Thursday, April 22, 2010

And now, to an earlier exchange between Bobby and me regarding the current state of politics in the U.S. The first two entries are from Facebook, the third is new.

Bobby--what's your take on the political fury raging in our country these days? Brookings and another think tank concluded things are more polarized now than at any time since the 1890's. Sounds right.

Ah, good question with so many factors... There's definitely a political fury simmering. I respect Brookings but to assert that civil-political discord today is higher than, say the desegregation court rulings or 'Nam has a pretty hard case to make.
This acrimony, I believe, is from a broadly displaced fear and frustration originating from those ... See Moresectors whose lives are most disrupted by the severe recession, and taken up by associative communities who empathize with the precariousness. The demographic whose unemployment rate was most hit were working class whites (in terms of rate change) - social constituents (ie working class conservatives) seemed to have joined to direct their anger and what they see as irresponsible domestic policy. Unfortunately, that manifested protest appears to be channeling through those fears and anger exacerbated by our economic climate and outlook.
Peripherally, what has changed for the worse is the sophistication of media outlets in understanding how to maximize profit. Most striking case-in-point is Fox. About 8 years ago, decision-makers recognized that, interestingly, the more segmented an audience, the more valuable airtime was to relevant advertisers. Following the advertising dollars, they took a decidedly conservative spin. Their audience segmented and their revenue has climbed ever since. This is why shows like Glenn Beck seem preposterous to non-Foxxers, but sound like gospel to those who are looking for information to bolster their current worldview (sought my most, conservative or otherwise) and provide an enemy. Also, I think we are extra-sensitized to the political controversies du jour. Since the end of public service announcements in the 70's and recently the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, media outlets make issues seem 'snowpocalyptic'...
I expect the socialist-fascist-communist fever will continue to simmer as long as these affected groups are distraught by the recession and unemployment (ie a long time) wrought from factors exogenous to target - the current administration. I could rant forever!
March 23 at 10:46pm

Having lived through the 70’s antiwar movement as a college student, I understand your questioning of the current state of discord being at a higher level. Certainly what went on in the streets was more extreme, actually degrading into violence from time to time. And most certainly we have not had a Kent State in which the government actually killed unarmed students for daring to assemble peacefully. Still, I feel the current rancor is the greater when looked at as a political phenomenon. That is, from the perspective of the media and of elected officials.

True, “Love it or leave it” directly implied that to question the government’s policies was to be so unAmerican you should be forced out of the country, but no one attempted to claim that the president was an enemy of America plotting to destroy us from within. This has become dogma to the Tea Party and the Fox Propaganda Channel, and even of some elected officials [Michelle Bachman comes to mind].

As for the segregation attempts, even in the face of this perceived atrocity, I don’t recall any southern governor actually threatening to secede from the Union as the Governor of Texas has. Again, violence occurred, but no one called the president a traitor.

Lest it be imagined that I have forgotten the Weathermen and other left wing terrorists, I recall the murders of some officials and other acts which certainly were more extreme than current street actions, but again, these were the acts of small extremist groups, not major movements or supported by public officials.

In other words, on one hand, I recognize the case you are making as valid. I insist not that some are now more extreme than any time since the 1890‘s, but that the movements, as expressed in the media and in elected officials, has reached a point of extreme partisanship not seen since Reconstruction. I even concede that, from a street point of view, things are almost calm compared to the days of the Posse Comatutus [sp?], Waco, and the Simbionese Liberation Army. But at that time, the government, while acrimonious, showed a sense of mutual respect which has vanished. I recall no occasion in which congressmen stood on a balcony and whipped an antigovernment crowd into a frenzy as happed a few weeks ago.

In other words, much of the problem here is my being vague and not specifying that the Brookings report referred to partisanship in Congress, rather than in the nation in general. My fault. Apologies to the Brookings Institute for so misstating their findings.

As for the problem with Fox, the issue is as you have noted. I have long believed that the current leaders of the Republican party [in so far as anyone can be said to be such a leader of that fragmented and confused group], that is Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh will say anything that they believe will increase their income. I don’t believe that either really cares about the issues, although I will give Palin credit for at least trying to care. Indeed, I think that she began as a sincere, if confused, advocate. I am convinced that the glitz and glamour of the presidential campaign spoiled her purity and lead her into political statements as a business.

This brings me to an old hobby horse of mine [ever read Sterne’s Tristram Shandy? One of the funniest books ever written, nearing Gulliver’s Travels in its superb irony]...back to the hobby horse...When I was young, television stations were regarded as using the public airways. In return for this privilege, they were required to act in the public interest to a certain degree. Once year they had to make their case to the FCC that they had so served the public. One of the ways they regularly did so was to show that they presented news to inform the public. At this time, networks’ news divisions were expected to lose money! Ratings and profits were secondary to the concept of public service. It ain’t so no more.

I entirely agree with you regarding the economic dissatisfaction and social turmoil fueling the extremism. While I consider Fox to be exploiting these fears for profit, I sincerely wonder if Beck is actually a borderline psychotic. Have you ever watched his program? It is chaotic, irrational, and makes no sense at all except in so far as it expresses an inchoate fear. Of course, it is entirely possible this is just a good act. I can remember believing that Captain Kangaroo was a nice, grandfatherly fellow. Years later I laughed when he reported that he used to wear a white wig to convince me and his other fans that he was not young, but now could use his own hair!

About the Tea Party -- I heard a comment on one of the programs I regularly watch [CSPAN?] which I heard only there but which struck me as brilliant and possibly even correct. We all know that the Tea Party movement if almost entirely white [1 percent of members are Black according to a recent poll]. Most are southern males...sounding familiar? This is the group which once dominated American politics and which now sees that power being eroded. This is a simple fact. No wonder they are frightened Even if the economy were to recover, they would still see themselves, correctly, as losing their position of power and leadership. Who wouldn't be at least nervous, even frightened, by that?

I do not say that this justifies their cries of treason and betrayal. They need to realize that even when they were in their ascendancy they were not the American people, only the portion of the American people who held power. Of course, then whites were the majority of Americans. Again, simple fact.

These realities lead the guest to say that the Tea Party might be the beginning of the first White Minority Political Party. The demographics have suggested for decades that Whites were becoming less and less the majority and would one day [now soon] be not the majority of Americans, but the largest minority in a United States that no longer had a single race majority.

Since this group has run this country at least since the French and Indian War, the adjustment is difficult.

This was fun! I love discussing things with an intelligent individual with whom I can argue or agree and whose disagreements illuminate and expand my understanding. You are only surpassed in my affections by my family, there being no woman in life at this time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

CSPAN--during a conversation about nuclear disarmament, a caller asked the guest how the founding father would react to toady's bitter partisan politics. He specifically mentioned Washington and Jefferson. A great choice. The guest didn't answer that specific question, referring instead to Reagan's attitude, which is indistinguishable from Obama's. But the answer is clear and delightful.

Usually it is a matter of speculation how any of the founders would have reacted to today's wildly different state of affairs. Almost always, those referring to the founding fathers make two errors:

1. They assume the founding fathers were all in agreement. In fact, they were a contentious bunch who actually agreed on little. The constitution is a patchwork of compromise and not a uniformly agreeable document to any of the founders.

2. TheY assume that the founders were gifted with infallibility, like the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra. Better than the pope, in fact, they were always right, even when speaking in private letters.

Whenever I refer to the founders, it pays to recall that i speak with an inherent recognition of the two fallacies above.

Back to Washington and Jefferson. The question referred to the virulent state of partisan politics today. This is a state of affairs on which both men took a clear and simple positions in their own day, so we can actually answer the question with confidence.

Washington--the Father of our Country hated politics and was contemptuous of political parties. He thought they constituted a danger to democracy. Obviously he would sharply condemn the current state of affairs.

Jefferson, while giving hypocritical lip service to the dangers of party politics, disgraced himself with scurrilous personal attacks of his opponents, including his once dear friend Adams. While Adams, after the two men had retired from politics, accepted Jefferson’s overtures for reconciliation, Mrs. Adams never forgave her husband’s once friend, then foe then friend again. Jefferson would look at the lies and deceits regularly spread by the Fox Propaganda Channel and be amazed at how gentle and impersonal they are.

Note: The most popular of the mainstream media is the Fox Propaganda Channel. The problem with said is that they make up their own facts and simply ignore news they don't like. That’s why they are not a news channel and do not practice journalism. They practice party propaganda