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Posted by on Dec 30, 2015 in Politics | 4 comments

Where to look for conservatism here — in America


Two side-by-side headlines on the front page of the New York Times suggest a real answer, one that overturns the self-images the both major parties like to have of themselves. Because there is nothing conservative about a Republican party (and hasn’t been for decades) that squanders the country’s wealth. We could be talking here about that party’s militarism and what it has cost us in budget crises and economic instability. Or we could rage about the rewards thrown at off-shore corporations and their ability to grab tax advantages that no steady middle and lower-middle class American can enjoy.

And don’t tell me Democrats haven’t slid in the same direction, from signing off on wars of choice to giving in to policies in election years that make “justice and peace” a cruel joke — and embracing smug political correctness in their speech.

Yes, we do. We just see our political yada yada as more enlightened than the language of the right. But when it comes down to political-correctness games, neither tribe wins. And our representatives are mighty slow and often sloppy and venal when it comes to actual votes or the political opportunities offered by off-shore militarism and on-shore government exploitation of domestic spying. There are plenty of reasons for so many on the left to separate themselves from the Democratic party by defining themselves as “progressives.”

So let’s start with New Hampshire, the state with its fist-in-your-face awkwardly funny license plate. They’re part of the kick-off in a nation that starts in the east with puritans, pine trees, and peaches and moves west, to end in gold, sin, sun, and slick movies. (Okay, okay. We’re skipping over places in the middle — places like Texas where god is admired but where Iowa’s John Wayne, formerly Marion Morison, gets the most heart-felt love and respect… where Dems, at present, take the side streets and wear hoodies.)

New Hampshire’s voters see themselves as a mix of conservative and independent voters. They don’t hang out with that entire group of Republican wannabes. Nor do they embrace Hillary Clinton. Some see their choices, this time around, as between Sanders and Trump; and would see Bernie Sanders as the most genuinely old-fashioned, conservative candidate of all, from Clinton to Cruz. Why, the guy actually thinks for himself!

Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Mr. Sanders, said the campaign was courting independents with mailings and through other voter outreach efforts in part by highlighting issues like campaign finance reform and the power of special interests in Washington, which the campaign expects to resonate particularly with independents.

Neil Levesque, the executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and Political Library at Saint Anselm College, noted a recent Sanders ad to hit the airwaves, titled “Rock” and narrated by a dairy farmer from Vermont, Mr. Sanders’s home state. (“Bernie cannot be bought out by big money,” the farmer says, adding, “He’s a rock.”)

“There’s not a lot of substance as far as liberal-leaning policies,” Mr. Levesque said. “It’s about the fact that he’s independent. Like the farmer.” …NYT

Bingo. So party lines may not be the most important decider in the 2016 election. Both parties are in disgrace. A bunch of polls show Republicans to be in worse trouble but it’s not like Dems can relax. In the other front- pager in today’s Times, it’s clear that big money is also finding its way to Congressional Democrats.

With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.

In recent years, this apparatus has become one of the most powerful avenues of influence for wealthy Americans of all political stripes, including Mr. Loeb and Mr. Cohen, who give heavily to Republicans, and the liberal billionaire George Soros, who has called for higher levies on the rich while at the same time using tax loopholes to bolster his own fortune. ...NYT

Hypocrisy haunts both parties. But at any given time, one of the two major parties is capable of such outrageous behaviors that the stench of Citizens United seems like nothing compared to, say, the naked racism and classism (labeled “conservatism”) of the right. With press photos and video clips as proof, the Washington Post publishes its report on the Republican party’s use of skin color in its campaigns.

A new study shows that negative ads targeting President Obama in 2008 depicted him with very dark skin, and that these images would have appealed to some viewers’ racial biases.

The finding reinforces charges that some Republican politicians seek to win votes by implying support for racist views and ethnic hierarchies, without voicing those prejudices explicitly. The purported tactic is often called “dog-whistle politics” — just as only canines can hear a dog whistle, only prejudiced voters are aware of the racist connotations of a politician’s statement, according to the theory.

That debate has been prominent in the 2016 campaign, primarily targeting Donald Trump, but it has existed in almost every recent presidential election. To hear their opponents tell it, when Republican politicians say they oppose a generous welfare system, they really mean black beneficiaries are lazy. If they endorse strict immigration enforcement, they really mean that Latinos are criminals, critics say. ...WaPo

And more:

Analyzing 126 advertisements from the presidential campaign in 2008, the authors first digitally measured the darkness of the two nominees’ skin in each spot, then sorted the ads into categories based on themes. President Obama and his opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), looked very different in various advertisements depending on how the footage was edited and produced.

That was particularly the case in negative advertisements, in which each campaign manipulated the images of its opponent to shadow or wash out his face for dramatic effect.

Interestingly, though, when McCain’s campaign aired spots that connected Obama with alleged criminal activity by liberal groups, the producers almost always used images that made Obama’s skin appear very dark. …WaPo

I don’t think we’ve come all that far. But it’s a lot clearer where the destructive forces within our democracy reside. They call themselves “conservative.”

Cross-posted from Prairie Weather

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