I didn't even mention the word socialism!
A great discussion of the Right Wing Celebration of the death of another American City--the IOC rejection of Chicago--has been going on for two days over at Balloon Juice. All the comments are great and worth reading even if you don't brew beer. My comment is long and winding but it hit the moderation wall and I wanted to post it here.
The whole thing is fascinating on a number of levels. First, its been standard operating procedure for the right wing to find an “enemy city” and an enemy people within the US itself to run against—and from that point on everything that is good or bad about that city, or for that city, is seen through the lens of a zero sum game. If its good for that city/its bad for the republicans, if its bad for that city/its good for the republicans. "Ford to [New York]: Drop Dead!" anyone? George Bush ran against Massachusetts over and over again, as well as against other states—naming names, distinguishing himself by denying (for example) that he was born in CT/the east coast. No modern democratic candidate would ever dream of running against an entire part of the country. Dean, for example, explicitly tried to include southerners in to what he was doing. You never saw Kerry attack Texas or Texas mores. He wanted Texan votes. You saw the entire Republican party swing into action and attack New Orleans and the state of Louisiana as well as individual Katrina victims and the press didn't think anything of it.
At a media level: O’Reilly, as others have noted, explicitly wished for the destruction of SF—that it be left undefended as a kind of non America. Cokie Roberts referred to Hawaii as not really American and Obama as somehow foreign for vacationing there. Savage (IIRC) loudly proclaimed his hatred for New York and specifically for the 9/11 victims and widows.
But the Republicans always need an internal enemy. This is just the latest incarnation.
The other thing that is going on is a similar strange over identification with the body of the king and therefore with the strength and potency of the usurper’s body. When Bush was King the strength, manliness, genitalia, swagger, compassion, and even thumbsucking need for his own pillow at night were explicitly celebrated. Bush was our King, and thus all credit that accrued to him accrued to us. But what happens when the new King is a usurper or a changeling child? This is explicitly the case, for Republicans at this point. And they are going through all the stages of discovering how uncomfortable it is to be identified with a symbol and a person who you otherwise reject. We're all Dixie Chicks now!
When the Republicans obsesses about our “Foreign Image” and Obama as strong dictator/weak pussy. As other people have pointed out they consistently represent him as “Chamberlain on Foreign Policy” and “Hitler on Domestic Policy” but they are happy to play off these oppositions and flip it where the flip makes Obama look bad, or worse look illegitimate.
We have to understand that the Republican Party at this point has no real program—neither foreign nor domestic. Their programs and policies are purely reactive, as well as reactionary. Senator DeMint’s pro-coup policy is a perfect example. The Republican Party and the American People have no legitimate dog in this fight. Why’s he there? Why does a dog lick its balls? All that they have is an unbroken cry of primal rage that they don’t control the horizontal and they don’t control the vertical. And all that they can try to do is get back in the game by controlling, as they see it, the optics of the situation.
So the whole focus is on trying to figure out what makes Obama look bad to other people. They don’t care whether its logical (countries like to have the Olympics, brings money in), or historically relevant (Bush wanted the Olympics to be in Chicago and would have lobbied hard for it), or even sane (Obama wears mom jeans! the sexiest man alive is not sexy! Obama uses a teleprompter! A well known author, speaker, teacher is actually really stupid!). That’s the strategy. What’s the payoff? Well, at this point, they are hoping the payoff is real, as in their “side” sort of “owns” the week in news. But really of course the payoff is purely psychological. They can’t help themselves. They are really hurt and angry that their politics and policies are dominated by “that one” from “the other side.” And they want and need to share their hurt with the rest of the country.
Can we avoid becoming part of their little psychodrama? This point was raised on an earlier thread at Baloon Juice. And the answer there—Elle’s (or Elie?) and General Winfield Stuck, I believe, argued that we have to keep politely and insultingly focused on what is important, while making fun of them a teeny bit. I think that’s right. And ultimately I think that is what is happening. The tea parties, the cheering for the loss of the Olympics, the sobbing “he’s a terrorist” and “where’s the birth certificate” and “you’re going to kill granny” is starting to look bad to the general public. They had to turn the control of the imagery over to a stupid, slovenly, fat, hysterical, angry, sobbing, spiteful, set of “not ready for prime time” losers with the August recess. They don’t fully control the image of their party anymore—not on TV and not on the streets. That is really hurting them with the general public. And they know it.
So we can’t ignore them because that enables them to maintain a two track system in which dignified elder statesmen speak up for a frightened but powerless imaginary majority of white Americans. We have to let them, or force them, to own their hysterics and their holy rollers and their sobbing, bitching, whining, moaning, out to lunch minority. We have to keep pointing out just how childish, spiteful, stupid, and besides the point the right wing’s fixation on Obama is.
They are explicitly saying that if Obama is America then they hate America. And any thing or person they identify with Obama will come in for the same kind of hatred and obsessive spite. But while this works for them it can't really work for the rest of the country, can it? I mean, for the duration, Obama is America on the world stage. And if they are going to aim their anger at everything and everyone that has ever touched Obama, or been touched by him, they are going to have to aim their fire at pretty much everyone in the country. That's what it comes down to, doesn't it? If Obama is Hawaiian Hawaii's out, if Obama is Chicago, Chicago's out, if Obama is Black, black people are out, if Obama is mainline Christian, mainline Christian's are out, if Obama is an elitist banker type, elitist banker types are out, if Obama is a sexy husband, sexy husband's are out (they threw a fit over his taking his wife out to a special dinner, remember!), if Obama talks to school kids, talking to school kids are out, if Obama visits the public parks, public parks are out.
Within the party this can look like another round of the Life of Brian's famous PFOJ sketch. Its all fun and games until you start insisting that "if you really want to join the People's Judean Front...you have to really hate the Romans..." if everyone around you, at some point, is going to be called a Roman. In very short order there will be no constituency, no part of the country, and no individual voter who the Republicans and their media representatives haven't first tied to Obama and then attacked as race, class, culture, or religious traitors. The bigger Obama gets and the more evil, well--the more evil all his imagined supporters. Its hard to walk that back. They are trying to walk it back already--they started out the summer calling Medicare botched socialism and eventually realized that they were telling grandma she was a botched socialist leech. Graham tried to split the baby on that one yesterday when he said this:"Do I want some of his policies to fail? You better believe it," he said. "Do I want him to fail? No. Because he's my commander-in-chief."
Graham realizes the danger that his party is in--they are tied to a very vociferous, angry, hysterical, irrational, and spiteful base and as long as that is the public face of their party they won't be able to win back any voters. But he's not a Republican for nothing--he's not smart enough, or not sane enough, or honest enough to be able to differentiate between his party's will to power and a rational democratic system. A good person would never have wound up his pitch to the voters with "I want Obama's policies to fail." No liberal ever said that they wanted Bush's war in Iraq to "fail"--they might have thought and believed that it was bad policy, and that it wouldn't work. But *failure* of any major policy initiative has so much punishing fallout that we never, ever, hope for it. The fact that Graham couldn't figure out a way to say that is shocking but not surprising. He went as far as he could go with a party and a base that will take even that anodyne fact of political life as a slap in the face.