"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Republican Conservatism Falls Back on Authoritarian Roots

Lionel Trilling wrote in 1950 about conservatives becoming nearly extinct. In 2006, the ran the country but still complain “that liberals run things even when they manifestly don’t....” They still complain that liberals are “snooty, snobby know-it-alls” who allegedly disparage the people in middle America as “those hicks in flyover country.” Of course, it was the creation of populist resentment now that made possible the Republican triumph.

In the late 19th Century, a similar situation sparked a great populist protest. One hundred years later, a potential populist uprising of that kind was unthinkable. The New Right had channeled populist energies into battling those who would limit gun ownership, advance reproductive rights, or defend people’s choice of lifestyle. The process of harnessing the energies of right-wing populists transformed most conservatives into the very antithesis of the conservatives of the 1950s. The new conservatives ballooned government’s size, the power of the executive, and the national debt, seemed contemptuous of reasonable debate, and erected new and very dangerous threats to civil liberties

John Wesley Dean of Watergate fame, believes that 1994 marked the beginning of what he calls the “postmodern period” of American conservatism, a time in which “it has regressed to its earliest authoritarian roots.” Traditional conservative Paul Craig Roberts became the object of their wrath when he opposed the invasion of Iraq. He likened his new enemies to the Nazi Brownshirts and claimed that obsession with power and force prevented the original Brownshirts from recognizing the implications for their country of their reckless doctrines. “Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy. I went overnight from being an object of conservative adulation to one of derision when I wrote that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a "strategic blunder’”

Old style conservatives like Roberts are uncomfortable with the hyperventilated rhetoric of the new conservatives and are increasingly unwelcome in their company. Daniel Borchers, another old style conservative, edits a newsletter and web page that is critical of the tactics and rhetoric of Ann Coulter. When he attended a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference his newsletters were confiscated and organizers tried to strip him of his press credentials. Asked why he bucks the tide, he said “Honor requires outing. Silence is complicity.” By 2006, there was little indication that these traditional conservatives comprised more than a tiny fraction of the electorate.

From the outset, the administration of George W. Bush has sought to maximize its power by testing the customary and legal limits of executive power. Moreover it has incorporated into its modus operandi the same ugly, bare-knuckle tactics that marked its campaigns. Aside from arrogance, a number of factors might contribute to this inclination to employ ugly tactics and stretch legal limits. Richard Nixon believed in executive supremacy, and after his administration steps were taken to curb these tendencies. Vice President Richard Cheney was dedicated to the Nixonian vision and was bent on moving backward toward it .A preoccupation with national security matters might have led some to assume that the will of the commander essentially had the force of law.. In foreign affairs, Republican Neo Conservative thinking was marked by a “romance of the ruthless” that entertained the notion that a few bright, dedicated people could bring about great change, especially if they are unhampered by traditional or even legal restraints. Their willing allies were old-school nationalists--sometimes called foreign policy fundamentalists-- who long had chafed at the restraints placed on the use of military force. In domestic matters, some of the Neo Conservatives brought with them the old Leninist contempt for compromise and conviction that the end justifies the means and that it is perfectly justifiable to accuse your enemies of anything. David Horowitz, probably the brightest and most effective of them, has demonstrated this tendency. Some Christian Evangelicals--particularly the Restorationists-- share a similar approach.

A rather small example of a disregard for democratic protocols was President Bush’s inclination in his second term to denounce Democrats before military audiences. It is true that the military has become more and more Republican over time, but this breach of tradition as well as military protocol is, according to a retired Marine general “the sort of thing you find in other countries where the military and certain political parties are aligned.” It suggests the military is a red states militia. In 2000, the Bush campaign stepped over the line separating the military and politics by advertising in Army Times and other service publications.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!