Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Angry and alienated

Camille Paglia speaks:

There is something dangerous afoot -- an alienation that can easily morph into extremism. With the national Republican party in disarray, an argument is solidifying among grass-roots conservatives: Liberals, who are now in power in Washington, hate America and want to dismantle its foundational institutions and liberties, including capitalism and private property. Liberals are rootless internationalists who cravenly appease those who want to kill us. The primary principle of conservatives, on the other hand, is love of country, for which they are willing to sacrifice and die. America's identity was forged by Christian faith and our Founding Fathers, to whose prudent and unerring 18th-century worldview we must return.

One of the very large differences between conservatives and libertarians is that while the former possess an ideology which is perfectly compatible with nationalism, such compatibility is effectively impossible for the latter, for whom an intense antipathy for centralization of any kind exists. This is not to say that patriotism will ensure that conservatives bow down in blind allegiance to the State, only that, as we saw during the Bush presidency, such blindness isn't impossible.

On the one hand, of course, I am fully in agreement with conservatives over the danger that the left poses to the existing social order. Doubling the money supply, taking over private companies, stepping up the war on foreign countries: these are all very bad things. But these are all the sorts of things for which Bush, as well as those who supported him, deserves blame. True, our last president stopped short of outright nationalization. But by shamelessly flaunting the Constitution during the first bailout, he established that what would later be denounced--inaccurately--as "socialism" by conservatives was not in any way antithetical to conservative principles. When Obama alluded to the fact that bailouts could be defended pragmatically, he was able to do so in part because this was the only conceivable defense for the original Bush bailout. And while it's hard to believe McCain would be moving more quickly than Obama to redistribute wealth from ordinary Americans to plutocrats using the inflationary Federal Reserve, it's absolutely inconceivable that the man who suspended his campaign to see the first bailout through Congress would govern with fiscal responsibility.

This, above anything else, is what makes the conservative response to Obama so amusing. It's what gave liberal criticisms of Bush their similar charm. The difference between the two governing parties is minute--just ask Arlen Specter. The two political parties are in agreement on most of the fundamental issues; the highly touted disparity between them simply doesn't exist. Despite his supposed right-wing extremism, Bush's domestic policy was basically akin to that of LBJ. And despite the fact that Obama was elected largely out of disgust for his predecessor's unnecessary war, we're set to be mired in Iraq until the end of 2011 at the very least.

To a political outsider, it can be quite humorous to view the vitriolic epithets which the partisans hurl at one another. On the other hand, there is, as Paglia points out, "something dangerous afoot". I mentioned earlier that Obama is taking us down the road of fascism; after all, Mussolini's other term for it was corporatism, which strikes me as a decent way to describe the way things are now done. Nonetheless, this doesn't imply that the Republicans are immune to the temptations of fascism. Since this much misunderstood ideology is one in which the State is seen as a totalitarian entity, in the sense of encompassing all, it's easy to see why modern liberals would be more prone to espouse it. On the other hand, the Republicans are more liable to give in to military adventures, which might suggest a better fit with the Italian implementation of Fascism. This follows from what I've said above about the essential similarities between the two parties.

Back to the alienation whereof Paglia spoke. To the conventional observer, given the political situation, unification is fundamentally impossible; such virulence can only escalate into violence. Although he made unity a large part of his campaign, polls suggest we are more divided than ever under Obama. But since this division is largely ephemeral, grounded in little more than emotion, unification is not as implausible as it may seem. I wonder what kind of leader could effect such a change, and what such a leader would do with a large group of angry and alienated people.

1 comment:

troutsky said...

No self respecting fascist would raise taxes on the top 5% and shake the hand of Hugo Chavez.When Paglia speaks of "disarray" she is actually terrified of the monster she herself encouraged and helped unleash. Some call them "grassroots", in Germany they were called Nazis and they allied with fascists.A formidable force.
Krugman and Paglia and you are looking at trees. Look at the forest.