The Right’s Beseigement Delusion

Ken AshfordObama OppositionLeave a Comment

About a week ago, the Senate easily approved legislation to expand national community service programs.  The bill increased the number of positions to 250,000 from 75,000 and created new cadres of volunteers focused on education, clean energy, health care and veterans.

The House had already easily passed a similar measure, and the president is anxious to sign it into law.

Not too controversial, right?


One prominent right-wing blogger equated the bill to "what they have in Marxist regimes", a phrase he used above a black-and-white photo of Hitler Youth.  (Hitler was Marxist?  Who knew?)

Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin mused that the bill was a "left-wing slush fund".

And Representative Michele Bachmann out-crazied herself.

Bachmann I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.

What the hell?  Re-education camps?

First, there's nothing in the legislation requiring public service. It's about expanding service opportunities for those who choose to pursue them.

Also, the Senate version of the bill passed with bi-partisan votes, 79-19, and was co-sponsored by that well-known Marxist, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.  The House version passed with 275-149 votes, also largely bi-partisan.

So what's this undertone by some on the right that this is some end-of-the-world attack on them and American values?  You see it lots of places and in many forms:  Obama wants to adopt a global currency! He wants young people in government-sponsored re-education camps! He wants to take medical decisions away from doctors and give them to bureaucrats! He's going to impose a tax on every time we flip a light switch!

Kevin Drum addressed this issue this weekend:

My tentative take is that there's an inchoate quality to their fears that's new.  In the past they were fighting against specific things: communism, hippies, Bill Clinton, Islamists, abortion, etc.  But communism is dead, the hippies are grown up, Clinton is off doing good works in Africa, al-Qaeda is pretty quiet, and it's pretty obvious that the culture wars have been lost. They're doing their best to slot Obama into the old Clinton/Gore role, but he just doesn't fit and the media isn't playing along the way they did in the 90s.  So they're stuck.  Who, exactly, is their enemy these days?

I'm not sure they know themselves.  But maybe that makes it worse.  A nuclear-armed USSR may be scary, but at least it's something you can identify.  These days that's a lot harder.  Like a horror movie where you're surrounded on all sides by something you can never quite make out, I guess it seems to them like there's something horrible going on, but it's something so insidious that they're only allowed to catch occasional foggy glimpses of it.  Budget deficits?  Healthcare reform? Top marginal tax rates going back to 39.6%? Negotiations with Iran?  Those aren't things that normally stir the blood.  But what if they're really just stalking horses for something far more malign?

I dunno.  Maybe that's the reason for the apocalyptic tone.  The actual policies that liberals are pursuing aren't that big a deal even by right-wing standards, but if besiegement is your stock in trade then that only means there must be something else going on that you're not being allowed to see.  Because there has to be something, doesn't there?

It seems to me that (some) Republicans simply can't win the political debates on the terms of the debate.  So instead, they make the debate about something else, something which truly doesn't exist in reality.  It is, after all, easier to win on issues when you cast the opposing side of the issue as advocating something apocalyptic.

The downside to this rather delusional tactic is that some people in "middle America" actually believe the rhetoric.  It feeds their paranoia.  And then shit like this happens.