Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Richard Hofstadter explains Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh, Feb. 17, 2009

This is one of the great battles in which we find ourselves today. How do you come to a compromise with people like that? Everybody said, "We ought to compromise, Rush, bipartisanship, we gotta all get along." How do you do that? How do you compromise good versus evil? How do you compromise victory with defeat? As I said last week, should Jesus have made a deal with Lucifer? Should Jesus have made a deal with Satan? How would that deal have come out? What would the compromise there be?
Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1963)

One reason why the political intelligence of our time is so incredulous and uncomprehending in the presence of the right-wing mind is that it does not reckon fully with the essentially theological concern that underlies right-wing views of the world. Characteristically, the political intelligence, if it is to operate at all as a kind of civic force rather than as a mere set of maneuvers to advance this or that special interest, must have its own way of handling the facts of life and of forming strategies. It accepts conflict as a central and enduring reality and understands human society as a form of equipoise based upon the continuing process of compromise. It shuns ultimate showdowns and looks upon the ideal of total partisan victory as unattainable, as merely another variety of threat to the kind of balance with which it is familiar. It is sensitive to nuances and sees things in degrees. It is essentially relativist and skeptical, but at the same time circumspect and humane.

The fundamentalist mind will have nothing to do with all this: it is essentially Manichean; it looks upon the world as an arena for conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, and accordingly it scorns compromises (who would compromise with Satan?) and can tolerate no ambiguities. It cannot find serious importance in what it believes to be trifling degrees of difference: liberals support measures that are for all practical purposes socialistic, and socialism is nothing more than a variant of Communism, which, as everyone knows, is atheism. Whereas the distinctively political intelligence begins with the political world, and attempts to make an assessment of how far a given set of goals can in fact be realized in the face of a certain balance of opposing forces, the secularized fundamentalist mind begins with a definition of that which is absolutely right, and looks upon politics as an arena in which that right must be realized.
Limbaugh's Manichean mind-set also leads him to some truly bizarro beliefs. If you read that transcript, you'll see that the "people like that" he alludes to are Democrats who "are trying to undermine the Constitution because it's an obstacle to them." According to Limbaugh, "the Constitution is under assault" from immoral, atheistic Democrats "who come to find it restrictive and unpalatable."

See: In Limbaugh's mind, Republicans (who are movement conservatives, "RINOs" like Arlen Specter don't count) are Good and pro-Constitution. Democrats are Evil and anti-Constitution. These are axiomatic truths for Limbaugh that are not informed by reality, but instead shape Limbaugh's perception of reality.

Which is why he ends up on air denouncing Democrats for finding the Constitution to restrictive while the administration he spent the last 8 years championing put forth the most radical and unConstitutional view of Executive power in this nation's history.

Simply put, Bush and his lawyers contend that the president's national security powers are unlimited. And since the war on terror is currently scheduled to run indefinitely, the executive supremacy they're asserting won't be a temporary condition.

This extremity of Bush's position emerges most clearly in a 42-page document issued by the Department of Justice last week. As Andrew Cohen, a CBS legal analyst, wrote in an online commentary, "The first time you read the 'White Paper,' you feel like it is describing a foreign country guided by an unfamiliar constitution." To develop this observation a bit further, the nation implied by the document would be an elective dictatorship, governed not by three counterpoised branches of government but by a secretive, possibly benign, awesomely powerful king.

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