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Patriotism GOP Style November 29, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Republican Richard Luger, a foreign policy expert and one of the few rational Republicans left in the Senate, is urging his Republican colleagues to ratify the New START treaty. “Please do your duty to your country” he implores. Apparently, his colleagues led by Senator Kyl  are not listening.

As Mark Kleiman reports:

Brent Scowcroft, another solid Republican, says he can’t figure out what goal Kyl & Co. might be pursuing by their opposition to the treaty other than the goal of denying the President a foreign policy victory. (A secondary goal might be squeezing Obama for even more wasteful government spending on warheads we’ll never actually use.)

If the START treaty is not ratified the U.S. will have no means of verifying the nature of weapon systems in Russia and the Russians will have no incentive to work with us on our policy with Iran or Afghanistan.  There is no U.S. interest served by holding up this treaty.

Kleiman continues:

If patriotism means the willingness to put, in John McCain’s words, “country first,” then the party that just won the midterm elections may be the least patriotic party since … well, since the Republican isolationists almost let Hitler win World War II.

I perfectly understand why the few remaining moderate Republican politicians don’t switch parties. They’ve made their choice. What I don’t understand is the persistence of moderate Republican voters. Your party is irrevocably in the grip of a group of reckless, cynical, and largely ignorant extremists. Time to go. Noisily

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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John Tyner’s Junk November 22, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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I am really unmoved by all the flap about TSA’s new screening procedures. I am especially unmoved by the much praised John Tyner. The very people who are complaining so much about intrusive pat-downs will be the first to complain if there is a successful terrorist attack. I agree with Jacques Berlinerblau:

Reading through the professions of outrage over the TSA’s new passenger screening procedures, I experienced a series of painful flashbacks. Listening to Mr. John Tyner (now viralized, lionized, and perhaps soon to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor) liken a pre-flight pat down to “a sexual assault” and expounding on the integrity of his “junk” evoked a flood of really bad grad-school memories.

Before I start reminiscing, let me get something off my chest: I too really hate those pesky security checks at airports. I hate the snaking lines. I hate taking off my cuff links. I absolutely hate it when the TSA dude confiscates my 14-ounce bottle of contact-lens fluid.

But you know what else I really hate? I hate when my plane blows up. God, I hate that!

I could have sworn that conservatives such as Charles Krauthammer and George Will and the editorial board of The Washington Times hated that as well. I always liked that about conservatives.

But what is revealed by their reactions to “Nutgate”—a Google search leads me to believe that I invented this term and I’m insisting upon paternity because it works on so many levels—is the degree to which anti-government ideology has replaced “national security” as the new coin of the conservative realm.

In this mindset, the TSA agent represents a government (with a Democrat at its head) bent on molesting law-abiding citizens. The guy prattling on about his genitals is depicted as a folk hero and a patriot (as guys who talk about such things often are).

But my question is this: Do we have any reason to believe that the TSA’s procedures overestimate the ruthlessness and resolve of our enemies?

Juan Cole explains why all of this is foolish:

The old scanners and procedures designed to discover metal (guns, knives, bombs with timers or detonators) are helpless before a relatively low-tech alternative kind of explosive that is favored by al-Qaeda and similar groups.

The inspectors are looking for forms of PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, which is from the same family of explosives as nitroglycerin and which is used to make plastic explosives such as Semtex.

Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, used PETN, as did Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the crotch bomber, last year this time over Detroit. PETN was in the HP cartridges sent by a Yemeni terrorist in cargo planes recently. And, a suicide bomber put some up his anus and used it in an attempt to assassinate the son of the Saudi minister of the interior (which does counter-terrorism). Yes, he was the first ass bomber, and he missed his target, though he no longer cares about that, what with being dead and all.

The problem with PETN is that it cannot be detected by sniffing dogs or by ordinary scanners. But if you had a pouch of it on your person, the new scanners could see the pouch, and likewise a thorough pat-down would lead to its discovery.

The TSA guys are trying to look more systematically for PETN. That is why they have adopted these more intrusive methods. And, there has been chatter among the terrorist groups abroad about launching attacks on American airliners with this relatively undetectable explosive.

None of us likes the result, which is a significant invasion of privacy.

But if al-Qaeda and its sympathizers could manage to blow up only a few airliners with PETN, they could have a significant negative effect on the economy and could very possibly drive some American airlines into bankruptcy. Al-Qaeda is about using small numbers of men and low-tech techniques to paralyze a whole civilization, which was the point of the September 11 attacks.

Since the Bush administration hyped the ‘war on terror’ trope half to death, many in the American public no longer want to hear about this danger. But it is part of my business in life to deliver the horrific news that the threat is real.

The question is really what level of risk Americans are willing to live with. On the one hand, studies suggest that the crotch bomber could not really have brought down the airliner over Detroit last year, even if he had been able to detonate his payload. And, 500 million Europeans decline to take off their shoes when they travel by air, but there haven’t been any successful shoe bombings over there, nevertheless.

On the other hand, it would only take a few small teams making a concerted effort at bombing airliners, to spook travelers and consumers. With the US at risk of a double dip recession, this moment might appeal to al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda wannabes to strike. Al-Qaeda in Yemen is openly talking of a low-tech, high-explosive war against US economic interests, a war of a thousand cuts. Its planned method? PETN-based mail bombs.

I doubt it is possible to outlaw or control PETN. The only alternative to looking for it systematically on air passengers and in cargo would be to just take a chance that no al-Qaeda operatives will be able successfully to detonate a PETN based explosive on an airliner.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Do the Rich Need America? November 15, 2010

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Bill Moyers (former press secretary for Lyndon Johnson and long-time journalist) has always been an acute of observer of American politics. Moyers recent speech at Boston University neatly lays out the consequences of increasing inequality that threatens our nation’s future.

Here is a short excerpt:

So the answer to the question: “Do the Rich Need the Rest of America?” is as stark as it is ominous: Many don’t. As they form their own financial culture increasingly separated from the fate of everyone else, it is “hardly surprising,” Frank and Lind concluded, “ that so many of them should be so hostile to paying taxes to support the infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority of the American people.”

You would think the rich might care, if not from empathy, then from reading history. Ultimately gross inequality can be fatal to civilization. In his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning anthropologist Jared Diamond writes about how governing elites throughout history isolate and delude themselves until it is too late. He reminds us that the change people inflict on their environment is one of the main factors in the decline of earlier societies. For example: the Mayan natives on the Yucatan peninsula who suffered as their forest disappeared, their soil eroded, and their water supply deteriorated. Chronic warfare further exhausted dwindling resources. Although Mayan kings could see their forests vanishing and their hills eroding, they were able to insulate themselves from the rest of society. By extracting wealth from commoners, they could remain well-fed while everyone else was slowly starving. Realizing too late that they could not reverse their deteriorating environment, they became casualties of their own privilege. Any society contains a built-in blueprint for failure, Diamond warns, if elites insulate themselves from the consequences of their decisions, separated from the common life of the country.

Yet the isolation continues – and is celebrated.

[…] Socrates said to understand a thing, you must first name it. The name for what’s happening to our political system is corruption – a deep, systemic corruption. I urge you to seek out the recent edition of Harper’s Magazine. The former editor Roger D. Hodge brilliantly dissects how democracy has gone on sale in America. Ideally, he writes, our ballots purport to be expressions of political will, which we hope and pray will be translated into legislative and executive action by our pretended representatives. But voting is the beginning of civil virtue, not its end, and the focus of real power is elsewhere. Voters still “matter” of course, but only as raw material to be shaped by the actual form of political influence – money.

The whole speech is worth reading as he dissects the inner workings of American plutocracy.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

What the People “Want” November 11, 2010

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Interpreting the results of the recent election as a mandate is not only risky but logically impossible. From Ed Kilgore:

Frightened by joblessness, “the American people” rewarded the party that not only opposed the stimulus but also blocked the extension of unemployment benefits. Alarmed by a ballooning national debt, they rewarded the party that not only transformed budget surpluses into budget deficits but also proposes to inflate the debt by hundreds of billions with a permanent tax cut for the least needy two per cent. Frustrated by what they see as inaction, they rewarded the party that not only fought every effort to mitigate the crisis but also forced the watering down of whatever it couldn’t block.

In philosophy, we call theseperformative contradictions. As assertions, contradictions are meaningless in that they express no coherent idea. But as signals of irrationality they could not be more clear.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Intellectual Giants November 10, 2010

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House Republicans are deciding who should be chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Apparently a leading candidate for the job is John Shimkus Republican from Illinois who thinks:

(1) We don’t have to do anything about climate change because the Bible says God promised not to destroy the world again after Noah’s flood.

(2) We shouldn’t reduce carbon emissions because it would be “taking away plant food.”

(3) “Today we have 388 parts per million in the atmosphere. I believe in the days of the dinosaurs, where we had the most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4,000 parts per million. There is a theological debate that this a carbon-starved planet, not too much carbon.”

(4) “When we breath in, we breath oxygen. When we breath out, we breath out carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is not a toxic emittent.”

This is the sort of person we depend on to solve the variety of problems this country confronts.

That Shimkus is a candidate for this committee tells us a lot about the intellectual capabilities of congressional Republicans and the people who put them in office.

It also tells us something about our increasingly slim chances of surviving for another century.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

This Is What They Get Paid For November 9, 2010

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According to the standard Washington narrative, repeated ad nauseum by commentators on cable news and the fish-wrap, was that Democrats over-reached during their time in power, passing lots of legislation that the public didn’t like, and and thus were defeated in the midterm elections.

And the Washington press corps had one question repeatedly on their minds—Was it worth it?

I doubt that “over-reach” explains the defeat. If the economy were humming along we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But besides that, the question “Was it worth it?” is a strange one to be asking a politician in a democracy.

William Saletan in Slate had the best take on this:

“[I]f health care did cost the party its majority, so what? The bill was more important than the election.”

Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren’t going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.

And that’s not counting financial regulation, economic stimulus, college lending reform, and all the other bills that became law under Pelosi. So spare me the tears and gloating about her so-called failure. If John Boehner is speaker of the House for the next 20 years, he’ll be lucky to match her achievements. […]

It’s funny, in a twisted way, to read all the post-election complaints that Democrats lost because they thought only of themselves. Even the chief operating officer of the party’s leading think tank, the Center for American Progress, says Obama failed to convince Americans “that he knows their jobs are as important as his.” That’s too bad, because Obama, Pelosi, and their congressional allies proved just the opposite. They risked their jobs — and in many cases lost them — to pass the health care bill. The elections were a painful defeat, and you can argue that the bill was misguided. But Democrats didn’t lose the most important battle of 2010. They won it.

When I vote for politicians, I expect them to do what is best for the country; not whatever will keep them in power. Democrats ran on a platform that included health care reform as a priority; to not pass it would have been a breach of trust.

As Steve Benen writes:

Call me old fashioned, but I thought the point of getting elected is to try to make a difference. Acquiring power just for the sake of having it is hollow exercise in vanity. Once in a great while, officials have an opportunity to use their power to improve the lives of their fellow citizens and make the country considerably better off.

I get the sense this week that some would have counseled Democrats to let the opportunity pass for the sake of their careers. “We didn’t do much,” Dems could say this week, “but at least we’re still in charge.”

What nonsense.

Democrats started 2009 with an abundance of political capital, which they proceeded to invest. The efforts didn’t pay off on Tuesday, but the dividends for the country will be felt for years.

The question “Was it worth it?’ just misses the point—which is what one would expect from the institution formerly known as “journalism”.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

A Lost Generation? November 4, 2010

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 John Judis is pessimistic:

What this election suggests to me is that the United States may have finally lost its ability to adapt politically to the systemic crises that it has periodically faced. America emerged from the Civil War, the depression of the 1890s, World War I, and the Great Depression and World War II stronger than ever—with a more buoyant economy and greater international standing. A large part of the reason was the political system’s ability to provide the leadership the country needed. But what this election suggests to me is that this may no longer be the case.

[…] The Republicans may not have a mandate to repeal health care, but they do have one to cut spending. Many voters have concluded that Obama’s stimulus program actually contributed to the rise in unemployment and that cutting public spending will speed a recovery. It’s complete nonsense, as the experience of the United States in 1937 or of Japan in the 1990s demonstrated, but it will guide Republican thinking in Congress, and prevent Obama and the Democrats from passing a new stimulus program. Republicans will accede to tax cuts, especially if they are skewed toward the wealthy, but tax cuts can be saved rather than spent. They won’t halt the slowdown. Which leads me to expect that the slowdown will continue—with disastrous results for the country.

And that is not the whole of it. As Judis points out, new industries, the only exit strategy from economic stagnation, will require government seed money  that the Republicans will block. Legislation to mitigate global warming will not pass. Budget deficits will skyrocket because tax cuts will be the only legislation that will get through Congress.

The most telling story was the contrast between Obama’s speech yesterday and the remarks of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell today.

While a contrite Obama extended a cooperative hand to the GOP, and suggested a willingness to compromise on everything from tax cuts to energy policy to health care, McConnell simply asserted that the aim of the GOP over the next two years is to make Obama a one-term President. From Steve Benen:

At President Obama’s press conference yesterday, he used the word “compromise” three times. The phrase “common ground” came up an additional three times. The president referenced working “together” 11 times. When ABC’s Jake Tapper, in the context of the debate over tax policy, asked, “So you’re willing to negotiate?” the president replied, “Absolutely.”

All of this sounded quite reasonable. But what I can only hope is that Obama and his team realize that Republican leaders have plans for the next Congress, and “reasonable” isn’t on the menu.

There’s been some talk lately about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) conceding that the “single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Let’s not forget, though, he keeps saying it.

The only objective the GOP has is political, to regain the White House in 2012. They have no plans to help anyone but their financial supporters.

The U.S. is a very large and dynamic country with tremendous wealth and human resources. But no amount of wealth or resources will be sufficient if we ignore reality. Politics in a democracy is not a game of winners and losers but a mechanism for developing strategies to confront problems. A country that ignores facts, ignores history, and fails to grasp the scope and nature of its challenges will never meet them; decline is inevitable.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

So What Happened On Tuesday? November 4, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, ethics of care, politics.
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The short answer is that lots of people lost their homes, their jobs, and their security for the future. The Democrats promised to give them some relief and they didn’t deliver—the public resents that. Since there is only one other party on offer, they chose Republicans.

People who feel resentful are not inclined to coolly assimilate the fact that Democrats made things less worse or that Republican free market radicalism cost them their well-being in the first place. The attention span of American voters can be measured in minutes. If nothing else, the GOP has proven that if you are going to fail, fail so spectacularly that the other team can’t fix it in the short run.

Here are a few facts that the majority of the voting public apparently don’t know:

We now have a health care system that insures thirty million more Americans than were insured before Obama took office, substantial tax cuts for middle-class Americans, a bailout of Wall St. from which the public will make a profit, a massive economic stimulus that saved millions of jobs, and an economy that has grown for the past four quarters. The calamitous job losses that characterized the end of the Bush Administration have ended and corporate profits are again on the rise.

But a recent poll shows that by a margin of two-to-one, those most likely to vote believe taxes have increased, the economy has shrunk, and the billions of dollars of bailout money will never be recovered.

As usual, Democrats made the mistake of thinking that if they play fair and do a competent job of managing the bureaucracy and the policy apparatus of government, the public will reward them with approval. But the voting public looks at politics as a morality play, not a policy seminar. The optics of bailing out Wall St. and Detroit while ignoring homeowners, small business owners, and construction workers cannot be changed by earnest management. Especially when Democrats themselves have a reputation for being handmaidens of casino capitalism and corporate welfare. Passing much needed health care reform is laudable but its benefits are too long term to affect this burgeoning resentment in the short term.

The GOP are masters at manipulating resentful, myopic, low-information voters; the Democrats wouldn’t know resentment if it bit them in the ass. (Oh. It did. We will see what they have learned)

At the close of the Bush Administration I published a book, Reviving the Left, in which I argued four claims: (1) Voters respond to underlying value systems, not policy proposals; (2) conservatism despite its superficial moral appeal is a form of nihilism, (3) managerial, interest group liberalism, because it refuses to articulate a competing value system, is ineffective as a political ideology; and (4) liberalism can be revived only by adopting a grassroots-fueled ethic of care that emphasizes our moral obligations to each other.

This election season tends to confirm all four propositions. Obama had to bail out the banks to maintain some semblance of a financial system. Had he shown the same care for homeowners and workers I wouldn’t be writing this today.

Although his campaign was vague enough to raise doubts, I had some hope that Obama understood (1), would fight to make (2) clear to the public, recognized the limits of managerial liberalism, and would begin the process of transforming liberalism into a viable political force with a powerful moral appeal. None of this has come to pass. My biggest disappointment is the utter collapse of the grassroots, youth-fueled organization that played such a role in his election. Democratic indifference toward that movement was obvious this election season. According to Ed Kilgore, “As Voters under 30 dropped from 18% of the electorate to 11%; African-Americans from 13% to 10%, and Hispanics from 9% to 8%. Meanwhile, voters over 65, the one age category carried by John McCain, increased from 16% of the electorate to 23%.”

Can we turn this around? I suppose hope springs eternal. Hope is by nature resistant to evidence but susceptible to vanity.

But without hope one has nothing.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

The New Barbarians November 2, 2010

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Tuesday’s election will put conservatives back in power at least in the House and in many state governorships.

I haven’t had time to absorb exit polls and results, but now is a good time to remind readers of the kind of people who now have power and influence and can claim to speak for America.

First up is Republican “strategist” Jack Burkman on a recent talk show defending U.S. foreign policy under George Bush. I don’t think I have seen a better example of the thuggish, rank immorality that passed for leadership just a few years ago. The other guests on the talk show can’t seem to decide whether they should laugh or throw a tantrum.

 

h/t Three Quarks Daily.

Next up, Alex Pareene at Salon gives out awards for the best race-baiting ads of the happily concluded election season.

[…] California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman wins an honorary Baity for putting the border fence in her ads, then lying about it, then running a Spanish-language ad claiming that she’s against the Arizona immigration law.

Next up: Nevada’s Sharron Angle, who just may defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, despite the fact that basically everyone acknowledges that she’s crazy. Angle shot out to an early lead with her “Thanks, Pal” ad explaining how much Harry Reid loves Mexicans, who are scary. […]

You’ll note that happy, white college graduates are compared to young Latino men in backwards baseball caps. Reid wants to give the Mexican ones in-state college tuition, which is for some reason horrible, because we must never allow immigrants to go to college.

And it goes down hill from there. The article and accompanying 16 videos provide a litany of brutal anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican screed pandering to every imaginable racial fear lurking in the electorate this year.

And this article would not be complete without a quote from conservative activist and former rock “star” Ted Nugent speaking at a rally for West Virginia Republican John Raese:

God bless the attitude. I love your attitude. I got some spirit going wild out there today. You’re really turning me on. But here’s how you will win, and if you don’t do this, you’ll lose and Nancy Pelosi will keep her puppet. Here’s how you fumigate the rats . . . If each of you don’t get an army of voters to get John Raese to go to Washington and fix it, if each of you don’t get all your friends, all your co-workers, all your neighbors, everybody in your life, you cannot relax between now and Tuesday. You might not even want to sleep. You might want to realize that it’s not good over bad. It’s good over evil.

Here is the video via Juan Cole:

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=politics/2010/10/30/ted.nugent.rease.rally.cnn

As Juan Cole notes:

Nugent’s rhetorical technique is to dehumanize his opponents. Pelosi does not have a political ally but a “puppet.” The Democratic representatives are not humans, but “rats.” He is talking about Al Franken, John Dingell, and Nancy Pelosi. They are rodents and ‘varmints.’ He even uses the language of mass murder against them. He calls for them to be ‘fumigated.’ That the Democratic Party is the party of urban ethnic minorities, of Italian and Polish Catholics, of Jews, of Latinos and African-Americans, and that Nugent was demonizing them before an all-white rally in West Virginia, underlines the ethnic tensions on which he was implicitly playing, and in that context his imagery of extermination is extremely smelly.

Nugent contrasts the vermin in Congress to an imagined organic community of hunters, church-goers, and bowlers, who must mobilize as an “army.” The use of fascist imagery, of solidarity-producing activities producing a martial commitment, is striking. Only about 4 percent of Americans hunt, and only ten percent fish. Less than a third regularly go to church. The organic army he is raising is clearly white, relatively well off, unusually religious, and able to afford rural estates. (Nugent was born and raised in old, white, industrial Detroit but now lives on a farm, from which he did a reality show for clueless city-slickers such as his teenaged self had been).

His flourish is to end on an ominous black and white note. The political battle, he says, is not a matter of choosing good over bad. It is good over evil.

Nugent is a horrible human being, perhaps not all there. He told a British journalist of Iraq in 2006, “Our failure has been not to Nagasaki them.”

American Democracy will not survive if we continue to put people who hold these views in office.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

A Delusional Rally to Restore Sanity October 31, 2010

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Scott McLemee’s discussion on the eve of the Stewart/Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear cites some disturbing survey results from Susan Herbst’s Rude Democracy: Civility and Incivility in American Politics.

[…]Herbst reports from a survey of university students in Georgia that she and her colleagues conducted in 2008-9. Their findings suggest a pervasive dread of argument as such, at least in public settings.

She writes that “72 percent of students agreed that it was very important for them always to feel comfortable in class,” with “only 7 percent believing comfort not to be an issue.” She calls this “evidence for at least one factor underlying the student anxiety that we find: Feeling comfortable and unthreatened intellectually is a value many students share.”

McClamee comments:

To think or believe something is a strictly personal matter. Hence pursuing an argument is taken as very nearly an act of aggression. Herbst cites interview data suggesting that some students regard it is almost impossible to persuade other people of anything. (This is, of course, a self-fulfilling attitude.) “Contrary to the image of college being a place to ‘find oneself’ and learn from others,” she writes, “a number of students saw the campus as just the opposite – a place where already formed citizens clash, stay with like-minded others, or avoid politics altogether.”

Regarding the Stewart/Colbert rally, he concludes:

But the anti-ideological spirit of the event is a dead end. The attitude that it’s better to stay cool and amused than to risk making arguments or expressing too much ardor — this is not civility. It’s timidity.

“Here we are now, entertain us” was a great lyric for a song. As a political slogan, it is decidedly wanting. If someone onstage wants to make Saturday’s rally meaningful, perhaps it would be worth quoting the old Wobbly humorist T-Bone Slim: “Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.”

Juan Cole’s post-mortem on the rally is entirely correct:

Stewart’s was a gentle ‘can’t we all get along’? plea. It at times seemed to echo Barack Obama’s increasingly naive-sounding 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention about the lack of difference between blue and red America.

I am sympathetic to Stewart’s amazement and disapproval of where political exaggerations in the hothouse petrie dish of 24/7 cable “news” may be taking us.

But with all due respect, I think Stewart’s statement mistook the problems as being solely ones of rhetorical imagery. The 80 percent in America have been royally screwed over for 40 years now. They’ve been deprived of a real share in our increasing national wealth, with wages and compensation having been kept down, in part by massive union-busting. They were robbed of whatever little progress they had made by corrupt or greedy unregulated bankers and financiers,who were mostly bailed out with the people’s money. The “tax cuts” of this century were actually a massive transfer of wealth to the ultra-wealthy. As a result of these transfers, the wealth of the 400 billionaires and the more hundreds of near-billionaires, has increased exponentially since the Reagan tax cuts. And, when the voting public finally seemed to have woken up to the scam, the Right wing deployed phony racial and cultural issues to rile up “whites” to make sure they are kept down and the great billionaire bank robbery can continue. At the same time, much of the wealth at the top derives from environmentally ruinous activities, such as exploitation of hydrocarbons or depleting the oceans of life, or mountain-top removal mining, or selling people cigarettes and other carcinogens, or mounting private security armies for deployment in the country’s ever-increasing war zones. The outcome, over the coming decades, of growing inequality and growing environmental degradation, could be catastrophic.

Me, I worry about whether the Republic can survive a situation in which 1 percent of the population has over 40% of the privately owned financial wealth, or in which they take home a sixth of the nation’s income every year. I worry about tens of millions of unemployed, thrown out of work by deregulation and high-level criminality, and millions more of the working poor barely making ends meet. I worry about the end of commercial fishing and the droughts and dust bowls of climate change. And I think those things are worth getting a little hot under the collar about, and that what politics is is a way of attributing positive and negative traits to political ideas and officials, and making these judgments accessible to the public through affect. I don’t think climate-change deniers, anti-science ignoramuses, or laissez-faire capitalists who screw up the economy and put millions out of work are “nice.” And while I do believe we have to convince them and their followers they are wrong with reasoned democratic discourse, I think some snark and outrage is entirely called for.

Conservative politician and media figure Pat Buchanan announced to the 1992 Republican convention that we are in a  “cultural war for the soul of America.”

18 years later, liberals are still not taking his words seriously. Until we recognize we are in a battle, not a seminar room, liberalism will continue to get kicked around by conservative bullies.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com