Politics

08.27.12

Convention: Lies and Dog Whistles

GOP: A party dedicated to five ideas, all reprehensible.

Well, here we go. The week has begun in Tampa, report Adele Stan and Peter Montgomery, with Ralph Reed, that great Christian casino gambling enthusiast, rallying the troops, advocating that the fall election be dedicated to "the Lord." This invocation comes in advance of what promises to be a toxic waste dump of hate and lies and race-baiting for the next four days.

Tom Edsall said it without quite saying it this morning in the Times, that this Romney-Ryan campaign is becoming among the most racist we've ever seen. The two key lies so far are totally about race--that Obama is soft on welfare recipients, and that he's "robbing" $716 billion from Medicare (77 percent of recipients are white) to "pay for Obamacare" (that is, to extend health care to black and brown people who don't deserve it, havent earned it, etc.).

Commenter Omegadon asked last week: "Michael: Is there any element of the GOP that you don't consider loathesome?" I've been thinking about this over the weekend. Having trouble coming up with much.

Let me answer this way. I may not have much good to say about today's conservatism and Republican Party, but I do have criticisms of Democrats and contemporary liberalism. As I've written many times over the years, they are too fixated on rights without enough corresponding emphasis on responsibility. But when I say responsibility I mean civic responsibility (behavior in the public sphere) more than personal responsibility (behavior in the private sphere). That is, I mean citizens behaving in a way that nurtures and sustains the common good.

Honest conservatism can be valuable. It can provide that counter-balance. But we don't have honest conservatism today. We have a radical party that is dedicated in essence to three propositions: the financial liberation of the top 2 percent; the need to start more wars as the way to exercise moral authority in the world; and the peddling of oogedy-boogedy nonsense that's a step or two removed from bloodletting and alchemy.

Actually, now that I think about it, it's dedicated to two other propositions, too: the idea that Democrats aren't Americans who have different and worse ideas but are in fact un-American, which leads to this politics as perpetual warfare business; and the idea that black people shouldn't really have the right to vote in the same way white people do.

As I've said many times going back to the Guardian days, I'd be delighted to have a more-or-less honest, moderate-to-conservative Republican Party. Democrats and Republicans could then talk with each other. They could work together on outcomes like structuring a sensible carbon tax, an idea so socialistic and radical that Exxon's CEO supports it. But that isn't what we have.

So no, Omegadon, not much to admire. And as for the rest of your question, the "both sides" part, I've written it dozens of times--sure, the Democrats aren't blameless. They lie sometimes. But it's not part of their portfolio in the same way because their positions, taken one by one, are more popular. To take a timely example, Social Security and Medicare are popular. Majorities want them preserved, and strongly so. Democrats want to preserve them, so they have the benefit of being able to speak the truth on that point.

Republicans, however, have wanted to destroy Social Security since 1935 and Medicare since 1965. But the programs are popular, so they can't say that. Most government programs are in fact fairly popular, so the party that supports those programs just has to say "we support those programs," while the party that's against them has to lie.

We're going to be hearing a lot of those lies this week, and a lot of quasi-racist dog-whistling about how Obama doesn't feel the same way about America as "we" do. So no--still not sure what I should find non-loathsome about that.