As the weeks go by, it becomes ever clearer that a non-trivial part of the American body politic is in the grip of irrational and destructive forces.
The kind of self-contradictory, reality-defying, paranoid political rhetoric that is usually confined to the very extreme fringes of American politics is nowadays increasingly characteristic of one of our two major political parties; it is being continually promulgated by mainstream media (including one of the four principle television networks); and it is bringing a substantial part (albeit a minority) of the American public under its influence.
All this could be readily documented, and indeed in various recent posts here it has been. But for now suffice it to say that America's ostensible conservatives are couching their responses to Obama's presidency now in terms of extreme accusations (of fascism and socialism), and are utilizing words that suggest the potential of violence ("armed and dangerous," "secession," etc.).
In another sign of the irrationality of the forces involved, the intellectual content of the complaints and criticisms consistently lies on the wrong side of the line dividing sense from nonsense.
The word "craziness" seems regrettably apt. And I will henceforth use that term to refer to what's erupting these days on the right.
MOCKERY AND DISMISSAL AS RESPONSES
It is striking, and it is for good reason, that in progressive media --e.g. Olbermann's COUNTDOWN, and various progressive blogs-- the diatribes of the right get such extensive coverage.
This signifies a clear asymmetry: While on places like FOX News, one does not see substantial footage of what Obama or the pundits who support him have to say, the progressive media are only too glad to expose their audience to what the right is saying.
So pervasive is the irrationality of the right, the progressive media understand, that with audiences not swept up in the insanity the best weapon against the right is such exposure of what they're actually saying and doing.
Add a few dollops of mockery to highlight the absurdities and the opponent can be dismissed. We can comfort ourselves with the thought, these people are off the wall!
But while this approach to the rising craziness is useful --it's important to keep mirroring the craziness in the mirror of sanity-- it is ultimately not sufficient. It does not suffice because the audience that recognizes and dismisses the pathologies of the right --though it may, in some sense, include a majority of the country-- does not include those infected with the craziness.
And meanwhile the craziness continues to build. It builds perhaps not in numbers but in intensity-- and in such things, intensity matters.
THE INADEQUACY OF ELECTORAL CALCULATION
Meanwhile, at least publicly, Obama himself ignores the craziness. He speaks sanely to the rest of the country, and by this means, he's prospering politically.
The most recent polls (on Daily Kos) have him with a robust 69 percent approval rating, with only 27 percent disapproving.
1 | 2