Monday, October 18, 2010


In my last post I dismissed the possibility that the "citizens' arrest" -- with handcuffs -- of a reporter at a public appearance by Alaska teabag candidate Joe Miller, which was the work of Miller's private security detail, would hurt the candidate at the polls. However, Adam Serwer and Steve Benen make a point that I think is absolutely right -- though the reason it's right seems utterly counterintuitive, as I'll explain.

Adam, in a tweet, writes:

Imagine if Dem "bodyguards" had handcuffed a journalist. you'd need a new planet to fit all the Nazi references.

Steve adds:

In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama mentioned the idea of having a civilian reserve corps that could handle postwar reconstruction efforts such as rebuilding infrastructure. A Republican member of Congress, Georgia's Paul Broun, said the idea, which had been endorsed by the Bush administration, is the equivalent of "what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist." Glenn Beck and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) still talk about this to make the case that the president is some kind of fascist....

Steve's right. But why was that plausible to anyone apart from a tiny group of fringe lunatics, rather than millions of Fox viewers (and, probably, a good number of the centrist neighbors they chat up at backyard barbecues)? And why won't the Miller incident upset nearly as many people, in all likelihood?

I have mixed feelings about Matt Bai of The New York Times, but I think he had a point a couple of years ago when he wrote about political "Krazy Glue Moments":

Here's a political postulate for you: whether or not a bad moment sticks to the candidate depends on how closely related it is to the core rationale of that candidate or his opponent. In other words, if your gaffe goes directly to the main argument you are trying to make about yourself with the electorate, or if it substantiates the most relevant thing that your rival would have us believe about you, then it has the potential to become a serious problem. If, on the other hand, you do something completely idiotic that is tangential to what voters most hope or fear about you, then you tend to get a pass.

But if Adam and Steve are right, it means Democratic politicians really are already seen as jackbooted thugs, despite scant evidence, and Republicans aren't, despite plenty of evidence. What voters "fear" about Democrats, and don't fear about Republicans, has no basis in reality.

Republicans, under Bush, refined the technique of sequestering demonstrators in "free-speech zones." Bush and Cheney critics were sometimes arrested with little or no justification. And, however much Democrats may have assented (in the past or present), it was the Bush administration that gave us the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, and remarkable redefinitions of the word "torture."

Bush used to hold town hall meetings strictly limited to the worshipful. Obama has faced withering criticism at town halls. (And we won't even talk about the congressional town halls last year.)

Oh, and right-wingers openly embrace the notion of vigilante justice and violence in the service of self-defense. Liberals generally don't.

So why are our guys seen as the likely fascists?

Obvious reasons: the right-wing noise machine is more efficient. Also, there's a mass delusion that Democrats take people's guns away every chance they get, which conveys an impression of fascism, even though it's a figment of millions of people's imaginations.

Oh, and one more thing: right-wingers don't believe in freedom. Not across the board. Right-wingers believe in freedom for "us." Not for "them." If you belong to the "wrong" group -- critics of the government (when the government is run by right-wingers), non-whites, gays, liberals, the "liberal media" -- then fascism directed against you simply isn't fascist. It's a defense of freedom to deny freedom to bad people.

So, to sum up: imaginary denials of freedom by Democrats are real, and when you think you see another one, it's part of a pattern. And real denials of freedom by Republicans aren't ever part of a pattern, because Republicans never mistreat anyone who doesn't deserve it.

So only Democrats have the Krazy Glue stuck to them.

No comments: