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The triumph of right wing propaganda in America


This Thomas Edsall piece, in which he interviews a bunch of fancy academics about their estimates regarding how far down the road toward ethno-nationalist authoritarianism the Republican party has gone, and what the Democratic party should do about it, has a lot of interesting stuff in it.

Here’s a quote from Jennifer Hochschild, a professor government at Harvard:

The Democratic Party over the past few decades has gotten into the position of appearing to oppose and scorn widely cherished institutions — conventional nuclear family, religion, patriotism, capitalism, wealth, norms of masculinity and femininity, then saying “vote for me.” Doesn’t sound like a winning strategy to me, especially given the evident failure to find a solution to growing inequality and the hollowing out of a lot of rural and small-town communities. 

Note that this quote in the Paper of Record is from a self-identified liberal at a top university, not Some Poster On a Blog Somewhere.

I note this because the quote is, if taken as a literal description of the Democratic party, just completely delusional. I would love to ask Hochschild (maybe I will) if she can point to a single prominent Democratic party figure who “opposes” and “scorns” the nuclear family, religion, patriotism, capitalism, wealth [for crissakes], or norms of masculinity and femininity.

I mean the closest thing I can come up with is that Bernie Sanders says lots of very mean and hurtful things about unregulated capitalism, but even in his case, as soon as you look past the democratic socialism rhetoric, you find somebody who votes and acts very much like a classic New Deal Democrat. I take it that Prof. Hochschild would disagree with the view that the New Deal was anti-capitalist, given that that view is the political science equivalent of a flat Earth theory.

I’m pretty sure that Hochschild’s response to this — OK I really am going to ask her and report back — is that yeah of course it’s absurd as an empirical descriptive matter to ascribe opposition and scorn on the part of the Democratic party or any of its significant figures toward any these things, but nevertheless there’s a “perception” that’s, as the late Cokie Roberts would have said, “out there” that Democrats oppose Traditional American Values.

There sure is! And where exactly does that perception come from? The obvious answer is that it comes from the Right Wing Scream Machine, but the more nuanced answer is that it very much ALSO comes from people like Jennifer Hochschild echoing and thereby spreading complete bullshit right wing propaganda when she talks to Thomas Edsall in the New York Times.

To his credit Edsall counters this kind of thing by quoting Steven Levitsky, who points out that the Democratic party is fabulously successful at getting more people to vote for its candidates than vote for Republicans, which is usually the definition of democratic legitimacy, except sadly no because of the Wisdom of the Framers:

Looking at the dangers facing American democracy from a different vantage point, Steven Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard and co-author of the book “How Democracies Die,” rejected the argument that Democrats need to constrain the party’s liberal wing.

“The Democrats have been amazingly successful in national elections over the last 20 years,” Levitsky wrote in an email.

They have won the popular vote in 7 out of 8 presidential elections — that’s almost unthinkable. They have also won the popular vote in the Senate in every six-year cycle since 2000. You cannot look at a party in a democracy that has won the popular vote almost without fail for two decades and say, gee, that party really has to get it together and address its “liabilities.”

Instead, he argued,

the liabilities lie in undemocratic electoral institutions such as the Electoral College, the structure of the Senate (where underpopulated states have an obscene amount of power that should be unacceptable in any democracy), gerrymandered state and federal legislative districts in many states, and recent political demographic trends — the concentration of Democratic votes in cities — that favor Republicans.

There’s a bunch of other interesting stuff in the article, with the tl;dr being that as long as Republicans can get 45% of the populace to vote for them they have no incentive to hit the brakes on their race toward authoritarian ethno-nationalism, because the game is totally rigged in their favor.

And one of the things that rigs it in their favor is centrist and Even the Liberal professors constantly repeating inane right wing talking points in Even the Liberal New York Times, as if those talking points represented something other than the most cynical propagandistic lies imaginable.

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