Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Goebbels was right

The Newspaper of Record (there is some question as to whether that old nickname is even viable any longer) has printed a story about Governor Rick Scott (R-Florida) and his sinking approval numbers now that the public has gotten a good, hard look at his policies and methods. The implication is that those who elected the Tea Party candidate may not have known exactly what it is they were asking for. I think their focus is too narrow. This isn't a problem specific to Florida, nor is it a phenomenon that is recent. The Tea Party is simply an outgrowth of something that's been endemic to the American electorate for some time and has only increased as sources of misinformation have proliferated on the Interwebs: stupidity.

People are stupid. Always have been, always will be. Tell them something in a firm tone of voice and they're likely to initially believe it. Repeat that something over and over and they'll believe it even in the face of completely contrary evidence. Continue to repeat it and they'll often create spurious evidence in their own minds to reassure themselves that it's true. If they've been trained to distrust most institutions (or not had their interests served by said institutions and, thus, become frustrated with and opposed to them), all the better.

Most Tea Partiers that I've met, read, or listened to have not the first clue what they really want. They have a utopian notion of government/democracy/civil society that has been planted in their mind or that they have self-created and they're now attempting to pursue that with all the vigor of the righteous oppressed. The idea that Scott or people like him (such as Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin)) are now plummeting in popularity because those who elected them have fallen for the bait-and-switch is preposterous. Those people handed the bait to Scott and Walker and told them to run with it until they found themselves in front of a touchscreen. Any momentary consideration of the effects of policies that begin with "get government out of our lives" would have led any mildly intelligent person to conclude that that might not be the best thing for a bunch of voters depending on things like Social Security and Medicare.

But most voters don't stop for that momentary consideration because they're not trained to think. They're trained to believe. And the first thing they'd like to believe is whatever someone tells them in a firm tone of voice. It certainly doesn't hurt if you happen to be reasonably attractive and are only spouting the same kind of misinformation that people have been lapping up for the past quarter-century, as well. Cue Sarah Palin...

Most Tea Partiers worship at the altar of the Blessed Reagan. The GOP and other right-wing sources have been spewing the line about Reagan being the greatest president since... well, since the so-called Founding Fathers really, because they can't say "greatest since Calvin Coolidge" because the latter led the country right into the Great Depression (despite occasional attempts by Republicans to lay the blame at the feet of FDR, who didn't take office until 3 years later.) They really can't say "greatest since Abraham Lincoln", either, since he committed the twin awful sins of both enforcing the rule of the federal government and espousing equality for those black people... No, they really have a tough time finding paragons of Republicanism to hearken back to other than Reagan (Nixon? Creator of the EPA and scion of Watergate?) so they just like to go ahead and name Reagan the greatest since, well, forever because they've been taught that he was the shining example of everything true Republicans/right-wingers should stand for: small government and low (or zero) taxes.

Of course, they seem to forget the fact that following the hallowed Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 (Google it), which created a tax cut of $264 billion and dropped the country into one of the most brutal recessions it had ever experienced, Reagan proceeded to raise taxes 11 times, beginning with the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (Google it), which not only raised taxes but did so in a manner that didn't touch the top 5% of "earners" that Reagan and current politicians, both Republican and Democrat, so slavishly step-and-fetch for. Instead, it raised FICA taxes; that chunk that comes out of every one of your paychecks. Focus the cuts and spread the costs is, was, and shall always be the mantra of both the ruling class and the elected officials that serve them. Why? Because they can get away with it so long as idiots like those that make up the Tea Party and most of the electorate believe otherwise.

The Tea Party is a manifestation of the Republican Southern Strategy, writ large. The aforementioned Nixon used the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to divide the southern states against the Democratic party whose president (Johnson) had signed the Act. Of course, those same Democrats had been using that strategy to stay in power since Reconstruction, since it was the Republicans who had violated the "sovereign rights" of the southern states in the 19th century. The only way to keep rich white people in control of those states was to make poor white people think their lives were hard because of the poor black people. That's how you distract people long enough to convince them that voting for policies completely inimical to themselves and their wallets is somehow the right thing to do. That same strategy is at the root of the Tea Party phenomenon. The target is no longer solely poor black people since that kind of talk isn't acceptable in public any longer. Now it's just even poorer white people somehow getting rich (but staying poorer) from that evil faceless entity known as the Government, which has gotten out of control and exists only to keep the regular Poor White Man down. Don't worry. It only sounds stupid because it is. People accept this as a form of common wisdom because it's easier to believe that other, regular people are cheating the system, rather than that the system is designed and continually modified to be a way of keeping people in their place.

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." - Josef Goebbels. Would I dare to invoke Godwin's Law when talking about the Tea Party and the herd instinct amongst the American electorate? I sure would. After all, the historical similarities are self-evident and simply one more example of our electoral system being constructed on that most durable of political substances: bullshit.

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