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A certain paranoid style by @BloggersRUs

A certain paranoid style

by Tom Sullivan

"For ye have the poor with you always..." A certain paranoid style as well, and simmering bitterness with it.

At a Miami rally last week, former president Barack Obama found his remarks interrupted by angry hecklers. It is an occupational hazard.

"You know what?" Obama told the crowd. "This is what I look forward to, is having a few hecklers to get me back in the mood. I enjoy that. You always got to have a few in order to know that you're on the campaign trail."

After several interruptions, Obama observed, “Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?”

The crowd roared.

“It’s an interesting question,” Obama continued, turning back to the crowd. “I mean ... when I won the presidency, at least my side felt pretty good. You know, I don’t know why ... it tells you something interesting, that even the folks who are in charge are still mad, because they’re getting ginned up to be mad.”

What is it American conservatives have to be angry about? They control the presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and two-thirds of state legislatures, with trifectas in over half. "Once again," Paul Waldman wrote, "Republicans are the sorest of winners ... a story that has become all too familiar."

The Washington Post reports:

On Friday, federal economists reported that the nation had produced 250,000 new jobs in October, the 97th straight month of gains, as The Washington Post’s Heather Long and Danielle Paquette reported. The average worker’s earnings rose by 3.1 percent since last year and unemployment remained at 3.7 percent, the lowest percentage in half a century.
And still, they are mad.

In advance of Tuesday's election, our current president, Donald Trump, is not promoting that good news or boasting about his tax cut, but whipping up fear of a line of Central American refugees headed north on foot, still many hundreds of miles from the southern border. An invasion, he calls it. Unarmed refugees. They are coming to "get us" (or something) sponsored by George Soros and Democratic sleeper agents in the State Department.

Trump has called for sending more troops than currently deployed to Afghanistan to repel the migrants ... when and if they arrive in a month or more. A group of former generals characterized the move as a political stunt.

The Soros/caravan conspiracy theory pulls off another trifecta, the Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach observed, an admixture of “anti-Semitism, fear of immigrants and the specter of powerful foreign agents controlling major world events in pursuit of a hidden agenda.”

It is as tiresome and familiar as it is dangerous.

Richard Hofstadter half a century ago addressed America's history of conspiratorial thinking from the McCarthy hearings to the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan in "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" (1964). Hofstadter wrote of America's perpetually aggrieved:

The spokesmen of those earlier movements felt that they stood for causes and personal types that were still in possession of their country—that they were fending off threats to a still established way of life. But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.
Also from a free press that refuses to write fawning paeans to He Trump.

Hofstadter observes that ethnic and religious conflict as well as class conflicts contribute to the paranoia of those predisposed to it, but also circumstances they feel powerless to change. The expansion of women's political power, now, and the anticipated decline in status of America's traditional white majority.

Why are they so mad all the time? They have so much power and it still is not enough. They want it all. And they want the rest of us to accede to their having and not sharing it. For the bitter aggrieved, democracy is an affectation. They want to rule. It is not simply paranoid style, but a personality type.

Not to step on Digby's riff, but Abraham Lincoln's 1860 Cooper Union address summed up why Republicans could never satisfy the complaints of southern conservatives (then Democrats) vis-à-vis slavery:

Will they be satisfied if the Territories be unconditionally surrendered to them? We know they will not. In all their present complaints against us, the Territories are scarcely mentioned. Invasions and insurrections are the rage now. Will it satisfy them, if, in the future, we have nothing to do with invasions and insurrections? We know it will not. We so know, because we know we never had anything to do with invasions and insurrections; and yet this total abstaining does not exempt us from the charge and the denunciation.

The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

Replace "arrest and return their fugitive slaves" with "separate and deport the illegals" and you have our present situation. Already more groups are in the cross-hairs, literally, as the last weeks have shown. The aggrieved are with us always.

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