Delusions of a failed democracy

Posted from http://northcountrypublicradio.org/

One of the things I admire most about America’s conservative movement is its longstanding commitment to democratic action.

Many progressives complain about the last two decades of Republican dominance — in Washington, in many state capitals, and in the media.

But those center-right gains came in large part thanks to grassroots activism, relentless organizing, and devout commitment to some core ideas.

Which is why recent trends within the GOP (and conservative groups allied with the GOP) are so troubling.

While many Republicans accept recent Democratic gains for what they are — evidence of their own shortcomings and the natural give-and-take of a healthy democracy — a growing number of conservatives are raising the specter of conspiracy.

– Some Republicans have continued to hint that Barack Obama may not be an American, pointing to discredited claims about the authenticity of his birth certificate. Others continue to suggest that he may be a closeted Muslim.

-Conservatives have continued to suggest that progressive ideas (about the economy and foreign policy) are foreign or “European,” implying that they reflect an external threat to our society.

(This point is ludicrous for two reasons. First, because progressivism has a long history in American politics; second because conservatives rely on foreigners for many of their core ideas.)

-Pundits like Fox’s Glenn Beck continue to talk about “losing” their country and feeling “surrounded” by liberals.

Beck suggested recently that “political correctness” led to the recent shooting rampage in Alabama.

“But as I’m listening to him [the mass-murderer], I’m thinking about the American people who feel disenfrachised right now,” Beck said in an interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly.

-Similarly, conservatives have staged anti-big government “tea parties,” suggesting that their struggles are akin to those of the American colonists, who suffered taxation “without representation.”

-A growing number of conservatives, including Rep. Ron Paul, have suggested that the Obama administration is part of the “Bilderberger” conspiracy, which aims to subvert American democracy and replace it with a world government.

-Many Republicans have suggested that widespread voter fraud essentially discredits the last two election cycles, pointing to the activism of groups such as ACORN. These claims have been thoroughly debunked.

Yes, voter fraud occurs. No, it does not occur on a scale that tips elections.

-Finally, conservatives insist that their ideas have been discounted wholesale by a biased mainstream media. This claim ignores the existence of Fox News, the conservative dominance of talk radio, and the powerful influence of conservative newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal.

The reality, of course, is that America just held an election, in which the candidates were given an exhaustive hearing by the media and fair treatment at the ballot box.

Americans should be proud of the fact that we are represented by the most stable, durable, and credible democratic systems every created.

(Our political system is far more fair, transparent, and honest that it was even a couple of decades ago.)

That system will eventually produce more conservative leadership. (And, cyclically, those conservative governments will also give way to future progressive governments.)

But the revitalization of the Republican Party won’t be helped or hastened by Chicken Littles, who claim that their failures at the ballot box are the product of secret cabals or shadowy conspiracies.

posted by Brian Mann @ 3/15/2009 10:29:00 AM

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