A funny thing happened...

>> Friday, April 09, 2010

I started to write a blog entry earlier about how much I agreed with some recent comments by Matthew Yglesias that came to my attention today. Particularly:

The left is simply less monolithic [than the right]. It seems to me that if you look at the discourse among "green" types, you see groupthink there. And if you look at labor types, there’s another groupthink there. And there's an immigrants' rights groupthink and there’s feminist groupthink and all kinds of groupthink all around. But these points of view come into contact with one another and only partially overlap. At times they conflict. The progressive infrastructure contains people and institutions who are robustly on both sides of important questions like trade policy or K-12 education. Business groups are very involved with most Democratic Party politicians and with many progressives organizations (we have a "Business Alliance" at CAP). I think it would actually be beyond the intellectual powers of any one person to work all the sacred cows of all the different factions of the movement into a seamless and coherent whole.

The right just isn't like that. It’s less demographically diverse, less diverse in its financial base, and less ideologically diverse.

I not only agree with that, but I've said similar things before. Within subgroups within the left, you certainly can find pretty devastating groupthink. But between groupings that stand beneath the enormous umbrella that the American "left" tries to cover, you can find internecine battles that make conservative-liberal arguments look tame. There are even bloody battles between what appears, to the uninformed viewer, to be members of the same group--consider, for instance, that "feminism," that classic bête noire of so many conservatives, is a broad paintstroke that attempts to cover together Second-Wave and Third-Wave feminists who may regard one another as traitors to the movement; "feminism" as frequently used by those on the right is practically meaningless.

Furthermore, I think Yglesias' point about a relative lack of diversity on the right is well-taken--up to a point. And this is where a funny thing happened as I was originally writing this post: I talked myself out of completely agreeing with Matt Yglesias on this score.

It's frankly hard not to see the right as being predominantly white and Christian, though there are notable exceptions, and to very much represent the interests of the bourgeois notwithstanding the fact that much of the right's most ardent base members are indubitably proletarian (hence the common, if extraordinarily inaccurate and presumptuous, assessment that much of the Republican party's base "votes against their own interests"1).

But however whitebread the American right may seem to be overall, there's certainly some degree of dissent and friction between fiscal and social conservatives, as well as between the irrational and rational elements within the entire group. I can't actually say that the right does argue with itself that much less than the left. I do think that liberalism encourages debate more: conservatism is, by definition, about tradition while liberalism is similarly about flexibility by definition. But, for instance, the recent hoopla over David Frum's "Waterloo" comments shows the right isn't completely in an ideological lockstep.

And that having been admitted, the question remains: why does the American right appear to be in thrall to bugfuck craziness? As so many others have noted: the left has its own share of bugfuck crazy, but the inmates don't appear to have charge over the asylum. Oliver Stone, for instance, is not an influential voice who gets invited to speak at big gala Democratic events (and this is assuming, for the sake of an argument, that the Democrats--a corporatist centrist party--are liberals2). Yglesias' answer doesn't satisfy and I'm still fumbling for an answer. Any thoughts?

1First, by such logic wealthier individuals are "voting against their interests" if they support progressive taxation. Second, and more important, not all interests are economic. If you are firmly convinced that "putting God in charge" is more important than a tax system that would benefit your family while shifting tax burdens to wealthier individuals than yourself, well... I suppose that's your prerogative, isn't it?

2I mean, come on: they just voted and signed into law a healthcare bill that's nearly identical to the 1994 Republican healthcare reform package. Take it from a socialist: Obama isn't one, or if he is he sure as hell isn't governing like one. If President Obama is a socialist, he may be the least competent socialist in the entire long history of liberalism.


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