Rip ‘Em To Shreds

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“Republicans want to sue the president for not enforcing a law they want to repeal.” — House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

Grasping at straws…red meat for the base…great for fundraising. Pick your reasons for the House voting to sue President Obama for acting independently of Congress in delaying the employer mandate to the Affordable Care Act. That’s the complaint from a legal point of view. However, this complaint is wrapped in lofty talk about the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution and how Obama has overstepped the power of the executive branch by circumventing the powers of Congress to revise laws. The vote was 225-201 — with five Republicans and all Democrats voting against the measure.

The money quote, and the one that Speaker of the House John Boehner keeps clinging to, is this one he trotted out for the press: “This isn’t about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold. Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change? Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?” I wonder if Boehner would have been so adamant about Constitutional authority, or misuse of power when Bush lied his way into Iraq. Oh, but I forgot. He didn’t care then because “his guy” was in office. And besides, that’s in the past. We’re talking about Obama who has committed the worst abuse of power since, well, it’s unprecedented! Oh, please.

I found this quote from Kalman Silvert who, in the mid-’70s when neocons were rising in power, said (or more accurately wrote) this about people who call themselves patriots: “People who wrap themselves in the flag and proclaim the sanctity of the nation are usually racists, contemptuous of the poor and dedicated to keeping the community of ‘ins’ small and pure of blood, spirit and mind.” Now, just look at the frothing and spitting about people crossing the border illegally to escape not only poverty, but also death. The patriots are worried about disease, the disregard for law, the insecurity of our borders, etc…Now, there’s some evidence that people who hold conservative or liberal views tend to react to threats differently. In a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska, Hibbing found that the way people react to certain stimuli was quite different in terms of political points of view. Here’s what he and his team found:

Not only do political positions favoring defense spending, roadblocks to immigration, and harsh treatment of criminals seem naturally to mesh with heightened response to threatening stimuli but those fostering conforming unity (school children reciting the pledge of allegiance), traditional lifestyles (opposition to gay marriage), enforced personal responsibility (opposition to welfare programs and government provided healthcare), longstanding sources of authority (Biblical inerrancy; literal, unchanging interpretations of the Constitution), and clarity and closure (abstinence-only sex education; signed pledges to never raise taxes; aversion to compromise) do, as well. Heightened response to the general category of negative stimuli fits comfortably with a great many of the typical tenets of political conservatism. Thus, it is reasonable to hypothesize that people who are physiologically and psychologically responsive to negative stimuli will tend to endorse public policies that minimize tangible threats by giving prominence to past, traditional solutions, by limiting human discretion (or endorsing institutions, such as the free market, that do not require generosity, discretion, and altruism), by being protective, by promoting in-groups relative to out-groups, and by embracing strong, unifying policies and authority figures.

“Unifying policies and authority figures…” Does it surprise you that the Right tends to cling to the same talking points on any given day? And those talking points come from authority figures who dominate talk radio and are “no compromise” members of Congress? Does is surprise you that 2nd Amendment gun crazies parade around in public places because they fear “the bad guy,” Obama, and liberals?

You don’t have focus on political conservatives in the U.S. to see this happening around the world. People who are ruled by authoritarian regimes with effective propaganda machines are conservatives, too. When the U.S.S.R. was at its height, it was a conservative regime. States founded on a particular religion can be this way, too. Israel, Iran, Pakistan…all cling to an in-group mentality. Not ALL of the people in those countries do, but those in power certainly have similar traits to our homegrown patriots. Hell, you don’t even have to call it conservatism. It’s more like fundamentalism that leads to a kind of fear of the Other, and a fanaticism around a central group of beliefs that pervades the mindset of these people.

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