Sunday, February 19, 2012

Keeping an eye on the forest

We're living in an historic moment. And yet, as is always the case, when you are in the middle of tectonic cultural/political shifts - it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees.

I wrote earlier this week about the imminent death of the white male heterosexual patriarchy. When I say "imminent," I don't mean in will happen today, this week, this month, or even this year. But it is underway. As it does so, we can expect all the ugliness it harbors to surface as a last gasp effort to defeat the inevitable.

The only question remaining is whether the Republican Party will go down with it. At the moment, that appears to be their strategy.

I think its important for us to keep the reality of this big picture front and center as we watch not only the 2012 election play out - but as we witness the next few years of our political process.

Never lose sight of the fact that we're witnessing a Republican Party in complete disarray - no matter how hard they try to spin it away. The truth is that the Bush/Cheney years destroyed the Republican brand. And, just as importantly, led to the election of this country's first African American president. This "perfect storm" of challenges to the core of what Republicans have stood for should have created a thoughtful identity crisis in which the party re-thinks its core commitments and what they mean going forward in the 21st century. But instead we see them flailing around trying to find a foothold based in a quest for power rather than ideas.

Their first strategy was to simply obstruct anything and everything put forward by the opposition (ie, President Obama). While that seemed pretty effective at first, there were 2 big downsides: First of all, it meant they didn't need to come up with any alternatives on which to stake their claim politically. And secondly, as President Obama reached out in a pragmatic way to include ideas Republicans formerly embraced, they were forced to become more and more extreme in order to obstruct.

As the nomination process got underway, all of this led to all-out war between the two major constituencies of the Republican party...the 1%ers and the religious extremists. Those two factions are now lining up to fight it out between Romney and Santorum. I expect there are a lot more fireworks to come in the next few months as that one plays out.

But notice what isn't happening while all this is going on. There is NO attempt to develop Republican ideas about how we deal with the challenges that face us today. The 1%ers jut want us to go back to giving Wall Street free reign and the religious extremists want to take us back to the 1950's to fight about things like contraception. Neither of these address the reality of a 21st century America.

I would suggest that a party that is that severely devoid of ideas will not survive over the long term.

So in the mid-term, what I expect is that as the Republicans finish their nomination process and look towards the general election, they will fall back on their one tried and true message...fear. I won't try and predict exactly what it is they'll dream up to scare us (ie, rumblings about Iran) but I would be willing to bet $10,000 of Romney's money that it's coming.

That's why its so important that we keep ourselves grounded in what is going on here. We need to remember all of this ourselves when the fear starts to take hold - and we need to assure those around us as well.

The one thing we can learn from our history about what is happening right now is that the old white male patriarchy has always depended on fear for its sustenance. The more we deny it that foothold, the sooner it will die.


  1. Well, Ms. Pants once again you've managed to get it exactly right. I would dither about only one small point.

    One of the reasons that Obama won and McCain lost (admittedly a SMALL reason) was that people are just tired of being afraid all the time. As a nation we spent 6 years in fear under Bush. In 2010 the Right went apeshit and won on fear. And now the R's will have to pull out that old canard again.

    I don't think fear as a campaign element will work ... not even on the base. People are just tired of fear, Physically inervated at the idea of having to marshall the psychic energy to fear again. Its like grief. At some point you just give up on grief because don't have the energy to do this anymore.

    They also haven't got the charismatic chops to lead from fear anymore.

  2. It is indeed like being in a forest during a tectonic shift.

    During the GWB years I got outrage fatigue. I never felt the fear they wanted me to, but I can believe that people are fatigued of that by now. But there are plenty of other ways to manipulate people.

    I remember in 1976 when the Republican Party was declared dead. It roiled around for a while and then found a winning strategy again (helped by a confluence of historical and economic events).

    And in 1992, I thought people had had enough, that the GOP was on the wrong side of history, and things would be different. People forget. I would have bet any amount of money against someone like GWB becoming president.

    The Republicans may have found an effective approach by 2016. They'll still have big money behind them. (And Karl Rove is still around. That amoral brain is great at finding the right combination of lies and half-truths.)

    (Oh; in the third to last paragraph, I think you want an "e.g." rather than "i.e."; otherwise you undercut the beginning of the sentence where you say "I won't try and predict...." If I offer nothing else of value, there's some free proofing.)

    Excellent blog, Ms. Smartypants; one of my favorite links.

  3. Lovely stuff, Smartypants. You are an oasis of sanity. With regard to fear, I used to think people would get tired of it, too, but 2010 proved me wrong. The GOP has as one of its primary requirements the need for an enemy. If one doesn't arise organically, they'll create one. That is the essence of what the Cold War was. When they didn't have the Russians as an enemy, they created the axis of evil...go after the Arabs and Muslims. With the ultimate boogey man OBL dead, they're at a lost for the enemy that they can use to keep the populace in a state of panic. They're left with Iran and the President. I suspect that people are more than ready to believe that the latter is the right person to handle the former. Who people could ultimately become afraid of is the GOP itself.

  4. c'mon. "white male patriarchy?" really? jeez, you sound like an 18 year old kid who just woke up to the fact that there are jerks in the world. Here's a challenge to you-- evolve past the dialectic of the 1960s, put aside the easy gender, race and parental classifications, and call these people out for the hypocrites and venal bastards they are. give white male miid-50 year old parents like me a break. after all, we aren't all frickin' dick cheneys!


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