Sarah Josepha Hale Had a Little Lamb

Sarah Josepha HaleBefore getting to the birthday, on this day in 1947, Walt Disney testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Disney ratted on Herbert Sorrell, David Hilberman and William Pomerance. But maybe “ratted” is the wrong word, because he didn’t actually disclose any information. He just figured they were commies. And how did he know? They were part of the 1941 animators’ strike. Like most conservatives then and now, any liberal cause from workers’ rights to civil rights to environmental regulation must be a communist plot. There are many reasons why people generally have a bad opinion of Walt Disney today. This is one of them. But I mostly only care that his cartoon shorts sucked. Thank God for Warner Bros!

On this day in 1788, a truly remarkable woman was born: Sarah Josepha Hale. She was a prominent writer and editor, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s start with the fact that she was born just after the US Constitution was ratified, and she lived until well after the Civil War and shortly before the Progressive Era. As Mr Rochester would have said, she was tenacious of life.

Her parents were very liberal and so they educated her the way that they would have educated a boy. Of course, she could not go off to college, so she was largely self-taught. She became a school teacher in her early twenties but married two years later. Over the next nine year, she had five children. And then her husband died. According to Wikipedia, she worn black the rest of her long life “as a sign of perpetual mourning.” I mention it only because I love stuff like that.

A year after her husband’s death, she published her first book of poetry, The Genius of Oblivion. And then, four years later she published her first novel, Northwood: Life North and South. Her politics were fairly conservative by modern standards, but for their time, she probably was as liberal as most Democrats — maybe even me. She was against slavery, but for sending the slaves to Liberia. That was in 1827, which probably made her more liberal than Lincoln some years later. But even though she lived to 1879, she never believed in women’s suffrage.

She is considered the most important person for making Thanksgiving a holiday. I’m not at all interested in that. But I am interested in a book she wrote in 1830, Poems for Our Children. It contained perhaps the most famous poem in America:

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rule;
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out,
But still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear.

Why does the lamb love Mary so?
The eager children cry;
Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,
The teacher did reply.

Perhaps Hale’s greatest legacy is that she pushed early American publishing away from English writers. At the time, most American magazines contained mostly reprinted work from our recent captors. And you can easily see why. American artists of all kinds were generally of an inferior quality. We just hadn’t set up the kind of institutions that are necessary to help young artists to maximize their potential. But obviously, the only way to do that was to encourage the publication of American writers as Hale did.

In addition to her work with magazines, she managed to publish almost fifty books in her lifetime. She lived a remarkable life.

Happy birthday Sarah Josepha Hale!

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Klayman Announces Lawsuit Shows Racism

Larry KlaymanYou would know I was being ironic if I wrote, “Those subhuman blacks are such racists!” But if I were a conservative, well, you would have to assume that I was serious. I know this sounds like an extreme example, but conservative lawyer Larry Klayman was over at that bastion of sanity WorldNetDaily Friday, Time to Act on Obama’s Ebola-Gate. Basically, it is about yet another of his useless and costly lawsuits. But apparently, Klayman just can’t help himself because, you know, he’s a bigot.

There is, perhaps, nothing that a modern American conservative believe quite as much as “reverse racism.” They think that there is no racism in America because there are no laws that stop people from doing particular things because of their race. But they also believe — contrary to their first claim — that there is racism, and it is against whites for people even claiming that the other kind of racism exists.

Here is the money quote — the one you would know was ironic if I wrote it:

Does anyone doubt that former Alabama Gov George Wallace was a racist, after he banned blacks from attending the state’s university in the 1960s? So too can anyone refute that Obama’s not even temporarily banning West Africans from entering the United States is also as least de facto racism, as this high risk caper puts whites and others at risk at the expense of not even temporarily “inconveniencing” his fellow Africans. Wallace and Obama are both despicable and both to be condemned to the trash heap of history for their actions.

I’m not going to break the whole thing down — much less the rest of the article with such priceless quotes as, “But I am not a racist, and neither are you!” I just want to focus on three little words: “his fellow Africans.” Really?! Obama is an African? That’s amazing. It is now the sixth year of Obama’s presidency, and people on the right can still not accept that he is an America. He is still that inscrutable “African” who managed to trick a lot of the “real” (white) Americans to vote for him. It is a shockingly racist statement. Since Obama is black (whatever that is supposed to mean), he sides with his “fellow Africans” and against “whites and others.”

Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch noted:

Klayman argues that Obama had declined to enact a ban on travelers coming from West Africa not because medical and disease experts have advised against such a move, but because the president is “a reverse racist whose actions, not just with regard to Ebola but across the board, are skewed toward feathering the nest of ‘his’ people, and calculated to harm the rest of us if not destroy the entire country.”

I also like how Africa is a single place in the minds of conservatives. It isn’t 20% of the land area of the world with 47 countries. I guess this goes along with the school district that wouldn’t allow two Rwandan children to enter school because of Ebola concerns. You know: it’s the “dark continent”; how could anyone tell one region from another — much less one nation from another! I mean, Rwanda is only 2,600 miles from the closest country with Ebola. But that’s just “I’m an ignorant American” syndrome. It isn’t racism.

I’ve only said it once, so let me repeat it: Larry Klayman is a bigot. But he has lots of support. If you have a strong stomach, you can read through some of the comments. One person claimed that his lawsuit wouldn’t work, “Crooked judges would rather see themselves and their families die of Obola, than allow discovery on Obola’s forged documents.” Another has it all figured out, “Obama WANTS half of America to die. WHY? CONTROL.” And another gave the obligatory shoutout to the conservatives’ newest authroitarian BFF, “I notice that Russia is clamping down, and Putin is right to do it.” (I can’t actually find any indication that this is true.)

What bugs me is that I’m sure Klayman is no kind of social pariah. That is something that the upper reaches of our society have lost sight of. Norms are enforced by people paying a social price for breaking those norms. But going around publishing racist comments about the president don’t disqualify him from being at all the good parties. I don’t know, but given that it wasn’t for Andrew Breitbart, why would it be for Klayman? The one good thing about this is that you don’t have to read the future Fall of the American Empire because you get to watch it in real time.

H/T: Digby

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No Obamacare Change Will Impress Conservatives

Ramesh PonnuruRamesh Ponnuru now works at Bloomberg View, which goes along with my theory that any smart conservative will eventually end up with a good job at a mainstream news outlet because there are so few conservative writers who aren’t totally insane. But while I like him and think he often has really insightful things to say about American politics, he is usually just a conservative who can’t see beyond his limited worldview. Take, for example, his article today, Sorry, Obamacare Is Still Unfixable.

Earlier this year, I wrote, Ramesh Ponnuru Obamacare Warning to Conservatives. That was in reference to his article warning that Obamacare was not about to “implode.” But I criticized him for implying that conservative complaints about Obamacare were substantial. They aren’t. And to be honest, I don’t see that Ponnuru’s complaints are either.

In today’s article, he attacked the plan of Senators Mark Warner and Mark Begich to add “copper” plans to Obamacare. These would be plans with low premiums and high deductibles. Ponnuru says that such plans might hurt Obamacare, “That migration could, however, make the exchanges less stable by reducing the amount of money that healthy people are putting into them through their premiums.” It’s possible, but given the conservative tendency to always assume the worst about Obamacare and always be wrong, it is hard to take the “could” complaint very seriously.

But Ponnuru’s complaint especially annoys me because what Warner and Begich are doing is trying to appease conservatives. It is conservatives, after all, who are always yelling about how “catastrophic insurance” is the solution to all our problems. But once such things are on the table, they complain about high deductibles. Indeed, Ponnuru complains about the ridiculously high deductibles in the current “bronze” plans. And I agree: it’s terrible. And I don’t like the idea of “copper” plans. I wanted and continue to want a more liberal plan. The current plan is extremely conservative. Democrats are working to make it even more conservative. And the reaction by conservatives is that moves in their direction are no good. Because, let’s face it, Obamacare will never be any good. There is no “replace” of Obamacare; conservatives just want to kill it.

This brings up an issue: is healthcare in the United States better under Obamacare than it was before? I think the answer to that is clearly and resoundingly, “Yes!” That should be the question for conservatives like Ponnuru, just the same as it is for liberals like me. It shouldn’t be, “Is Obamacare better than whatever solution you have in your head?” I’m not saying that Ponnuru is being disingenuous, but it is just too easy for people (Like me!) to get lost in theoretical-land and not deal with the world as it is.

Ponnuru ended the article in a way that makes me even less keen. He wrote, “An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll earlier this month found that only 36 percent of the public favors Obamacare.” That’s true, but hardly relevant. People don’t even know what Obamacare is. It is just that the word “Obamacare” has been vilified like the word “liberal” — and by the same people. No change to Obamacare will make “Obamacare” popular. Even if it was reformed to consist only of tort “reform” and huge tax cuts for the wealthy, conservatives wouldn’t like it because it has “Obama” in the word.

I am sure that Ponnuru knows this. So the end of his article is nothing but conservative propaganda. And more generally, but to a lesser extent, that’s true of the whole article. Ponnuru is better than this. Sadly, the conservative movement is not.

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Bad Climate News and the Need for a Predator

CaribouOver at Vox this morning Brad Plumer reports, São Paulo Is the 7th Largest City in the World. And It’s About to Run Out of Water. It is experiencing “the worst drought in eight decades.” It really is bad: the city’s reservoirs are down to 5% of their capacity and there have been intermittent and widespread water outages. The proximate cause is that the region has received only 40% of the rainfall it normally does and the water utility had refused to implement water rationing, preferring anemic “free market” measures.

As for the more substantive reasons for the drought, Climate Central points to global warming and deforestation, which of course are related. Right now, here in California, we are in a similar situation. And in our case, it seems to be all global warming. Historical correlations between temperature in precipitation in the vast majority of the United States is negative — and it is particularly so here in California.

My concerns about global warming has always been focused on rainfall. The evil irony is that a warmer world will produce more rain, but it does so primarily over the oceans. So there are potentially devastating effects on agriculture, and those effects are going to harm the United States a lot. As for California, I won’t be surprised at all if in a hundred years, it is a ghost state because we just don’t have the water to support 38 million people. But I’m surprised that São Paulo is being so affected. It is on the edge of a forest and close to the coast. But that’s the thing about all the carbon we’ve pumped into the atmosphere — it is an experiment we are conducting on the planet, and we have little idea just how it is going to work out in its specifics.

CaribouMeanwhile, Andrea Thompson at Climate Central reported, Hot News: 2014 On Track to Become Warmest Year. It follows from an announcement by the National Climatic Data Center that following September being the warmest on record that we are “likely” to see 2014 be the warmest year. Even if the last three months are just as warm as the average of the years 2000 – 2013, it will tie with the warmest year.

But it is madness that we are even talking about this. Forget 2014. The warmest year on record: 2010. Second warmest: 2005. Third warmest: 1998. This last one is the only non-21st century year on the list of the ten warmest years on record. I’m again reminded of the caribou. The lack of wolves caused the species to get over-populated in Newfoundland. The caribou were so successful that they were destroying their habitat and starving, so wolves had to be reintroduced.

We need some wolves, but not to keep our population in check. We need wolves to keep our global capitalism in check. I’m not saying that we need to harm the economy. We are not turning a blind eye to global warming because the people or even the capitalists generally want that. We are doing it because there is one industry that has a huge incentive to stop us from doing anything about global warming: the fossil fuel industry. And they have enormous resources to create doubt. So yes, we are destroying the planet because about ten thousand people all over the world want to hang onto their current profits, which are almost all dependent upon externalities.

Any individual human would behave better. The current conservative line on global warming would be seen as irrational in an individual. Consider a man who said, “Unless you can prove to me that I’m going to die before my children are grown, I’m not going to buy any life insurance!” And the same conservatives who say we can’t do anything about global warming unless we know, also say that they must be allowed to carry a gun with them at all times just in case. I understand the philosophical thread: conservatives don’t believe in collective action. But the fact remains that we all have far more to worry about regarding global warming than we do lone gunmen. (Or black helicopters!)

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America Is Afraid of Everything

Cable Hysteria - US vs Canada

This image comes from Digby, Exceptionally Hysterical. What it shows is the coverage of yesterday’s shooting at the Canadian Parliament. On the left is CNN with, “Terrified Capital.” I’m sorry: “TERRIFIED CAPITAL.” On the right is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) with, “Soldier Dies After Parliament Hill Attack, Gunman Also Shot Dead.” Stark difference.

What’s sad is that if I had only told you the headlines, you would have known: the first was from some American outlet. Even right now, The New York Times headline is, After Shooting, Fear and Anxiety Take Over Ottawa. And you would have known that the second headline was from some other country where they still report the news. Right now, the CBC headline is, Ottawa Shooting: A Day of Chaos Leaves Soldier, Gunman Dead.

I have a message for my fellow Americans: stop being such pussies. Constantly flying into fits of terror does not make us look tough. It makes us look like frightened children. As Russell Saunders noted yesterday, “As of this writing, the number of patients diagnosed with Ebola in the United States can be counted on one hand, and the number who have died on one finger.” Is there no threat too small that we won’t freak out?! If Malia gets a paper cut, will the headlines read, “BLOOD FLOWS IN THE WHITE HOUSE”?

The situation in Canada is pretty clear. There was a violent person who the Canadian government already knew about. He killed a man, which is sad in a general sense and a tragedy for those close to him. And now the violent man is dead. It doesn’t mean planes are heading for our skyscrapers. No black helicopters coming. No Ebola epidemic.

But you know what? There are 10,000 germs on every square inch of your skin! What’s more, every year, over two million children under the age of 5 die of diarrheal diseases. If I were you, I’d get to the bathroom fast. Not only can you vigorously wash your hands over and over again, it will also hide you away so that the rest of the world won’t have to see what cowards Americans are! This is why we spend on our military just under what the rest of the world combined spends: because we are terrified of a fair fight. Because we are the few, the arrogant, the pussies.

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Here’s Johnny!

Johnny CarsonOn this day in 1925, the comedian Johnny Carson was born. When I was a kid — a little kid, because my parents were, well, permissive — I liked him well enough on The Tonight Show. Unlike the adults who watched the show, I liked it more when there were guest hosts. Two of my favorites were David Letterman and David Brenner. But I thought that Carson was funny. I enjoyed watching his show. Of course, I remember thinking that Bob Hope specials were so funny and when I’ve had a chance to see them as an adult, I’ve been horrified. (The movies are just fine.)

But Carson did tell one of the funniest jokes I have ever heard. It involves our current governor who just so happens to have been our governor then. In case you didn’t know it, Brown had a reputation for being, well, very California. People referred to him as “Governor Moonbeam.” Having told you that, I will just quote from last year’s birthday post:

The Democratic National Convention was going on. Jerry Brown had run for president and he came in a distant third. But he was still an important presence at the convention. Carson said (more or less), “A reporter ask Brown if it bothered him that a lot people thought he was a new age hippy. And Brown responded, ‘Well, you give good karma out, you get good karma back.’” Okay, that’s a solid joke. But it died. Carson got nothing from the audience. So he ad libbed, “How about: he said it while meditating on ten pounds of raw liver?” I died. To this day, I think it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. No one agrees with me. I guess you had to be there.

Carson started doing magic as a young man. He continued with it through college before thinking better of it. But he clearly never lost his interest as you could see on the show where he often booked magicians — often even good ones. And of course, there was my absolute favorite part of his show, Carnac the Magnificent. The best part of this clip is when Carnac says that he needs quiet and Ed McMahon says, “You’re getting a lot of it tonight.”

I could give you an overview of Carson’s rise to fame, but there really is nothing more boring than than the stories of people who worked in radio and the early days of television. It is always the same, “He did one thing here and then he moved and did a different thing there and then he was at yet another place doing yet another thing.” It ends with, “And in 1962, he reluctantly took over The Tonight Show.” And he did the show until 1992 when they gave it to Jay Leno. Leno, you may recall from the early days of Late Night With David Letterman. That was when Leno worked as a comedian. By the time he took over The Tonight Show, Leno was working in another medium that I could never quite figure out. Carson, on the other hand, could always make me laugh. Here’s a parody of Columbo that I rather like:

Happy birthday Johnny Carson!

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Kurdish Comedy Music Video About ISIS

Kurdish ChildrenWe in America love the Kurds, even though the only thing we know about them is that they aren’t Muslims. Fun fact: the Kurds are actually Muslims. What’s more, they are predominantly Sunni, so I guess Saddam Hussein didn’t gas them because of their religion. In fact, that whole thing just makes no sense. We all know that all Muslims are exactly the same, agreeing on everything including that they hate the United States because of our freedom. (Joke’s on them! We’re getting rid of our freedom fast!) So okay, I guess we have to all agree that not all Muslims are the same. Or continue to believe that the Kurds are some kind of exotic Christians like the Ethiopian Catholics.

My reason for loving the Kurds is that they are a trusting people. When Bush the Elder (the “good” Bush), told them to rise up against Saddam Hussein, they did! And they were rewarded the way American allies are often rewarded: by us doing nothing as they were destroyed by Saddam Hussein’s forces. Fun fact: it does not appear that chemical weapons were used against the Kurds at that time, as was reported with certainty in the American press at that time. Hussein did use chemical weapons against the Kurds in the late 1980s, as was not reported in the American press at that time. And we certainly didn’t go to war over that because, hey, they had no oil and weren’t royalty.

But now we all have an especially good reason to love the Kurds. Last week on the Kurdish television station KurdSat, they aired a humorous music video lambasting ISIS. People are calling it a parody, but I don’t know what it is a parody of. I must admit to being woefully ignorant of Middle Eastern music. It seems to me just straight comedy — comedy of an extremely political and pointed nature.

It shows five men with long, comically fake, black beards as members of ISIS. They play their assault rifles like they were guitars (Saz?) and cellos. They swing swords around. And they generally act very silly with a skull and a zurna. It is a welcome bit of humor in the middle of the whole ISIS situation:

It does bring up one serious question. The Kurds are clearly not cowering; why are so many Americans? ISIS actually does represent an existential threat to the Kurds. They are going head to head with the group. Yet the Kurds do not partake in overstating the threat of ISIS. And here we see some of them openly mocking ISIS. Here in the United States — most especially among the chickenhawk Republicans — the group is presented like the second coming of the Third Reich.

Mostly, the video is just meant to tweak the noses of the ISIS leaders, who I can only assume are as full of themselves as any other military leaders. As Mediaite noted, “Beheadings are one way to taunt your geopolitical enemy. But a parody music video is a much lighter, cleverer way to get a point across, as some Kurdish people recently demonstrated.” But there is one line in the song that was wonderfully blunt, “Our pockets are full of Qatari money.” Yep.

The video is very charming. It also has an extremely catchy melody that is now going through my head. Basically, it is just three notes but it works really well. I suspect it is a classic tune, but as I said, I don’t know the music of that region very well. Regardless, it is a video that should make America fall in love with Kurds all over again. And it doesn’t even involve us watching them die. Maybe it will even make the conservatives come out from under their beds.


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2014 Election Will Be No Mandate

Get Out the VoteEd Kilgore wrote a good article over at Talking Points Memo that really can’t be repeated enough, Looking For a Mandate In November? Good Luck. Of course, it won’t matter. Regardless of what happens, pundits will claim that there was a mandate. It’s what they always do. What is most likely to happen is that the Republicans will get a small majority in the Senate. And this will be portrayed as a backlash against Obama’s “liberal” policies.

It’s curious. Pundits are supposed to exist to provide insight into the news. So you would think that the natural thing for a pundit to do would be to note that this election is six years after the huge Democratic wave election of 2008. There are 21 Democrats in the Senate up for re-election — 8 in Romney states. There are only 15 Republicans up for re-election — only one of which is in a state that Obama took in 2012. So what we should expect is that the Republicans would gain 7 seats. And that is exactly what we are looking at, although right now, Nate Silver is giving almost as much chance that they will gain 8 seats.

But I don’t expect to see much of this nuanced view during the evening of the first Tuesday in November. Instead, there will be lots of conjecture about what “the people” think. And it will say a lot more about what the pundit thinks. But the main thing is that we can depend upon the pundits to do whatever is simplest. We can’t have news analysis that’s any more detailed and honest than campaign ads!

Here’s Kilgore’s take on it:

So no matter what happens, 2014 is likely to be a sui generis election with little or no predictive value with relatively low immediate consequences. Logically, then, no national party should be able to claim the results as a fresh mandate, particularly since the issue landscape of Campaign 2014 has been so diffuse and unstable.

To take it a step further, it seems that the only thing that matters in politics these days is turnout. So regardless what happens to the polls, we can’t much say what “the people” think or want. We can say that people are disaffected from politics. And we can say that we make voting far harder than it needs to be, even apart from Republican attempts to stop people from voting.

But part of the problem is just us liberals. The Pew Research report I discussed earlier showed that less than 70% of consistent liberals voted in primaries as consistent conservatives. I continue to grasp onto the hope that some day all my fellow liberals will realize that we have such a bad government that is so disinterested in the concerns of the people because we don’t vote. And not voting in primaries, makes it easier for Democrats to nominate economic conservatives like Clinton and Obama so that even when the Democrats win, liberals lose.

But this election? It means nothing. It looks very much like it is going to turn out exactly as the fundamentals predict. The geography itself is against the Democrats. And the politics are against them this year. If we end up with 48 or even 47 seats, it will be a neutral year. But don’t expect to hear that from the pundits.

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Ben Bradlee and the Washington Post Today

Ben BradleeIt seems that Ben Bradlee has died. He is, of course, the legendary Washington Post executive editor who made the paper into something really great once upon a time. To me, he will always be Jason Robards in All the President’s Men. But otherwise, as usual, I don’t especially care. Celebrity deaths are just like the deaths of other people. Those who knew him grieve, but his death is hardly important. For the last couple of decades, he was better known for his wife Sally Quinn’s very inside-the-beltway cocktail parties.

I don’t mean to suggest that Bradlee doesn’t deserve respect. Not at all! A couple of years ago, I wrote an article, Ben Bradlee and Integrity. It featured a quote from Eric Alterman about Bradlee in his glory days, when he had just started his job as executive editor:

In his engaging portrait of Bradlee, Yours in Truth, Jeff Himmelman recounts an incident from 1969 in which two young Post reporters, Leonard Downie and Jim Hoagland, had worked for months on a story about racial discrimination in the Washington savings-and-loan industry. Titled “Mortgaging the Ghetto,” it was scheduled to run over a ten-day period. Just before that happened, a group representing the industry went to Bradlee’s office and told him that if the series ran, they would pull all their advertising from the paper—representing, even then, about $1 million in revenue. What did Bradlee tell Downie? “He puts his hand on my shoulder and he says, ‘Just get it right, kid,’ and walked away.”

That’s pretty awesome. I understand the economics of newspapers were different then, but I don’t think most editors would have acted as he did. In fact, I don’t think many people have a single example of such integrity and strength in their whole lives. So that’s a fitting obituary for the man.

Martin Longman has a different take on this from the “Bradlee was God!” obituaries that are streaming out. He called it, A Contrary View of Bradlee’s Death. It is contrary, but I think a better word would be “nuanced.” His concern is not Bradlee as a man so much as Bradlee as a symbol:

Personally, for all Bradlee’s accomplishments, and he had many, I find it impossible to divorce him and his salon from some of the worst pathologies of our nation in the postwar era. It’s hard to express how much contempt I have built up over the years for the Beltway consensus on American power and American politics, and Bradlee was literally the eye of that hurricane, the figurative lodestar around which that consensus condensed and revolved…

The permanent leadership in Washington has been failing us on a pretty consistent basis for so long that I can only wish that the passing of Bradlee might mark some kind of end point for hubris and banality.

Sadly, the Washington Post is a shell of the paper that Bradlee created, meaning that things have devolved far beyond the point that Bradlee could even be justly held responsible. Everything good he built has died, leaving us with a legacy of only his worst contributions.

I do wonder how long we are all going to look at the Washington Post and think of the great work they did on Watergate 40 years ago. Yesterday, I was marveling at the Pew Research report, Political Polarization & Media Habits. It contained the ideological makeup of the readers of 36 different news sources (including anti-news sources like Fox News and The Rush Limbaugh Show). It contained a tool that allows you to see the results for each source. And I was shocked to see that the Washington Post had an overwhelmingly liberal readership.

Why then is it that the Washington Post editorial page is so conservative? Well, I think it is that the paper doesn’t froth at the mouth the way the Wall Street Journal editorial page does. It is the very definition of Very Serious Thinking. So very much like Andrew Cuomo, the Post can claim that it is telling hard truths, just as it did during Bradlee’s early days. But then it was more interested in telling truth to power. Now, the Washington Post is all about telling the powerful’s truths.

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Democracy and the Modern American Conservative

More Guns!This morning over at Washington Monthly, Jim Sleeper wrote, On Election Day, Let Texas Voters Tip Their Hats to Hong Kong. That headline is a reference to the fact that the Hong Kong protesters — and those at Tienanmen Square before them — made symbolic gestures to American democracy. It is interesting that destroying democracy should be the primary goal of one of the two major American political parties.

Most of the article is about the obsession with guns on the right. Guns are not a sign of liberty. They are a sign that if you have enough power, you can do what you want. And that has always been true. If you listen to people on the right, you will hear a constant refrain about taking the country back — as if the United States is somehow not valid if it isn’t doing exactly what they want. This dates back at least to the 1950s and the John Birch Society, as well documented in Wrapped in the Flag. And the whole point of the ostentatious love of guns is the not-so-subtle message, “If you don’t do what we want, we will make you do what we want.”

You can forget about everything else. The one defining feature of modern American conservatism is that it doesn’t believe in democracy. Yesterday, Bruce Braley quoted a conservative complaining about the politics in her state, “If Iowa gave power based on land ownership, the state would swing 180 degrees.” Indeed it would! And if only we just anointed Ted Cruz King of America, things would swing pretty far in her direction too.

All of American conservative politics eventually leads to Sharron Angle. She said what the majority of conservatives are thinking. Forget the “Second Amendment remedies” quote. In one interview after talking about how sporting goods stores couldn’t keep ammunition in stock because people were arming to fight the government for their “liberty,” she said, “That’s why I look at this as almost an imperative. If we don’t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?” Someone who believes in democracy would think the next step would be organizing, educating, and generally sucking it up. But that’s not the fantasy of the conservative mind.

Notice how authoritarian this is. There are despots all over the world who are all for democracy as long as it keeps them in power. If they lose the election, well, that just means there was vote tampering and they have to declare marshal law until the situation is stabilized. This is no different than the conservative claim that they will try to “Take our country back!” at the ballot box, but if that doesn’t work, “Armed rebellion!” I don’t think they will actually do this, of course. They are mostly a bunch of chickenhawks who dream of their great guerrilla war. (I’ve got an idea: fantasy guerrilla warfare leagues!)

But these same people who complain that they are losing at the ballot box are the ones that are working so hard to suppress the votes of other people. So even their tepid support for democracy is anti-democratic! But it is based on the same thing that is behind, “Take our country back!” Just as the current America — Now and sixty years ago! — is not valid, many Americans are not valid. High on their list would be people like me and the kind of people who read this site. But it is pretty hard to stop us from voting without going full “King Ted Cruz.” So they go after easier targets — people even weaker than we are.

We have had this democratic republic for 226 years. It is sad that we now have to argue over the very idea of democracy.

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