Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"The conservative equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt"

Traditional conservatives and Republicans,  just coming to grips with what's hit them in the form of the Tea Party, are trying on various analogies to Democrats' past relations with the old-guard communist left and the new left of the sixties.

Thus David Frum, guest-blogging this week on the Dish, tells of a FrumForum blogger  who was savaged and sabotaged on the NewsRealBlog and cites an attempt by the FrumForum's pseudonymous "Eugene Debs" to explain this vicious internecine warfare:

You’re like some mainstream liberal, circa 1969, having dialogues with the Bill Ayers of that day–in which Ayers is telling you that if you don’t agree with him that “we” should all “off the pigs”, and lead an armed revolution, then it is you who is betraying the “true” left.  Except for one thing–Ayers, Dohrn, etc. were kids then, in their early 20s.  But, in this case, you have mature, middle aged people as the heart of the crazy movement–it’s kids like Alex Knepper who are your only hope.  This is both good and bad–good in that youth has time on its side, bad in that the middle aged Tea Party/love Palin/call-Obama-a-socialist-Nazi lunatics are already in positions of influence throughout the media and, to some extent, political office, too (the Pauls come to mind). ... I don’t know how you create a sane movement, but I guess it happens one day at a time.
And the Washington Post's Michael Gerson , grappling with cracked Teapot Sharron Angle's invocation of "Second Amendment remedies" to deal with the "tyrannical government" of Barack Obama, warns:

But mainstream conservatives have been strangely disoriented by Tea Party excess, unable to distinguish the injudicious from the outrageous. Some rose to Angle's defense or attacked her critics. Just to be clear: A Republican Senate candidate has identified the United States Congress with tyranny and contemplated the recourse to political violence. This is disqualifying for public office. It lacks, of course, the seriousness of genuine sedition. It is the conservative equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt -- a fashion, a gesture, a toying with ideas the wearer only dimly comprehends. The rhetoric of "Second Amendment remedies" is a light-weight Lexington, a cut-rate Concord. It is so far from the moral weightiness of the Founders that it mocks their memory.
"The conservative equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt" -- that nicely captures the faux rage of these office-seeking and office-holding mountebanks who take their cues from Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. 

While a radical right (faux or no) that's more than fringe may be worrisome, Peter Beinert argues that a mainstream party needs to be pushed from a far-out fringe:

No one believes that today. There are vibrant progressive organizations, from Moveon.org to SEIU, but they are part of the Democratic Party; there is no powerful grassroots movement that stands outside the two-party system calling for revolutionary change. No one believes, as many did in the mid-1930s and mid-1960s, that if presidential reform fails, blood will spill in the streets. From Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson, American progressivism has historically occupied what Arthur Schlesinger famously called “the vital center,” a bulwark against the anti-democratic ideologies of both left and right. Except that today, powerful left-wing ideologies barely exist, and so large numbers of Americans can genuinely believe that Barack Obama is a socialist, if not a totalitarian. Luckily for them, and unluckily for progressives who want dramatic change, America no longer features the real thing.
Obama's whole two-year campaign was a bid to move the center to the left.  With unemployment stuck in the high single digits for the foreseeable future, it's going to take a very long game indeed for that bid to succeed.

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