Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Only Fake Americans Love Democracy

Matt's got a very thoughtful post about the right's conception of themselves as "real America." Basically, it's based entirely on conservatives' ethnic and religious self-concepts, rather than any true ideological stances they hold.
People who believe in violent revolution and the murder of American soldiers and policemen generally, if on the left, appeal to basically anti-patriotic attitudes. Which is about what you would expect from advocates of the violent overthrow of the established political order. But the militia crowd exhibits much more the attitudes one would expect from a coup leader—a Franco or a Pinochet who’s actually appealing to the concepts of patriotism and nationalism as justification for violent revolution.

I suppose there are some different ways of characterizing the asymmetry, but the underlying issue seems to be that rule by conservatives is integral to the right’s conception of the United States of America. This is part of the rhetoric of the “heartland” and “real America”—a period of political victory by a coalition grounded in the coasts and Greater Chicago is a period in which America has ceased to be herself. Thus Michael Barone:

[T]he Republican Party is the party of people who are considered, by themselves and by others, as normal Americans — Northern white Protestants in the 19th century, married white Christians more recently — while the Democratic Party is the party of the out groups who are in some sense seen, by themselves and by others, as not normal — white Southerners and Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, blacks and white seculars more recently.

Now Barone’s not about to go join a militia. But I think this is the basic mentality. The people on the outs are “normal” and the people running the show are “abnormal.”
I'm naturally suspicious of any behavioral explanation that relies exclusively on "identity" traits, but I've been coming up empty trying to explain the sudden bizarre, illogical freakouts on the right. There's no ideological consistency at all. Take Michele Bachmann's apparent inability to believe that the Treasury Department can legally interfere with the economy, or the Teabaggers' ongoing War on Keynes:
Ultimately, Bachand said, the Tea Parties aren't about party politics. "We want to have a real conversation about the direction of the country," she said. "I'm troubled by the bailouts. ... I'm personally opposed to any government intervention in private business."
And somehow this all gets mashed up with paranoid right-wing fears that the gummint is gonna getcha, even though our previous president went way out of his way to spy on Americans without warrants. Where were these patriots then?

So far, coarse group identity is about the only explanation that makes any damn sense.

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