Sunday, August 11, 2013

You can't fix stupid.

          I've been known to sit back and relax at times. I'll fire up the blu-ray and watch a whole season of a favorite show. Fringe. SG-1. Doctor Who. Sometimes I do it with movies. A bit of Film Noir. The Duke. Star Trek and numerous others. A wonderful way to enjoy the small pleasures of life.
Then I will turn on the news or hit a news site on the web. Perhaps a link on Twitter. My calm is then seriously damaged.
All it takes is hearing the latest GOP attack on voting or women or any other insanity du jour.
Ron White is right. You can't fix stupid.
What I try to do is decide how much is stupid, how much is simple willful ignorance and how much is planned political partisanship. A chance to gain power through intimidation and fear. Unfortunately I think it's all of the above.
There are extremist evangelicals who have won seats in Congress, Statehouses and Legislatures. There have been Tea Party members elected with them. So, we have reactionary ideologues in power. Single issue zealots. People who would burn down the house rather than fix a leaky pipe. People who believe women are the reason for the so-called destruction of the traditional family. People who believe their version of God needs to be inserted into American life by law. Some because they dislike or disagree with history and feel it didn't happen that way. It is some kind of conspiracy to hide the truth.
There are others who reject science on religious grounds. They feel they have a right to impose their vision on everyone.
So let's take a trip through their alternate reality.
Since the Eighties we have seen an unprecedented rise of a strain of conservatism that would appall William Buckley and Barry Goldwater. The intellectual conservatives that founded the American Conservative movement knew that the extreme fringe were antithetical to the American values
Buckley and others were espousing. Thus the Ku Klux Klan, The John Birch Society and the American Nazi party were pushed out and banished from mainstream conservatism.
As the thoughtful leaders of the movement died they were replaced by men without the intellectual discipline needed to maintain the right's integrity as a viable, sane political power. So without an ideological standard the movement started to splinter into assorted factions. Some stayed true to the Buckley/Goldwater view of America. Others wandered off into the weeds of single issue or uninformed, reactionary views of what America should be.
These splinter groups mostly fell into two categories.
1) Reactionary evangelicals. Those who believe The United States was founded as a Christian Theocracy favored by God to spread our way of life.
2) Single issue and extremist reactionary political ideologues.
Down the rabbit hole we go.
Both are the result of Nixon's play to the so-called "Silent Majority" in the 1968 election. It was a blatant attempt to woo Southern voters angry about the Civil Rights Act. By claiming the mantle of "traditional American" values they fostered an us versus them mentality. Us being white men and them being everybody else. George Wallace went after the same voter and was far less subtle in his appeal to racism and the anti youth/Peace movement sentiment.
After Lyndon Johnson decided not to run there was a bloody Democratic Primary fight between Bobby Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy.
In April of 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. in Indianapolis, Indiana Robert Kennedy heard the news right before a scheduled campaign stop in the African American area of town. Local police said they couldn't protect RFK in the heart of the Ghetto. His aides urged him to leave. Kennedy refused and gave what many feel is one of the best speeches in modern political history. The speech lasted four minutes and fifty-seven seconds and was given off the back of a flatbed truck. Bobby spoke of King's vision and told the crowd he could understand their grief and anger since his brother had been gunned down in Dallas. This was the first time he had referred to John's murder in a public forum. Kennedy quoted the Greek playwright Aeschylus, he called for peace, wisdom and compassion.
Cities across America burned that night. Indianapolis was not one of them.
Bobby Kennedy may have clenched the Democratic nomination that night.  Two months later RFK fell to an assassin himself in Los Angeles after winning the California primary.
The Days of rage turned the Chicago Democratic Convention into a war zone on TV. Humphrey won the nomination in a bruising floor fight with the Kennedy delegates. Even with this baggage Humphrey barely lost.
Nixon decided to go after the older, angry white voter. "The Silent Majority". The Southern Strategy. This was the first openly racist campaign waged by the modern GOP. Us vs. them equaled Black and young vs. white and angry. It was worse in '72. Almost overt. Code words flew every time Nixon or Agnew opened their mouth.
After Nixon was kicked to the curb Ford ran a rather clean campaign. It was about the last.
Southern Dixiecrats and many Dems became Republicans. In the North the same thing happened as white voters felt threatened by black political and social gains. The Southern Strategy had matured into a solid generational Republican voting block.
The Evangelicals and extreme conservatives were used as ground troops in knocking on doors and getting out the vote.
In popular culture these people were derided as hillbillies and holy rollers. As I've said before many looked at "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Hee Haw" as documentaries.
In the movie "Oh God", God got snarky with the Televangelist.
In the anger over how they were treated and lack of political power in a country they saw slipping away the GOP solidified this population.
Ronald Reagan used his folksy charm to wage a campaign of covert racism. He also demonized the Democratic opposition. They made the word liberal an insult. Anyone who disagreed was smeared as being Un American A socialist bent on destroying traditional American values and waging war on Christianity. Even reasonable moderate voices were tarred as Liberals.
During the papacy of St. Ronnie a war on Unions was declared. Corporations and the rich were vaunted as the basis of the American post war economic miracle. Union workers were lazy and overpaid. Taxes were cut. Deficits exploded and taxes were raised.
The cultural war against secular life was heating up. Hollywood was destroying American life. Homosexuals were plotting to take over America. Women were abandoning their traditional roles upsetting the natural order of things.
The Robertson's and Falwell's were being taken seriously. The expert use of Television was spreading their word, filling their coffers and growing their political clout. These preachers were frequent guests  at the White House. Political endorsements were sought and turned elections. Fewer people
identified as members of the traditional Religious denominations and were calling themselves Born Again.
Evangelical conservatives railed against the secularization of the United States. Hollywood and Collegiate elites were condemned for destroying American values. Women no longer stayed at home. They wanted careers.They enjoyed sex. African Americans no longer knew their place. They were uppity and wanted equality. Homosexuals were plotting to convert everyone and let their pedaphile prolictivities loose. Lesbians were going to beat up men and take their jobs in construction, law enforcement and the military.
The nation had fallen from the path of God and there would be dire consequences if the Almighty wasn't restored to daily life
The political conservatives were natural allies of the evangelicals. They both distrusted change. So they joined forces.
Both groups felt the GOP was simply paying lip service to their causes and taking advantage of them. They were right. The Republicans were not about to turn the party over to zealots. So, the insurgents took it. They ran against incumbents in primaries and won.
Since the late 90's we have seen moderate voices driven out of the party. The result is as they came into power they were lurching farther to the right. With no moderate power structure to keep them in check they reveled in their newfound ability to legislate to their heart's content.
There were no old warhorses to teach them how to govern. These neophytes saw the lifeblood of government(compromise) vilified as selling out. There was no one to tell them their concept of the Constitution was flawed at best, completely wrong at worst. Most fell over themselves running to the worst case scenario.
This coalition has decided to undo all the progress made over the last century plus. They are fed validation by media sites that would have been laughed out of existence a generation ago. The Fox news model of disinformation, half truths and lies has been adopted and expanded. We are deluged by a tsunami of willful ignorance, lies and hate, 24/7.
The audience that receives most of their information from these sites are deluded into believing we are on the verge of civil war. They are convinced they are under attack.
This has gone from people not understanding how governing works to wanting to destroy what they see as a monolithic, secular government wishing to establish a godless, socialist utopia.
Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups. Even more so if they are frightened. They latch on to anything that makes them feel safe.
I lived through the sixties and I have never seen division and hatred the way it exists here today.
Rather than make fun of the Militias we should be concerned at their explosive growth. How many McVeigh's are out there?
Rather than make fun of these extremists we should be concerned. There are likely people North and South who would love to fire on FT. Sumter again.
We need to out work them.
We need to out vote them.
We need to out evangelize them.
Too long have we let the right control the message. We need to fight back against the the lies with cold hard facts.
We can no longer be concerned with hurting their feelings. We've been punching bags for too long. Time to punch back.

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