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September 17, 2009

On Second Thought...

I really, really am against overheated rhetoric that might encourage or give moral succor to those unbalanced enough -- the desperate loners with nothing left to lose -- to commit violence.

I was against it through 2008. I certainly cannot, and will not, speak ambiguously about it now.

Nancy Pelosi is being utterly hypocritical here, as she encouraged and cheered the rhetoric of incitement when Bush was President. Win-win for her, I guess she thought -- such rhetoric keeps the crazies in a constant state of agitation, and if one should happen to kill Bush... well, bonus, eh?

But her hypocrisy cannot push us away from what we know to be right: Some kind of rhetoric really is fairly dangerous, and, while it won't put any evil thoughts (or more likely -- reinforce evil thoughts already long-present) in the minds of most, it does have the possibility in doing that in a few.

And it's that few we worry about.

So, although she is a disgusting hypocrite, the definition of a hypocrite is one who takes one position when it's convenient for her and another when it's not so convenient, but every hypocrite then does speak for both sides of the issue.

In this particular case -- at least regarding the general claim she's making -- she's right. Extremist rhetoric which has the likelihood of encouraging someone a bit off his trolley to commit an extreme act should be avoided.

Here's where I disagree with her: Not just when an archliberal Democrat is President. But when anyone is President.

I have long disliked the "FASCIST" claims, not just when they came every single day from the left, but now, too, as they come from the right.

There are several problems with the word.

1. It's not true. Obama is not a fascist. He has done things on occasion that one can credibly argue tended in a fascist direction -- first thing that comes to mind? those Missouri prosecutors threatening to vaguely "Go after" anyone accusing Obama of false charges, like (giggle) that he would raise taxes on the middle class -- but an actual fascist? No.

2. It tends to suggest violence is the only means of political expression. If it were true that any president were a fascist, then... well, democratic society is dead, isn't it? We live in a tyranny. The normal respect we give to civil, civic means of political jockeying is dead and buried. Not only are we freed from the usual moral and legal restraints against political violence, but... well, we might say we're morally obligated to commit political violence, no?

Now, I doubt that many people carrying "FASCIST" signs think this way. Some, but not many. Most are just using it as an empty slogan, the same as many on the left did just one short year ago. But that's the thing, then, isn't it? If you know it's not true, why are you carrying the sign? Honesty and straight-dealing are conservative values, too.

And if you know it's not true, why are you even taking a chance that you might encourage some desperate loser with a gun who does believe the sign?

Bear in mind no assassin sees himself as assassin. Not primarily. Assassins see themselves as heroes and liberators.

This is the problem I had when the left claimed we were living under tyranny-- they were encouraging nutcases to believe they'd be greeted as a hero if they just killed Bush. (To be frank -- they would have been, by large swaths of the left.)

And it disgusted me then. And I am a partisan and hypocrite, so I admit, it does not disgust me as much now, as I will always give "my side" a bit of a break, but it's dangerous and I don't like it much better now.

Further, it's politically toxic rhetoric, anyway:

3. It turns off crucial voters. As John Lennon said, "And if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow."

Or, less lyrically: The way you persuade a voter to your cause is to keep the initial intellectual buy-in as low as possible. The same way you'd induce a casual player to play poker -- you don't tell him it's $50 minimum bet, $150 maximum raise. You bring him into a low-stakes game with a tiny buy-in.

Schwarzenegger is a RINO, but the speech he gave at the 2004 RNC was brilliant. It kept the intellectual buy-in to becoming a Republican small. He would say: "Are you for paying less in taxes? Then guess what, you're a Republican. Are you for keeping our country strong and safe? Then guess what, you're a Republican."

And so on. He offered a series of small buy-ins into the movement -- buy-ins that most people would gladly accept.

He didn't offer a big buy-in like, "Do you want to defund the Department of Education entirely and pull our troops back from every base and every treaty obligation in the world?," as Ron -- I'm sorry, Doctor -- Paul might say.

Whether or not you agree with Ron Paul on those things is irrelevant. The point is, when seeking converts, it's all about baby steps, not asking someone to suddenly accept a sprawling and strident ideological framework all in one sitting.

Not to be crude, but remember "Let me just put in the tip for three seconds to see how it feels?" Yeah, that tended to work. Proposing that a virgin's first sexual encounter would be a six-hour bukkake marathon does not.

And this "Fascist" and "Tyranny" stuff is quite the opposite of baby steps. People can look out their window and see no Kristalnacht unfolding. They go to their videostores and rent porno tapes just like they always did, without some black-helmeted Social Hygiene Trooper beating the teeth out of their mouths. They drive to work and drop the kids off at school and have sex once a month with their wives just like they always did before, all without giant television screens beaming Big Brother's ever-vigilant eyes at them.

Telling them that since January 2009 they've been living in a "tyranny" under a "fascist" dictator is simply not true, and they know it.

If an undecided voter sees this, then your first impression with a possible recruit is that you flat-out, transparently lied to them. Good luck trying to sell your second and third arguments after that.

So even trying to sell this sort of rhetoric is counterproductive -- you are telling someone, basically, that in order to be a conservative or vote Republican, they have to accept a towering superstructure of cant and ideology, some of which they can see with the witness of their own eyes does not accord with reality as they know it.

Rather than telling them something rather elementary and inarguable and baby-steppish, like, "Obama has blown up the deficit more than all other presidents combined."

You don't have to be a political genius to comprehend that the latter statement is a small buy-in that invites new players into the game, while the former is a forbiddingly steep buy-in that tells people stay away.

So not only is such rhetoric false, not only does it lend itself to inciting crazies and invite valid criticisms from the left, it is actually politically counterproductive.

It's catharsis for the person carrying the sign, sure, but if your goal is not merely a cathartic primal scream but actual positive action that will change things, best to save the catharsis for home and go out into the streets with signs advertising a friendlier and more newbie-friendly message.


By the Way: If the GOP/conservative movement were merely a protest movement, I might think differently. I might think, "Ah, what the hell, let people have their catharsis, let them blow off steam to maintain their psychic balance; who cares, we can't win anyway." (At least I'd think that regarding the turn-off-the-centrists thing -- I'd still be against incitement.)

But here's the thing: About three months ago we stopped being a pure protest party and became a party poised to win the 2010 midterms, possibly even retaking the House, and we no longer live under the idea that we have seven years of Obama left.

Although there's a 60% chance of that, I'd say, there's a 40% chance we have only three year left with this idiot. And the odds seem to get better for us every day.

So we're not merely a protest party, we're not merely here for catharsis and futile primal screaming. We have a pretty decent chance of winning back the country in the near future, and we should behave as such -- a responsible, serious-minded party/movement that's interested in actually governing a fractious and troublesome nation, not of a bunch of guys who seem chiefly in it to yell silly crap.

And the fascist/tyranny stuff does not project that image. It projects the image of a party dominated by fantasists who live in a dream world rather than the real one. Dungeons & Dragons for the politically-minded.


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posted by Ace at 04:22 PM

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