10 June 2010


Full-Spectrum Craziness, Explained

Yesterday, on that Facebook thing, I posted a link to a Matt Yglesias blog post, wherein Mr. Yglesias said:
I’m less clear on the all the GOP results. If anything, what we’ve learned over the past 3-4 years is that whether or not the crazier candidate prevails in these contested races, whoever prevails ends up needing to adopt full-spectrum craziness.
I take that to mean that regardless of the candidates' actual positions, they're going to have to mouth the words the the Tea Party National Anthem to keep the cash flowing.

Good guy Chris Vuille commented: "Full-spectrum craziness"—heck, it can't hurt at this point, and might do some good. What part of the spectrum was playing the last thirty years?"

Now, in general, being a fan of the late Dr. Thompson, I see his point. I have nothing against full-spectrum craziness. I hear Blackwater is having a sale, and those assault rifles look mighty nice. But let's get real here: The Tea Party, rump right, loony GOP full-spectrum craziness is just more of the same. In my own response to Chris, I wrote:
Don't be fooled. This is as big of a lot of phonies masquerading as "patriots" as has come down the pike since the Know Nothings. What "full-spectrum craziness" on the right really means is lower taxes for rich people, less regulation and lower taxes for big businesses, an imposition of Christian religious dogma that restricts the personal freedoms of women and gay people and people who aren't Christians, less support for functioning public education, and a nativist surface approach to immigration while hiring illegals under the table all the while. It's the same GOP policies as have been in place since Reagan in a new wrapper.
This, of course, just reiterates an argument made by none other than Yglesias and cited here previously:
This isn’t to say that talk about freedom is a mask for racism, but rather than talk about “freedom” is just talk about conservatism [his emphasis]. Conservatives side with business over unions and environmentalists, with police and prosecutors over criminal defendants, with nationalists against cosmopolitans, with majoritarian ethnic and religious groups against annoying weirdos, and with the military against peaceniks. Ideas about freedom and small government are totally irrelevant to the actual political agenda and the Tea Party is no different from any other conservative movement in this regard
Don't be fooled: If you want full-spectrum craziness, go gonzo or don't go at all!

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Reality check: the whole conservatives-are-trying-to-ram-racism-sexism-and-Christian-dogma-down-our-throats thing has more than passed its shelf life (as much as the liberals-are-shoving-communism-and-atheism-down-our-throats overworn by the right).

Look right in the belly of the fundamentalist-belt beast, where arguably the #1 star of Tuesday is a woman of Sikh heritage poised to become our nation's second Indian-American governor, both conservative Republicans. (The first is Catholic, therefore non-Christian in the eyes of the core of the cited dogma pushers.) Yet where is the outcry when she was called a "raghead"? (And that was done by a Republican, so I'm not even asking for criticism of a leftist!) Where was the denunciation when Palin's church was burned? Hello, anti-bigots, it's a church burning, remember those? The selectivity of the "moral outrage" of the sanctimonious supposed anti-racists/anti-sexists rears its ugly head again.

As far as the "tolerant left" is concerned, conservative women of any color need not apply because They Are Wrong. But get reddy, hear them roar, in numbers too big to ignore. They're paying the price, but look how much they've gained; if they have to they can do anything. But it's a long, long way to go until their liberal brothers understand ...

-- John P., a 70%-spectrum crazy "Tax-Nothing"

P. S. I love the "loony GOP" picture. :-)
I have to dispute your reality check, John, in multiple ways. First, I observed and felt the consequences first hand when the ballot initiative labeled Amendment 2 at the time passed here in Florida. My rights were denigrated, and it was an effort conducted through many of Florida's churches that made that happen. [Not just conducted, but conducted from the pulpit on the Sunday before the election, with support signs being distributed, etc.] Similarly with the money flow regarding similar measures in California and in Maine. The support for actions to have government not recognize my rights and the rights of others like me in our sexual orientation largely comes right out of a subset of Christian -- I'll include Roman Catholics and LDS in that category, even as RCs were subject to horrendous discrimination by the 19th-century Know Nothing analogues and Mormons were brutally persecuted and killed in those times -- churches. Similarly with those who would impose their religious communities' values regarding when human life begins on the women of all our communities. That comes pretty much out of the churches.

I think most recognize that many churches have made great progress in the race department, and many of us are hopeful to have those who look back in fifty years see similar progress among a wider swatch of churches in the sexual orientation department.

Second, while the liberals-are-shoving trope *is* tired, don't quit watching. There *is* a cohort, both among my friends on the left and among the press, who do see the USA as wrong first while giving a pass to some horrendous international players: currently, Hamas and Iran. And that same cohort just can't seem to grasp the use of force or the projection of force, either supporting our own or someone else's security. So, while I appreciate the gesture, let's both stay vigilant along both -- Christianism and America-wrongism -- lines.

I think there were plenty of people of both sides who were offended -- and who stated ample outrage -- by Nikki Haley -- and President Obama -- being called a "raghead." And the same with the arson at Palin's church. Are you claiming that from your own observations, because if you are, then I have to tell you that I think your observations are flawed. If you're claiming that because someone else claims it, then that person's observations and claims are flawed.

[FWIW, I fired Daily Kos, Drudge, National Review Online, etc., and I only read the center column of Huff Po, because I can't take the screeds on either side. I know I'm missing something, but I only have so much time.]

It was a good night for women in politics on Tuesday, no doubt. Good luck to all, but I'll still support people whose positions I agree with. (Love the pun!)

-- Tim
I'm not saying that Christians of some various stripes are not anti-gay. Rather, I am saying that the current conservative movements, which are economic- and national-defense-prioritized not "social"-, are in essence neither Christian nor racist/sexist/anti-gay etc. To be sure, modern conservatives do correlate greater than 0.0 with Christianity, probably >0.0 even with thump-in-your-face Christianity, but the correlation is further below 1.0 than is implied by your original post's "don't be fooled" passage which mingled all these attributes as ~equal bullet points. The modern TEA party is no more a recapitulation of the third-decade-previous "Moral Majority" or David Duke than Clintonism was a recapitulation of the third-decade-previous SDS or was a re-dawning of the Age of Aquarius, etc., despite some overlapping personnel, and issue correlation >0.0.

Specifically, arguing against (1) religious intolerance, racism and sexism is a lot easier than arguing against (2) limited government, carrying a big stick, etc. So there's a natural desire by opponents of (2) to try to staple onto (2)'s advocates the list (1) of no-nos. Hence weak claims about a "tea party" rascist which couldn't even be substantiated despite Jesse Jackson Jr. working the event with a video camera. That racism, had it existed, would have been useful. In contrast, the left had (net) nothing to lose in letting the (genuine) anti-Haley racism go to waste.

But I should consider that my own observations may have missed some of the outrage at some of the should-be-intolerable anti-conservative stuff like Palin's church, the "raghead" incident, etc. Yet, surfing now, I see most sources (except the conservative/alternative media) providing only single brief mention of the church burning, only on the weekend it occurred, and little follow-up regarding investigation, fall-out, etc. Similarly passing briefs on "raghead"; had the target been a non-conservative woman (or man) of color, the perpetrator's remaining in office a week later would have elicited a sustained crescendo of media-rich protest, such as occurred with Lott/Thurmond, Jackson/tea-party (incident appears likely to be a mistake, an impostor or a fabrication), or even the not-so-political Imus/Rutgers thing.

What shocked me about Haley was that an opportunity to rail incessantly against an incident of an actual (if low-ranking) Republican's racism was deemed by the left to be of less value than the related "cost" of defending a minority conservative targeted by that racism. Evidently, the prospect of a conservative becoming the country's highest-elected official to represent simultaneously two groups the left feels it should get for free, women and minorities, should be opposed by any means necessary. Further, should try to scrape up an extra-marital affair or two on her, if that increases P(destruction). Contrast with white-male-liberal John Edwards next door who enjoyed 7 months of royal sweep-it-under-the-rug media treatment for a real affair, and, as an intermediate local data point, white-male-but-conservative Mark Sanford sure enough treated worse than Edwards but better than Haley, all things considered (like that he's obviously guilty). So who are the racists and sexists here? Thus my measured 30% rebuttal of your original post: bigotry is nowhere near aligned to one side of the political/economic spectrum, nor is virtue on this issue neatly aligned to the other side.

-- John
Oh yes, FWIW my news/analysis intake is necessarily a small subset of what's out there -- I get some Washington Post & Times, Houston Chronicle, ABC, Krauthammer, WSJ, Fox, Politico, Real Clear Politics, bit of O'Reilly and Noonan, occasionally Detroit Free Press, Sacramento Bee, Jerusalem Post, and UK's Independent and Telegraph. (Or should I say "I read all of them, Katie!") Alas, none of these every day however. The got-a-day-job thing. NYT, NPR, HuffPo and Beck long "fired".

I'm not saying that anti-Americanism is 0.0 rather than 1.0 correlated with the American left. The left's apple has blemishes like the right's, but may also not be rotten to the core. Have too many friends and relatives on the left to dismiss as rotted. But yes it's still important to recognize and deal with each side's blemishes.

Likewise, don't quit watching about churches and race. There are still ethnic-specific denominations, which I find preposterous at least in Christian space. I can see language-specific services however, for obvious reasons.

Society requires a shared definition of which human life warrants legal protection. Otherwise anyone could "define away" someone else's right to life. These are necessarily arguments of morality, and it's a valid debate. The line between women's rights and baby's existence/rights, etc. Not to say that we have to agree with or even like the other sides of it.

And of course I'm not asking you to support people you disagree with (this ain't the Wellstone "memorial"), nor support women just because they're women. I'm just asking you to be more wary of tattooing racism/sexism/thumpism etc. onto a broad swath of people (dare I say it?: a "rainbow" of people!) who are actually gathered for other causes: reducing public education funding, lowering taxes even on the rich, snarling at unions, etc. :-) -- the "70%" of your list as I called it.

And likewise I'll refrain from calling you a lurking Islamist and communist in the events that (A) you happen to support ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, etc., (B) some actual Islamists and communists chime in to support the same, and (C) William F. Buckley Jr. does catch them on video. :-P

-- John
This is frustrating. You have complaints with others, but you're taking them out on me.

Look, I'm concerned about the social agenda, whether it's at the top or not. IT AFFECTS ME, the same way Know Nothing-ism or framing Italians as non-white would have affected you in another time. And, knowing some who now advocate the TP agenda -- not you, mind you -- and knowing them personally and their history, I'm pretty sure there's still plenty of social agenda there.

As to so much of the rest of what you're writing here: Well, it doesn't address anything I brought up, so it leaves me as if I'm supposed to justify or defend people I don't know who say things I didn't say. It comes across as a well-nursed grudge against parties not unlike Al Gore's "forces."
Sorry, Tim; when conservatives are blanket-tagged with nasties like religious intolerance -- as in your original post -- I tend to take it somewhat personally and go off. But discussing this point is complex because of, as I called it, the correlation falling between 0.0 and 1.0. I tried to discuss it in part using shoe-on-the-other-foot-type approaches, unfortunately risking both straying off thread and appearing as though tasking you with defending others. Naturally some of us will see this correlation more toward 1.0 and others more toward 0.0. Some members of modern conservative movements like TP have some social agenda, but TP itself is not it, and so some social-issue denunciations of TP border on a bulk ad hominem. As to where between 0.0 and 1.0, we'll have to agree to disagree, and I'm glad we heard each other out in any case. -J
The whole point was that *whatever* the movement du jour of conservatives is -- TP, Contract with America, Going Galt, it doesn't matter -- the results are (1) the same conservatism as described earlier (for business and for intrusions into into personal freedom, via Yglesias) and (2) pandering to social conservatives (my own add). To make point (2) almost necessarily means painting with a broad brush regarding politically active conservative religious people and what they advocate.

In my view, it remains true that a specific chunk of Christians are trying to force their perspectives on the rest of the society. Now this doesn't happen in isolation, and there is a long history, with both positive (abolition) and negative (prohibition) results of such or of similar. (There is a long discussion for another time of the evolution of our Western perspective from "Christendom" to something more inclusive, but I beg that let's not do that now. That said, I'm not clueless about the historical context.) Are those Christians TPers? I don't know, and as you point out, it's hard to quantify. But, as I've pointed out, my own experience suggests that it's larger than you are acknowledging -- and it's certainly *not* large among the Democratic Party and its interest organizations -- and my own experience also suggests that the role of certain Christian churches in pushing their agendas at the level of policy makes the degree to which you take exception to the characterization an analogue to "the lady doth protest too much."
I liked your post. It is thorough!!

Keep it up!!

This is Nancy from Israeli Uncensored News
CwA was about reducing gov't. size and intrusions into economic freedom, and about security and improved government accountability. Where's the increased intrusion? Exclusionary-rule softening? The relationship between welfare reform and teen pregnancy? "Galt" traces to an atheist author. I won't rehash TP.

I agree that politically-active pushy "Christians" are mostly conservative. I merely dispute the converse: the implication (which I infer from "full-spectrum craziness") that conservatives are mostly pushy Christians. Fiorina, Whitman and Haley are no Pat Robertsons, thank God. :-) Perhaps Angle is. And the subjectivity inherent of all this may indeed lead me to underestimate the link and so overprotest its citation, and also enable you to do the reverse.

I appreciate that religious intolerance, even as a secondary attribute of a candidate or movement, is personally threatening; thus it is necessary to speak up, and you are understandably wary even of any correlated circles those characters inhabit. But my point is that rounding up herds of people and branding them as bigots (part of my interpretation of "full-spectrum craziness") is another type of personal threat, in present society. Being branded a bigot is cause for expulsion from civilized discourse, a rightful expulsion when applied accurately; it is a kiss of character death. However, instead it is often applied imprecisely, with great consequence. At least in my blue states, it is used to try to pre-empt-by-association many non-bigoted points of view (e.g. the other ~70% of the "full spectrum"), ejecting them from their place at the great American water cooler of free speech. In this area, it threatens to make 25% of us (i.e. conservatives/libertarians, far more numerous than those intolerants) hide who we really are from others. Thus it is again necessary to speak up: accusation of bigotry is a weapon which must be wielded cautiously.

OK this gent hath protested enough. Thanks for "feeling my pain", or at least considering it. :-)
P. S. Clarification: my statement that bigots number far less than 25% did not count "marriage is between one woman and one unrelated man" among the bigotry part of the crazy spectrum. (Counting that would of course have made the spectrum way fuller than conservatism; it would include Obama '08.)
Strother Martin's character in _Cool Hand Luke_: "What we have here...is failure to communicate."

First, I just don't think I've done what you're responding to, in terms of characterizing people in, say, the TP movement as bigots. I hosted a discussion about the issue on Facebook somewhere back, and I'm pretty sure I presented my point of view that you can't just holler "racist" and have that apply in some broad manner. In fact, I've stated elsewhere my skepticism of the whole "racist" (take any other "ist" if it fits better) as permanent attribute of an individual, preferring to describe acts. An adjective about actions and attitudes maybe, but not *necessarily* a state of being, even as some choose to make it that for themselves. I know my own history and my own stupid thoughts at times regarding race, sex, specific religious denominations, but I don't think those define me. Or anyone else.

That said, there is a race card that can be played in politics. A religious card. A sexual orientation card. And—please pardon the mixed imagery—where there are such cards there are corresponding dog whistles that politicians can use to appeal to individuals for whom those cards matter. Lee Attwater explained all that pretty good before he passed away. And that aspect of our political lives hasn't gone away.

But, regardless of all that, what I thought I was saying about "full-spectrum craziness"—and must've written very badly for the point not to have gotten across after all these glyphs—was about the actions of politicians, not some description of political cohorts.

In general, Democratic politicians swing to the left in the primary, appealing to the politically focused activists of what most would identify as liberal/left causes. In general, Republican politicians swing similarly to the right. What is going on now, though, maybe more than usual, is that Republican candidates can't swing towards the middle because of the demands of *both* the groups that claim they're for economic freedom (but end up only being for economic freedom for big business and already rich people) and the groups that advocate socially conservative positions. The full-spectrum craziness refers to the positions the GOP candidates have to assume in order to keep the money flowing and the interest of their very vocal supporters up. It is not and never was meant to be a characterization of those vocal supporters.

Lastly, as I think I've tried to point out several times, the matter of CfA, Galt, etc. is that it doesn't matter (as Yglesias originally pointed out). The way those politicians act once elected is highly predictable, regardless of what the stated positions are. (I will take issues with Yglesias's point on the military, since I think he's lumping that one wrongly with the rest.)

And with that, I beg we close this. I claim blogger's privilege to this last word. Let's take it any further via e-mail. The world has enough evidence of our ability to talk past each other already!

Best wishes for you and Judy and your kids.

Thanks Tim; I had read "it doesn't matter" differently from its now-clear intended meaning. So now we have communicated successfully and I have no need to add rebuttal; thus, the last "real" word remains yours, but I put this here just so that the world can see that this "spirited" dialog was not endless. All the best to you and yours! -- John
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