Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Corey Robin vs. the Occupy movementNow I'm more concerned than ever about the implications of Corey Robin's ahistorical argument that there is no meaningful distinction between conservative and Radical Right. He's attracted quite a bit of sympathetic attention among progressives for this argument, which puts the stodgy go-slow-or-even-do-nothing conservative in the same boat with the howling reactionary who wants to create a dystopia based on some imagined version of an ideal 19th century.
He makes his case at some length in his book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (2011) . As a matter of history, I think he's seriously overreaching. I can understand the argument's contemporary resonance, though, given the current state of the Republican Party in which segregationist and McCarthyist talk that would not so long ago have been publicly disowned by respectable business conservatives is now considered normal, mainstream Republican practice.
Now Robin's addressing the Occupy movement in The Conservative Reaction Chronicle of Higher Education 01/08/2012. And this piece presents an uncomfortable reminder that if a stodgy conservative who mainly wants to not rock the boat for the 1% too much is the same as a blithering Bircher or a cornpone brownshirt, then the Birchers and the brownshirts are also no more threatening or obnoxious than your standard Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club member.
Not that Robin is endorsing the Patriot Militias in his Chronicle piece. But he certainly does seem to be advising Republicans, hey, this is the kind of hippie agitation that you need to oppose the way you do it best:
After decades of "compassionate conservatism," "a thousand points of light," and "Morning in America," dark talk of class warfare on the right can seem like a strange throwback. So accustomed are we to the sunny Reagan and the populist Tea Party that we've forgotten a basic truth about conservatism: It is a reaction to democratic movements from below, movements like Occupy Wall Street that threaten to reorder society from the bottom up, redistributing power and resources from those who have much to those who have not so much. With the roar against the ruling classes growing ever louder, the right seems to be reverting to type. It thus behooves us to take a second look at the conservative tradition, not just its current incarnation but also across time, for that tradition provides us with an understanding of why the conservative responds to Occupy Wall Street as he does. ...That last part is a bit unclear, though he must mean "four more years" of Obama, though it's not at all obvious which "mavens of the right would probably prefer four more years" of the Marxist-Kenyan-socialist-European-Islamunist-atheist Obama to having a Republican in the White House.
In the real world, of course we're seeing pushback from the right over the Occupy movement. And what are we supposed to make of this statement, "A movement that once seemed the emblem of heterodoxy has succumbed to stale thinking and rote incantations"? When the Republicans were prominently congratulating themselves for being the "party of ideas", those great ideas were crackpot things like supply side economics, union-busting, boosting military spending and freeing the wealthiest Americans from the oppressive burden of having to pay taxes to support their country. Pretty much the same "stale thinking and rote incantations" of these days, only marketed a bit more cleverly. Stuff like that may have made Young Republicans think of themselves as "the emblem of heterodoxy" though it more closely resembled what was once called "hardening of the arteries", i.e., old-age dementia.
But the relative lack of mildly disruptive activism like that of the Occupy movement certainly hasn't slowed the radicalization of the Christian Republican White People's Party. On the contrary, Occupy is forcing even the Republicans to give some lip service to helping working families. Even though much of it looks more like dementia than either "the emblem of heterodoxy" or "stale thinking and rote incantations". Will Bunch reports on Rick Santorum campaigning in New Hampshire (The Santorum surge isn't working Attytood 01/09/2012):
He chose to devote his entire speech to his tax and pro-manufacturing policies – completely avoiding any mention of his signature issues like abortion and family values. Instead, he made a blatant pitch for working class votes.The fact that someone considered a credible if faltering Republican Presidential candidate within their Party is holding up college attendance as a sign of "intellectual snobbery" is a good example of how in the real existing Republican Party of 2012, it's hard to make a meaningful distinction between stodgy conservative and drooling reactionary.
But that's not what Robin is doing in the Chronicle article. It reads more like he's pointing to the Occupy movement and telling Republicans, you need to go after these people!
I also notice that, in the paragraphs at the end of the article, he talks about if the Occupy movement achieves such-and-so and if they achieve this other thing. But in the first paragraph quoted above, which is the second paragraph in the article, he talks about "movements like Occupy Wall Street that threaten to reorder society from the bottom up." I know that some of the activists see that as an ultimate goal. But in real time, there is no way that the Occupy movement is about to stage some massive general strike and bring on an apocalyptic change that would "reorder society from the bottom up". Any politician or police chief - or anti-terrorism official - who sees the Occupy movement that way at this moment is likely smoking some of that Ron Paul Bircher weed.
Tags: corey robin, occupy movement, reactionary mind
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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