Maddow Visits Planet Wingnuttia

Rachel Maddow had a brilliant segment Tuesday night about what she calls Republicanland, which is what I call Planet Wingnuttia. She’s absolutely right when she says that the Republican candidates for president aren’t really trying to debate policy with one another at this point, they’re trying to out-crazy one another for the Tea Party vote. Video below the fold.

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  • tbp1

    Fantastic segment. The last part was especially interesting to me because I live in Louisville. Yarmuth is my congressman, and I thought he made a great case. The traffic situation here is a nightmare, with months before relief is in sight. Fortunately it doesn’t directly affect me, as I live on the same side of the river I work on, but some of my colleagues have seen their commute go from 15-20 minutes to two hours or more. It’s affecting businesses which depend on people crossing the river to go shopping, eat out, etc. Cross country traffic on I64 and I 65 is affected at almost any hour of the day or night.

    There is crumbling infrastructure all over the country, and when it goes wonky it costs much more money than was “saved” by neglecting maintenance (an extreme example would be the $1B they say it would have cost to fix the New Orleans levies and other flood control devices before Katrina; there was WAY more than that in monetary damages, not to mention the human devastation).

  • Michael Heath

    I’m very grateful that Ms. Maddow addresses a root cause reason our debates have become so dysfunctional compromise and more importantly optimal compromise are near non-existent. That of course is her explaining how debates occur in “Normalsville”. This sort of analysis is unfortunately an incredibly rare event in the mainstream media, where of course Ms. Maddow’s listeners do not include many people who would consider voting for a Democrat. It would be great for NBC News to follow her leadership and begin to broadcast similar analyses. CNN’s Anderson Cooper has recently been following Ms. Maddow’s lead.

    However what Ms. Maddow failed to point out is that misconstruing the facts to promote an argument has long been a defining conservative attribute going back decades and not merely when debating each other, but when presenting their arguments to all Americans and during legislative debates. This isn’t recent though it is becoming increasingly worse.

    I’m a little disappointed with Ms. Maddow naming this false reality Republicans have joined, “Republicanland”. Not because all Republicans don’t do it, they now predominately do. But instead because it doesn’t inform viewers on the root cause ideology which results in this behavior, which is conservatism, which now completely controls the Republican party. This is an opportunity squandered when it comes to pointing to permanent and systemic corrective actions Republicans could and should take to return to reality, which is to either reform or discard conservatism as an ideology incapable of governance just like we’ve found with communism, monarchism, and theocratic/fascist models.

    I think reform of conservatism to make its members capable of good governance is impossible. That’s given the inherent psychology of conservatives which I think will always have them gravitating to a parasitic ideology such as what we encountered in Franco’s Spain, a merging of Corporatism and Catholicism, or here where it’s Corporatism and conservative Christianity.

    The whole Bernanke slam by conservatives reveals two things about conservatives:

    1) They appear ignorant of the fact they’re in direct opposition to conservative god Milton Freidman’s work which promotes monetary policy as the primary tool and lever capitalistic societies should use to manage both economic growth, inflation, and overly volatile business cycles. (I realize some would define Friedman as a libertarian which he was though one with a conservative way of thinking. I’m directing our attention to those who worship him which is conservatives in far greater numbers than libertarians simply because there’s far more of them.)

    2) Their opposition to The Fed’s actions during the Bernanke era reveals their commitment to both economic contraction and further reducing demand for labor. We empirically know conservatives’ positions on Fed policy in a weak economy will lead to suppressed growth if not contraction and therefore more unemployment.

    The body of evidence has become overwhelming conservatives support the economic contraction of the U.S.; the more interesting question is whether they promote economic contraction unintentionally out of delusional ignorance or cynically out of mere political ambition. Even if the former is the cause, one must still condemn their character for not sufficient concern for the fact and the country’s interests to first figure out what works and what doesn’t.

    In fact The Fed has been delegated enormous powers by our government coupled to a commitment in return, which these Republicans appear ignorant of regarding this charter. The Fed has a formal obligation to optimally manage two competing forces, demand for labor and inflation. Looser monetary policy creates increasing demand for labor but also puts inflationary pressures on an economy. Tighter monetary policies favors increased rates of returns for lenders but at the expense of increasing unemployment. The effects these forces have on each other depends on where we are in the business cycle. Obviously an economy which isn’t growing or even is contracting in real terms requires looser monetary policy in order to promote growth and jobs with little risk of onerous inflation if managed prudently. Rick Perry is calling this sort of behavior “treason”, I’d argue that’s another of countless examples of a conservative projecting his own behavior unto an undeserving other, in this case one whose also fighting the for interests Perry falsely espouses he supports.

  • Modusoperandi

    Pah! I couldn’t even make it past the first few minutes. Typical liberals, “protecting girls from cervical cancer”! What about the other half of the population, hmmm? When are liberals going to care about boys’ cervicals?

  • Watching a Tea Party member has gotten more and more like listening to a stoner, a postmodernist who thinks math is just another narrative, an Ayn Randroid, an altie conspiracy nut, and a fundie terrorist wannabe, all at once.

    Of course, it’s not a stretch to wonder if they do indeed fall into all those categories simultaneously.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Michael Heath @ # 2: … the root cause ideology which results in this behavior, which is conservatism…

    I rather doubt that Edmund Burke or Calvin Coolidge would agree that modern wingnuttery meets their definition(s) of “conservative”.

    We don’t have a single word or phrase which accurately describes Teapublicans, and probably won’t have one until historical perspective can show the consequences of their movement.

    But “conservatism”, whether understood classically or colloquially, represents a perennial outlook which can serve a valuable role in society (by slowing down fads and providing a measure of due caution, for example). What we see now parading around under that name deserves a constant barrage of rotten vegetables, but it no more discredits well-considered or legitimate (I was about to say, “true”) conservatism than the “Ingsoc” of Orwell’s 1984 demolishes democratic socialism.

  • Michael Heath

    I think Ms. Maddow’s illustrative example using Ron Paul’s criticism of the cost of the U.S. embassy in Iraq is incredibly defective for a number of reasons.

    First Rep. Paul’s assertions weren’t all that far-off; if we adjusted those two assertions to reality his arguments hold and still resonate. This is not a systemic reason to distinguish our criticism of Republicans. The most compelling criticism is that the overwhelming proportion of their arguments appear absurd if we establish the relevant facts properly framed.

    Rep. Paul’s argument doesn’t distinguish conservatives from non-conservative groups with influence who make arguments. Unfortunately even Barack Obama depends on hyperbole and misinformation to make his arguments, e.g., Obama’s far more dishonest argument regarding his tax cuts [1]. In fact we know that conservatives primarily depend on misinforming their audience in order to gain acceptance for their arguments. That’s hardly true of most liberal, moderate, and Democratic arguments where one can certainly disagree with their policy arguments, but one must also concede those non-conservative policy arguments predominately have merit based on the facts.

    Somewhat related to the first point is the fact that what is worst about conservative arguments is that their policy positions would often lead to the very opposite results we all agree are desired, economic growth, lower unemployment, less underemployment. Here Rep. Paul’s argument doesn’t even come close to meeting this criteria whereas Rick Perry and the rest of the Republicans position on the current Fed’s monetary policy and their position on climate change clearly shows the opposite would occur if we followed their prescriptions.

    Ms. Maddow should have insured that all the examples she used to make her point were ones which distinguished the Republicans rather than allowing a fallacy of balance argument to survive by introducing the Ron Paul U.S. embassy in Iraq example.

    1] Barack Obama falsely stated a few weeks ago:

    We said working folks deserved a break, so within one month of me taking office, we signed into law the biggest middle-class tax cut in history, putting more money into your pockets.

  • Michael Heath

    Pierce Butler:

    I rather doubt that Edmund Burke or Calvin Coolidge would agree that modern wingnuttery meets their definition(s) of “conservative”.

    True, but as I’ve repeatedly noted conservatism has evolved where I’ve also repeatedly argued that the psychology of those attracted to conservatism doesn’t allow the devolution back to a purer form more consistent with Oakeshott or Burke but instead predicts they gravitate to related and more authoritative forms of governance such as corporatism, fascism, or theocracies. In addition I’m criticizing the U.S. conservative movement as I find it today, not some abstract version which can no longer be found within the American conservative movement. In fact the best example I find of a Burkean conservative on the U.S. national stage is Barack Obama, especially his fealty to establishment institutions.

    Pierce Butler:

    We don’t have a single word or phrase which accurately describes Teapublicans, and probably won’t have one until historical perspective can show the consequences of their movement.

    Survey after survey finds that the Tea Partiers are the base of the Republican party and hold the very same views long-held by the conservative voting base. While the term conservative doesn’t reconcile well with Oakeshott or Burke’s theoretical standards, the actual practice of modern-day conservatism is not all that different from the populists in the south who defended Jim Crow, the politics of William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and most of Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric (though not his actual governance). Instead what we are observing is two-fold:

    1) Conservatives have successfully migrated to the Republican party and have now organized themselves sufficiently enough to control the framing of the debate and the voting constituency, leaving only a disconnect between them and the plutocratic agenda. That’s easily resolved given the conservative nature to unthinkingly submit to the leaders of the tribe, which has conservative voters effectively supporting objectives that harm their own interests. So we’re not seeing a different ideology so much as how this ideology acts when its no longer a minority opposition movement but instead one with sufficient political power to govern.

    2) The conservative mindset is so ready for submission to authoritarians that one can confidently predict parasitic movements will take hold within the movement and leverage the voting base. In the U.S. we see conservative fealty to the objectives to energy plutocrats and a few other industries along with conservative/evangelical Christianity. So from this perspective today’s conservatism can be expected.

    Does this make them non-conservatives? Andrew Sullivan makes this case whereas I see a natural and entirely unsurprising evolution of conservatism where one attribute remains unchanging and therefore still makes them “conservative”- the psychology of the voting base.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I rather doubt that Edmund Burke or Calvin Coolidge would agree that modern wingnuttery meets their definition(s) of “conservative”.

    Doubtless. Modern conservatism is a throwback to before Burke. Bear in mind that the distant origins of the term boil down to “keeping what’s mine.” In the original formulation, it was all about keeping power (and wealth) in the hands of those who already had it.

    Burke and others flying the “conservative” flag were attempting to put an Enlightenment gloss on the policies most opposed to the Englightenment. What distinguishes them from the “conservatives” of today (aside from the current ones’ allegiance to a history which never happened) is that those of the 18th century were children of the Enlightenment who honored it by attempting to redirect it, while the current ones are attempting to reverse it.

  • Michael Heath

    Great post D.C. Sessions.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Michael Heath @ # 7: … conservatism has evolved … the U.S. conservative movement as I find it today…

    Tastes vary, but I find that equivalent to badmouthing rock music as a genre in backlash to the audio awfulness heard on current radio, or giving up on beer because Budweiser outsells all other brands.

    … the actual practice of modern-day conservatism …

    Also exploits & bastardizes the good name of the US Constitution. Shall we renounce that as well?

    Conservatives have successfully migrated to the Republican party…

    Racists & undereducated southern whites were the heroes of that grueling trek, gradually strangling serious conservatives like weeds in a cornfield. People still keep calling it a cornfield even when the johnsongrass & vines have smothered the crop – does that give us reason to forswear maize?

    The conservative mindset is so ready for submission to authoritarians …

    A perennial problem. The left also fell into that trap at some points in the 20thC, though it’s hardly a problem in extant generations (unless you cherry-pick the hardest-core Obamaniacs).

    Those who still stand by the more respectable conservative values (I’m too wiped out to hunt for it, but didn’t you very recently comment to the effect that “conservatives defend successful institutions”?) should no more surrender their flag to the ‘baggers than actual socialists did to the National Socialists.

    Does this make them non-conservatives?

    Yes in some senses, but not so much as the plain fact that they have wrought more change in US politics than anything else in the last generation (with possible exception of technology).

    D. C. Sessions @ # 8: … conservatives … of the 18th century were children of the Enlightenment who honored it by attempting to redirect it, while the current ones are attempting to reverse it.

    Good point. I see it more as the Burke Boys using Enlightenment tools to defend the feudal/mercantile status quo, while the Murdochians attack the (qualifiedly) Enlightenment-influenced modern status quo by trying to remove such tools.

  • 386sx

    She could have cut Ron Paul some slack on the embassy. It cost almost a billion and is almost the size of the Vatican. It’s bigger than the Vatican palace. Oh well, she gets paid to be melodramatic just like the rest of the pundits. That’s show biz folks. Lol.

  • 386sx,_Baghdad

    “With construction beginning in mid-2005, the original target completion date was September 2007. “A week after submitting his FY2006 budget to Congress, the President sent Congress an FY2005 emergency supplemental funding request. Included in the supplemental is more than $1.3 billion for the embassy in Iraq…” An emergency supplemental appropriation (H.R. 1268/P.L. 109-13), which included $592 million for embassy construction, was signed into law on May 11, 2005. According to the Department of State, this funding was all that was needed for construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad”

    Let me know if anybody can make any sense out of that. $1.3 billion, $592 million. Who the hell knows. I don’t know what the hell. I thought she said 700 something million. You can bet if they say $592 million then it costs more like eleventy zillion trillion anyway. Money is like water to these people.

  • 386sx

    First Rep. Paul’s assertions weren’t all that far-off; if we adjusted those two assertions to reality his arguments hold and still resonate.

    QFT! I rest my case!!

    She was being melodramatic…

    That’s why she’s paid the big bucks…

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