Thursday, August 13, 2009

The rise of conservative supremacism

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As you can see in the Rachel Maddow segment above, things are getting out of hand with the anti-health care protests. When a crowd of Republicans cheers at the notion of a Democrat being lynched for favoring health care reform, or protesters show up to events strapped with guns, bearing signs warning that they're going to refresh the Tree of Liberty with blood, we have a problem.

When Nancy Pelosi pointed out that it's difficult to dialogue with people who show up to health care town halls bearing signs with swatstikas, comparing Democrats to Nazis, instead of agreeing with her and denouncing the extremist and intolerant behavior of such protesters, the conservative movement denounced Pelosi for supposedly smearing conservatives as Nazis (but its perfectly ok to call Democrats Nazis as much as you want.) And a few days after that, Rep. David Scott of Georgia had a four foot swastika painted onto the sign outside of his office.

Every single one of these self-described "conservatives" who have been attacking Nancy Pelosi, calling her a liar and what not, they bear part of the responsibility for what happened to Rep. Scott. Their refusal to see anything wrong with the health care protesters, their consistent depiction of them as patriotic Americans engaging in civic debate, serves to promote and encourage the very behavior that Pelosi was trying to point out to the Michell Malkins, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs that now represent the extremist heart and soul of the Republican party.

I remarked over at Atheist Ethicist that I was having a hard time telling the ethical difference between spray painting a swastika in front of Scott's office and burning a cross. I wrote that a day before I heard that Scott had received a death threat which read "death to all Marxists" over a picture of President Obama. I guess it isn't all that different.

I view this behavior as the culmination of all of the hate-mongering that that Republican Noise Machine has generated over the years. All the eliminationist rhetoric of Malkin, Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck, Savage, etc. is now showing clearly what I warned would happen a few years ago as a result of the bigotry being promoted by such individuals:

If we want to stop the rot of our democratic institutions, then we must counter the putrid rhetoric of Coulter, Malkin, and company which acts as corrosive acid dissolving the bonds of our democratic society, dividing the country into "Us" versus "Them".
They divide the world into "conservatives," who are patriotic real Americans, and "liberals" who are not. In the case of Obama, he doesn't even get to count as an American citizen at all. They are conservative supremacists because they do not believe in the rule of law or the democratic process: they believe in the rule of "conservatives." It's not a matter of principles, but of trust; "conservatives" are to be trusted because they are Good (servants of God and/or the Market), the rest are not because they are Evil (servants of Satan and/or Marx.) So for them, the election of a Democratic president under any circumstance is illigitimate and, indeed, the very definition of nightmarish tyranny. Which is why you have a Republican member of Congress - who himself has previously compared Obama to Hitler- saying that he believes Obama's "socialist elite" are going "to declare martial law."

Atheist Ethicist, in another fantastic post on the subject of protesters shutting down discourse at town hall events, notes the irony and utter hypocrisy of such individuals claiming to be acting in the name of democray

Let us not forget that these are the same people who spent the previous eight years defending an administration that held the Chief Executive had the authority to as he pleases – even to the point of picking up and imprisoning whomever he wants, holding them without trial, and torturing them to the point of death.

This was a President who avoided the courts by assigning the judicial powers of government to its own Justice Department – a group of people who held their jobs only insofar as they act in a way that pleases the President.

This was a President who effectively bypassed the legislature with the use of signing statements through which he rewrote legislation according to his own will and whim.

These Town Hall Vandals who now want to convince us that they are the great defenders of liberty were the last die-hard supporters of that administration.

It is certain that, if these people returned to power, they would bring their love of torture, rendition, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment without trial, and support for an interpretation of Presidential power that would make any tyrant who has ever ruled sick with envy with them.

These are not people who love liberty.

These are people who love having power.
Exactly. This is why you have protesters showing up in predominantly Democratic districts, which elected a Democrat, and shouting at the representative that he/she works for "them" and expecting that to mean precisely what they want has to be done, as if there are no other voters. It's the same thing with Glenn Beck saying that this isn't the change "we" voted for: Beck as his 9/12 followers count as Americans, the millions of voters who voted for Democrats because they do favor health care reform or environmental protections don't even count as Americans. They are the "them" that Beck as his followers "surround."

Democrats and "liberals" are demonized as Nazis, Stalinists, Marxists, fascists, etc. not because of what they actually do, but because of prejudice that conservative supremacists have for the Other. As I wrote before when I warned that the conservative movement's hysteria would only get worse

[W]e can expect a non-stop stream of crazy conspiracies to be generated by these bloggers and the propaganda machine of the conservative movement. And this is because the conservative movement as a whole will be thrown into hysterical, paranoid panic the moment a Democrat takes office because they have a Manichean world view: a Democrat in office to them means America is under the rule of Evil. As Shadia Drury put it:

The American Right feels as if it is being held hostage by liberal society. This beleaguered mentality goes hand in hand with a world-view that is as demonic as it is dualistic. It is demonic in the sense that it sees the world as overrun by the forces of evil (now called liberalism) and dualistic because it regards its political opponents as the incarnation of cosmic evil.
For example, it's ok for Michelle Malkin to write a book defending a book putting American citizens and residents in concentration camps because of their ethnicity, seeming to suggest we should do the same to Muslims, but if a Democrat is elected, even though he has no plans to put American citizens in concentration camps, "conservatives" will imagine he does.

And all this imagining of fictitious dangers is going to inspire undemocratic behavior in the name of fighting the un-American enemies that Coulter and Hannity and Beck have taught them to fear. This is not a matter of partisanship, but of people who respect the democratic process versus those who don't, as indicated by David Frum noting

The Nazi comparisons from Rush Limbaugh; broadcaster Mark Levin asserting that President Obama is "literally at war with the American people"; former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin claiming that the president was planning "death panels" to extirpate the aged and disabled; the charges that the president is a fascist, a socialist, a Marxist, an illegitimate Kenyan fraud, that he "harbors a deep resentment of America," that he feels a "deep-seated hatred of white people," that his government is preparing concentration camps, that it is operating snitch lines, that it is "planning to wipe away American liberties": All this hysterical and provocative talk invites, incites, and prepares a prefabricated justification for violence.
I've seen some understandable lamentation that there doesn't seem much that can done about this state of affairs. So I'll offer some thoughts on that maybe tomorrow or the day after.

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