Friday, March 24, 2006

Students of Hegemony, not of History; or How Republicans have failed to apply their own rise to power to the rest of the world

The Republican ascendancy in this country was largely built on the idea that Conservatives are an oppressed majority.  People who are in the mainstream, but are being cut-out of American political life by the “bad guys” of Hollywood, academia, and the media.  Over the past twenty years they have built a network of people in key positions in media and research organizations to provide national-level framing of issues, and a ready-made network for distributing these ideas to like-minded people around the country.


Rarely is the conservative message as successful as when it harkens back to how the “American way of life” is being attacked by an elitist group of late-drinking, Gucci-wearing stuffed shirts who are disconnected with “real” Americans.


After twenty years of being out of power—or more often having to share power (as Democracies tend to want their factions to do) the past several years have found the Republicans (and their conservative supporters) at the helm of a party-line unified federal government.  The successes are theirs to take credit for, but the failures are equally hard to shovel off on to the Democrats.  In spite the fact that Republicans have held the Presidency and both houses of Congress for several years, the domestic rhetoric—issues like gay marriage, health care, or corporate malfeasance—is based on the idea that liberals are out to ruin America; that Conservatives are still an oppressed majority.


Stay with me for a second as I both turn 180 degrees and switch from the microscope to the telescope.  Look now at the international community.


Yesterday, the Financial Times published a piece by Madeline Albright with the headline: “Foreign Policy Good vs Evil does not work.”  She rightly points out that the “Axis of Evil” was an over-simplification of the realities of the world (from a supposedly “realist” administration).  Albright points out the conflict areas between Iraq, Iran and Al Qaida.  First, Iran and Iraq fought a war for nearly a decade—during which we supplied Saddam with military equipment.  An Al Qaida affiliate killed a delegation of Iranian diplomats.  And Al Qaida frequently mocked Saddam’s equanimity in persecuting Shia and Sunni religious leaders.


Currently the Bush administration seems to be pursuing a policy of antagonizing undesirable regimes into greater power.  And these regimes power is coming from the same psychology that has won Republicans elections in the U.S. for at least 20 years: by creating an enemy for those in power to oppose.  It’s more than that, though.  By being outspoken in opposition to the present Iranian government, the Bush administration is giving that same regime the opportunity to go to the Iranian people and say, “Follow us.  The United States is opposed to Iranian independence.  The only way to succeed is to stand up to the oppressor!”  Albright says as much in her piece.


So why have I spent the last page re-describing points said more articulately by a former secretary of State than I’m likely to be able to do?


Because I want to point out the irony of a political faction (conservatives) bolstering undesired adversaries and regimes by following the precise playbook that allowed them to come to power in the first place.  I know there are smart people in the administration.  I know there are people who understand politics, geopolitics, and the theatre of governance.  And yet, through oversimplification, hyperbole, and strict adherence to a one-act script even though we now enter the third act, these same people are allowing their own desired policies to evaporate into the political atmosphere they themselves are creating.

1 comment:

Genya said...

You should read The Rise of the Southern Republicans by Earl Black. Or maybe you already have.