Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sewing The Whirlwind

The success that the right has had in stoking and nurturing white, male grievance is pretty well documented.  It is the basic function of Fox News to provide stories about the New Black Panther party, Ebola carrying illegal immigrants and other swarthy menaces.  It is the basic foundation of "take our country back."

Tom Coburn - who shares with Rand Paul the ability to occasionally say non-crazy things - has again waded into the crazy pool.  He has suggested that the President electing to do less deporting of certain immigrant groups constitutes a call to "instances of anarchy (or) violence" and then amended that to "civil disobedience."

Josh Marshall rightly points out the absurdity of using civil disobedience to protest whatever the President winds up doing on immigration tonight.

At some point in the coming vacation (yay!) I'm going to discuss what I think the liberal movement is doing wrong in trying to reach out to white men.  But basically, white men feel besieged and oppressed.  The fact that this is a ridiculous feeling does not alter the basic reality of it.  Despite being the wealthiest, most privileged group in the country, white men have a bunch of people (mostly other white people) telling them how oppressed they are.

The fact that they would considering using a tool typically used by aggrieved, disenfranchised minorities - civil disobedience, even insurrection - goes a long way to capturing their mindset at this moment of history.  And while Obama's race is a factor in it, frankly Hillary - should she win in 2016 - will simply keep this cycle going.  In fact, if Joe Biden were to win, much of this would still keep going, because Biden would be elected by a coalition in which white men are a minority.

The parallels to 1860 are of course frightening.  The South seceded because they lost an election.  Slavery in the South was not under serious threat.  The Underground Railroad was an annoyance, rather than a mass movement of slaves northward.  The issue was the spread of slavery westwards, not its existence in South Carolina.

But the South had come to feel oppressed by the larger number of Northerners.  While the split of the Democratic Party in 1860 helped elect Lincoln, the fact is, even if Stephen Douglas had run on a unified Democratic ticket, Lincoln probably still would have won.

Today, the current electoral map means that the Republicans - who now represent the white, conservative South, which is as much a cultural marker as a geographic region - will have a very hard time winning the Presidency.  As Thomas Bailey wrote about secession, the "crime of the North was the census."  Republicans can still dominate the House, because of the rural and exurban tilt of the districts.  But winning the White House is going to be hard.

And so we have a situation where all those white men see a world where they are under attack.  But since they can't secede from their neighbors, I worry what form this aggrievement will take.  When Tom Coburn says violence could accompany the President's immigration proposals, I take him at his word.  I don't believe he's threatening violence himself, but rather conveying what the far reaches of the Right are murmuring to themselves.

The Republicans political strategy has worked well for them.  They have gummed up the work of government so that it does not work, "proving" their thesis that government does not work.  They have used a favorable map and extremely low voter turnout to win control of the Senate.  They feel they are "owed" compliance from Obama.  And he isn't going to give it to them.

But in pursuing this strategy, they are stacking tinder against the foundations of government.

And some of these idiots are running around with flamethrowers.

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