THE ENEMY OF MY FRIEND

Throwing the FBI under the bus – Amusingly, without any reference to the fact that during the election the FBI *twice* made public statements about investigating one campaign while granting the Senate Majority Leader's request to keep secret that the other campaign was also under investigation, and for something far worse – is nothing new for the American "conservative." While going after law enforcement may be a step further than they usually go (That subjective point is not worth trying to resolve, for what it's worth) it's just the latest in a trend that began decades ago when conservatism in the U.S. branched off from any meaningful historical definition of the term.

Watching the 1980 GOP convention with bemused horror, British conservative Henry Fairlie observed:

Just as Americans in general do not have the habits of deference, so the conservative in American does not have them either. Ultimately he does not defer even to the country's institutions. If one of these institutions, such as the Supreme Court, makes decisions he detests, he will defame that institution. He is as ready as is the common man to bypass the institutions he ought to defend (…)

Ungoverned and unfree and so in the end ungovernable; this is exactly what Ortega foretold in the coming of the common man; and it is what the conservative in America seems to have no resource to resist. No traditions to which to appeal; no habit of deference to authority; no patience with the bridle of institutions.

Europe shudders today, not so much at the three men who have merged this year as candidates, as at the political illiteracy of the popular voice which has chosen them, the American they most fear. The politicians will come and go, and do less good ad harm than is supposed, but what of the people who chose them?

The America which Europe fears is the America of the Reaganites. The America once of the Scopes trial; the America of prohibition; the America of ignorant isolationism. The America then of "better dead than red"; the America of McCarthyism; the America of the last fundamentalists of the 1950s. The America now of the new evangelicals; the America of the Moral Majority; the America of a now ignorant interventionism; the America which can see homosexuals as a conspiracy; feminists as a conspiracy; perhaps even women as a conspiracy. The America of fear. For it is fear that the ungoverned and the unfree are doomed to live. And there was this America in control at Detroit.

It is time that we reminded ourselves, and said aloud and more often, that it is from these people that nastiness comes. It is time that we pointed out to the neo-conservatives that democracy has never been subverted from the left but always from the right. No democracy has fallen to communism, without an army; many democracies have fallen to fascism, from within.

The whole intellectual tradition of conservatism is rooted in defending the institutions of society. Those institutions will be imperfect and will produce outcomes you are likely to find inconvenient, unpleasant, or misguided at times. Yet the consequences of sowing distrust in these institutions are far too great to contemplate and certainly dwarf the short-term pain of, say, losing an election or enduring an unfavorable Supreme Court decision. Compare, for example, the chaos caused by the belief that everything the media reports is a lie to the consequences of one incorrect news report, subsequently corrected.

At some point the people who call themselves conservatives in the United States decided that absorbing short-term losses of any kind was unacceptable and the better strategy moving forward was to set everything on fire and reconstruct reality to their own preferences. I think that point was the rise to power within the House of Newt Gingrich, but as Fairlie suggests the seed was already germinating long previously.

The strategy has, for the most part, worked. That is why the problems we face as a society today seem so insurmountable. There is no one and nothing that cannot be undermined and discredited for short-term gain: the media, the courts, elections, Congress, the White House, public opinion itself, and even law enforcement (to which right-wing obsequiousness is legendary) can readily be thrown under the bus and shit upon. And institutions are being redefined as "trustworthy, but only when We control them" leads nowhere good. It is a paradigm shift that is likely to define politics in this country for the foreseeable future, and cause for the most primal kind of pessimism.

I'm not saying "Don't try," but instead that the kinds of things many people seem to believe will solve our current problems – electing some Democrats to the House, defeating Trump in 2020, etc. – are more likely to be incremental benefits. They will help, but are only one small step toward undoing the damage done in the first two decades of this century. I fully expect that in 2050 we will still be working to fix this mess, and struggling to control the historical narrative surrounding it to a new generation of 20-somethings who will live in a half-nutty world that seems utterly normal to them.

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32 Responses to “THE ENEMY OF MY FRIEND”

  1. democommie Says:

    Ed:

    The way to fix ANY problem in this country is to put young, able people on the street to work the neighborhoods–well, the other way is not open anymore. I think that a lot of whatever money the dems were getting from Kochsuckerbroz and the like is gonna be less, going forward.

  2. anotherbozo Says:

    The trashing of institutions, if both the press and the FBI can be included within that broad designation, seems just a natural extension of the trashing of candidates, begun circa Reagan, when Republicans discovered that it was much easier to successfully trash one's opponent than to argue for one's own programs. People respond to sleaze, want to believe scandal. Intellectuals and Joe Sixpack both enjoy feeling cynical about politics, and smearing those with the effrontery to run for public office became great sport before smearing everything else took off. Self-fulfilling prophecy, much?

  3. Mikey Says:

    The grand finale of the game we have been engaged in since FDR. Capital is pushing back till we all go over the cliff.

  4. Judas Peckerwood Says:

    "I fully expect that in 2050 we will still be working to fix this mess…"

    You wacky optimist, thinking that there will be anything left to save by then.

  5. joel hanes Says:

    in 2050 we

    In 2050, you.

    I will not live long enough to see even a good beginning at fixing things.
    The US will be traif for the rest of my life.
    Thanks, Republicans !

  6. Procopius Says:

    Clearly, you have me confused with somebody who gives a … No, I was in high school during the McCarthy years, I'm old enough to remember. I remember the Old Queen. I remember anti-communism. I remember COINTELPRO. I have been aware of how much their "fighting terrorism" has been entrapping mentally challenged people into following their demands. Don't ask me to be upset because the fscking conservatives are trashing the FBI. The FBI are not heroes and they aren't angels and much of the time they are corrupt. I am fully ready to believe they lied to the FISC, and the FISC exists to rubber-stamp that kind of lies. I don't need a fainting couch to believe the memo, an I'm fully aware of how corrupt the memo itself is. This is just more stupid Russiagate and I'm sick of it.

  7. Brutus Says:

    The whole intellectual tradition of conservatism is rooted in defending the institutions of society. Those institutions will be imperfect and will produce outcomes you are likely to find inconvenient, unpleasant, or misguided at times. Yet the consequences of sowing distrust in these institutions are far too great to contemplate and certainly dwarf the short-term pain

    This! Sometimes I think that, to put the brakes on disorienting technological change and resulting social chaos, I could go for some old-school conservatism. However, new conservatism (1980s) is as awful as the New Democrats (1990s), both obsessed with holding power rather than serving the public and improving life in these United States for anyone but themselves. The result for several decades has been dysfunctional government.

    From a broader perspective, the embrace of ideology over reality is part of a larger, mostly unacknowledged, attack on Enlightenment values that even in Nietszche’s era (1870s and 80s) was recognized as a fundamental collapse of faith and morality following the purported death of god. Fervent desire to return somehow to a faith-based epistemology requires denunciation and invalidation of the fact-based worldview of secular science and rationalism. Thus, your own personal truths as distinguished from consensus reality.

    The paradigm shift in the Republican party is at least as much about engineering failure so as to then point and say, “see, we told you” as setting everything on fire only to reconstruct reality to their own preferences. That’s why government is shut down and held hostage periodically. It proves government incompetence but never solves anything.

  8. Major Kong Says:

    The GOP is starting to remind me of the Communists more and more.

    Party over country.
    Power at all cost.
    Ideological purity tests.
    Constant propaganda.
    Loyalty to Dear Leader above all else.

  9. Aurora S Says:

    @Brutus—

    Since when has any political party EVER not cared primarily about retaining power? Like, in the history of the world? It’s always been about the Game of Thrones, man. There were never any good ol’ days where people sacrificed themselves on the cross of Public Servitude; it has always always ALWAYS been about the riches and the glory and the legacy.

  10. c u n d gulag Says:

    The damage done, was done long, long ago.
    Much earlier than in the past few decades.

    It started with the conservative's secret admiration for Lenin, Stalin, Benito, and yes, Hitler.
    Then Central and South American dictators, Mao, and Pol Pot.
    Conservatives LOVE Authoritarian leaders!

    And the damage conservatives have done in the past 5+ decades – with FOX, Rush and other Reich Wing squawk radio yakkers, and Op-ed scribblers – is far, far greater than ALL of the "Fifth Columnists" they were so fearful of for decades, could have dreamed of:
    COMBINED!

    The Barbarians aren't at the gate.
    No.
    They're inside.
    And the cancer they have is spreading.
    A fatal cancer………

  11. jcdenton Says:

    There are some seriously inaccurate claims so far about what the GOP admires and how the GOP functions:

    – The claim that the GOP has always secretly admired Soviet leaders is (apart from Bannon's very limited personal admiration for Lenin's tactics) pretty nonsense on the whole of it. The GOP has always been in the solidly fascist camp and most of their politics emerge on the back of the entrenched right-wing reaction of the Cold War (Contras, Gladio, Pinochet, etc). The GOP is highly collaborationist with capitalists and racists of all sorts, which is kind of the hallmark of fascists.

    – The claim that the GOP is loyal to party and leader above all else is also pretty shallow. The GOP more or less despises Trump and couldn't give a shit about the party except insofar as it allows them to make bank (this is partially consistent with their fascism as a tool first and foremost of personal enrichment). Their real loyalties lie to their capitalist donors, which is evidenced by their desperate need to pass the 1.4 trillion dollar tax cut (after gutting Obamacare failed), the targets of those tax cuts (themselves and their capitalist donors) and their behaviour afterwards (many of them have collected their cash and bailed out of politics).

    The GOP's autocracy isn't designed to establish an adoration of the masses or carry out any serious ideological program (with a few exceptions like Bannon and Miller), it's designed to make them and their capitalist donors even more wealthy (while carrying through some religious and racist goals).

  12. Ray Gergen Says:

    What in heaven's name ever made anyone think that modern movement "conservatism" is conservative, democratic, patriotic, or even American? Did the "conservatives tell you so?
    Nearly every action of the GOP over the last 75 years has shown a trend towards the one thing
    they truly believe in: authoritarianism.

  13. Mark H Says:

    I've been thinking for some time that we need to come up with a new word for 'conservative', because whatever has evolved out of the 'conservative party' is certainly not conservative.

    Whenever I see that word, of course I think of Princess Bride, as in, "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

    Anti-women/science/environment/government/rational thinking seems like a completely different animal to me. It's a sickness and it's getting worse.

  14. Ten Bears Says:

    Might have to stock up on monkey wrenches.

  15. Mo Says:

    a new word for conservative?

    REACTIONARY.

    AUTHORITARIAN.

    CORPORATE RUNNING DOG is probably too long.

  16. democommie Says:

    @ MO:

    Those are all good, I'll prolly stay with:

    "Fucking ASSHOLES!".

  17. Nunya Says:

    Trust in virtually any instition has been erroding for 40 years. We don't believe in experts but trust our own limited knowledge or listen to our inner circles. The GOP has done a marvelous job of proving that government can't accomplish anything by destroying its ability to function.

  18. Ekim Says:

    Yep, they've been in bed with dictators for decades. Not that the Democrats have been much better, but the Republicans are oh-so-cosy with the Pinochets, the Somosas, even the Iraqi Hussein (until he betrayed the Bastard's Oath – Thou Shall Repect The Biggest Bastard On The Block.)

    I think the problem started, though, with the Reagan administration, and has gone on from then – and this is speaking for someone who voted for Ronnie in 1984. (I take sole responsibility for my error, although I will plead I was in the military-industrial complex at the time. I was enlisted in the USMC in 1984 and did not attempt to gather sufficient information to change my mind.)

    Nixon resigned in disgrace, but the Republicans learned all the wrong lessons by the time Reagan took office. They learned that to be corrupt is OK, but you've got to be adamant with the cover-up, and smother every brush fire with as much crap as possible. Nixon's fault was that he was took responsibility in the end by resigning! To the GOP, that's anathema!You can never do that!

    The election of Dan Quayle taught the GOP that it doesn't even matter who is on the ticket – even a complete buttmunch can get elected if the base can be steered enough to like him or at least accept him as one of their own. Hence the precedent for sub-mental meatballs like George Bush The Lesser and Trump.

    Newt Gingrich really started the ball rolling though – you can be as hypocritical as you want, be on the take from a dozen different ne'er-do-wells and divorce and marry like a Saudi sheikh if you want, as long as you accuse your opponent is doing what you do and worse, as long as you are better at covering it up.

    The number of GOP Reps and Senators who "are choosing not to run again" is telling – effectively, they are resigning by not resigning, but just letting the clock run out so we won't go after them as hard when it does. They are still loyal corporate-state pricks, because they're not rocking the boat on their way off. Although you could have knocked me over with a feather when "Boy Howdy" Trey Gowdy decided to leave Congress, he still hasn't added his voice to those few Republicans who are supporting the investigation right now.

  19. lugnutism Says:

    @Procopius – bugger off bothsiderist. Have you ever considered the possibility that
    1) The Trump campaign (and later the GOP leadership) colluded with foreign actors in the past few years
    AND
    2) The FBI is a tool of political retribution and suppression, just as it's pretty much always been?
    Why can't both these things be true?
    After all, the Comey Memo/October Surprise was clearly a factor in swinging the election, but Comey himself at least had the pretense of morality to not swear personal loyalty to Prez. Annoying Orange.

    If "Russiagate" isn't a thing, then why is Prez. Tangerini not enforcing the new sanctions (CAASTA) against Russia, despite overwhelming bipartisan consensus? Why was his campaign's only suggestion for changing the party platform in 2016 a relaxing of sanctions? Why does Prez. Pornstardiddler trust Putin over basically everyone he's not related to? WTF?!?

  20. Bernard Says:

    The Republicans are evil personified. lol. Chomsky called the Republicans the
    "Greatest Evil" alive today. and the Vichy Democrats/Blue Dogs help as much as they can for their "share" of the looting.

    Trump is quietly dismantling all the safe guards in the air, water and selling off Monument Lands to Private Companies. Selling Public goods to Private Companies. that is designed to screw us from the getgo.

    Trump is a noisy Frankenstein, and therefore better at setting the Agenda. and embedding the Republican Way into everyone's lives. Trickle Down sickness. While we are watching Russiagate, False Missile Alarms show who is not in Control, Crooks, here, Lobbyist there. Revolving Doors ensure Money and Profit follow. Meanwhile Trump's Secretaries, Housing, EPA, NASA, FEMA, all "nonessentials" to Businessmen, are being sold, pieces of the American Dream for PROFIT to the Businesses they used to be CEO for. why not have Business serve up Government instead of drowning in the Bathtub. More Profit,Win Win.

    Republicans know only how to win. and they intend to win and finish off what they came for. Make a Quick Buck retire to Paradise and leave the mess to the Working Class pay for, as is the American Way.

    The Powell Memo outlined how the US Chamber of Commerce would direct the conversation they didn't like back in the 60's and 70's.
    those DFHs had to be shut. Mostly how to take over and lead Americans into a better world. better than those damn hippies and anti war and all those "Movements" threatening corporate profits. laws to prevent pollution, bribery and all those "nasty" government laws Conservatives hate interfering with their bottom line. The Profit Report.

    Fascinating to see how well the Republicans bought everybody out.
    The Madmen weren't just selling us clothes, sex or designs, they were selling us out to the MIC. As Eisenhower first decried and then sold out to.

    The Powell Memo from Supreme Court Justice Powell told business how to get it's act together and "win" through "lobbying". aka Congress for sale. and it worked so well, and it works today even more better. spreading the Wealth to the True Believers, austerity for the rest.

    Divide and Conquer, have a War on Drugs/Americans so the Police can keep "control".

    and We have ALEX members like Kris Kobach of Kansas, writing the laws for local Governments they now own lock stock and barrel and assured by Republican gerrymandering. Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and the rest, lol. Art Pope bought North Carolina, fair and square. then they redistricted/gerrymandered so he couldn't lose.

    And Democrats like Clinton, Collins, et al all sold, lest they lose their donors. I remember reading that right before the Tax Bill passed. Payback for staying in Congress. Greed Wealth Fame Fortune, Inc. and even Bernie follows the War meme. But, hopefully, Bernie may get us Universal Healthcare.

    Austerity for the Working Class, Profits for OUR Fascist/Business Government Corporate owned Overlords.

    America at its' Corporatist Best. Selling out everybody/everything for a Buck. the American Way. lol. Dollar Tree, Dollar General.

    Meanwhile, back in Fly over country.

    It's a club and you're not in it, George Carlin said.

    Republicans are part of a club. the 11th Commandments states there shall be none who speaks ill of the Republican Party or what the exact words Mitch McConnell said. Honest words from the Leader. I never hear anyone debate Republican goals, other than how soon can we get all your MONEY? lol it sounds like the "Reds" and the Soviet Communist Party, so i've heard. lol Either join us or, lol. you lose!

    Same type of people. Crooks and their friends.

  21. Bessemer Mucho Says:

    Please pass the hemlock.

  22. democommie Says:

    Bernard:

    Fuck off, troll.

  23. Tim H. Says:

    A case could be made that The Democratic Party has become the conservative party, The possessed husk of The Republican Party having gone so far around the bend, they can no longer see it. Bear in mind that while incrementalism is a valid approach, the appeal is subtle and easily overwhelmed by flashy presentations.

  24. Major Kong Says:

    The Democrats are like the Weimar Republic.

    Timid, ineffective, torn by factions, and infinitely preferable to what took over from them.

  25. democommie Says:

    @ Major Kong:

    Yup. And it all started the day after WWII was over.

  26. Ten Bears Says:

    The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, but is someone I can work with.

    I can not believe that I, a born Outsider on every level, am advocating that we set aside our differences and work to a common goal.

    What could go wrong?

  27. BLOZAR Says:

    Shorter Ed: The 'conservative' strategy is to set everything on fire (including law enforcement) and create a seperate reality. It has and continues to work. Thank's Newt. Electing some Dems will enable incremental changes towards correcting the damage done. The damage is extensive enough that we could still be digging out in 2050 while struggling against conservative efforts to control the historical narrative.

    I believe getting behind a massive push to elect Dems is only step one of what regular folks can do to start repairing our lives and our world. I get the bitter messages coming from the 'purity left' that the Dem establishment is historically complicit in many crimes but I am willing to ignore Lee Camp and his fellow travellers here at G&T in favor of embracing D's and putting one foot in front of the other towards a better future (the alternative is to offer no opposition to the Trumpalo rush into authoritarian nightmare).

    Assuming step one is effective and the GOP lock on government is broken, in my opinion, we cannot afford another 'let the healing begin' hand wave and failure to punish those guilty of 'setting everything on fire' as we saw with Obama's first term. Letting the Bush-era evildoers slink off the stage shouldering sackfuls of plundered loot and into permanent high paying gigs as government contractors, lobbyists, and pundits set us up for their return under Trump. There has to be a dreadful reckoning for the guilty and national catharsis or we will likely be experiencing Trump 2.0 in less than 10 years (this was true of the Reagan administration too).

    Step two is punished the guilty. Redirect our terrible slide towards authoritarianism with a disinfecting purge of evildoers (metaphorically speaking, I prefer prison sentences not guillotines/lamp posts). Yes it will be skirting dangerously close substituting a left-wing terror for the right-wing terror we are headed towards but that is where we are at now, IMO we have to administer a little societal medicine or our country will simply disappear into the fascist shitpile of history.

    Step three will be to rebuild public institutions and collect taxes to pay for the social institutions a worthwhile and great society can provide (where the social contract, public interest, and public good have a positive impact on their lives). The USA had such things before the Reaganites, and Newt, and batshit 'libertarian' #IGotMineFU GOP madness got us to the 'burn it all down'/'drown it in the bathtub' phase of our history we have to get back on track. We have to rebuild.

    Progress might have to be incremental due to the extent of the damage done, but we can get there if we can convince people to work together, to avoid cynicism, and to believe that a society which works to make the lives of citizens better is real and worth supporting.

    The alternative is to give up, to let the Trumpalo racist insanity engulf us, and to meet our end shortly after a loud knock on the door, or to die from neglect/starvation/exposure/radiation poisoning once #PresidentShithole finishes MAGA-ing this place.

  28. democommie Says:

    @ Blozar:

    Far more eloquent than I would be, but, yes.

  29. Jack the Cold Warrior Says:

    Agree with BLOZAR.

    GET OFF OUR BUTTS AND ELECT D's

    PUNISH THE GUILTY

    RE-ESTABLISH SOCIETAL NORMS

    GET OUT THERE AND WORK ON IT

  30. Barry Says:

    Procopius Says:
    " I am fully ready to believe they lied to the FISC, and the FISC exists to rubber-stamp that kind of lies. I don't need a fainting couch to believe the memo, an I'm fully aware of how corrupt the memo itself is. "

    The FBI is going to have all of its ducks in a perfect row when putting GOP political operatives working for a GOP Presidential candidate. F*cking with schmucks is casual; f*cking with Democrats is one small step up.

    But the FBI is, in the end, a right-wing organization. Until things get to the 1% extreme of the radical right, they'll give them the benefit of the doubt, if not actual political interference.

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  32. Bern Says:

    Yeah, tho he might try hooking up with that googly organization – I hear you can make pretty good bank with them…