Understanding Conservatism : The long con

A very interesting essay by Rick Perlstein on how mail fundraising / snake oil / and the Romney campaign are all connected. I knew very little about the historical connections, and now I have a bit of a grasp on why Glen Beck is always trying to sell gold coins, and why Mike Huckabee is so convinced that Lifelock is going to protect me from identity theft.

The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism.

Mitt Romney is a liar. Of course, in some sense, all politicians, even all human beings, are liars. Romney’s lying went so over-the-top extravagant by this summer, though, that the New York Times editorial board did something probably unprecedented in their polite gray precincts: they used the L-word itself. “Mr. Romney’s entire campaign rests on a foundation of short, utterly false sound bites,” they editorialized. He repeats them “so often that millions of Americans believe them to be the truth.” “It is hard to challenge these lies with a well-reasoned-but- overlong speech,” they concluded; and how. Romney’s lying, in fact, was so richly variegated that it can serve as a sort of grammar of mendacity.

Some Romney lies posit absences where there are obviously presences: his claim, for instance, that “President Obama doesn’t have a plan” to create jobs. Other Romney fabrications assert presences where there are absences. A clever bit of video editing can make it seem like Romney was enthusiastically received before the NAACP, when, in fact, he had been booed. There are lies, damned lies, statistics—like his assertion that his tax cut proposal won’t have any effect on the federal budget, which the Tax Policy Center called “not mathematically possible.” That frank dismissal vaulted the candidate into another category of lie, an attempt to bend time itself: Romney responded by calling that group “biased”; last year, he called them “objective.”

There are outsourced lies, like this one from deep in my files: in 2007, Ann Romney told the right-wing site Newsmax.com that her husband had “always personally been prolife,” though Mitt had said in his 1994 Senate race, “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.” And then Ann admitted a few sentence later, “They say he flip-flopped on abortion. Well, you know what? He did change his mind.”

And then there’s the most delicious kind of lie of them all, the kind that hoists the teller on his own petard as soon as a faintly curious auditor consults the record for occasions on which he’s said the opposite. Here the dossier of Mittdacity overfloweth. In 2012, for example, he said he took no more federal money for the Salt Lake City Olympic Games than previous games had taken; a decade earlier, however, he called the $410 million in federal money he bagged “a huge increase over anything ever done before.”

All righty, then: both the rank-and-file voters and the governing elites of a major American political party chose as their standardbearer a pathological liar. What does that reveal about them?

I’ve long maintained that the modern Republican Party is comprised of The Dupers and The Duped. It’s fun, when discussing politics on the Internet, to guess which category your conservative friends belong to.

A good article; Perlstein is one of the first-rate experts in the history of movement conservatism. What the article doesn’t really grapple with is the why. He does a great job of accounting for the strange entwining between conservatism and modern-day snake-oil salesmen, and he also does a pretty good job of leaping from there to the conservative lie industry. What he doesn’t really do is account for why movement conservatism in America seems to exhibits these features.

Good question - I don’t know that it’s answerable. Fear, lack of curiosity due to faith?

In part the New York Times had it right, for as much as it’s worth: Romney’s prevarications are evidence of simple political hucksterism—“short, utterly false sound bites,” repeated “so often that millions of Americans believe them to be the truth.” But the Times misses the bigger picture. Each constituent lie is an instance pointing to a larger, elaborately constructed “truth,” the one central to the right-wing appeal for generations: that liberalism is a species of madness—an esoteric cult of out-of-touch, Europe-besotted ivory tower elites—and conservatism is the creed of regular Americans and vouchsafes the eternal prosperity, security, and moral excellence of God’s chosen nation, which was doing just fine before Bolsheviks started gumming up the works.

I think the crucial facet of conservatism is the pervasive belief that I am an insider. Once you think that you are one of those “in the know” then all the lies are written off as necessary to sway the other guys. Of course “we” lie to them, they’re too stupid to vote for us otherwise. It also works against self-interest. Tax cuts for the wealthy while getting rid of tax benefits that affect the lower 95%? Hell yes, I work for a living, and one day I want to be rich! Why would I hurt my internal best-self that I dream about? Even though I’m already pretty clearly never going to actually be wealthy through any means but savings.

Couple that along with boomer backlash over the 60s and 70s, civil rights, and religion and you have some powerful forces at work to enable cognitive dissonance.

It’s even worse than that. You have people believing whole heartedly that they will one day be wealthy, and so vote for politicians and policy that benefit the wealthy, completely in denial that these policies are actually going to reduce their ability to become wealthy.

If conservative is a bad word than so is liberal.

Seriously, get over this garbage. Everyone on the left talks about how everyone on the right is evil and vice versa. Both extremes are equally wrong and have the same amount of ignorance and corruption.


Horseshit. Racists are worse than jaywalkers. False equivalence might play well in peoria, but that doesn’t make it true.

I laugh at the notion that being liberal means you aren’t racist.

I didn’t say that. I’m saying that the line you’re using of “Oh, everyone is just as bad as everyone else.” is a line composed entirely of pure, unmitigated horseshit. And you know it.

Are you even posting in the right thread?

Except - most conservatives are NOT going to be in favor of getting rid of tax benefits that effect the lower 95%. Try to find a bulk of conservatives that are in favor of getting rid of, e.g., the home mortgage deduction, or anything else that makes their taxes go up. I know, I know, Romney’s plan can’t work unless those go up. That’s why it will never be implemented. And that’s why Romney will never say that his plan requires that.

It’s just wrong to say that conservatives are fine with their own taxes going up or their own costs going up because they think they’ll be rich one day. Most conservatives don’t live under any such preconception. The reason conservatives don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthy is that they are under the belief that the wealthy create jobs, own businesses, etc. and that money taken away from the wealthy and going to Washington will hurt businesses and jobs. THAT you can legitimately argue with them.

I said each extreme is just as worse as the other.

This is like arguing who has the better fan base, the Red Sox or the Yankees.

Good luck with that.

Please point out the liberal fund-raising equivalent that so happily pries money out of the poor’s hands with outright lies and then uses the vast majority of proceeds to enrich the fundraising business.
Greenpeace? World Vision? The Human Fund?

You win, sir. Conservatives are EVIL and liberals are the good guys.

Democrats running for Congress? ;)

Shhhh Jeff.

Still waiting for a grown up response.

Because the position that all conservatives are either stupid or evil is a grown up position meriting a serious counterargument.

I mean, Christ, talk about duped. If your theory requires that half of the entire population be really stupid, or really evil, maybe you just don’t understand their motivations as well as you think.

And maybe you won’t ever understand them, since you start off discussions with the assumption that they are either stupid or evil.