Saturday, 8 February 2020

Why do Right Wingers Keep Doing That S**t? Why?

A question, from a progressive to conservatives:
My question is, when you see Trump/the GOP working double time to roll back or reverse measures that strip women and LGBQT people of rights, or take away environmental regulations, or actively remove restrictions that keep billion dollar corporations from running wild, how do you think that is okay? 
I get fiscal conservatism. I think a smaller government would be great. But I also don't see why it's bad thing to want to try and help people through social programs or make sure we fight any sort of withholding of rights. 
Do you-- 
A. Think this is okay?
B. Think it doesn't matter cause the other side will just even it out?
C. Think that everything I said isn't happening and it's all just liberal propaganda? 
Or, so I don't seem like I am being reductive, is there a D Option I am unaware of?
Any other time I ask something like this I never get a straight answer-- I always get Deflection 101-- "Dems did it first! Who will pay for it!?"
I'm not a conservative now, but have in the past sympathized with paleolibertarian and even neoreactionary thought. To a small extent, neoreaction still animates my thought. So I have some understanding of the right wing mind. I will try to answer as best I can.

The answer is that there are many answers. That's part of the problem. It's also compounded by the direction that political discourse online and in social media has taken over the last dozen or so years. Straight answers are not in vogue. Team red and team blue are more like ideological tribes than political parties. They're clubs, and if you don't "get it" then you're not in. If you're not in, you're a fair target for ridicule. Team blue smears you as a nazi, bigot, racist, incel, knuckle dragging rube, idiot who believes in 3000 year old books about sky daddies and the like. Team red smears you as a soyboy, a cuck, commie, SJW, too weak or stupid to make your own way through life, a spoiled child who feels entitled to everyone else's money, etc. This is a crap state of affairs, but it's what we have to deal with.

There are a lot of different reasons why team red might want to roll back women's rights, LGBQT rights, environmental regulations and the like.

First off, some are less perturbed that the rights exist, it's how the rights have came about that's the problem. Court rulings, executive branches of government overriding legislative jurisdiction, federal government overriding state's rights and so on. Strict constitutionalism, if we can call it anything. This can come across as a hollow rationalization at times. Sometimes it is, but I think it's more sincerely held than a lot of progressives give them credit for.

Secondly, and let's get this one out of the way right now: genuine bigotry. I don't think this is the biggest reason. I don't think it's even the reason any more than a minority of the time. Certainly not in the case of G.O.P establishment movement conservatives. You won't find genuine bigotry at the Hoover Institute, the American Enterprise institute, or the like. They may (or may not) understate the extent of bigotry out there and the extent to which government programs may be needed to combat it, but they far from actively perpetuate it. Never the less, it is there.

Thirdly, more traditionalist and authoritarian strands of rightist thought genuinely fear social change and the intrusion of what are seen as outside thoughts or influences on the body politic. They see society as a precarious thing. Too much sexual liberation, for example, and birth rates start falling and you start seeing more out of wedlock births. The former result in a dangerous depopulation while the later creates a burden for the taxpayers. Too much immigration and you unbalance the social and cultural structure, resulting in unforeseeable and more often than not negative consequences.

It's not so much that they "hate" anyone, though they can and sometimes do, it's that they fear the destabilizing effects of social change. They fear what will happen when whites become a minority or when most of the commanding heights of industry and government are held by a more highly educated and hypergamous female gender.

Fourthly, and by far the most prevalent reason among the younger right leaning baby boomers and gen-Xers, is an outlook that can be summed up in the phrase "there's no such thing as society, only individuals and their families." It was Margaret Thatcher who said that, and its influence on her ideology and policy direction should be obvious.

As a corollary to this, they tend to think that good outcomes in life are the result of good and smart people doing good and smart things. Misfortune is seen as the result of bad decision making on part of the individual to whom it happens, and they therefore have a responsibility to clean up their own messes. This lends itself to a much more libertarian world view. They don't hate women, minorities or LGBT people, and may in fact be quite progressive socially in their own ways. To them, discrimination and bigotry are the result of collective, identity based thinking and the antidote to it is a doubling down on their very individualistic outlook.

What they don't accept are the more abstract notions of power and privilege, and they are resistant to the notion that collective action problems can result in perverse incentives for even good and smart individuals outside of the government's sphere. In their view, any kind of redistribution upsets the natural order wherein good things happen to good people and vice versa. Redistribution punishes success and rewards failure. Billionaires and billion dollar corporations got to where they are by selling people products and services that they're willing to buy, so they must be good. They may accept the idea that pollution or climate change are bad, but believe the market will lead to the best outcomes.

I my view, this kind of thinking underlies a sizable majority of right wing thought.

Fifthly, and as a corollary to the above is the sovereignty of private property, an idea that's widespread among more reactionary libertarian types. They believe the government simply doesn't have the right to levy taxes or regulate what are seen as voluntary transactions.

Sixth, conspiracy theories. I think this is more a corollary to some of the above reasons rather than a truly independent reason, but it's worth mentioning. After all, if we don't acknowledge the power of more abstract social forces and instead attribute the march of history to the works of individuals, then the most compelling reasons why social and cultural change isn't happening in the way that the right wing like is due to bad people doing bad things. This is why they tend to demonize the persons of democrat party politicians to the extent that they do. Further out, you see more bizarre and elaborate conspiracies and, of course (((them))). Among the few legitimate purposes of government is to roll back changes enacted by previous administrations that were headed by bad people.

Seventh is religious belief. Thankfully, it's not 2006 any more and the internet is not inundated by know-it-alls who attribute all of the evils of the world to too much church attendance on part of red state America. The new f**king atheism, man. Just what we needed. Another catch all deterministic answer to everything being pushed by smug pricks on the internet.

But atavistic religious belief is a factor. The bible does say that women should keep silence in the churches and obey their husbands, that men shall not lie with men as they would lie with women, and that man has dominion over all of the earth and its animals. And these types of views are advanced by people who still have influence and deep pockets, and a lot of everyday people out there profess to believe in the bible, however ignorant they may be of its actual contents. Regressive religion remains a big business, and these folks have a lot of money and can deliver a lot of votes for the tribe red cause.

Eighth, outright personal self interest. Though this will rarely be stated openly. This is especially true in the economic realm, where a more laissez faire policy environment will no doubt allow the largest and strongest players to profit enormously. But it no doubt applies in the social sphere as well. We all like to have someone to look down on, and if unpopular minorities improve their station, some people may be threatened by that. I don't think that's the case all or even most of the time, but it is a factor.

I've no doubt missed some. Underlying a lot of this is the fact that most people's prospects have deteriorated over the last few decades, and there's an anger surrounding that. That anger is easily misdirected into reactionary causes. Plus, the value of peer pressure can't be ignored. People tend to believe what their family, friends, coworkers etc believe, even if they're not exactly the party faithful.

The weakness of progressivism is that they focus almost entirely on bigotry and naked self interest as reasons. If they ignore the other reasons why right leaning people believe as they do, they'll be limited in their capacity to formulate counter arguments. We've seen this play out especially in the last few years, where the Clinton campaign's attack on "deplorables" ended up backfiring considerably.

It doesn't look like they've learned their lesson. Classical conservative, fundamentalist, paranoid, libertarian and even neoreactionary arguments are not always, and probably not even usually mere rationalizations. These people really believe this stuff, however far fetched or easily refutable a lot of it may seem from a comfortable academic coastal progressive vantage point. That's why it's not enough to simply cry "bigotry" or "hatred!" Progressives need effective responses to various kinds of right wing framing techniques, or they will keep on losing.

Don't forget to follow the Alternative Left on these other social media formats:


No comments:

Post a comment

Critical Theory - the Unlikely Conservatism

If "critical theory" is to be a useful and good thing, it needs to punch up, not down. This is a crux of social justice thinking. ...