Friday, August 11, 2006


Exploiting Inconsistencies

I'll likely post some notes from my sermon on last week's parsha sometime over the weekend or next week: sorry for the delay.

Anyway ... on to the subject of this post:

We liberals are wont to point out the inconsistencies in the overall doctrine of what passes for conservativism nowadays, to the extent that some see inconsistency when, in fact, there is an overall consistency in values in the right-wing mindset. OTOH, as much as we like to point out incoherency even when the world view involved is quite coherent, we are strangely loathe to do anything about it.

We need to learn from the Republicans a bit. Now, in actuality, liberal support for causes such as gay rights dovetails rather nicely with economic liberalism (e.g. broadening the definition of families, part of the gay rights movement ostensibly, also benefits the many economically disadvantaged folk who by necessity have living arrangements that lie outside of the norm of a nuclear family, which norm, FWIW, is less traditional than these in actuality highly traditional "non-traditional" living arrangements of many of the economically disadvantaged: this is all discussed in the comments here)., but many have seen a contradiction between social liberalism and economic liberalism, if only because those who benefit most from economic liberalism fear social liberalism as they feel that social liberalism, by working toward greater egalitarianism of lifestyle, undermines the few privaleges they have (something about which we social liberals need to be more empathetic if we want to win back the hearts and minds of those who would most benefit from our idealogy -- that's the point of my comments at the end of that one controversial post a few posts down on this here blog) -- i.e. their straightness, whiteness or maleness as whatever the case may be. The right has taken advantage of this "division" and exploited it to win over "Reagan Democrats" (i.e. economic quasi-liberals afraid of social liberalism and, in general, nervous enough about their position in society to defer to any hierarchy, including an economic one from which they are not benefiting).

So why doesn't the left do the same thing? The right wants both "free trade" and government/corporate secrecy? Well, why not use the tools of "free trade" to undermine government secrecy, which is "trade restrictive" (i.e. to newspapers needing stories)? The right wants to be both anti-abortion and pro-landlord? Why not scare the landlords with that one anti-abortion cartoon comparing abortion to eviction and an added caption saying "you know how those pro-life people feel about abortion: it seems they think eviction is the same thing: be prepared for pro-life demonstrators next time you evict someone". Divide and conquer works, folks. Unfortunately, the powers that be in the Democratic party are often too busy trying to make friends to realize that the way you win in politics is not by befriending everyone but by making strong statements that make people who already are friends enemies -- sure you drive half of your opponants further away from you, but it's not as if they are voting for you anyway. And if the benefit is that you push half of them toward you, the non-existant loss is more than balanced out by the real gain.

It's actually the consistency on the Right that scares me: the consistent authoritarian bent.

Speaking of economics, I think the Dems would do well to exacerbate the cognitive dissonance in a belief that says that union benefits are unfair but abolishing the inheritance tax is good public policy. Why is that blue collar workers getting better wages and benefits than their non-organized bretheren is a sin, but fighting to allow wealthy heirs to inherent vast fortunes tax free (or at the lowest marginal rate, depending on which wingnut plan you're examining) is a cause worth supporting? There must be room for daylight in there somewhere.

Your point on making friends is so good it ought to be sky-written over Washington. When Democrats run towards the Right, they are running towards voters that are not going to vote for them anyway. The Republicans don't really support centrist Democrats like Lieberman because of his stellar conservative politics. He's a "useful idiot" in the exact context of the term. I don't know why they can't see that...
It's actually the consistency on the Right that scares me: the consistent authoritarian bent. - Samurai Sam

You have been one of the more eloquent expositors in left blogistan of the inherent consistency of right-wing positions. I was not arguing the positions are inconsistent at some fundamental level (indeed, I too have made the argument for their coherency, although I've tended to hang the argument on the right-wing's distrust of legal processes and humans rather than on their authoritarianism) -- but that there is enough "functional" inconsistency for us to do unto the GOP what they have done to us.

The one issue with your suggestion vis-a-vis unions and the inherentence tax is that too many people think the rich and their heirs deserve their money while workers only deserve the scraps. What is interesting is that I have generally heard this argument most forcefully made by those with no particular socio-economic status whatsoever: by people who are obsessed with status because they have none of it but whose obsession is one of fawning.

So how do we convince people who think they deserve nothing and the rich deserve everything to stand up for a little collective bargaining, etc?

And thank you for the compliment ;)
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