Sunday, June 28, 2009

the futility of centrist liberalism and the batsh*t craziness of conservatives part infinity

Everyone knows I voted for neither Obama nor McLame in '08. Still, I find Frank Rich's summation of how Obama has been treated, and how the right has gone militia-shit-crazy, to be a perfect summary of the last six months:
What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation. Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited. He has tried more than his predecessor ever did to reach across the aisle. But none of that seems to matter. A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.

Even people I know well are in on this. Speaking of the climate bill he so vigorously opposed, Phil Kerpen, a conservative debate acquaintance of mine, called liberals communists on his opportunistic appearance on the Glenn Beck show the other day (in all fairness, Beck egged him on, and Phil is really, really desperate to make it big in right wing punditry). So Phil--did you know that some people want to KILL communists? Shoot them? Did you think about that? I mean, you could have used another term, since "communism" technically means the withering away of the state that follows the public ownership of large-scale means of production, rather than the liberal-statism represented in the controversial and imperfect climate bill. But you couldn't help yourself, could you, Phil? You were wrapped up in the moment and saw this as your big chance to prove yourself with your constituency: the militia-shit-crazy right. If I get shot, I'm blaming you, birdbrain. Boy will I be sore.

2 comments:

Will said...

The Rich passage you quoted is ludicriously bad.

"What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation..."

Maybe if you are comparing Obama's 145 days to Bush's 8 years, this is accurate, but obviously misleading. On an annualized basis Obama is massively outpacing Bush.

"Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited."

Afghanistan?

And then there's just the general smugness to refer to people as "irrationally" afraid of change. IMHO, it's the flip-side of the "liberals hate america" rhetoric that comes from conservatives.

Also, to nitpick, it didn't sound like Kerpen referred to liberals as communists, but instead referred to the bill as a communist bill. A small, but important distinction, I think, especially if your primary issue with Kerpen's remarks is that it might cause someone to get shot.

"since "communism" technically means the withering away of the state that follows the public ownership of large-scale means of production,"

What on earth? In a world where there was public ownership of the large-scale means of production, there would have to be a massive state apparatus to administrate such a thing. There's a huge literature base that goes into detail about the tragedy of the commons and the problems of administrating public goods. It's only in the world of radical privatization that you could see the withering away of the state, because the combination of private property rights combined with arbitration services would make a coercive state would at least make the state superfluous.

And doesn't history contradict you? The soviet union had the full-scale collectivization of the means of production that you identify. Did the state weaken? This sort of collectivization has been tried in any number of places, do you have any empiric where any collectivization of any industry led to a REDUCTION in the size and scope of government?

matt said...

Hi Will. I'll give you that the Rich passage is bad. But I didn't make the rules on political science terminology. Marxist theory (agree with it or not) holds that when the means of production are socialized, the state will eventually wither away. That's the DEFINITION of "communism." Do I think that will happen? Not necessarily, but that's the definition, and hence Kerpen and Beck were technically incorrect in calling Cap and Trade a "communist" bill. They should have called it a "state intervention into the market" bill. There are, then, two possible reasons why Kerpen, a very smart person, would call it "communist." One is that he's simply ignorant about what communism means. The other is that he is purposely misusing the word "communist" in order to inspire hate and loathing against the bill. I think the latter explanation is more feasible than the former. As for your history lesson, it's 100% irrelevant to my post. History doesn't contradict me, because I wasn't making any normative or historical argument about stalinist totalitarian states--or any other states. Next time read my posts more carefully. There's plenty for you to argue with, just argue with stuff I'm actually saying, and not what you think I'm saying. Cool?

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