A spectre of far-right violence?

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics
Old-fashioned Clinton derangement syndrom

Old-fashioned Clinton derangement syndrom

Yesterday, I wrote (at length..) about the prevalence of abortion clinic bombings and other attacks on reproductive health workers. All in response to Sarah Palin’s remarks in her interview with Brian Williams that while Bill Ayers is obviously a terrorist, those abortion clinic bombers? “I don’t know if you’re going to use the word terrorist there”.

I ended up noting that hey, at least the number of violent attacks has gone down significantly since their peak in the early and mid-nineties. But why? Maybe because bombing just lost some of its cool even to the manic fringes of the religious right after 9/11. Maybe because, well, times change, a new generation has come to age. But at the back of my mind, I worry about a third possible explanation:

You could speculate on a more troubling correlation though, one to do with how this kind of domestic terrorism appears to have peaked in the early and mid-nineties. An era, in short, when conservatives were faced with a man being elected President who embodied, in their perception, everything they were against. When they were faced, also, with a looming sense that they were losing the culture wars against a new generation (the baby-boomers), which seemed about to wrest the cultural and political authority they had won in the Reagan years from their hands.

There’s an unnerving parallel there, but that’s for another blog post.

The parallel is, of course, with what might just happen, or what we might fear may just happen, after a likely Obama election victory. Alarmism aside, there have been some smart and thoughtful observations by digby and others about emerging conservative efforts to portray a President Obama as nothing less than an illegitimate President. The last couple of weeks have also seen troubling manifestations of a mindset in which Obama is nothing less than an anti-American heir of Hitler and Mao.

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In the Clinton years, the conservatives were locked out of the Presidency. A man they saw as the embodiment of the baby-boomers’ sixties values they loathed had come into power, philandering away. Those were the years when resentful rightwingers were earnestly discussing how the Clintons had murdered Vince Foster – and a bunch of others for that matter. It was the same years that Timothy McVeigh set off his bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. It was like the take over by the baby-boomer Democrats had literally drove some of these people crazy.

In a way, you could argue, it was only a matter of logic that the edge would come off all the angry fervour that also fuelled the acts of domestic terrorism, no matter for what cause, once there was a conservative, evangelical Republican in power. Once Democrats were locked out of any real saying power in both houses of Congress, and Karl Rove was speculating on an era of Republican dominance. They were in power now; their Democratic foes positively humiliated.

After Clinton’s win seemed to suggest that the conservatives had lost the culture war, Bush’s double win must have made christian-conservative Republicans feel a little vindicated again. For all the slowly growing qualms that even the religious right got to have about the Bush administration, he was still one of them, or at least they saw him as one. It makes you just a little less aggravated, I suppose, this sense of renewed, overwhelming political dominance.

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I dont really need to go on, do I? We tend to assume, I think, that once a President Obama would be in power and the world would not, in fact, end, some of the bitter distrust of him as a dangerous black, muslim commie will dissipate. As he reaches across the aisle and turns out to be his maddeningly cautious self, the talk of anti-Americanism that’s marking this month’s heated campaign will mostly drift over again for the time being. But is that a reasonable assumption?

There’s been a fair bit of speculation in the blogs about how hard a time conservative America will have coming to grips with its loss of power and popularity after a likely Obama win and Democratic sweep of Congress. Should we worry about what this will mean for the nature of conservative opposition? About where, or what, the wingnut right will turn to?

After all, look at the precedent of the wingnut left: the revolutionary terrorism of the RAF and its counterparts across Europe only really took off once the radical left had been defeated in the mainstream political arena after 1968. Noone as dangerous as the desperate?

The lines of argument are already being laid out to frame Obama as an essentially illegitimate president, digby notes. Resentful rationalisations about how it was voter fraud and media conspiracy that will have elected him.

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Digby quotes Paul Rosenberg at OpenLeft, who this week reminded us that “The Republicans never accepted Clinton as President”; Clinton “was subjected to a continual witch-hunt designed to cripple him and drive him from office.” She warns that the “permanent character assassination apparatus” of the Republicans is “much more active when the Republicans are out of power than when they are in”. This is how the faux outrage they are now ginning up about largely mythical cases of voter fraud fits in as well:

[T]his voter fraud nonsense is about legitimacy. Regardless of whether Obama wins a clear victory, the story doesn’t stop the day of the election. Indeed, they will be recycling the left’s complaints from 2000 almost verbatim making us sputter in rage about the absurdity of such a comparison. And they’ll build a powerful myth of victimhood around the phony belief that Democrats steal elections.

Ezra Klein sounded this warning a week before as well:

It’s worth being very clear about what’s happening here. It looks like Barack Obama is going to win the election. A directive has been sent down at Fox News that their shows should begin pushing a narrative that the election was stolen for Barack Obama by a group illegally registering poor minorities. In other words, Fox News is working to convince its viewers that the black guy won because a lot of black people voted illegally.

On a related note, Ezra also touched on another touchy subject: “John McCain is probably going to win whites and lose the presidency”:

The emergent post-McGovern coalition uniting the professional class with minorities with the young and with the poor is not, as far as I can tell, considered a particularly legitimate demographic coalition. Too many of its members drink Starbucks coffee or something. [..] And my hunch is that’s going to create some serious tensions and resentments in coming years as electoral outcomes increasingly reflect those demographic realities and Republicans work to leverage the cultural dissonance to sow a sense of unfairness about the outcome.

He expounded the same day:

When Bill Clinton won the election but lost whites, it wasn’t exactly a moment that inspired fear among conservative white voters as to their place in a post-racial electorate. Clinton may not have been their white guy, but he was a white guy. Those were hard victories to racialize. That’s not true when it’s an African-American who wins the presidency despite losing white voters.

And what I’ve been hearing in Washington from liberals over the course of the election makes me rather concerned about what I’ll hear from conservatives when it finishes. There’s no reason an electoral majority that includes a narrow win among white working class should be more appealing than the same percentile majority that has a slight loss among the white working class but compensates with a lot of young voters. But my hunch is it will be viewed differently, and there are no end of folks who will opportunistically exploit that sentiment. Hopefully I’m wrong.

A kind of demonisation of Obama and the liberal Democrats is already current in some conservative circles that could persuade easily influenced hotheads that the country itself is under threat.

Blogging creativity (original spelling)

Blogging creativity (original spelling)

A state Republican strategist in Pennsylvania sent out an email warning Jews in the state not to make the same mistake “our ancestors [made, when they] ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s”.

Writing in the National Review, Thomas Sowell made much the same point in more subtle terms. “Many today” just want “change” and look for nothing more than “inspiring rhetoric and a confident style”, he writes: “But many 20th-century leaders with inspiring rhetoric and great self-confidence led their followers or their countries into utter disasters. These ranged from Jim Jones [..] to Hitler and Mao”.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann is out there expressing her concern that Obama might be anti-American. CQ notes that “the term “anti-American” has been hurled freely in [House] floor debates by a pair of junior GOP stalwarts”.

It’s left to a commenter on a Stump blog post featuring a video of some particularly hateful Palin fans to spell out the spectre of violence:

Lately I’ve been checking out some of the wingnut blogs. There will be even more fuel for the fire after the election, e.g., blacks voted multiple times, laundered Saudi/Pakistani money allowed him to outspend McCain, votes were stolen, MSM conspired with Obama to hide his faults while hyping McCain/Palin’s, etc. etc. etc. etc. [..]

Plenty of people are going to try to kill Obama. They are everywhere. They will see it as their patriotic duty. They’re out there and they’re armed. He needs to get the security thing buttoned up without fail. [..] Every time I see he’s doing one of those big open-air rallies I fear for his life.

An unwarranted fear? Exaggerated warnings? The kind of speculation you can only be drawn into if you’ve gotten way too deeply involved in the heat and fury of the campaign season? I hope so… what do you think?

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nimh  •  Oct 27, 2008 @9:33 am

    Re: that “mindset in which Obama is nothing less than an anti-American heir of Hitler and Mao”, here’s a baffling piece of paranoia from Mark Levin in the National Review, no random blog:


    There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated, which concerns me. The messiah complex. Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama’s name on it, which adorns everything from Obama’s plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama’s name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff. [..]

    Obama’s entire campaign is built on class warfare [..]. The “change” he peddles is not new. We’ve seen it before. It is change that diminishes individual liberty for the soft authoritarianism of socialism. It is a populist appeal that disguises government mandated wealth redistribution as tax cuts for the middle class [..]. Obama’s appeal to the middle class is an appeal to the “the proletariat,” as an infamous philosopher once described it, about which a mythology has been created.

    The mind boggles. Middle class tax cuts = class struggle, eh? You have to wonder what Vladimir Ilyich would have said about that …