Kathleen Geier on a post by Michelle Goldberg asking whether conservatives are abandoning populism:
Goldberg takes as her main piece of evidence a new book by antifeminist activist Charlotte Hays called When Did White Trash Become the New Normal? A Southern Lady Asks the Impertinent Question. In the book, Hays mocks working class people for allegedly being fat, lazy, and poorly dressed. Oh, and she also apparently thinks poor folks who have diabetes are hee-larious. Classy!
Hay’s book has been well-reviewed by her fellow conservatives — and her book is hardly the only evidence of right-wing anti-populism out there. Charles Murray, so often a pioneering figure in making vile politics respectable, got there first with his book on “the state of white America” from a few years back. There’s also the popularity Fox News effete-snob-in-residence Stuart Varney. It’s notable, too, that to-the-manner-born Mitt Romney didn’t even try to orchestrate any of the fake populist media stunts — think George H.W. Bush with the pork rinds — that previous G.O.P. presidential candidates were sure to pull.
It’s been clear for a long time that the guys in charge of the conservative movement consider populism a necessary evil, and that effete snobs and “White Trash”, to use Hays’ term, have been able to live in conservative harmony for long periods. Consider the long-time co-existence of William F Buckley and the John Birch Society. Buckley hated the Birchers and they ultimately lost influence, but both the toffs and the trash were solidly behind Goldwater in ’64.
I can’t claim to understand this phenomenon completely, but at least part of the reason is that the would-be elite realize they need votes to keep their taxes low, so they never do anything that will separate their wing of the party from the proles they need to win elections. Another part of it is that conservatives have built a media machine almost completely focused on directing white rage away from targets inside the tent, and it works pretty well.
As for Romney in particular: His campaign was full of awkward, staged faux populism. The issue that “White Trash” conservatives had with him was that he had been a liberal, pro-abortion, pro-Obamacare governor, and all the corndogs in the world can’t change that.
It became completely obvious to me what conservatives thought of working class people when I saw how absolutely hilarious people like Rush (um, and my parents) thought it was to call Bill Clinton “Bubba”.
Sadly, there’s a “baboon section” of human brains that, unchecked, will take any manner of abuse from higher ranking humans, provided there are other humans around who are treated even worse.
This is the voting base of the Republican party; racists and fundamentalists who pride themselves on not thinking.
As long as Republicans can cull these voters from the herd with the Southern Strategy, it doesn’t matter what else they say, does it?
You may not be old enough to remember, as I do, the many derogatory remarks from conservatives hurled Jimmy Carter’s way when he invited NASCAR drivers to the White House. All of the “lowering the tone” sort, with the word cracker tossed in a lot.
Every time he tried to sit down with the some of the ‘little people’, it was like he was trying to speak English for the first time.
This does seem of a piece with the Republican Party’s recent half-hearted (at best) and quickly abandoned attempts at outreach to minorities and women. So I can’t say I’m surprised.
Off-topic (sorry) but this story about a commuter train derailing in New York state might be worth a front-page mention.
@Amir Khalid: This is a live feed of the scene from nbc new york
whoops. double post.. It appears that they haven’t been able to get passengers off many of the cars that were derailed.
Geier makes a good point in her post about going back and reading the source materials for how Republicans spoke to their base back during the Roosevelt years and how these recent anti-populist screeds from the corporate GOPers today resemble them. She’s my favorite among Kilgore’s weekend bloggers. She always sends me on a search for research she’s used and I always learn something.
GOP officials and high operatives say one thing to one group and one thing to another group. They spout a particularly hateful brand of populism all the time, exhorting Real Americans to fight that dirty 47%. (That number is important. They desperately need to think they outnumber us.) Then they turn around and tell their rich donors that the masses are unwashed swine, because rich Republicans are ego-crazed Galtian assholes. So it has ever been. It’s much harder to hide than it used to be, that’s all.
Morning all. Hope your Turkey Day weekends were fab.
It felt like Sunday all day yesterday. Not sure what today feels like, other than cold.
I think DPM nailed it with the observation that Republicans seek to “focus white rage elsewhere”. The single most useful meme in the Republican arsenal has always been to tell voters that “Big Government is taking your hard-earned money and giving it to the (insert racist slur here). As the Austin Lounge Lizards song sarcastically observes, “It’s the fault of those teenage immigrant welfare mothers on drugs…“, and this seems to play well with voters feeling insecure and angry (due largely to Republican policies).
To date, Democrats have been reluctant to get into the scapegoating game by placing the blame on the 0.1% – if for no other reason than the effect it would have on donations from those with money to give. Hate-based politics has long-term drawbacks as well – just ask Mitch McConnell.
However, it’s very hard to get haters to even recognize that their hatreds and fears are irrational. It’s a real world example of the situation shown in The Life of Brian, where the Judean People’s Front, the People’s Front of Judea, and the rest of the splinter groups are too busy fighting each other to join together against the Romans. People get so buried in their hatreds that their brains stop working – and it’s very hard to get them started thinking again.
Mike in NC
Mitt Rmoney proclaimed himself to be “severely conservative” when in fact he was merely a severely clueless asswipe.
Thinks poor people with diabetes are hilarious?
If Karma actually exists, she will spend her next lifetime imprisoned in the kind of life she is making fun of during this life.
@Amir Khalid: Preliminary search of the train, 4 dead, 63 injured and 11 of those are critical.
Gin & Tonic
@JPL: From my commuting days, I recall that being a tricky spot around there, although “Spuyten Duyvil” has to be my most favorite train station name anywhere.
The Republicans should have learned by now that it’s so much harder to compartmentalise your audiences than it used to be. It might even be impossible now. Especially after that very 47% speech, given by Romney to an audience of rich donors but recorded by one of the help with his own cellphone.
And that gives me incredible hope.
I have been saying we are “living through the Gutenberg revolution.” The invention of moveable type created incredible waves of change in Europe. We all look back and think things like the Renaissance were worth it.
Now, we get to live through those changes!
OT – Am finally watching “The African Queen”.
Was there ever an actress who had less sex appeal than Katherine Hepburn? I keep wanting her to get killed so he can live out life how he likes.
For both subsets of “conservatives,” Lombardi’s “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” is a way of existing. The “lower class” conservative will torture all sorts of reality, but will always see himself or herself as a winner — chosen by God, etc. In the event that they are not winners, it can’t be their fault, or the fault of their God, so it has to be the Other, where the Other is defined as contrary to everything they perceive themselves to be. The facts on the ground never match how these people see themselves, and thus, the Other, but they are fed a steady diet of lies as to the Other to grasp onto while they slowly sink down the socio-economic ladder.
Actually the term “Republican populism” is a misnomer. They’ve never been truly populist; any appeals to populism have always been window-dressing to obscure their real agenda – helping the haves get more.
mistermix opines on a Washington Monthly column that opines on a Nation column that opines about a book about “White Trash”.
I don’t understand why the unemployed don’t become pundits. It’s a growth industry. Plenty of jobs available!
@Botsplainer: Her voice affects me like fingernails on a blackboard.
@Mike in NC: Perhaps he meant “severely constipated?” As a cyborg, he may have believed that this was normal human speech.
There’s a segment of the Republican party that thinks they are Tories. Of course, the disdain they get from actual Tories is a dirty little secret.
She never had the sensuality of the sex kittens of the old days, but when she was young Hepburn had a breathtakingly beautiful face. Hollywood has always been shallow, but that used to count more than breast size.
It’s funny, because Ohio Republicans all but announced they were going after the white low wage vote after 2012. They don’t have any choice. They think they lost because “their” voters (white lower wage people) didn’t come out for Romney and they have county by county analysis to back this up (although it’s basically still a theory and/or an excuse). They were really set on white low wage turnout as The Cure for what ails Republicans.
The problem I saw for them was low income people don’t have high turn out, so it’s hugely labor intensive to get them out. Voting is tied to education and income. They’re “sporadic” voters, low income people, to use the Obama campaign term. One can’t do it with billionaire bucks at 30,000 feet, which is what they tried in 2012.
I didn’t consider that they would actually start insulting and denigrating them as lazy, stupid, of loose morals and FAT. “Fat” is new.
They don’t really have any choice there, either, though. They have to explain income inequality in a way that doesn’t implicate conservative policy or wealthy people, so deciding it is the fault of the dumb, lazy, FAT workers is really the only way they can go.
Gin & Tonic
@Frankensteinbeck: “Breathtakingly beautiful”? Audrey, yes, Katharine, no. Too angular for my taste. Maybe a face only a WASP like her could love.
Davis X. Machina
I see no reason in theory why this shouldn’t work. Crab-bucket themes, and the right candidate, and Bob’s your uncle.
Jay Gould said — or is said to have said — that he could always pay half of the working class to shoot the other half.
Getting half of the working class to do the equivalent at the polls is a far less heavy lift, especially if you suppress the impulse to elect complete douche-nozzles.
Obama has been fortunate in his choice of enemies. Reid’s been blessed with his enemies’ choices.
@Kay: Lazy, stupid, FAT, but– for some reason– Republicans leave out ‘racist.’ Well, it’s not mysterious. Racist is what Republicans are counting on, so they mustn’t complain about that. However, It just could be that low-wage whites know a lot more about AA life and times than their overlords realize.
@Frankensteinbeck: There’s also that funny camera-morphing alchemy wherein someone didn’t look quite like that in real life, which I understand Hepburn also had. Some of her contemporaries considered her face “too masculine” for beauty.
Though I never agreed. I always thought her quite attractive.
Sex appeal is very personal and complicated. I find Viggo Mortensen to be wildly attractive, for instance, though on purely aesthetic markers that makes no sense :)
Which raises an interesting question: can the Democratic party help this important Republican demographic sector realise that it is the object of poorly-disguised contempt and cynical exploitation by the elite of its own party?
I really think this has a lot to do with it. The “new” media environment is much more disruptive since for a very long time they have been running a much bigger scam on their base on a systematic basis then the Dems. It has always been there, it is just more obvious now.
I think it’s a general pushback to populism, so not exclusive to Republicans. The complaint is people are “working hard and playing by the rules” but they are still falling behind. I think it’s predictable that the response from certain quarters would be “you’re NOT working hard, nor are you playing by the rules, you fat, lazy whiners!”
Because what else do they have? They’re not renouncing trickle down, certainly. That’s a belief system. I always think “fat” is such a shitty, small attack. It’s nasty and childish. To me, it means they have nothing.
What does it say about people that they refer to other humans as ‘trash’?
In their more generous moments, the same people will elevate those they despise to the level of animals, scavengers, or vermin…which, when you think about it, is a large step up from ‘trash’.
Not a fan of later Katharine Hepburn either — she’s like watching Mount Rushmore moving.
Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her portrayal of young Kate H in “The Aviator”. She captured the mannerisms and a kind of leopard-like motion. Caged animal, entrapped in privilege.
Still aggravating as hell. Very affected, but could be spectacular in the right role.
read the book. it’s different than the movie. lots different.
@tybee: Besides, it’s really Bogart’s movie, all the way through. It could have been a bubble-headed Jean Harlow type, a good-time girl going for her last chance at love, instead of her first chance… would have worked just as well.
The point is that Bogart is inspired to “be a better man” because he loves. And he does it wonderfully.
I’m sorry, I have yet to see a conservative with actual populism. Propulism, yes; populism, no.
@anthrosciguy: Remember the “cloth coat” republicans vs. the “fur coat” republicans? The Republican base hated George Bush senior because he was a “country club” type. George Bush junior worked incredibly hard to lose his CT/Yalie side and run as a good ‘ol boy.
It’s a nasty, childish party. No hint of greatness. No vision. Petty, small-minded, and so so proud of their ignorance.
IOW, perfectly consistent.
@Amir Khalid: I’m currently trolling Twitchy on their attacks on Michelle Obama for being “fat” and “Moochelle” and “stuffing her pie hole” with too many pies on Thanksgiving. Its another case of “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes.” They think she’s so obviously fat, slovenly, and ugly that the jokes just write themselves. They are incapable of seeing people who are not in their own tribe as disciplined, beautiful, etc…
Also: they ruthlessly attacked Clinton for being overweight and exerting himself in an obvious way when he went jogging, and for his apetite for both food and sex which were seen as childish and demeaning and gargantuan all at the same time. They were really stumped with a way to attack Obama because he was so obviously thin and disciplined and rather calvinist in style so they fell back on coke sniffing (thin, nervous) and gay (metrosexual, weak). Watching the way the right wing searches for a culturally acceptable, easily understood, attack on Democratic politicians that is embodied is really fascinating anthropologically speaking.
@aimai: They see her as fat? Tsk. You should call for a BMI survey of the posters. I’d be willing to make a little wager about the results.
The fact that the Conservatives have finally shown their fangs to the hoi poloi and revealed their contempt for THEM, not for the OTHER means that the game is rigged enough that it doesn’t matter anymore. The “white trash” that makes up the GOP base has just realized who’s really fucking them up the ass without any lube but it’s too late, Now that the Conservatives are in charge they have the power to change all the laws, rig all the voting and basically are now untouchable. So what do they care if the pigs they have set up for the slaughter actually sees the knives headed their way?
The truth of the matter is that these same pigs would willingly hold the knife to their own throat and slice it if it meant that they wouldn’t have to share their pigpen with the OTHER. And the Conservatives know it.
The only thing the Conservatives should be careful of is that once the race and religious hatred is trumped by the pigs’ own desperateness, the pigs will have nothing to lose and once that happens, they will turn the guillotine on the Conservatives.
It’s easy enough to tie who Republicans are demonizing/mocking to which part of their agenda they are pushing. Calling poor people fat means they don’t need food stamps.
Keep it klassy konservatives!
The effete business types are nervous that the Tealiban white trash are actually starting to steer the party in directions they don’t like. They’re supposed to be the easily-manipulated foot soldiers who do as they’re told by their betters. Now that they are getting so uppity that they actually want to steer the clown car, it’s crank up the media machine for some brushback.
The other dynamic is that American corporate capitalism has become so obviously predatory that lower-income whites, not just minorities, are starting to notice they’re being fed into the sausage machine along with all the untermensch groups they looked down upon. That tends to reduce their willingness to be led by the rich guys who aren’t even pretending anymore not to screw them over.
Obama bears no resemblance to the guy in Clint Eastwood’s empty chair. It’s the same thing with Michelle.
@Frankensteinbeck: It’s truly absurd the way they treat their delusions as reality.
They have built this entire “shadow structure” of fake news shows and universities and think tanks and intellectuals and pundits and attempts at comedy shows and movies.
It has got to start throwing a rod!
James E. Powell
I don’t understand why the unemployed don’t become pundits. It’s a growth industry. Plenty of jobs available!
Right. As a blogger, you can make as much money as some poets!
James E. Powell
Was there ever an actress who had less sex appeal than Katherine Hepburn?
All taste is taste.
I absolutely love Katharine Houghton Hepburn. My all-time favorite movie is The Philadelphia Story. Her good movies…her bad movies….anything with Hepburn in it, I’ll watch it.
They finally realize that clinging to that Whiteness hasn’t gotten them shyt.
That the overlords were talking about their White working class azzes too.
@WereBear: Oooh, he rocked as the Russian mobster.
Homophone alert: “to-the-manner-born” should be “to-the-manor-born”.
Death Panel Truck
Where was the copy editor? “To the manner born?” Seriously?
“To the manner born” is used correctly. It’s from Hamlet.
Shakespeare’s typesetters aren’t to be trusted. Neither is Elizabeth Wurtzel’s copy editor. It’s “to the manor born.”