What’s In a Name? Well, Everything!
posted at 9:43 pm on August 9, 2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh
Shakespeare notwithstanding, a rose by any other name would not, in fact, smell as sweet; “seeing is believing” is a much less accurate saying than “believing is seeing” — especially in politics, the art of the image. “What a fool believes, he sees.”
The winner of the race to define one’s opponent typically wins the election as well. And in this race, the Democrats and the Left in general left the starting blocks a century ago, while we’re still standing around, waiting for the starting gun.
The other day, I was very rudely awakened by my clock radio, which is set to a local classical music station. The station was in between pieces, and Mr. Announcer was saying something very like the following: “When this next charming dance music debuted, it was denounced by conservatives — as they generally denounced any fun music of the era.” Annoyed, I turned it off before even hearing the charming dance… and I’m not even a conservative!
I am, however, a dyed-in-the-wool enemy of contemporary liberalism and leftism of any era, making me “one of us,” in that sense. I never voted for a Republican from my first vote in 1978 through 1986, five elections; since 1988, I have never voted for anybody but a Republican.
To me, that was the year (Michael Dukakis) that the mainstream of the Democratic Party crossed the Rubicon, transmogrifying from being a sincerely loyal opposition, though frequently misguided — to being actual enemies of America who had to be stopped, crushed, and forced to rebuild themselves in the mold of Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey.
The latter was a New Deal Democrat, but always an anti-Communist — unlike FDR himself — and one who truly loved our country. He was foolish in some areas, such as massive government spending to “solve” social problems; but he was also willing to reconsider when confronted with real evidence. Gosh, what a breath of fresh air that would be, after decades of Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Algore, JFK — and now a nation under the iron thumb of B.O.
But back to my tail of woe…
Later that day, Sachi and I went to see the wonderful chick-flick Julie & Julia. In the course of the otherwise thoroughly enjoyable movie, we were gobsmacked by three or four gratuitous slams against conservatives and Republicans. All but one took place in the “Julia Child” sections and were at least defensible, if still unnecessary: The worst was a scene depicting Paul Child, Julia Child’s husband, being investigated (interrogated) by “the committee” — though the movie never says which one, the House Committee on Un-American Activities or the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations. We are told that he was investigated because he was stationed in China during World War II.
I have no idea whether this really happened — I cannot find any documentary evidence of such an investigation outside the movie. It’s not even mentioned in his New York Times obituary; and if anybody would tout such an incident, you’d think it would be the Times.
But even if he really was investigated, I’m quite skeptical that the only reason was his official posting in China, ordered by the Office of Strategic Services. To my mind, it’s much more plausible that the pair of them, liberal intellectuals both, could easily have flirted with Marxism — as did so many of their contemporaries.
But two points were glossed over that were just as important as the investigation itself… shifting the movie scenes from merely recounting “the truth” to broadcasting leftist propaganda:
- According to the movie, Paul Child was investigated and cleared. (But wait! I thought that never happened… weren’t these investigations “witch hunts” that only smeared innocent people, never exonerated them?) Yet the movie only mentions that en passant, without any acknowledgement that perhaps the investigators were both sincere and honest.
- Despite the movie’s reference on several occasions to “the Republicans,” in reality, the House and Senate committees included both Republicans and Democrats; in fact, during the period under discussion (say 1945 through 1955), Democrats controlled both Senate and House — therefore the corresponding committees — for six years, while Republicans controlled the chambers for only four.
One other slam against Republicans is in the “Julie Powell” section, and this one is entirely uncalled for: After she plays hooky from work for a day, her boss says that if he were a Republican, he would have fired her. As she is a sympathetic character, that smear of course just makes Republicans look bad. (Left unsaid is that, sympathetic or not, she is depicted as a pretty bad employee who probably deserved firing. But the movie never connects these two points.)
It would be impossible, of course, to enumerate every movie and television episode that makes unnecessary and absurdist attacks on the Right; a well-researched list would probably include more than 50% of them. But each and every one is an example of the Left “defining” the Republicans and conservatives in popular art, so that the default position of American culture is that the Right is a bad joke.
Then let us include “serious” news and political analysis shows, which typically refer to every oppressor around the world as a “conservative” — even when he’s a jihadi, a revolutionary, or a Marxist. Even the mullahs in Iran are routinely referred to as “conservatives.”
What does conservative mean in this context? They certainly are not traditionalists; Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution was radical, breaking not only with established political tradition — Iran had been ruled by shahs since the 1500s — but established religious tradition: Twelver Shia clerics had by and large shunned direct political rule since before Iran arose as a distinct Persian Islamic country.
Nor do the mullahs believe in judicial modesty, rule by law, a firm constitution above control of the ruling party, Capitalism and the free market, or even the ethical monotheism that underpins American conservativism. They are not conservative by any rational definition.
Much the same can be said for the fascists and Marxists in Latin America, Africa, and Asia — often dubbed “hard-right strongmen.” And even Adolf Hitler — a raging socialist and utopian internationalist, who railed against Capitalism as often as at Communism, and thought he could “perfect” the human race by culling the “defectives” and breeding “supermen” — is invariably referred to as a “right winger,” rather than head of the National Socialist German Workers Party.
In a brilliant exercise of “argument by tendentious redefinition,” the Left has successfully transformed the word “conservative” into a synonym for tyranny, oppression, and dictatorship… even for radical movements that not only did not “conserve” the institutions and values of their native cultures but overturned them in the most violent way. And lefties (including Lucky Lefty himself) still beaver away at that same tree today, albeit in a rather ham-fisted manner.
It’s an astonishing feat of political legerdemain that can transform Marxists, Stalinists, and a radical Islamic and quasi-socialist theocracy into an indistinguishable batch of conservative hardliners. But the more infuriating point is, the Right let them get away with it.
Liberals and Democrats are supposed to try to make monkeys out of conservatives and Republicans; that’s their job. But the latter are supposed to fight back, establishing their own identities and reinventing the Left… rather than quietly rolling over and accepting what fate deals out in true fatalist style. The most embarassing part is that our putative “leaders” in Congress and in the previous administration have hopped aboard the caboose… leaving it up to ordinary folks to drive the train.
William F. Buckley, jr. made conservatism respectable; Ronald Reagan made it popular. But we haven’t had a Reagan since 1989, and there isn’t one on the horizon that I can see; no, not Sarah Palin, not Mitt Romney, not Eric Cantor (R-VA, 92%)… at least not yet.
Ronald Reagan was already considered a great conservative Republican leader when he first ran for the governorship of California in 1966; he was famous, among other things, for breaking the back of the Communist cadre in the Screen Actors Guild (then an actual union) and for fighting Soviet propaganda in Hollywood. By the time he finally won the nomination for president in 1980, he was also a very successful two-term governor of the largest state in the United States, giving him experience and gravitas.
In that year, Reagan was universally recognized, by friend and foe alike, as the leader of the conservative movement in America. The primary was barely even a contest, with Reagan taking 44 primary or caucus delegations, and his only real rival, George H.W. Bush, taking only seven (Iowa, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Michigan)… and six fairly well-known wannabes getting bupkis.
It was a complete blowout; Reagan was the undisputed heavyweight champeen of the conservative movement. “Now the king is gone but he’ll not be forgotten, nor his like will we ever see.”
Newt Gingrich was a spectacularly successful “revolutionary;” he was perhaps the only person who could have snatched the House right out from under Tom Foley’s nose (with the help of the House banking scandal); but Gingrich proved a fairly inept Speaker of the House. He is a wonderful idea-man, spitting out original and popular policy proposals like an M61 Vulcan spits incendiary shells… but as the chief executive of the nation, he would be a disaster: He hasn’t the patience, the attention span, nor the charisma.
There is no Republican in view today who has even as much charisma as Gingrich, and charisma is vital for generating hegemony (per Marxian theorist and revolutionary Antonio Gramsci, perceived fitness to rule). Any such authority would come only from the office — not from the person, as it did with previous leaders: the good (Lincoln, Reagan), the bad (Wilson, TR), and the ugly (FDR).
Fortunately, the only charismatic Democrat on the scene today is the terribly compromised Barack H. Obama, whose power curve is dropping faster than the glidepath of a dead-stick Shuttle. We don’t need a Ronald Reagan to regain power (which is good, because we don’t — and won’t — have one). But once there, we are going to need moral discipline such as Republicans have not held since the first heady days of the Gingrich revolution.
An excellent start would be to take the propaganda war within this country seriously for once… and actually fight back against the liberal-left, anti-Republican disinformation campaign. I see a nascent effort; but not until I start seeing a real and serious pushback by our guys — unified, forceful, unapologetic, and not just by the grass roots (who by definition aren’t running for office), will I say we actually have a legitimate shot at the “conservative realignment” that Fred Barnes talked about before 2006 and 2008.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…