Sliding Scale (OR Characterizations, stereotypes, and insults)

First, via The Agonist, a reminder that neither Senator Clinton nor Senator Obama are the extremely liberal politicians the Republican Noise Machine (does this need an acronym to put it in the same class with the MSM?) is making them out to be.

Which brings to mind something I’ve been pondering recently…  I don’t have specific instances in mind, but I’ve been amused by how frequently Democrats are disparaged as “liberal”…  using a descriptor as an insult. OK, there’s nothing new about that…   There’s also nothing new about taking it a step further and referring to Democrat ideas as “socialist” (see socialized medicine). Obviously, socialism carries a much stronger stigma in this country, so it can be an effective slur, even if it is a significant exaggeration.

So, what amuses me is that Democrats don’t return the favor. Why aren’t Republican ideas called “anarchist”? Why does the spectrum stop a libertarian, which can’t really sound bad since it shares the same root as liberty?

But then, Andrew Sullivan points out stuff like this:


In the minority, our job is to [.] make the majority’s life miserable, grinding the House and Senate floors to a halt, and building a narrative of the Democrats as broken and incompetent[.]

This really seems to support the idea that Republicans are in government not to govern but to convince people that governance cannot work. Which makes it completely unsurprising that Republicans continually shy away from “good faith” negotiations. If you hold no faith in the value of government, how can you negotiate any government policy in “good faith”.

One Response to Sliding Scale (OR Characterizations, stereotypes, and insults)

  1. truth=freedom says:

    Certainly the rise of the practice of (to my understanding, accurately) describing the Right’s policies as ‘fascism’ is considered the source of that sort of that style of name-calling. This was all the rage in the 60s. It didn’t do any good, of course, because the name-calling didn’t go over well with the people near the center that the Left needed to win over in order to be in power.

    So, on one hand, there’s a practical reason. The question remains, though, why the name-calling has worked for the Right. Many people have tried to understand this, and I’m not sure anyone has a compelling explanation. I like George Lakoff’s “Moral Politics” for exploring how memes that make up our world view– really simple things like how we view the structure of families and our relationship with authority– determine our politics today. Oversimplifying, people whose view of authority is, well, authoritarian, are conservatives. Those whose view is driven more by notions of consensus are liberals.

    This suggests that the avenue of attack that is available to the Left is a kind of relentless consensus building that doesn’t rely on an appeal to authority, but works slowly at the bottom of society (among children, and among the poor) to build a base that is unshakable. This, after all, is about the only way to marginalize a group of people whose approach to attacking government is to destroy it when in charge of it. A more cynical commentator might even suggest that this is why the current Republican is so relentlessly corrupt– proof that even “good people” can’t do government right.

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