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Wed Oct 28, 2015, 01:07 PM

Who "Created the Monster?"

This post about the Koch brothers' dismay over the unintended consequences of their diligent attempts to hijack the democratic process prompted another DUer to weigh in with the assessment that "the turn to the dark side" actually dated back to the Nixon era.

I won't argue against the premise that Nixon opened some nasty cans of corrupt and conniving worms and poured them into the American political stew. But while virtually all politicians (and particularly, since Nixon's own Southern Strategy, GOPpie politicians) have at some point faced the electoral necessity to pander to reactionary populism, I saw Nixon as more your back-room boyo.

He certainly exploited racist fault lines in the electorate, and did a modest amount of pandering to the reactionary anti-hippie sentiment. But Nixon and his owners, like most political machines of the Cold War era, understood that the nature of the Cold War itself required them to refrain from upsetting the propaganda applecart. Proxy wars aside, the Cold War required a facade depicting the universal social and economic beneficence of Capitalism to contrast with their carefully-depicted authoritarian collectivist "nightmare of Communism."

The "Western World" led by the USA regularly capped Soviet "5-year plan" reports of boot production per capita with our own version of boot production reports-- except that ours were white vinyl go-go boots on working class dolly birds advertising Pepsi.

Their ham-handed management of opposition to Civil Rights revealed their priorities: A form of "what would the neighbors think?" that focused on painting it as a "States Rights" issue of Democracy in Action, and downplaying, wherever possible, the ugly underbelly of racist and reactionary populism in the South. The nature of mass media helped to subvert that, just as it aided the anti-war movement: Structural constraints embedded by the last vestiges of Rooseveltian progressivism were still in place to inhibit Oligarchic control. Occasionally some unpleasant and motivational realities were plastered into the consciousness of the electorate.

One of the Cold War's only real benefits was its (temporary) inhibition on exploiting toxic, reactionary forms of populism to oppose both the remaining vestiges of socialist/labor populism and the burgeoning progressive anti-war and pro-equity versions of the 1960s and 70s.

It may seem bizarre to those who didn't live through the Taft machine's dominance of the GOP, but back then, their strategy was strongly invested in anti-populism. They worked hard to portray the GOP as the Party of Moderation, the "cool heads" with the broad view and the long-term perspective who could be trusted to counter the passion of emotional fervor with the cold water of facts, science, technology, and Realpolitik.

"The Monster" of toxic reactionary populism-- the varieties based in nativist, racist, fundamentalist, and other fear-based, exclusionary resistance to change-- has been embedded in our species all along. It's been part of our body politic from the very beginning. It never really sleeps, and the best we can do is starve it of oxygen, repudiate it as publicly as possible, and keep it grumbling and holding tinfoil hat fashion shows in its own version of the "No <pejorative epithet of your choice> aloud" tree house. But its power never dies and is abundantly fed by the fertile soil of economic hardship and fast-moving social and technological change.

Democrats are no stranger to tapping that power-- ask anyone who grew up in "the Solid South." But always fairly sub-rosa, with a veneer of respectable moderation figleafing the ugliness that fed the Party machine's power.

No, Nixon didn't create the Monster. Politicians are like Satan in some versions of Christian theology-- they cannot create, they can only destroy, distort, and exploit the damage. Even Reagan didn't "create" the current version of the reactionary populism now dismaying our elite Oligarchs.

I would, however, argue that Reagan and his owners can be fairly and squarely fingered for letting it out of the tree house this go-round, and making the devil's bargain that put the reactionary power behind their re-engineered political machine. By the time Reagan was elected, they could see the end of the Cold War coming, and decades of foundational work by the Birchers combined with their growing sophistication in absorbing and controlling the power of the mass media. Why else select an actor of Reagan's experience with presenting "amiable, reasonable and engaging"? He provided the perfect cover.

The first long, low howls began with the anti-abortion movement whipping the fundamentalist populists into a misogynist fervor in reaction to Roe v. Wade and the ERA. One by one, they've emptied the nativist treehouse, the anti-science, anti-change treehouse, the "you're not the boss of me" libertarian treehouse, the homophobic treehouse, and, with the election of a melanin-advantaged president, the racist super-treehouse. They've invited them all to the Party: Frothing, pounding, spittle-flecked cylinders of passion to be welded to the GOP electoral engine.

Now they're discovering that cylinders that refuse to be synchronized and tuned and adjusted to work effectively together under the "higher control" of the cool-headed, greed driven Oligarchs in the driver's seat might not just leave the GOPpie bus smoking with its hood up by the side of the electoral road-- they might take it over the cliff altogether.

History doesn't so much repeat itself as rhyme, but politicians have tin ears for poetry.

philosophically,
Bright

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Reply Who "Created the Monster?" (Original post)
TygrBright Oct 2015 OP
jberryhill Oct 2015 #1
TygrBright Oct 2015 #3
jberryhill Oct 2015 #6
TygrBright Oct 2015 #7
Lisa D Oct 2015 #2
villager Oct 2015 #4
TygrBright Oct 2015 #5

Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Oct 28, 2015, 01:10 PM

1. Lee Atwater deserves special mention

 


Possibly one of the greatest assholes who ever lived.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 28, 2015, 01:19 PM

3. He does, indeed, thank you. n/t

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #3)

Wed Oct 28, 2015, 02:11 PM

6. Pissing on his grave is on my bucket list

 

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #6)

Wed Oct 28, 2015, 06:02 PM

7. Someone could make a nice living running buses to that cemetery for just that purpose. n/t

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Oct 28, 2015, 01:17 PM

2. Excellent post!

The right-wing media (Limbaugh/Fox News, etc.) has been feeding lies, bigotry, and fear to the monster for decades.

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Wed Oct 28, 2015, 01:21 PM

4. Great work, Bright. And don't forget the GOP put more pedal to the metal in 1980

 

...when they began actively running against the idea of government itself, and demonizing their opposition (i.e. those "Liberals!"

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Response to villager (Reply #4)

Wed Oct 28, 2015, 01:29 PM

5. Yeah, they got a two-fer on that pander...

A big splorge for the "you're not the boss of me" Libertarian wackos, plus a smooch to the aging anti-science, anti-change crew who'd absorbed the anti-hippie "establishment" loons.

wearily,
Bright

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