An interesting analysis from Pity the Billionaire, by Thomas Frank, loc 1746-1759:
And so, over the years, the movement came to affect a revolutionary posture toward the state that it might have borrowed from Karl Marx or Jean-Paul Sartre. It imitated the protest culture of the sixties, right down to a feigned reverence for anticommunist guerrilla fighters who were its version of Ho and Che. Conservative leaders studied the tactics of communists, applying them to their own struggles. And the movement learned to understand itself not as a defender of “the status quo,” in the famous formulation of the conservative organizer Paul Weyrich, but as a group of “radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of the country.” When the economic collapse of 2008 and 2009 came along, conservatism immediately positioned itself as a protest movement for hard times. Aspects of the conservative tradition that were haughty or aristocratic were attributed to liberals. Symbols that seemed noble or democratic or populist, even if they were the traditional property of the other side, were snapped up and claimed by the Right for itself.
This was integral to the weird character of the movement that came into being. From loc 1775-1793:
What’s more, it was cast as a people’s movement with no leaders. A movement that was so profoundly democratic, so virtuously rank-and-file, so punk rock, that it was actively against leaders. A movement that was downright obsessed with being “sold out” by traditional politicians, with betrayal, with guarding its independence and its precious authenticity. 6
This appropriation of leftist rhetoric goes as far as to take on a critical theoretical character. In its own simplistic way, it promises to cut through the veil of illusion and reveal the systemic (leftist) forces bringing about empirically identifiable pathologies.
From Pity the Billionaire, by Thomas Frank, loc 1380. This is a summary of the populist right’s understanding of the structure of society:
America is made up of two classes, roughly speaking, “ordinary people” and “intellectuals.” According to this way of thinking, as we see again and again, either you’re a productive citizen, or you’re some kind of snob, a university professor or an EPA bureaucrat. Compared to the vivid line separating intellectuals and productive members of society, all other distinctions fade to nothingness. Between small-business owners and sharecroppers, for example, there is no difference at all, just as other Tea Party authors saw no real difference between Rick Santelli’s bond traders and “working people.”
I’m interested in understanding how basically delusional understandings of how the world work thrive under conditions of what Colin Crouch calls post-democracy.
A similar idea from loc 2100:
The unlikely Engels of this strange class war was a retired professor of international relations named Angelo Codevilla; his manifesto, “America’s Ruling Class,” was published in the summer of 2010 by the American Spectator and was issued a short while later in a longer version by that magazine’s book-publishing arm. There are but two social groupings that matter in America, the retired professor maintained, a “ruling class” that legitimizes itself as the nation’s intellectual superiors but that is actually defined by its control of the machinery of government, and a “country class” made up of nearly everyone else. The core of the idea was not new, but the bailouts and economic disasters of our own times allowed Codevilla to apply it in a new and uncompromising way. His indictment of the “ruling class” fell on anyone connected with government, Republicans as well as Democrats, both of whom were said to hand out economic favors to the connected. Big business was implicated too, insofar as it was in cahoots with big government; in fact, “the upper tiers of the U.S. economy are now nothing but networks of special deals with one part of government or another,” Codevilla wrote.
I love the phrase ‘rhetorical rapture-race’ used by Thomas Frank to describe the mobilising dynamics of the far-right resurgence in the U.S. From his Pity the Billionaire loc 960:
Conspiracy theorists have always been with us. But Glenn Beck brought them into the mainstream. And so began one of the most distinctive features of the right-wing renaissance: a rhetorical rapture-race in which pundits, bloggers, and candidates for high office competed to paint the most alarming end-times picture.
Is this something uniquely applicable to deliberately mobilising fragile movements i.e. inciting crowds of individuals to act in a co-ordinated way without seeking to build relational bonds between them?
On loc 992 he cites a Republican blogger describing the results of the aforementioned mobilisation. Is the rhetorical rapture-race necessary in order to cut through the fog of depoliticisation?
Many Americans who had never been politically active, never walked a precinct, never interrupted their golf games, family gatherings, or vacations to discuss politics, government, or the Constitution, were suddenly gripped with the sense that their government, nation, and way of life were being stolen from them. 4