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Paranoia In American Politics Has Long Been With Us—Those Of Us On The Left Must Do The Work Of Freedom Ourselves

Hamburger Wearing An Astros’ Hat—A member of the Texas Liberal Panel of Experts—is reading The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays by Richard Hofstadter.

This 1965 book makes it clear that extreme paranoid thinking has long been a feature of American public life. Some may think that today’s conservative movement and Republican Party is some type of new-fangled craziness. Yet as it says in the Bible—There is nothing new under the sun.

Here is a link to the Paranoid essay which was first delivered as a lecture in 1963, and then appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1964.

From this essay—

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. …. Anti-Catholicism has always been the pornography of the Puritan. Whereas the anti-Masons had envisaged drinking bouts and had entertained themselves with sado-masochistic fantasies about the actual enforcement of grisly Masonic oaths, the anti-Catholics invented an immense lore about libertine priests, the confessional as an opportunity for seduction, licentious convents and monasteries….we now take the long jump to the contemporary right wing, we find some rather important differences from the nineteenth-century movements. The spokesmen of those earlier movements felt that they stood for causes and personal types that were still in possession of their country—that they were fending off threats to a still established way of life. But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell  has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.”

It is important to see that this type thinking is not just part of today’s right wing. And that it is not just conservatives who embrace paranoid thinking in how they see the conduct of public affairs. Plenty of folks on all sides of the aisle are full of crazy notions.

(A good book that reviews Hofstadter’s thought is Richard Hofstadter—An Intellectual Biography by David S. Brown.)

Yet among in today’s politics, it is the conservative movement and Republican Party that is to the greatest extent predicated on extremism, fear and anger.

The bottom line for those of us on the left is that while circumstance and the actions of others makes a difference, what we are able to control is our own actions and our own effort. The work of freedom and democracy is up to each of us.

Just as anti-tax and business lobbyists, so-called pro life advocates, and the gun lobby found common cause to build the modern Republican Party despite differences—Liberal and progressive Democrats, Greens, Occupy Wall Street backers and most on the left are on the same side. There does not have to be full agreement or 100% cooperation, but we can all move in the same general direction.

February 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tea Party Candidate Proposes Internment Camps For Undocumented Persons

Book Of The Day-–Samuel Slater Bobblehead is reading The Age Of Reform–From Bryan To F.D.R. by the great historian Richard Hofstadter.

It is quite industrious of Samuel Slater to read such a learned book.

The link above is to a Hofstadter reading list and reviews of some of his famous titles. An education in American history would be greatly assisted by reading Richard Hofstadter….And by learning about Samuel Slater!

Link Of The Day A Tea Party backed Republican running for the Florida House of Representatives has proposed internment camps for undocumented immigrants. The candidate’s name is Marg Baker.

Nothing in our society is so bad that it cannot be proposed and cannot come true.

Texas Link Of The Day-The Dallas Morning News offered up an article about the use of social media by the candidates for Governor in Texas. This article features an insightful quote from my fellow Texas blogger Matt Glazer of the Burnt Orange Report.

Here is the campaign web home of Bill White for Governor.

Blogger’s Note—Because I have some other projects I want to take on, I’ll be offering up shorter and more formulaic posts for the remainder of August. These posts will still be quite good and will merit your visiting the blog each day. Yet at the same time, shorter posts will allow me the time to accomplish other objectives. Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Facebook & Martin Van Buren Demand I Endorse Kevin Murphy For The Texas House

On my Facebook account a few days ago I got an invitation to be a friend from Kevin Murphy.

I don’t know any Kevin Murphy.

I investigated the matter. I established that Mr. Murphy is running as a Democrat for the Texas State House of Representatives from the Pearland area. This is House District 29.

Good enough— While I have no idea who he is running against, Mr. Murphy has my strong support.

For one thing, I’ll endorse and support any Democrat running for office who makes me a friend on Facebook. Doing so helps serve my need for attention.

For another thing, I’m a strong believer in partisanship. I don’t need to know what Republican is running against Mr. Murphy.

I’ve read about the founding of our party system in Richard Hofstadter’s The Idea of a Party System—The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840.  

I agree with what Martin Van Buren says as quoted in Hofstadter’s book—

“…political parties are inseparable from free governments…the disposition to abuse power, so deeply ingrained in the human heart, can be by no other means be more effectually checked.”

(Please click here for an essay on Mr. Van Buren’s role as a party builder in American history. There is also much more information on Mr. Van Buren to be found at that link.  The above cartoon suggest that Mr. Van Buren could not get anywhere without the help of Andrew Jackson. Such a charge is simply not the case. President Jackson had the good sense to often listen to Mr. Van Buren for advice and Mr. Van Buren was as skilled a politician as they come. )

Not only do parties help check the tendency towards an accumulation of power based on personality, they also provide a shorthand for voters to figure out where candidates stand on the overwhelming number of issues we face in the modern day.  

In the Texas House of Representatives, the absence of a party line vote for House Speaker makes that office a focus of backroom intrigue and sneaky double dealing. Democracy calls for the Speaker’s office to be awarded based only on what party wins control of the chamber on Election Day. 

There are, of course, limits to partisanship at the ballot box. A party that is certain it has your vote may be motivated to serve interests other than those of voters.

Voters have the option to not vote at all for a specific position on the ballot if they find the Democrat intolerable. Or they can vote for a Green or other minor party candidate. I personally never vote for any Republican because I feel to elect one Republican assists all Republicans. 

Also, voters should recall that with time the parties can switch ideological places. It’s possible that today’s Democrat would have voted for the more progressive Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, over the more conservative Democrat Alton Parker in 1904. In the end it is ideas that motivate the partisan.

This is especially so now that we don’t have party machines handing our free turkeys at Thanksgiving or able to give your brother-in-law a job with the sanitation department.

The bottom line?

Vote for Murphy!

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Books, Campaign 2008, History, Houston, Political History, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments