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Looking Forward to the 2016 Elections: An Ongian View

By       Message Thomas Farrell       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) November 10, 2014: At the present moment, everybody is talking about the landmark electoral victories of the Republican Party in the 2014 mid-term elections. Their victories in the 2014 mid-term elections surpass their impressive victories in the 2010 mid-term elections. Thus the Republican Party has done a far better job of getting out the vote in the last two mid-term elections than the Democratic Party has.

Of course the Democratic Party has done a better job of getting out the vote in the last two presidential election years than the Republican Party has. I hope that the Democratic Party is also able to do a better job of getting out the vote than the Republican Party does in the 2016 elections. But I am not going to bet that the Democratic Party will do that in 2016. After all, for several decades now the reactionaries in the Republican Party have been able to turn out the vote in favor of Republican candidates.

Let's face it -- reactionary Republicans excel at playing Chicken Little. They squawk a lot, sound alarms, and make a lot of noise -- sound and fury signifying nothing important. Basically, the Chicken Littles are operating out of the psychodynamism that Melanie Klein refers to as the paranoid position. They are mildly paranoid, and they try to appeal to the paranoid position in other people. (Evidently, everybody has at least the kernel form of the paranoid position in their psyches from the time when they were infants.)

For several decades now, reactionary Republicans have been denouncing the 1960s. But their denunciations of the 1960s usually include denouncing the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the first trimester. But anti-abortion zealots are against legalized abortion in the first trimester. Even though many Democratic politicians have supported legalized abortion in the first trimester, the intensity of their support has not been as strong as the intensity of the anti-abortion zealots. In addition, Democratic politicians by and large have not attempted to counter the anti-60s rhetoric of reactionary Republicans. Concerning the effectiveness of the anti-60s denunciations of reactionary Republicans, see Philip Jenkins' book DECADE OF NIGHTMARES: THE END OF THE SIXTIES AND THE MAKING OF THE EIGHTIES (Oxford University Press, 2006).

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During the Cold War, anticommunist Democrats, including John F. Kennedy, managed to sound as stridently anti-communist as anti-communist Republicans sounded. Concerning the Cold War, see Stephen Kinzer's book THE BROTHERS: JOHN FOSTER DULLES, ALLEN DULLES, AND THEIR SECRET WORLD WAR (Times Books/ Henry Holt, 2013).

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, fearful Democrats once again joined fearful Republicans in stirring up fear in the country and launching and promoting the so-called war on terror. See James Risen's new book PAY ANY PRICE: GREED, POWER, AND ENDLESS WAR (2014).

In short, for several decades now, Democratic politicians have not been exactly profiles in courage in standing up to the reactionary Chicken Littles in the Republican Party.

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So is there any chance that Democratic candidates in 2016 will be able to muster the courage to stand up to and counter the brash Chicken Littles? I wouldn't bet on it.

Of course it's not hard to understand how and why reactionary appeals to paranoid fears can influence many swing voters.

But I want to suggest that the 1960s represent a real critical mass in the gathering of significant forces for positive change in American culture. As I've indicated, the reactionaries' denunciations of the 1960s have been effective for the Republican Party. But why has their anti-60s rhetoric proven to be so effective with white voters? No doubt the racism of white voters has contributed to making the reactionaries' anti-60s denunciations effective for the Republican Party.

But I want to suggest that far more than just white racism has been at work in making the reactionaries' denunciations of the 1960s so effective for the Republican Party.

Briefly, my thesis is that the 1960s represent a watershed in American culture when a critical mass of progressive and liberal forces emerged to counter centuries of white racism and male sexism. The Supreme Court's ruling in 1973 legalizing abortion in the first trimester supplied a further big challenge to male sexism. So can the Democratic Party in 2016 stand up against centuries of white racism and male sexism -- and hope to win enough American voters to win elections throughout the United States?


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The American cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003), characterizes our contemporary American culture as a secondary oral culture -- which I will style here oral culture 2.0. He uses the term "secondary oral culture" to differentiate it from the preliterate cultures that he characterizes as primary oral cultures -- or oral cultures 1.0.

Historically, American culture has been predominantly a print culture, as Ong uses this term. Ong uses the term "print culture" to differentiate it from what he terms manuscript culture. So in his sweeping account of Western cultural history, Ong works with a schema of four overlapping cultural patterns. I emphasize that these cultural patterns are overlapping, even though each one emerged historically in a certain time period. For example, print culture emerged in Western culture after the Gutenberg printing press emerged in the 1450s. Ong's massively researched book RAMUS, METHOD, AND THE DECAY OF DIALOGUE: FROM THE ART OF DISCOURSE TO THE ART OF REASON (Harvard University Press, 1958) is his major study of print culture historically -- which I will style here print culture 1.0.

Today our ubiquitous printers and photocopiers and the digital world strongly enhance the visualizing of vowelized phonetic alphabetic writing in what is now today print culture 2.0. But the digital world emerged as a byproduct of secondary oral culture -- oral culture 2.0.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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