Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while
Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts,
who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul.
“We are born bad,” he said and added that children did
not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing
how to do that.

“We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good
by being reborn — born again.”

He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good,
that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God,
as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else
to blame when things go wrong — not us.” . . .

Hearing Mr. Watts was an epiphany for me. For the first time
I had a glimpse of where many of my conservative friends and
neighbors were coming from. I thought, no wonder Republicans
and Democrats can’t agree on things like gun control,
regulations or the value of social programs. We live in
different philosophical worlds, with different foundational
principles. . .

Some of what liberals worry about they see as pure nonsense.
When you are the son or daughter of a carpenter or mechanic
and a housewife or secretary who lives paycheck to paycheck,
who can’t afford to send kids to college, as many rural
residents are, white privilege is meaningless and abstract. . .

While many blame poor decisions by Mrs. Clinton for her loss,
in an environment like this, the Democratic candidate probably
didn’t matter. And the Democratic Party may not for generations
to come. The Republican brand is strong in rural America —
perhaps even strong enough to withstand a disastrous Trump

Rural conservatives feel that their world is under siege,
and that Democrats are an enemy to be feared and loathed.
Given the philosophical premises Mr. Watts presented as the
difference between Democrats and Republicans, reconciliation
seems a long way off.

Dale Carrico said...

I started to have a conversation with you about this in the Moot, but given what a windbag I am it sprawled out into a whole useless post instead, a cause of joy for all the world.