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How Quickly They Forget April 8, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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Political philosopher William Galston points to a disturbing trend in a recent poll:

The daily commentary about the Obama era has largely overlooked a trend that is now unmistakable—namely, the growing conservative sentiment in this country that goes well beyond the tea-party rallies and Glenn Beck’s rants.

Gallup offered the first piece of compelling evidence. On January 7, 2010, it reported that self-identified conservatives had increased from an average of 37 percent of the electorate in 2008 to 40 percent in 2009. (By contrast, moderates and liberals each decreased by one percentage point during that period.) Gallup based its conclusion on a synthesis of surveys taken throughout 2009, with a total sample of nearly 22 thousand and a margin of error of less than +/- one percentage point. It found, moreover, that ideological shifts among independents—a three-point drop in moderate identifiers, coupled with a five point-gain in conservative identifiers—accounted for most of the overall change.

Galston argues that this is part of a long-term increase in the polarization of the electorate—moderates over the past 30 years have increasingly identified with either liberalism or conservatism. But the recent shift is clearly toward conservatism. I suppose that is to be expected in the midst of a long recession with high unemployment.

But it is troubling that, in two short years, a significant number of people have simply forgotten that our current difficulties are the direct consequence of disastrous conservative governance.

It is troubling but not surprising. As I argued in Reviving the Left, conservative values are the default position in this country. When things go wrong, the source of the problem is always the government (or the urban, educated elites who run it), and  authoritarianism and individualism will always appear to be the solution.

It is the American way.

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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The Adults Are In Charge (for now) September 13, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Ethics, politics.
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As many of you know, some of my work is devoted to characterizing the cavernous  moral fissure that has opened up between our dominant political ideologies.

That fissure was clearly evident last week in the aftermath of the sordid spectacle that occurred on the floor of the chamber during Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.

As usual, historian and blogger Juan Cole gets the characterization exactly right.

On September 9, 2009, a man named Joe Wilson, a congressman from South Carolina, yelled “You lie!” at the president as he was defending his universal health coverage proposals from nutty rightwing smears.

Joe Wilson, whom the Health Industry lobby has given $244,196 in campaign contributions, was of course himself lying when he implied that President Obama’s plan will cover illegal immigrants. It will not.

President Obama graciously accepted Wilson’s subsequent apology, even though no modern president has been yelled at that way by a minor rural politician.

On July 6, 2003 another Joe Wilson called a president a liar, in an opinion essay for the New York Times. This Joe Wilson had bravely stared down Saddam Hussein in fall, 1990 as acting ambassador in Baghdad and been commended for his courage by George H. W. Bush.

George W. Bush had falsely alleged in his State of the Union Speech that Iraq had recently bought yellowcake uranium from the West African country of Niger. The allegation was based on a clumsily forged document that had been discounted by the CIA and was proven false within 24 hours when finally shared with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Wilson’s complaint that the assertion had been false and that he had shown it false before the war was deeply embarrassing to the Bush administration. It responded by smearing Wilson and then attempting to out his wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover CIA operative working against Iran’s nuclear program. Plame’s career was destroyed and all her known agents and contacts around the world were burned; some of them may have quietly been killed (we have no way of knowing). Ultimately, the truth of the anti-Wilson, anti-Plame campaign came out and Richard Bruce Cheney’s chief of staff, was found guilty of an attempted cover-up. Cheney had ordered the outing of Plame; it happened via another route, but Cheney was conniving at it. Cheney is a traitor and should be rotting in jail.

Note that the first Joe Wilson was dead wrong, but that the Obama administration responded in a gentlemanly way to his charge.
The Bush-Cheney administration, in contrast, attempted to besmirch the reputation and the life of a dedicated lifetime civil servant because he spoke the truth to the president.

The story of the two Joe Wilsons and how they were treated is the story of two visions of America. The Bush-Cheney vision is a nightmarish landscape of blighted lives and cruel indifference to basic human decency. The Obama vision is just the Golden Rule, with which the people who vote for the evil Joe Wilson typically profess acquaintance.

Ancient history? Water under the bridge? Let’s move on; look forward, not backward? Well, no. As Cole says:

The evil Joe Wilson (R-SC) is the remnant of Cheneyism in this new America, painfully being born from the rubble made by the old.

Sometimes the paradoxical adage “the more things change, the more they remain the same” seems about right.

 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