Friday, February 4, 2011

An Elaborate Ruse

When is a call for civility not really a call for civility? When it's actually an elaborate ruse intended to manipulate millions of decent, hard-working Americans. This is according to someone (or something) known as The Right Scoop, who, in a recent article for Hot Air, filled in the details:
The civility narrative that grew legs after the shooting in Arizona is really just a ruse to keep Republicans from calling Democrats what America knows they are – Socialists.

What is really at work here is the Left trying to control the speech of a small group of impressionable people – Republicans.[1] They could care less about how civil the nation is but if they can keep the Republicans from name calling, they end up looking better than they would if Republicans constantly reminded America of their socialist agenda.
Ok, first of all, the call for civility is not a ruse—nor is it a scam, a ploy, or any variety of shuck-and-jive. If there's anything unsavory going on, it's that the call for civility is somewhat undermined by the unfounded belief among those making the call that they don't need to listen, because they're civil enough already. That's about as bad as it gets.

But I'm more interested in the "Democrats don't want us to know they're socialists" stuff, because I've been hearing a lot of that lately. I won't waste time on the question of how, exactly, Obama and the rest of the Democrats are socialists. That's easy—they support things like federal spending to build up the infrastructure, mandatory health insurance, and a progressive tax rate. Clearly, they've taken a few pages from notorious socialists Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and George H. W. Bush.

Oh, right, those three aren't notorious socialists—they're notorious Republicans.[2]

In other words, it doesn't quite compute. If the essence of socialism is that the government has the power to interfere with commerce and tell people what to do, then of course the Democrats are socialists, and so are the Republicans, just to a lesser degree (in theory, if not in practice).

There's nothing earth-shattering about that observation. I'm not the first to make it, and I doubt anyone this side of Sean Hannity would be obstinate enough to disagree. But somehow we've reached the point where, to conservatives, socialist is synonymous with "Democrat," and to liberals, socialist is synomymous with "there go the conservatives again, calling the Democrats a bunch of socialists." How did that happen? Why does the S-word make us think of Democrats, but not Republicans?[3]

As usual, I don't have the answer, but I re-read the article quoted above and noticed something interesting. If the idea of an elaborate ruse intended to distract from the truth seems absurd, it's probably because the theoretical ruse in question requires Democrats to be (a) willing to shamelessly and intentionally exploit a tragedy for political gain, and (b) organized. I won't speculate on which of those is less likely, but I wouldn't bet heavily on either.

But look at what happens when I go through the same excerpts, and, without altering the original structure, change a few key phrases:
The Democrats-are-socialists narrative that grew legs after the election of Obama is really just a ruse to keep people from calling Republicans what America knows they are – also socialists.

What is really at work here is the Right trying to dictate the public's perception of a small group of impressionable people – Democrats. They could care less about how big the government is but if they can keep the "socialist" label squarely on the Democrats, they end up looking better than they would if Americans were constantly reminded of their own socialist agenda too.
It's still the kind of wild conspiracy theory I prefer to avoid, but doesn't my version seem a lot more plausible?

1. Because if there's one thing we know about Republicans, it's that they have weak convictions. I guess that's why they just go along with whatever the Democrats say, without even bothering to put up a fight.
2. That's notorious in the neutral sense (i.e. widely known), not in the negative sense (i.e. widely despised). Except for Nixon.
3. Well, when I put it like that, it probably just makes us think of Sean Connery.

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