A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White
An online poll conducted on the site ConservativeHQ.com earlier this month revealed that an overwhelming majority (91 percent) of conservatives identify our president as belonging to the political legacy of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. The site proclaims that the results of the poll “prov[e] Obama is no garden variety liberal.”
So that’s what passes for proof these days? The sample size was not extremely large (almost 2,600 respondents) and it’s an online “opt-in” poll, severely skewing accuracy purely by the methodology used to attract participants. But also, it’s important to address the message. The motivation for calling the president mean names ranges from the “true believer” category, to people who wish to justify their hatred and sense of loss by manufacturing danger, to ditto-heads — and everything in between.
Still, 91 percent is a lot. You’d be hard-pressed to find 91 percent of Americans who like ice cream, even on IceCreamIsAwesome.com.
Which brings me to the source, in many ways the most interesting thing about this story: Richard Viguerie. Often referred to as the “funding father” of modern conservative strategy in the U.S., Viguerie has since had a long and public falling out with the GOP. These days you’ll find him campaigning for Rep. Ron Paul (L? R?-TX).
Viguerie describes his Web site as “devoted to relauching [sic] the conservative movement,” adding the following:
That’s why ConservativeHQ.com focuses on the real threat to conservative victory: Big-Government Republicans.
Left-wing Democrats aren’t conservatives’ problem; we’ve consistently beaten them — at the polls and in the success of our policies.
The purpose of ConservativeHQ.com is to undo the damage caused by the Republicans who’ve betrayed the conservative cause. ConservativeHQ.com is the only Web site completely devoted to relaunching the conservative movement.
Apparently, though, conservatives aren’t ready to be relaunched. They’re still parroting the same GOP fear tactics and talking points: Obama = Marx, Congressional Democrats = the Politburo.
Worse than that even is the fact that the talking points Viguerie’s readers are parroting in his poll are straight out of the mad ravings of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy. I wonder what the National Council for a New America thinks about that.
Remember back in the good ol’ days when conservatives were content to call us dirty liberals, using the term as if it were a four-letter word, spitting it out in utter disgust on talk shows from sea to shining sea? And it worked! Such labels transformed into insults drove many a liberal into the political closet.
Eh. That was so last decade. Who needs the L-word when you’ve got neo-McCarthyism?
As most on the left are wistfully aware, “liberal” wasn’t always a bad word. Way back in 2006, this blogger looked back to a more reasonable time in the linguistic history of liberalism in American politics:
I can recall the days when Democrats like Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey interacted creatively with Republicans like Everett Dirksen, Charles Hallek, and others. Dirksen, I recall, voted for the progressive 1964 Civil Rights Legislation and was happy to be called a liberal Republican. Not any more.
The writer goes on to note the “pejorative epithets added to liberal: ‘tax-and-spend liberal,’ ‘bleeding-heart liberal,’ ‘liberal do-gooders’” and hopes the recent midterm election victory for the left brings a greater balance between the usage and meanings of liberal and conservative.
Instead, many on the left simply replaced “liberal” with either “Blue Dog” (for those concerned about appearing balanced in a purple state) or “progressive” (for those who aren’t afraid to say that “left is right”). To be fair, there’s been a backlash against the adoption of the term “progressive” (this blogger says she’s proud to be a liberal, calling the progressive label “a cowardly cop-out”). But many (BuzzFlash included) have embraced the word as embodying the energy of liberalism without the baggage, in that liberals essentially hope to progress forward, in contrast to conservatives who wish to remain politically and socially stagnant.
But lefties didn’t really need to get so inventive; the right-wing talking point machine took the liberty of imploding itself, saving liberals the trouble. After a brief and largely unsuccessful attempt at painting then-presidential candidate Barack Obama as the “most liberal member of the Senate,” there came a realization that with the loss of value of right-wing capital, the market price of “liberal” rose higher. Bush had eroded that capital and the more idiotic conservatives looked, the less useful “liberal” was as a put-down.
Some of the 2008 labeling failure had to do with repetition, as well. Much like an overused antibiotic, the efficacy of right wing slings and arrows wore out after awhile, and the GOP had to increase the potency.
Thus the Republican party, always averse to new ideas, resurrected the slur of socialism. Upping the ante quickly over the next few months, the GOP transformed itself into the neo-McCarthyism Party. The evocation of cold war propaganda reached fever pitch when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) suggested Congress investigate liberal members of the media for being unpatriotic, much like you-know-who did in his Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations from 1953 to 1954.
Going back to the poll in question, the real news here is that the right’s hyperventilation is working to a certain extent. Ever since the election, I imagined embarrassed Meghan McCain-type conservatives hiding in the proverbial closet, waiting for Glenn Beck et al. to stop with the footage of Nazi Germany and get down to what really matters (and I only invoke the name of Meghan McCain because the rest of the GOP is too afraid of Cheney to say anything contradictory).
Liberals spent their fair share of time in that closet, but there was a difference. We let conservatives shame us into embarrassment over our labels. This time, conservatives have embarrassed themselves into exile. And while the GOP narrowly rejects officially changing the name of the president’s party to the Democrat Socialist Party, conservatives have little to fear in retaliation. Most of us, whether you want to call us progressives, liberals, or commie pinkos, don’t play that name game because we know that actions speak louder than words.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS