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American Character - Ch. 8: Rise of the Radicals (2008-) 
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 American Character - Ch. 8: Rise of the Radicals (2008-)
American Character - Ch. 8: Rise of the Radicals (2008-)

Please use this thread to discuss the above chapter.



Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:36 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 8: Rise of the Radicals (2008-)
Reading this chapter has been a bit of a drag because the history is so recent.

What gets me is that at the time of the “Rise of the Radicals” I had libertarian sympathies, so the drag is me remembering my votes at that time and I now regret having voted for any of the tea party candidates that I did support. I had bought into some of their exaggerations. More though, I had convinced myself that they were the lesser of two evils. It’s not so much a heavy drag I place on my self for those votes but it is a deep regret. I will say this also; one tea party guy I voted for was forced out of office for having been caught buying cocaine from an undercover federal officer. His name is Trey Radel, he was my congressman, what is even more sickening is that he now hosts an afternoon Fox News radio show. As you can well imagine his show consists entirely of the typical Fox News bullshit.



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DWill, Interbane, Robert Tulip
Mon Oct 28, 2019 6:51 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 8: Rise of the Radicals (2008-)
We all have our regrets, Taylor! It's understandable that after the great meltdown of 2008, there would be a political movement in reaction to what caused it. It was totally surprising, though, that the Tea Party, borrowing the image of the oppressive British against the colonists, chose to demonize the little guys who got stuck with big mortgages. The Tea Party also pretty much decided that the whole idea of taxes and regulation was oppression. So it seemed to completely miss the cause of all the misery. I have a notion about why that was. It's like the kid who can't stand it when another kid gets more than he did or gets what the kid didn't deserve. From a very early age, we have an idea about fairness regarding other individuals near us. Research with toddlers has shown that. So why should we spend money on people who took out bad mortgages, or for that matter give the unsuccessful poor any kind of help? Is it fair? The TP seemed to display what I'd call a type of immature thinking. But we don't have the same sensitivity to the less direct help that might be given moneyed people, such as tax breaks and subsidies. Those will go mostly unnoticed, or even if noticed the thinking might be that productive people have "earned" this kind of privilege. Woodard notes that Tea Partiers felt that Social Security and Medicare were earned benefits as opposed to the handouts other programs represented.

So with that, here's what I have about some of the other content in the chapter.

Woodard covers a lot of ground and shows agility keeping several balls in the air and sticking to his thesis about the tensions in American politics. There’s complexity aplenty to deal with. I’ll be non-committal on whether his necessarily simplified analysis holds together. I don’t have the depth of background to say. He’s got my interest, though.

He tries to address at least two difficult problems. The first problem he brings up at the end of the previous chapter. It’s how and why the National Liberal consensus fell apart during the 60s. Woodward pins the main responsibility on my generation’s desire for cultural revolution, for disorder and experimentation. Of course, he doesn’t ignore the war in Vietnam, but he seems to cast a wider net than just that venture by the best and the brightest.

I think that the rejection of national liberalism might make more sense if we don’t take “liberal” too seriously. Liberal in Woodard’s usage includes now-unfamiliar things such as the free market, promoting democracy everywhere in the world, and investing faith in a corps of expert bureaucrats. Expanding free markets led to an explosion post-war in material wealth, which my generation benefited tremendously from but didn’t respect as the goal in life. Spreading democracy led to fighting communism and thus to Vietnam. JFK was a determined anti-communist. It became difficult for young people to listen to the experts, including the educators who told them what to study, when we had been brought up to think of the world as ours to mold to our desires.

There was also the fact of the war, whose purpose seemed bankrupt and which we were expected to give our lives for. Self-preservation is strong motivation. Not that the more fortunate of us didn’t find ways to exempt ourselves from service and leave most of the fighting and dying to the less privileged.

The second puzzle Woodard tries to solve is how libertarian oligarchy came into favor with people with little money and status. We see this today continuing with the billionaire (?) Donald Trump being widely admired by those lower on the economic totem pole. Trump’s career is littered with incidents of sticking it to the very type of citizen who most vocally supports him, so go figure. Perhaps Americans have an attraction for pirates. Woodard thinks that rightist think tanks and foundations, as well as the growth of the religious right, made the country fertile for the Republican FDR, Ronald Reagan.

Woodard has G.H.W. Bush as almost a throwback to national liberalism and the savior of Ronald Reagan’s reputation, by means of Bush’s tax increases and return to fiscal responsibility. Clinton he depicts as a “Dino” (Democrat in name only).

Just a tag to all of that: by this point, we could assume that "Radical" in the chapter title will not refer to the left, but to the right. Leftist radicals have never been able to seize the spotlight the way rightist ones have.



Last edited by DWill on Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Harry Marks, Taylor
Wed Oct 30, 2019 8:03 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 8: Rise of the Radicals (2008-)
By the time I got to chapter 8 I took it as a given the radicals would be from the right. DWill’s example about earned benefits versus the perceived unearned or handouts to folks who haven’t paid into the system is a response that I get from a number of people I talk to, I try to explain to these people that the money paid out is really minuscule comparative to the overall federal budget, but it is one of the issues that they draw a line.



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Thu Oct 31, 2019 6:10 pm
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Post Re: American Character - Ch. 8: Rise of the Radicals (2008-)
Taylor wrote:
DWill’s example about earned benefits versus the perceived unearned or handouts to folks who haven’t paid into the system is a response that I get from a number of people I talk to, I try to explain to these people that the money paid out is really minuscule comparative to the overall federal budget, but it is one of the issues that they draw a line.

It's no great surprise, really, that the Welfare Reform of the late 90s did not cause the sense of grievance to go away. For that reason it is a good example of how to tell when compromise is just appeasement: if the other party will hunger just as much afterward as before, then it really doesn't help to give them anything of substance. We can usually tell when the other party in a negotiation considers anything less than total capitulation to be some sort of sellout or oppression. In those cases the best strategy is probably Trumpian: get something quiet that you really value, and in exchange grant the other party a symbolic victory they can trumpet.

The great success that Clinton got in exchange for time limits and work requirements on welfare was the wage subsidy of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which was a mixed blessing but at least put the budget in surplus.

Reading "Hillbilly Elegy" and "Strangers in their Own Land" brings home the extent to which the ideology of the Right is built around self-reliance. I am convinced that its flavor is influenced heavily by racism in the South, where the ideology is strongest, and I guess the author is aware of this also (I have not been reading along, sorry). But that doesn't change the reality of the interpretation that populist conservatives give matters, or its intellectual coherence. Calling it radical kind of misses the point, to me, that it is visceral and symbolic, not pragmatic and negotiable.



Sat Nov 02, 2019 9:26 pm
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