Political Culture Eats Institutions For Lunch

Institutional reform is necessary, but we can't accomplish much in the face of tribalism.

Steven Taylor’s excellent post about the flaws in the US Constitutional design frames the crisis of 2020 as the result of institutional defects. While I agree that American political institutions like the electoral college and winner-take-all elections deserve a lot of the blame, I’d also argue that American political culture deserves even more. Our institutions are failing us, not just because they don’t set down a reliable, fair set of rules to follow, but the desire to be both reliable and fair in politics is missing.

Clearly, there’s a reciprocal relationship between political institutions and culture. Institutions, for example, constrain bad behavior and determine the type of representation that voters get from their elected officials. If you want a system in which more voices are heard in the halls of power, go for proportional representation, or at least make sure that all citizens find it just as easy and rewarding to vote. One could make the argument that institutions encourage good behavior, too. Some religions make the implicit or explicit argument that prescribed activities or rules, such as mandatory prayer or charity, encourage a more pious, moral outlook. In the same fashion, one might say that political institutions, such as a visibly representative system, encourages the mindset that all opinions and interests matter.

Political culture also animates these institutions. The official Soviet constitution was notably quite at odds with Soviet totalitarian reality, promising freedoms that did not exist in that regime. Weimar Germany had, in the opinion of many political thinkers at the time, the best constitution in the world. Unfortunately, not enough Germans had enough faith or investment to defend it when it came under attack. Great Britain’s famously unwritten constitution nonetheless persists, in the absence of many explicitly codified rules found in other polities, because of British political norms. Institutions may, in the same fashion as a particular make and model of a car, determine capabilities. It also matters what powers that vehicle, how you drive it, and where you want to drive it.

American political culture is broken right now, incapable of effectively powering or directing our institutions, representative democracy and the rule of law. It has been broken before: women and minorities, for example, had less of a say than they do now, not only because of the political and legal frameworks that existed, but because of the prevailing prejudices that persisted long after the official reform of those inequalities. We face a different kind of brokenness now, the biggest irreconcilable division since the Civil War. Our political culture is broken because the connective tissue of common sentiments, beliefs, and habits that would normally hold us together is torn, and some people want to rend it even further.

If you were to go back in time 10 or 20 years, you’d encounter intense partisanship. The roots of this calamity run deep, going back to Newt Gingrich’s efforts to delegitimize any political cooperation, Ann Coulter’s unanswered claim that liberals were traitors, the rise of the Religious Right, the creation of Internet-based echo chambers, and other antecedents in our political culture. When I was growing up in Orange County, California, I saw how intolerant political movements — some with a religious bent, others more secular — were coalescing and finding common cause. It has disturbed me during my whole life since I was a teenager and first politically aware, fearing how these forces, left unchecked, might turn into something poisonous to democracy, perhaps reaching fascist dimensions of intolerance, organization, and mobilization.

If you went back 20 years and said, “We know a deadly pandemic is coming,” we would have expected partisan bickering to lessen, and people intoxicated on their self-righteousness to sober up. We would have expected a collective response to a threat to all Americans. We would have been horrified to see epidemiology turned into a partisan issue. Clearly, at some point, we crossed a very dangerous threshold of tribalism. To be fair, “we” does not include all Americans, but a significant minority who sees everything through the lens of us versus them, good versus evil, the well-intentioned versus the badly-intentioned, the patriots versus the traitors, the warriors versus the weaklings. This strain of intolerance infects primarily people on the right — or what the right has become now, as opposed to what it was. For lack of a better term, we can call that faction “the radical right,” an grouping that sees itself besieged by dark forces with which they cannot compromise or co-exist. If you are marshaling against an irrepressible enemy, it should not be a surprise that the purported forces of light might lean in an authoritarian direction.

In business management theory, Peter Drucker’s phrase, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” has a lot of resonance. If you try to steer a company in a direction that is counter to that organization’s culture, you might as well not bother. Even if the CEO creates a company policy about, say, letting customer service representatives make their decisions on how to handle calls, instead of following scripts, people within the organization can easily sabotage it. The threat of having your bonus reduced or even losing your job is not necessarily enough of a deterrent to operating “the way we’ve always done things around here.”

We now have a political subculture of a large enough scale that sees tribal boundaries and loyalties as more important than the long-established rules of elections and governance. There is not a polite debate point or a rhetorical zinger that will fundamentally change that reality. Nor will changing the way in which we elect representatives or run Congressional subcommittees change this reality. Tribalism is now a reality that will deform politics, no matter what the official operating rules are. The rules of the game might ameliorate the effects of tribalism, but they cannot eliminate them.

Whenever we are frustrated with the current situation — “How can these people support this?” — tribalism is usually a major factor. Elected officials no longer represent all Americans, in the eyes of some Americans, just us, or those people. Tribalism makes voter suppression, gerrymandering, and other ways of undermining representation not only allowable, but necessary. To quote Steven from his post, “The GOP has been playing football with 12 men on the field, and the Democrats with 11…Why adapt when you have an advantage like that?” Clearly not, if you think that the point of politics is not to preserve the fairness and integrity of institutions, but merely to benefit your side.

Tribalism also makes it possible to overlook corruption and blatantly anti-democratic actions. It makes everything terrain over which to fight, including neutral institutions like the US Postal Service. If parts of the government, or the nation, become casualties in this war, so be it. If the President promotes incompetent people, so be it. If the President is mentally or morally impaired, so be it. If the President makes common cause with racists, so be it. If the President violates the sanctity of elections, so be it. There is no positive vision of government action in the name of all Americans, and no negative vision of actions that would deserve blame, censure, and possibly removal. There is only the war of one tribe against an imagined enemy.

It is extremely difficult, once you cross this threshold, to find institutional mechanisms for managing tribalism. Lebanon’s pre-civil war constitution tried, and failed. In fact, the codification of representative amounts, by ethnic and sectarian grouping, contributed to the collapse of the political order, once one part of the population grew larger than its allotted representation.

I hate to be this dark, but this is the moment I’ve feared my whole life, as I said. The rules are only effective if people follow them. Now, we have unconstitutional executive orders that, because of the silence of Republicans, do not have the institutional check that the Framers intended. Reform of the rules may be impossible if one participant in the decision-making process doesn’t see a common interest at stake.

Institutional improvements should go ahead, when possible. Some measures will have positive effects, even in the face of this crisis in American political culture. The current reality will make the range of possible reforms limited, and their effects muted. If we cannot get people to wear a mask during a pandemic, how likely will DC statehood or new party nomination processes be?

Recovering from tribalism will take time, as would be the case with any cultural change. There will be some failed efforts. Do not expect a better social media algorithm here, and a better campaign law there, to cure this problem. But we need to start addressing our crisis in political culture.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Society, US Politics, , ,
Kingdaddy
About Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy is returning to political blogging after a long hiatus. For several years, he wrote about national security affairs at his blog, Arms and Influence, under the same pseudonym. He currently lives in Colorado, where he is still awestruck at all the natural beauty here. He has a Ph.D in political science that is oddly useful in his day job.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Amen.

    Even with all the creakiness designed into the current system with its small country, 18th century operation, it would still function if the political culture allowed it.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    We’re having a battle of cosmologies, a religious war. The underlying fight is about the nature of reality. God or science? The Left mostly believes in science, the Right mostly doesn’t.

    To the conservative religious mind if it’s OK for women to abort, if it’s OK for gays to marry, if it’s OK for people to change genders, if we teach evolution in schools, if there is no special status for men, and if there is no special virtue in whiteness, then there is no God.

    Which terrifies them. They lack the strength to survive without their supernatural being. They’re orphaned children.

    The culture has defied God and if the culture succeeds in that defiance it calls into question everything they believe(d) about God, because to them God is a fixed point, God does not change or adapt, and God clearly said that a society like that which liberals are building, will inevitably be destroyed. And they are quite willing to destroy society themselves in order to retain their faith in God. In their minds they are fighting for Jesus, and Trump is John the Baptist.

    Democrats are playing politics, Republicans are playing religion. Reason vs. faith. Reality vs. fantasy. Facts vs. lies. We have two incompatible systems fighting a religio-cultural war over the nature of reality. Rational people, Democrats and moderate Republicans (all two dozen of them) are trying to use reason to combat religious madness, but the foe is not the GOP as much as it is the Southern Baptist Convention. As Swift said, “You cannot reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into.”

    Politics is about resources: pork. Who gets what, who keeps what. That’s not the fight we’re having. No one is arguing over where we’re going to build a new highway. This is not politics, this is a do-or-die fight for religion, with racist white evangelical Christians furiously defending nonsense beliefs that have nothing to do with the resource allocation that is the heart of politics.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    Our political culture is broken because the connective tissue of common sentiments, beliefs, and habits that would normally hold us together is torn, and some people want to rend it even further.

    I think that’s right. But I’m not sure how to square that with a culture of “the way we’ve always done things around here.” Because, it really isn’t how we’ve “always done things,” even within my lifetime.

    We have in fact somehow created that thing that in my undergrad days was a function of what we were then calling “undeveloped” countries: a society that’s almost completely one of reinforcing, rather than cross-cutting, cleavages.

    It’s not just the religious-secular split @Michael Reynolds points to. That’s always been with us. Even if we extend that to modern-antimodern, it doesn’t really explain the rapid shift.

    Obviously, most of the forces you point to are on the Right and, certainly, Gingrich and company get quite a bit of the blame. But we have similar if less powerful forces on the left that are also increasingly intolerant.

    A large part of it is changes in the information environment and the ability to shape the way people receive and frame information.

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  4. Scott says:

    Recovering from tribalism will take time, as would be the case with any cultural change.

    Taking it even farther out, there are two times in our history where something calamitous or catastrophic hit and the American culture was reset. The Civil War was one event, the Great Depression/WWII was another. “Tribes” were dissolved and and a new predominant culture was realized.

    I just don’t see us as recovering from something until something really bad happens and a Lincoln or Roosevelt rises up to create something new out of the ashes. Who that may be we won’t know until it happens. And that is assuming a “good” leader, not just a strong leader.

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  5. There is a lot to think about and respond to here. On the one hand, I certainly agree that political culture matters, but I also am not convinced that ours is broken, at least in the sense that it was once not broken.

    I think all of the tribalism, racism, and power-grabbing described above have long been with us and I think we have converged on a moment in which our institutions are allowing those impulses to have more power than they should.

    More later.

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  6. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’ve watched my brothers slip into Trump’s orbit, and a fair number of now-former friends*, and they weren’t religious people at all and still aren’t.

    What motivates them? The opportunity to blame someone else for their problems and to hit back at that perceived enemy. Grievance, hatred and spite.

    The grievances that started them down that path are different, ranging from actual economic insecurity, to being terrible with women, to having a disabled kid and finding the social safety net hard to manage, to being upset that black people moved into their neighborhood… and there’s always someone around who will listen to their complaining and channel it into hatred.

    “It’s hard to get the support your disabled kid needs, but those Blacks and Illegals are getting their welfare and ObamaPhones without having to even put down their social security numbers. Some of them show up every day and sign up with a different name.“ (I tried to get my brothers to take me to sign up for my welfare and ObamaPhone when I last visited, but they just wouldn’t — I thought it would be a fun activity we could all do together)

    One friend slipped down the MRA/Incel rabbit hole rather than growing up, moving out of his parents’ house and learning to treat women as people. The reason he couldn’t get laid, you see, was SJWs.

    Hate is easier than dealing with life and it feels good.

    It’s not religion. A specific religion might help grease the wheels for some people, but grievance, spite and hatred come from more grounded places.

    ——
    *: They’re now-former-friends not because I disagree with them about politics but because they have become hateful people.

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  7. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    we have similar if less powerful forces on the left that are also increasingly intolerant.

    You’re talking about me, aren’t you? 😉

    I’m intolerant of intolerance, and think punching Nazis is a good thing.

    And when someone in my life gets really into grievance, spite and hatred, I cut them out because they’re not pleasant to be around anymore, and I’ve never seen anyone come back from it.

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  8. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    To the conservative religious mind if it’s OK for women to abort, if it’s OK for gays to marry, if it’s OK for people to change genders, if we teach evolution in schools, if there is no special status for men, and if there is no special virtue in whiteness, then there is no God.

    To the ecumenical religious mind, none of the ifs you list here indicate there is no God.

    So, to my mind, this raises a chicken/egg question: Which came first? The religion or the fearful bigotry? I would argue it was the fear of the other. It’s the fear that comes first for authoritarianism as well. Like religion, fear is untethered from reason, so it presents the same resistance to being overcome that Swift notes. But, I believe recognizing fear as the driver of it all offers the only path out.

    Fear, even when unreasonable, can be overcome with facts and knowledge. This is why religious leaders hate science. Science dispels fear and frees the flock. So, lead with the facts, deny the conspiracies, and go hard at the Pharisees who are fear-mongering – from the preachers to the talking heads at Fox News to the current occupant of the White House.

    Kingdaddy says:

    Reform of the rules may be impossible if one participant in the decision-making process doesn’t see a common interest at stake.

    I would say “a common interest” is impossible without a common set of facts.

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  9. Scott says:

    @Gustopher:

    What motivates them? The opportunity to blame someone else for their problems and to hit back at that perceived enemy. Grievance, hatred and spite.

    Yep, that’s some members of my family. Even though they live quite comfortable, middle class lives, certain aspects did not turn out like they wanted. They blame others for their problems and thrive on grievance. Even though it is family, I don’t have time or patience.

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  10. KM says:

    @Gustopher:

    What motivates them? The opportunity to blame someone else for their problems and to hit back at that perceived enemy. Grievance, hatred and spite.

    This is why I reference the cult mentality model when discussing MAGAts and their ilk as it’s much closer to the actual source then predicate it as a political thing. At its heart, a cult isn’t a religious thing but an insular, downward-spiraling tribal disaster. You join a cult because it offers you an answer to ALL your life problems, including the personal or the internal. It’s the in-group that lets you deal with whatever is driving to distraction and offers you one simple truth: they are the problem, we are the solution. Politics, sports, fandom – they can all take on aspects of cult mentality which is why viewing them through a solely religious lens instead a tribal one is a mistake.

    The cult of grievance and spite is very old indeed. It owes allegiance to no specific group but flit around to whomever can give it succor at the moment. If you’re an angry loner who wants to hurt people because of your “economic anxiety” in the ME, you join ISIS. In America, you go MAGA. Whatever flavor you want, you can find. The main difference we’re seeing over the last decade or so is before people in power went out of their way to restrain or put down these movements. You let the angry loner vote for you but don’t encourage him to blow up anything (unless you have to and even then it’s your enemies). Now? Now we’ve elected a malignant narcissist who glories in chaos-flavored bitter lies & wants to be their King while they finally have a person in power who *gets* them. Time for the freak flag to fly high – time for the Id to get to do all the terrible things they’ve been holding in because society wouldn’t let them. Make no mistake as they were here before Trump and will be afterwards. Trump is their Stonewall – he’s made it OK to fight back because enough is enough. The cult has reached the destructive phase and thinks it’s about time.

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  11. Nightcrawler says:

    The U.S. is like an out-of-control addict, one that has fallen so far into addiction that they can no longer realize they’ve got a problem. Everyone else is crazy; the addict is the only sane one. At that point, it is highly unlikely the addict will change until they hit rock bottom, assuming they survive.

    Nothing will change until the U.S. hits rock bottom, and unfortunately, we’re not there yet. It’s going to get worse, a lot worse.

    3
  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    25% of Trump’s 40% are white evangelicals. I understand that isn’t everyone, but without that core there is no Cult45 and Trump is a game show host. White evangelicals are the Trump base, the numbers are clear. Yes, also racists and incels and various losers, but they’re the 15% and Evangelicals are the 25%, and it’s that 25% that have the money, the organization and the media outlets.

    @Scott F.:
    We can track the Cult back to a specific denomination above all others, the Southern Baptist Convention which was formed explicitly as a segregationist denomination. As Evangelicals are the core of the Cult, so the SBC is the core of the Evangelicals, and yes, that core is racist.

    As to chicken and egg I dislike binary choices because in my experience the answer is always E) All of the above. The fear of the other is closely linked to belief in a God who is actively, personally involved in life on Earth. Gods exist to protect primitive people from the elements, from disease, from predators and from enemies. IOW: death. That’s how it all started: You know those hungry lions? Pray to God and give the priest a tip and maybe God won’t let the lion eat your children.

    Religion is a response to fear of pain and loss and death. That’s what it has always been. Once homo sapiens became aware of his own mortality religion had to be invented to ward off death, or to redefine death as eternal life. And naturally a priest class rose to profit from that fear.

    So, sure, they’re afraid of the other. They’re afraid of most change. And they are afraid above all that they’ll be seen as suckers, fools, because there is no God. If they don’t have God they have no back-up. They have no explanation for how they’ve constructed their lives. This is why it’s so personal and intractable. Trump is God’s chosen instrument to smite all those who fail to conform to Evangelical beliefs.

    1
  13. Scott F. says:

    @Gustopher:

    It’s not religion. A specific religion might help grease the wheels for some people, but grievance, spite and hatred come from more grounded places.

    I agree, though I’d note there is some kind of fear (economic insecurity, social anxiety, xenophobia, etc.) at the core of those “more grounded places.”

    The ObamaPhone experiment you offered, then, is the right idea. Hold the Trumpkins and their like to some burden of proof for what they believe. Be open to sharing your own proofs and don’t judge their fear, but be unrelenting in your demands for proof. They’ll hate that.

    2
  14. Moosebreath says:

    On whether the political culture is broken, Ezra Klein argues that Republicans are failing to act to respond to COVID-19 in exactly the same way as they failed to respond to the financial crisis, even though it would help their party by improving the chance Trump is reelected:

    “Politically, the Republican Party’s current approach is so self-sabotaging that I figured I must be missing something. Someone must have a plan, a theory, an alternative. Chaos is Trump’s brand, but surely McConnell won’t walk passively back into the minority. And so I began asking Republican Hill staffers and policy experts for correction. What wasn’t I seeing? What was the GOP’s policy theory right now? What do Republicans actually want?

    I posed these questions to Tea Party conservatives, populist reformers, and old-line Reaganites. The answer, in every case, was the same. Different Republican senators have different ideas, but across the party as a whole, there is no plan. The Republican Party has no policy theory for how to contain the coronavirus, nor for how to drive the economy back to full employment. And there is no plan to come up with a plan, nor anyone with both the interest and authority to do so. The Republican Party is broken as a policymaking institution, and it has been for some time.”

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  15. Nightcrawler says:

    I make this whole “tolerance” thing easy.

    I’m a misanthrope. I can’t stand people. I never claimed to be a “tolerant liberal” — or a tolerant anything. In fact, that whole “tolerance” thing is why I could never, ever be a liberal.

    Of course, I could also never be a conservative. I was a terrible libertarian and a terrible anarchist. Too many rules, regulations, and expectations.

    When I die, mine enemies will be able to etch many invectives on my tombstone, but “hypocrite” will not be among them.

  16. SKI says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It would be great if you could stop using “Religion” as a stand in when you really mean “Christian”. Unless you really think (inaccurately btw) that all religions approach science and deism the same way, just say Christian.

    4
  17. Teve says:

    @Gustopher:

    *: They’re now-former-friends not because I disagree with them about politics but because they have become hateful people.

    12 years ago I met a young guy who was intelligent and had interesting things to say. Then he went into the army. Last year I had to change my Facebook settings so that my posts go to everyone except him. Because at some point he fell down the Trumper rabbit hole and now if he’s in my comment threads he is saying shitty things to my liberal friends. A friend of mine is a successful lawyer in Chicago and after he called her a feminist idiot I decided to put him on mute. Right wing media is really hurting this country and I don’t know that it’s a problem that can be fixed.

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  18. SKI says:

    @SKI: A thread just today on thisfrom the appropriately named @JustSayXtian

    Claiming that all organized religion is harmful when your reference point for ‘organized religion’ is Christianity is, in fact, a way of supporting Christian supremacy and supersessionism.

    It presupposes that Christianity is the template for religion, and that all religions are alternate versions of Christianity. It ascribes particularly Christian ideals and values to being typical of organized religion in general, supporting the idea of Christian universalism.

    Further, if you use knowledge of Christianity to condemn all religions, you’re agreeing with the premise that Christianity is the best possible religion by denying the possibility that other religions might not have the same problems, or have solved them creatively.

    In conclusion:
    “My problem isn’t with Christianity, it’s with organized religion” tells me that your problem definitely IS with Christianity, and also that you have bought into Christian propaganda about it’s own position as the epitome of religious expression.

    2
  19. Kathy says:

    There’s been much talk about norms since 2017, for obvious reasons. I hold that the rule of law itself is dependent on norms.

    These being the willingness to obey the law and to apply the law equally and fairly. Because there are always ways to apply the law unequally (including the choice not to apply the law), and to ignore the law completely.

    On other matters, many things that are illegal or unconstitutional,a re too dependent on lawsuits being filed by individuals or groups. There is no existing enforcement mechanism for them. For example, the prohibition on emoluments. there is no authority ready and able to even investigate Trump the One Term Loser, much less charge him. Someone has to sue. And even if such a suit is successful*, there are endless ways of delaying it, as we have seen.

    *It will be declared irrelevant by November, one hopes.

    4
  20. Kurtz says:

    @James Joyner:

    But we have similar if less powerful forces on the left that are also increasingly intolerant.

    I have an idea what you will say, but I’m curious about some specifics here.

    5
  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @SKI:
    I always include references to ‘white evangelical Christians’ but do sometimes generalize with ‘religion’ because it’s shorter.

    1
  22. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Damn the SBC all to hell. And damn the priest class that profits by their fear-mongering.

    Just don’t paint religion with too broad a brush, because you deprive the cause of justice of a great many allies. I am the son of a Methodist pastor and Evangelicalism is as foreign to my father’s ministry as Wicca. There is a massive community in churches who come to their faith through the Beatitudes not the Old Testament and see peace and charity as the centerpiece of a good life on earth, rather than the view that life on earth is in service to fear of losing out on the afterlife.

    6
  23. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Religion is a response to fear of pain and loss and death.

    It’s more complicated than that. But that has been the predominant view over the past 2,000 years or so, especially in Christianity and Islam.

    If I could choose an afterlife, and if such a thing existed, I’d go for the Egyptian model. They pretty much imagined an eternal life that would be much like one’s current life, only better. If you could make it past the monster that would feast on your heart, that is.

    1
  24. Moosebreath says:

    @SKI:

    “Unless you really think (inaccurately btw) that all religions approach science and deism the same way, just say Christian.”

    The problem is that not all denominations of Christianity approach these issues in the same way (unless you want to argue that Quakers, Episcopalians, etc. are not really Christian, in which case you are going into Rod Dreher territory).

    @SKI:

    “Claiming that all organized religion is harmful when your reference point for ‘organized religion’ is Christianity is, in fact, a way of supporting Christian supremacy and supersessionism.”

    From what I have seen, all countries where religious conservatives have an outsized role in politics (whether Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Christian) share many of the same issues.

    10
  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @SKI: For many atheists that I’ve met over the years, the only religion is Christianity. At least the only one that matters. Hmmmm…

    1
  26. Modulo Myself says:

    Right-wing Christianity has stopped even trying to convince people that its claims have any merit and the Republican party has followed suit. They’re turned an ideology into a broken instruction manual which you have to follow. Do tax cuts for the rich and deregulation work? Hell no. Is being gay bad? Not even. But anyway, idiotic free market and religious dogmas are necessary. Otherwise total anarchy, aka America resembling France or Germany.

    3
  27. Monala says:

    @Gustopher:

    What motivates them? The opportunity to blame someone else for their problems and to hit back at that perceived enemy. Grievance, hatred and spite.

    I watched the movie I, Tonya over the weekend, about the Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding and the scandal of her ex-husband’s attack on her main skating rival Nancy Kerrigan.

    The movie covers her ’70-80s childhood in working class Portland, followed by her skating career in the ’90s. In one scene, the camera focuses on a Ronald Reagan campaign flier on the wall, letting you know the politics of her family. I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks portrayed in this movie are Trump supporters today.

    Life was tough for Harding’s family and her husband’s family, because low-wage jobs and having little money suck. But they were also very dysfunctional due to self-inflicted issues with drugs, alcohol, and violence.

    And yet, for whatever struggles they had due to poverty (and there were plenty; one reason Tonya faced so many hurdles to achieve professionally despite her natural skating gifts was due to the classism of the judges), white privilege prevented them from dealing with their issues head-on. In one scene, after Tonya finally worked up the courage to leave her abusive husband, he returns and threatens her with a gun. As they fight, the gun goes off and grazes her face. He grabs her, stuffs her in his car, and they go flying down the road.

    Because he’s speeding, he gets pulled over by police. They have him get out of the car, and search it. They find a bruised and bloody Tonya, two guns in the car, and lots of open bottles of alcohol. They give him a little lecture and let him go.

    Tonya’s voice-over says at that point, “I knew then that even the authorities would never protect me.”

    White cops were so busy protecting another white guy, that they let a clearly drunk abuser go. Imagine that.

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  28. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    25% of Trump’s 40% are white evangelicals. I understand that isn’t everyone, but without that core there is no Cult45 and Trump is a game show host. White evangelicals are the Trump base, the numbers are clear. Yes, also racists and incels and various losers, but they’re the 15% and Evangelicals are the 25%, and it’s that 25% that have the money, the organization and the media outlets.

    This is all coming to a head currently because they are in an existential panic. They are accustomed to being normative and dominant in the same way white people are used to being normative and dominant – privilege comparable to “white privilege.”

    The demographics are now running sharply against them (per, for example, Pew surveys of religiosity). When I was young, we said the Lord’s Prayer at school assemblies. More recently, Christian invocations before the high school football games still existed. Gays knew they needed to stay closeted. Etc. etc etc.

    Because of all this, demographics etc., and their perceived to live in their preferred sort of culture, they are getting so panicked, so desperate, that such has become dominant in GOP politics.

    @James Joyner:

    It’s not just the religious-secular split @Michael Reynolds points to. That’s always been with us. Even if we extend that to modern-antimodern, it doesn’t really explain the rapid shift.

    It actually does, because it is now coming to a head and dominating U.S. politics.

    4
  29. ImProPer says:

    The greatest designed democratic system would not make anymore headway, than what we currently have now. More representation, I’m all for it. I have little faith that it will lead us out of the stupor that we find ourselves in now, but is simply the right thing to do. The tribalism Kingdaddy talks about, is as strong of an instinct, as self preservation, and breeding. It is probably a permanent fixture for us. It is our modern rudderless tribalism, that is perplexing, as it is insidious. As a culture, we have devolved into one of reaction, and avoidance of any responsibility. Walter Lippmann’s omnicompetent citizen has metastasized into the leadership we currently have. Our older generation, classically relied upon by the youth for wisdom, has been lost in self-congratulation, and beaming pride for political, and cultural accomplishments, they had very little, if anything to do with. I would point out that pride is the key component for the cognitive effect described by Dunning and Krueger.
    As a slow learner in the school of hard knocks, pain is the only profound teacher that I know of that is reliable. Sadly for along time now, the only people that seem to be in pain, have had very little political influence. I hope these turbulent times will change that. Our next visionary leadership is much more likely to come from an inner city, than an ivory tower in Queens.

    1
  30. Kathy says:

    The one bright spot I see is that the GOP caters largely to white Christians, while actively excluding others*. The Democrats cater to everyone, including white Christians (or is there some religious test for subsidized health insurance, or a religious exception for a higher minimum wage?)

    Since white Christians are a declining demographic, the arc of history will bend in their direction, not as slowly as it does towards justice.

    * Often the GOP resorts to tokenism, moral licensing, and play-acting to court support from minorities. But they offer little to the large portion of the population who are not rich, white, or Christian fundamentalist.

  31. @ImProPer:

    The greatest designed democratic system would not make anymore headway, than what we currently have now.

    I have to point out that any other method used to elect a president used in the world today would not have produced Trump as president.

    And for all its problems, any other GOP president would have governed better than he has.

    I think we need not to lose sight of those facts.

    9
  32. Modulo Myself says:

    Post 9/11 was really when conservative alternate reality erupted. There were so many defenses of the mass number of Americans who believed that Saddam was behind the attacks or WMD were found after the invasion and it was all kind of done in the way that we defend good people who support terrible things. And it’s true: you can defend people who opposed civil rights in 1955 by saying that you–in the present–can’t say what you would have done. You were not there, after all. But conservatives just switched 1955 to now and said you can’t judge anybody who believes in lies and in fact the real problem is the elitist who was there and made the right choice.

    It was a watershed moment and they’ve never looked back.

    3
  33. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m inclined to think this as well. We’ve always had gifted polemicist like Rush Limbaugh. But we’ve created a cottage industry of them. And such a deluge of media infotainment options that we can choose our own facts. I think Twitter, Facebook, algorithms, etc exacerbate this. It not a full explanation but it’s a significant part of one.

    5
  34. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: Mostly I’m talking about the so-called ‘cancel culture’ but it’s more than that. It’s a variant of what happened with Gingrich and company: it makes compromise and even conversation next to impossible.

    2
  35. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    For many atheists that I’ve met over the years, the only religion is Christianity. At least the only one that matters. Hmmmm…

    As a rule of thumb, the Jewish Atheists are much more easygoing than the Christian Atheists. The version of God they don’t believe in is a version that so many people don’t believe in that they don’t get defensive.

    1
  36. inhumans99 says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think you meant to say the GOP used to have gifted polemicist’s like Limbaugh but I would daresay the descriptor gifted no longer is applicable to Limbaugh. Unless calling an accomplished African American woman who is a Senator and now a candidate for Vice President a “Hoe” qualifies you in today’s GOP as someone who is still witty and gifted.

    I remember reading interviews of Rush back in U.S. News & Report (years ago I had a multi-year subscription and read the magazine from cover to cover, one of only a few political magazines I enjoyed as I mostly stuck to subscribing to entertainment/pop culture mags when magazine subscribing was still a thing) and I just think of the words I read on the page that came out of his mouth then and compare them to today…sigh. How the mighty have fallen.

    4
  37. ImProPer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “I have to point out that any other method used to elect a president used in the world today would not have produced Trump as president.”

    I don’t disagree with this at all. He lost the popular vote by a margin that was in the millions. I was pointing towards cultural problems that are currently imo, the biggest threat to our union. Trump is just a particularly putrid symptom of our national malaise. The current state of the new left, doesn’t instill much more faith, with their own brand of crazy. I never thought I would pine for a return of Bill Buckley, to at least have the moral courage to drive out the lunatic fringes, like he did with the birchers.

    “And for all its problems, any other GOP president would have governed better than he has.

    I think we need not to lose sight of those facts.“

    I concur. I work in energy, and I loudly professed more support for Jill Stein, to my legions of Trump infatuated co-workers during the last election. Hell a monkey slinging feces would be an upgrade at this point.

    1
  38. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: People drop by and accuse us of being an echo chamber, so I’ll critique your point from the other side. Yes, as others say, you’re thinking Christian, and a subset of Christian. But given the subject is US culture and politics, I don’t see that as a invalid.

    I tend to see “conservatism” as a mental quirk. There is no set of policies or beliefs that is consistent with “conservative” over time and geography. A Russian conservative in 1980 would support atheistic communism. And I see that conservative mind set as very much a religious mindset, whether the individual is overtly religious or not. It seeks certainty. It seeks affirmation. It eschews cause and effect for simple morality. God will make us prosperous if we believe. The invisible hand will eliminate the deficit if we cut taxes.

    I would not say you’ve over generalized from Christianity to religion generally, I would say you should include conservatism itself as a religion. Another version of magical thinking.

    4
  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Is there a picture credit available for the picture at the head of the post? Usually, if you hover over the picture you can click and get just the picture with a source credit. That doesn’t seem to be the case for this one. ‘

    Normally, I don’t care, but I’m interested in seeing the title of this one.

    1
  40. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    25% of Trump’s 40% are white evangelicals. I understand that isn’t everyone, but without that core there is no Cult45 and Trump is a game show host. White evangelicals are the Trump base, the numbers are clear. Yes, also racists and incels and various losers, but they’re the 15% and Evangelicals are the 25%, and it’s that 25% that have the money, the organization and the media outlets.

    Except the bulk of the Right Wing Noise Machine isn’t particularly religious.

    There’s no prayer time in Sean Hannity’s show, is there? Rush Limbaugh wasn’t quoting scripture with “Barack the Magic Negro”.

    It’s the fear that someone else is doing better.

    The increasing marginalization of religion in daily life drives the grievance of those who are losing privilege as they are being called upon to tolerate others, but religion itself isn’t the driving factor — it’s the loss of status.

    You create a divide where there isn’t one to reach your conclusion that it’s religion. You think there’s a difference between a scientific mind and a religious mind and that the barista down the street fits into one category or the other.

    Bus drivers are more likely to vote Democratic (I assume… they have good paying union jobs, and that tends to put one in the Dem camp), but they aren’t likely to be much less religious than the community at large, and they aren’t often the scientific geniuses your claims would (if extended further) suggest.

    Meanwhile the folks who discuss race theory and pull out their calipers to measure the broadness of a black guy’s nose to show their inferiority are running in the same lane as a lot of sciencey people — applying observations to things to validate their beliefs stemming from the work of others. (The racist work or racist others, for the most part).

    Social Darwinism didn’t come from religion. Objectivism doesn’t come from religion.

    4
  41. gVOR08 says:

    @Moosebreath: I don’t believe that’s quite true. The Kochtopus, the Wingnut Welfare circuit, whatever you want to call it, drives policy. No taxes, no action on AGW, heavy defense procurement, reduced or thwarted regulation. They could easily come up with an AEI COVID plan, they just don’t care.

    2
  42. charon says:

    @gVOR08:

    They could easily come up with an AEI COVID plan, they just don’t care.

    Ezra Klein disagrees:

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/8/17/21368234/trump-republicans-covid-19-2020-democrats-senate-relief-stimulus-polls

    Discussed at LGM:

    https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2020/08/i-dont-see-any-method-at-all-sir

    Good piece on why the Party of Ideas (TM) cannot establish any kind of COVID response even when it’s sabotaging its own party’s grip on power:

    1
  43. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:
    I don’t think Limbaugh is in the least religious. But he’s fond of reminding his listeners of the power of prayer, so he clearly assumes that religion is important to them, and it’s no skin off his posterior to throw them a sop. It’s good business.

    2
  44. Modulo Myself says:

    I think you meant to say the GOP used to have gifted polemicist’s like Limbaugh but I would daresay the descriptor gifted no longer is applicable to Limbaugh. Unless calling an accomplished African American woman who is a Senator and now a candidate for Vice President a “Hoe” qualifies you in today’s GOP as someone who is still witty and gifted.

    I remember reading interviews of Rush back in U.S. News & Report (years ago I had a multi-year subscription and read the magazine from cover to cover, one of only a few political magazines I enjoyed as I mostly stuck to subscribing to entertainment/pop culture mags when magazine subscribing was still a thing) and I just think of the words I read on the page that came out of his mouth then and compare them to today…sigh. How the mighty have fallen.

    Yeah, it’s a far cry from the guy who called feminists cows and ugly broads and made fun of AIDs victims.

    5
  45. Northerner says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’m intolerant of intolerance, and think punching Nazis is a good thing.

    That’s the zeitgeist of the day. Some think punching Nazis is a good thing. Others think punching communists is a good thing. And the definitions for both are becoming more flexible, making it increasingly easy to justify punching anyone (everyone has done something wrong). And of course, punching back has always been allowed, so punching anyone inevitably has a domino effect.

    Its a time where many people think it’d be fun to live in a post-apocalyptic world — Mad Max or zombies. I’m starting to think that’s what’s driving things right now, enough people want to destroy the system and start over (for different reasons and in different directions) that it might even happen.

  46. Mister Bluster says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:..picture credit
    Bottom right corner of image on this page looks like it says Norman Rockwell.
    Never heard of him…

    1
  47. Gustopher says:

    @Northerner: I’m ok with deplatforming them, rather than literally punching them.

    Does any good come from an open debate of ideas with Nazis? Or are you simply giving them a platform, and creating the impression that Nazism is just another perfectly reasonable point of view that we should consider?

    Before you answer, think about global warming. Did teaching the controversy and giving global warming deniers a seat at the table work out well for us over the past twenty years? And by us, I mean humanity.

    To get treated with respect (not being punched in the face, literally or metaphorically), people have to meet a few basic criteria:
    1. Argue in good faith, most of the time
    2. Listen
    3. Recognize that we are all part of society and that compromises must be made.
    4. Not want to kill the Jews.

    That doesn’t seem like a big ask. But apparently it is.

    9/11 Truthers and QAnon fail on 1, 2 and often 3. Nazis fail on 3 and 4.

    9
  48. Teve says:

    @James Joyner:

    James Joyner says:
    Monday, August 17, 2020 at 16:17
    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m inclined to think this as well. We’ve always had gifted polemicist like Rush Limbaugh. But we’ve created a cottage industry of them. And such a deluge of media infotainment options that we can choose our own facts. I think Twitter, Facebook, algorithms, etc exacerbate this. It not a full explanation but it’s a significant part of one.

    I read the other day that an early tv show young Rob Lowe was on that was last in the ratings and failed spectacularly had more viewers than the most successful sitcom today. That’s how strikingly the numbers have changed.

    2
  49. Mister Bluster says:

    @Gustopher:..Does any good come from an open debate of ideas with Nazis?

    Seems like I read in a history book that from 1941 to 1945 it was the Official Policy of The United States Government to kill as many Nazis as we could. I guess we had to stop doing that when Germany surrendered.

    2
  50. Teve says:

    For many atheists that I’ve met over the years, the only religion is Christianity. At least the only one that matters. Hmmmm…

    I would think that’s because you met them in America, and in America the religious supremacy is Christian.

    3
  51. Mister Bluster says:

    @inhumans99:..just think of the words I read on the page that came out of his mouth then

    Rush Limbaugh has been a lying gasbag at least since his radio broadcast was syndicated, late 1980s.
    I was listening to him one time when he was going on about how he had voted in New York. I believe it was a primary election.
    A caller accused him of lying about voting in that election. “Rush you did not vote in that election and I can prove it!”
    “I did too vote in the election!” he bellowed
    “No you did not.”
    “What do you mean you can prove it?” he said.
    The caller stated “When you vote in an election in New York you have to sign a card to prevent voter fraud. That card is a matter of public record. I checked your card and it was not signed!”
    “What? You have to sign a card to vote in New York?”
    He was caught red handed. He could not deny that he had not voted. Instead of taking any responsibility for his LIE he tried to blame the New York State voting laws.
    I figured if he would lie about voting in an election that HE WOULD LIE ABOUT ANYTHING! I have had no use for him since.

    4
  52. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m inclined to think this as well. We’ve always had gifted polemicist like Rush Limbaugh. But we’ve created a cottage industry of them. And such a deluge of media infotainment options that we can choose our own facts. I think Twitter, Facebook, algorithms, etc exacerbate this. It not a full explanation but it’s a significant part of one.

    I think you’ll find that several of your regular commenters have been shouting this from the rooftops for a year or more, only to be told by you and Dr. Taylor that partisanship and other explanations were more salient. Congratulations on catching up, at last.

    5
  53. rachel says:

    @gVOR08:

    I would not say you’ve over generalized from Christianity to religion generally, I would say you should include conservatism itself as a religion. Another version of magical thinking.

    I think of it as the religion of “The Way Things Ought to Be.”

  54. R. Dave says:

    @Gustopher:Did teaching the controversy and giving global warming deniers a seat at the table work out well for us over the past twenty years? And by us, I mean humanity.

    You’re presuming that the people you agree with are the ones deciding who gets a seat at the table. Flip it around so the climate change deniers are the ones making the call and ask yourself again whether an open-table approach to public policy debate is good for humanity.

  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: Missed the signature. Did the bottom corner tell you the name of the work, too? That’s what I really wanted to know. I figured NR from the style. Although I am an ignint cracker, I did take some art classes in university. Taught some art, too. 🙁

    ETA: At the risk of repeating myself, “Normally, I don’t care, but I’m interested in seeing the title of this one.”

  56. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    You could check at http://www.nrm.org, the Norman Rocckwell Museum, and see if they know.

  57. SKI says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Never heard of him…

    Please tell me you are joking….

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: It is Normal Rockwell. The pointing is part of the “Four Freedoms” Series and is entitled “Freedom of Speech”

  58. James Joyner says:

    @inhumans99: I haven’t listened to Rush in more than a decade and, even at the height of my conservative talk-listening days, thought Hannity and Carlson were lightweights. In the 1990s, Limbaugh was appealing to conservative political junkies. Now, the genre seems aimed at the less-informed.

  59. SKI says:

    @Michael Reynolds:Except it further the inaccurate and harmful presumption that all religions are like Christianity.

    Far too many people presume that Judaism is just Christianity without Jesus or Islam is Christianity plus Mohammed or Buddhism or Taoism are anything like Christianity. None are close to correct.
    @Moosebreath:

    The problem is that not all denominations of Christianity approach these issues in the same way (unless you want to argue that Quakers, Episcopalians, etc. are not really Christian, in which case you are going into Rod Dreher territory).

    Yeah, you aren’t getting what I’m saying. All of those versions of Christianity share the same basic structure in terms of approach to faith and belief – something that other religions don’t. I’m not talking about specific political or theological beliefs but basic worldview.

    From what I have seen, all countries where religious conservatives have an outsized role in politics (whether Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Christian) share many of the same issues.

    Don’t confuse human-authoritarian issues that also occur in countries that don’t have any significant religious role, with religious worldview issues.

    There are secular abusers and authoritarians too.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    For many atheists that I’ve met over the years, the only religion is Christianity. At least the only one that matters. Hmmmm…

    Yup. The get flummoxed when its pointed out that, despite their professed atheism, they have very much adopted a Christianist worldview.

    1
  60. James Joyner says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: It’s a variant of Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech” painting.

  61. James Joyner says:

    @DrDaveT: I’m not sure I understand your complaint here. I’ve been writing about the problems of conservative infotainment for more than a decade. That doesn’t render partisanship less salient. Indeed, it reinforces partisanship.

    1
  62. Mister Bluster says:

    @SKI:..Please tell me you are joking….

    I am joking.

    I did get a thumbs up for that comment.
    Ever since the elimination of “thumbs down” when it seemed like many comments were arbitrarily dnvoted there have been several times when comments get random upvotes.
    This is my casual observation. Not intended be a scientific survey.

  63. SKI says:

    @Gustopher:

    As a rule of thumb, the Jewish Atheists are much more easygoing than the Christian Atheists. The version of God they don’t believe in is a version that so many people don’t believe in that they don’t get defensive.

    Part of the difference is that you can be an observant Jew and also an atheist. Judaism, contra Christianity, is not defined by, or restricted to, those with “faith”.

    The Machzor (prayer book for the High Holidays) in the synagogue I grew up in had a story I used to read every year about a Jew in France who came to his Rabbi very worried because he didn’t think he believed in God. The Rabbi asked him why it mattered and he answered something along the lines of if God doesn’t exist, than what is the meaning behind the commandments, the holidays, the Torah. The Rabbi repeatedly pressed him as to why any of that matters to him. He ultimately exploded in frustration that he was a Jew and how could that stuff not matter! To which the Rabbi replied, if that is why it matters to you, then don’t worry, you are fine regardless of whether or not you believe in God or even whether God exists.

    3
  64. @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure I understand your complaint here. I’ve been writing about the problems of conservative infotainment for more than a decade. That doesn’t render partisanship less salient. Indeed, it reinforces partisanship.

    Same.

  65. Northerner says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’ve no problem with deplatforming Nazi’s. Very different than punching them (and the inevitable retaliation and retaliation against retaliation etc), and I think with much better results.

    Climate change is a different matter. I’d say its obviously happening, and I’d put the deniers in the same category as moon landing hoaxers and 911 truthers. Its a waste of time to talk to them for the most part.

    However, climate change is still a scientific study, and I think it’d be dangerous to ban anyone from publishing research that suggests its not happening (as opposed to having referees decide that the paper is faulty). If someone came up with a well researched or modelled study that suggests it might not be anthropogenic then there’s no reason not to stop it being published — that’s how science advances. I’ll add that from what I’ve read, the deniers aren’t doing that (ie they’re not presenting well researched papers).

    There have been too many times we’ve been absolutely sure of something scientifically that turned out to be wrong (most famously, Lord Kelvin saying that Newtonian physics/Maxwell’s equations had solved almost everything, with just two small clouds on the horizon — black body radiation and the results of Michelson-Morely’s experiment — which led to quantum mechanics and relativity and showed the very settled Newton’s equations were very limited).

    Science is never settled. However, that doesn’t mean publishing every crackpot theory out there (which right now is what climate denying is), but it does mean not banning it outright.

    2
  66. Jay L Gischer says:

    I’m not the biggest comic book expert, but I date the beginning of comics’ Iron Age with the publication of Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” in 1986. The Iron Age featured art that was richer because of better printing processes (ushered in by digital publishing), but it also featured a different moral universe than the “four color” heroes of the 50’s and 60’s. In this universe, in order to do good, you had to adopt the tactics – at least some times – of the bad guys.

    You had to be bad in order to do good. This idea pushed its way into the mainstream in pretty much every corner, and I think it’s infusing our politics now. It’s remarkable to me that the very people I would expect to be most resistant to it – evangelical Christians and Catholics – seem to have embraced it with Trump. “We know he’s bad, but he’s bad for us, and we need the help”, is a paraphrase of what they will say about him.

    This is the opposite of what I learned in Sunday School.

    In terms of cultural output such as films and comics, we’ve left the Iron Age behind, and most younger people think of it as a tired cliche. I think, for instance, Guardians of the Galaxy, inserted a stake in its heart, and Thor: Ragnarok drove that stake home. Dudley Dooright (the movie) lampooned the Iron Age so brilliantly when Dudley, who started as a parody of four-color heroism, ends up out-badding Snidely Whiplash. “No Whip, I’m wearing black. You’re wearing dark blue”.

    You can either be a person who increases suffering or a person who decreases suffering. The first is easier than the second. When good defeats evil, it usually doesn’t look like the Battle of Pellinor Fields. It usually is much more like a simple fresh wind on a sunny day.

    I feel like we’ve forgotten that, and the people who should hold this the most dearly have abandoned it.

    2
  67. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @SKI: @James Joyner:Thank you. That was what I’d been hoping for as an answer before some old boomer implied that I’d be too stupid to recognize a Norman Rockwell painting/illustration.

    @Mister Bluster: Or were you saying it outright? (Yes, I AM being touchy. There’s something about you that brings that out in me. Your right to do, of course, just getting it out in the open where I can see it.)

  68. Mister Bluster says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:..before some old boomer implied that I’d be too stupid to recognize a Norman Rockwell painting/illustration.

    I wasn’t sure that it was a Rockwell until I saw the signature in the bottom right corner. Then it was difficult to read. So I still did not know. I took your inquiry about picture credit as asking about the name of the artist.
    My admittedly sarcastic remark “never heard of him” was addressed to the entire universe.
    I am sure you are as intelligent as your handle would have us all believe.

  69. al Ameda says:

    @James Joyner:

    I haven’t listened to Rush in more than a decade and, even at the height of my conservative talk-listening days, thought Hannity and Carlson were lightweights. In the 1990s, Limbaugh was appealing to conservative political junkies. Now, the genre seems aimed at the less-informed.

    One thing we do know is that the ‘Media Market’ values the Conservative Opinionista very highly. Not sure what the exact most recent figures are but, as of 2018 or so, the following annual numbers were out there:

    $84M Limbaugh, $36M Hannity, $15M Ingraham, $6M Carlson, $6M Dobbs
    By contrast: $10M Brian Williams, $8M Joe Scarborough, $7M RMaddow, $5M L O’Donnell

    1
  70. inhumans99 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    You are not replying to a Limbaugh Ditto head (yes, I know what his fans are called and I believe he used to have a tv show), but in-between the stupid stuff he said 20-30 years back he absolutely had some pretty sharp observations to make about the human condition/body politic back in the day. Of course, for the past 10-15 years, people just think of Rush as that guy who got addicted to drugs, came down with cancer, and instead of flexing the shart/pointed wit he used to occasionally display in the past he now calls a woman a hoe to get a cheap laugh.

    I have not seen any flashes of brilliance radiate from Limbaugh in such a long time that it is not even funny.

  71. Mister Bluster says:

    Besides being a proven liar, I think of Rush Limbaugh as the guy who coined the term feminazi at least 30 years ago.
    I didn’t have any use for him then. Don’t have any use for him now.

    2
  72. Kurtz says:

    @inhumans99:

    instead of flexing the shart

    Freudian slip?

  73. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m not sure I understand your complaint here.

    I’ve noticed that.

    I’ve been writing about the problems of conservative infotainment for more than a decade. That doesn’t render partisanship less salient. Indeed, it reinforces partisanship.

    In my opinion, you have entirely muddled cause and effect in your analysis. I’m tired of trying to explain it; maybe one of the people who upvoted my earlier comment could take a stab at it.