Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Links-a-go-go: The Paranoid style found in a strange place; far-right worldview v. GOP street sense

Two links worth checking out from yesterday if you missed them that got me thinking:

Ross Douthat argued that working-class white kids from the flyover states not getting into Ivy League colleges breeds the kind of paranoia that fuels right-wing conspiracy theories about Obama's heritage, socialist takeovers, open borders, etc. 

He makes a pretty fair point that:
Among the highly educated and liberal, meanwhile, the lack of contact with rural, working-class America generates all sorts of wild anxieties about what’s being plotted in the heartland. In the Bush years, liberals fretted about a looming evangelical theocracy. In the age of the Tea Parties, they see crypto-Klansmen and budding Timothy McVeighs everywhere they look.
 But I would venture that there are plenty of highly-educated, elite conservatives (perhaps employed by the New York Times) who have little contact with those same rural, working-class volk resentful of being left off the East Coast meritocratic escalator. Taking up the cause -- a perfectly noble one, I agree -- of a couple of hundred kids shut out of Harvard or Princeton seems like an elaborate way to do what Douthat really wants to do, which is disavow the worldview of the right fringe of the conservative movement as a product of psychological reactions. Condescension is not exclusive intellectual property of liberals.

Over at the New Republic, Jonathan Chait provides a really interesting examination of the tension between the tactical and ideological parts of the GOP brain during this election cycle. It's a great question he's asking: why is the Republican Party choosing far-right candidates and making elections unwinnable rather than running garden-variety conservatives and cleaning Democrats' clocks. Maybe someday we'll get the definitive insider story of the battle between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party fringe - Chait's analysis should suffice for now.

One thing that stuck out to me in the context of my blog that he wrote: "Obviously the conservative movement is intoxicated with hubris right now. Part of this hubris is their belief that the American people are truly and deeply on their side and that the last two elections were either a fluke or the product of a GOP that was too centrist." Bingo. But isn't that hubris connected to a larger worldview about who the "American people" really are and what their historical destiny is? Since the primary system we have can exaggerate the influence of ideologically-driven groups, cracking the mind of the ideological radical seems the key to understanding GOP2010.  

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