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"We're White, we're scared, we're angry; get used to it!"

That was not, literally, the refrain at the boisterous town hall meetings which dominated the August news coverage. That was, however, the subtext of every rambling, incoherent speech given by a member of what I term the Disillusioned Right.

What is the Disillusioned Right?

The Disillusioned Right is not a group of Republican leaders, conservative business interests, or talk radio pundits. Those groups are out of power legislatively, but remain politically potent, organized, and focused. The Disillusioned Right is comprised of average, middle-class Americans who identify themselves as Conservatives, "first, and foremost."[1]

For eight years the Disillusioned Right was given--by the Disillusioned Opposition--everything its fantastical (neo-con) philosophy promised would solve its problems: never-ending global warfare; unbridled, unregulated Capitalism; massive tax cuts; nearly unfettered executive power; and a retrenchment of religious influence upon an otherwise indifferent government. [2]

What does the Disillusioned Right (and the rest of us) have to show for that? The answer is not much; hence the disillusionment.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a mob is a disorderly or riotous crowd, a rabble; especially groups of people sharing distinctive characteristics or a common identity. Therefore, by definition, The Disillusioned Right is a mob, not a constituency. Constituencies are groups of individuals. A mob is an outgrowth of visceral groupthink. [3]

The three pillars of the Disillusioned Right.

The Disillusioned Right, like any mob, cannot be reasoned with because its objections are not based in reason. It can and must be understood, however; and to understand the Disillusioned Right, it is necessary to examine the subtext of its arguments. There are three basic themes:

Suspension of disbelief

Epitomized by the resurgent "Birthers" who continue to insist the President is not a U.S. citizen. In the face of incontrovertible evidence, the Disillusioned Right insists that 48 years ago a worldwide, multigenerational, intercontinental conspiracy coalesced around the biracial child of estranged parents. There is more evidence for the existence of UFOs.[4]

At a town hall Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) was confronted by a screaming woman who asked, "Why are you people ignoring his birth certificate?"[5] Admirably, Rep. Castle replied unequivocally that the President was a U.S. Citizen.

No Republican Congressman has ever made that mistake again.

For the Disillusioned Right, belief is the only real test of truth; they wish (or pray, if you prefer) for something fervently enough, and it becomes true for them.


In October of 2008, at a McCain-Palin campaign rally, a man held a monkey doll with an Obama campaign sticker taped to its forehead. "This is little Hussein," he said, referring to the doll. "He came to hear truth, and good Americans." He proudly waved it about, eliciting laughter from the assembled McCain-Palin supporters. However, when the man realized news cameras were recording him he hastily foisted the doll off on a child.[6]

Fortunately, overt displays of racism are no longer acceptable in polite society, as evidenced by the unidentified McCain-Palin supporter's hasty surrender of his prop. However, the Disillusioned Right is racist at its core. For them, a Black man cannot be president, as that would invalidate much of their worldview. The familiar refrain that Obama is a "Socialist" will probably never devolve into chanted racial epithets, but those refrains will devolve further in the current political atmosphere; as surely as lakes become marshes, and then forests in a temperate climate.

Inconsistent, illogical, and contradictory rhetoric

On March 29, 2009, the Treasurer of Rep. Ron Paul's (I-TX) Campaign for Liberty, Steven Bierfeldt, was detained and questioned by TSA officers in a St. Louis airport. Mr. Bierfeldt, stopped from boarding his flight when a routine inspection revealed he was carrying approximately $4,000 in cash, was taken to an interview room at the airport.

He was questioned about the origin of the money, and the nature of his business. He refused to answer. He also demanded to know under what authority he was being detained, and under what authority was he being asked to divulge personal information. Finally, in a fit of pique, the TSA officers advised Mr. Bierfeldt that, although he was not technically under arrest, he was not free to go and was being taken to the local police station.

As he was being lead through the airport by the TSA officers, an unidentified official advised the TSA to release Mr. Bierfeldt. No explanation or apology was given.[7]

The Disillusioned Right was very animated over the episode. They believed (rightly) this represented government interference with the citizenry, and an abuse of federal power. The Campaign for Liberty has since filed suit against the TSA.

Now, fast forward:

On July 15, 2009, a Cambridge police sergeant confronted Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. at his home. The officer was responding to a 911 call of a possible burglary in progress. Gates, who had just arrived home from a trip, found his door jammed shut. With help from his driver the 58-year-old Gates forced his way inside. When the officer arrived Gates was inside the home. Words were exchanged. Less than an hour later Gates was in handcuffs on his front porch, charged with disorderly conduct.

When President Obama, in an amazingly evenhanded response, accused the Cambridge police of acting "stupidly" for arresting a man who was, after all, in his own home,8 the Disillusioned Right was outraged. According to the Disillusioned Right, this was Mr. Obama at his worst, defending the "Black Nationalist Agenda."

There was no outrage from the Disillusioned Right about the sovereignty of the citizen, or the sanctity of the home, or the First Amendment.[8] There was no long line of outraged "patriots" holding crisp, new copies of the U.S. Constitution. There was no bright-faced soccer mom reading a rambling, semi-literate polemic, and then shouting into the face of a 78-year-old Senator.

Gates vs. Bierfeldt is merely the most glaring example. There are others: bank bailouts are bad, but Capitalism is omnipotent; government healthcare is socialism, but Medicare is sacrosanct; the government wants your guns, but warrantless wiretaps are just fine. It's enough to make your head spin.

The Disillusioned Right is not interested in liberty, justice, or freedom. Recall, it is not a movement, or a constituency, it is a mob. Inconsistent, illogical rhetoric is the language of the mob.

How the thinking majority must handle the Disillusioned Right

The Disillusioned Right is here to stay, unfortunately. There is no logic that will persuade its members. Reality, no matter how sharp, cannot pierce their bubble of self-delusion. Letting them sink under the weight of their own ignorance is tempting, but not really practical; they will drag the rest of us down with them. So what can be done?

Ignore them

That is not to say their needs should be ignored, only their rhetoric. The Disillusioned Right is a mob, and as such has nothing of substance to add to the debate. The thinking majority will have to do what's necessary, and pandering to the Disillusioned Right will only make already difficult tasks impossible.

Solve their problems, despite them

Members of the Disillusioned Right have the same problems as everyone else. That they believe they are different is characteristic of their worldview. However, they will be helped by the changes that benefit everyone.

American wages have been flat for the last 30 years. The rising cost of employee benefits has siphoned wage increases out of family income, and into the pockets of insurers.[9] Members of the Disillusioned Right will decry the passage of "Socialized Obamacare", but they will gladly accept that extra money back into their pockets. Just as they now accept Social Security, unemployment benefits, and farm subsidies.


The Disillusioned Right is a large minority, but they are a minority, nonetheless. Despite what Glenn Beck may think, the Disillusioned Right do not surround anybody; they are surrounded by the 75-80% of thinking Americans who have decided the 21st Century is a way better place to live than the 20th, or the 19th.


[1]Katy Abrams, as made famous by Fox News. You can find it here, at 1:50:

[2]"Two days after the hurricane made landfall in August 2005, when immediate recovery efforts were chaotic, Bush surveyed the damage during a fly-over in Air Force One while returning from a trip to the West Coast." (Reuters, April 24, 2008) However, President Bush flew back from a vacation in Crawford, Texas, in 2001 to sign a probably unconstitutional law maintaining Terri Schiavo on life support; contrary, according to her husband, to her stated wishes.

[3]"Groupthink occurs when the pressure to conform within a group interferes with that group's analysis of a problem and causes poor group decision making. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages that can sometimes be obtained by making a decision as a group—bringing different sources of ideas, knowledge, and experience together to solve a problem." Source:
Encyclopedia of Small Business, Vol. 1. 3rd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2007. p552-554.

[4]Futurist, Nov/Dec2008, Vol. 42 Issue 6, p17-23, 7p, 5 color, 1 bw

[5]Mike Castle [R-DE] Gets Obama Birth Certificate Earful

[6]Racist man at McCain-Palin rally, October 2008.

[7]This was recorded, unbeknownst to the TSA agents, by Mr. Bierfeldt using his cell phone.

[8]Even months after the controversy, I have yet to find a more cogent legal opinion of the Gates arrest: Adam Winkler, Professor at UCLA School of Law, Posted: July 25, 2009 03:35 PM; Obama Was Right About the Gates Arrest

[9]Employer-provided health insurance continues to decline, USA Today:

Originally posted to SmartAmerica on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 04:40 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent diary. Rec'd and saved. (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

  •  Get used to it? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2, Heiuan, Clytemnestra, Alec82

    Many of us have lived with this irrationality our whole lives. Used to it? Been there, done that, it's a way of life.

    Birthers and Deathers and Town Hallers...oh my! Where's a flying monkey when you need one?

    by Vita Brevis on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 04:49:01 PM PDT

  •  the madness of king george has (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2, Heiuan, Vita Brevis

    infected his followers!

  •  the only quibble I have (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2, Heiuan

    with this otherwise excellent diary is the belief that the scared angry white people who fall for this rubbish are middle class.

    Most Americans will say they are middle class out of reflex and a lack of understanding the financial threshold; but the actual finances tend to show that people who are working or lower class economically support the stupid.

    Intimidation is not dialogue.

    by Mortifyd on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 04:54:51 PM PDT

    •  My family's middle class (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueyedace2, Heiuan, Vita Brevis

      and they're part of this group.  Some of them are doing quite well, even the welfare cheats.

      Snarka Snarka Snarka!

      by Hunter Huxley on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 04:57:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Mine is too (0+ / 0-)

        and some of it is solidly fiscally middle class and still infested with stupid.  Some of my family isn't as well - and have NO IDEA what middle class actually means - they just "know" it means them because they are "white" and "REAL Amurricans" unlike the rest of us.  headdesk

        Intimidation is not dialogue.

        by Mortifyd on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 05:10:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sadly no (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Heiuan, Alec82

      There are enough who are middle class by anyone's definition and enough who are upper middle class. I live among the latter. Educated, professional, and infected with this derangement.

      Birthers and Deathers and Town Hallers...oh my! Where's a flying monkey when you need one?

      by Vita Brevis on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 05:04:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Middle Class Whites? Not at all. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cai, leftymama, Mortifyd

      Most middle-class Whites voted for Obama. Some centrists among them have pulled their support, but they are not going over to the lunatic fringe. Obama's plunging poll numbers have hardly translated into big improvements for the RNC. According to a CNN poll[1] republican approval stands at 43%--about the same percentage of the population that voted for McCain-Palin in 2008.[2]

      I agree with you, however, that there is an amazing economic dimension to this story, which I left out. This article originally had about 500 words on the subject, but I decided against including them for two reasons:

      1. The more research I did, the more I became convinced the economics represented a story all its own.
      1. The facts of the story: the monumental self-delusion of these people was something I found difficult to accept--even though I had done the research myself! Writing about it, so that anyone would believe it, would require more background and sourcing than I was willing to give here.

      Right now, I am deciding how to write it in a manageable way.



  •  The rabid racist 30% were (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2, Heiuan, cai

    not enough to defeat Obama at the polls, but they may be enough to make it nearly impossible for him to govern.

    In 1860 the total population of the US was 31.4 million (of whom 27.4 million were free). The white population in the states that would soon comprise the Confederacy was only 5.4 million.

  •  But, but, but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heiuan, Alec82

    he's a Arab.

    /crazy McCain lady

    Nice diary, tipped and rec'd.

    The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. -Howard Zinn

    by blueyedace2 on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 04:57:17 PM PDT

  •  Crisply argued (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heiuan, Alec82

    and persuasive.

    Minor correction: you have "gates" for "Gates" twice.

  •  "Disillusioned Right" is interested in two things (0+ / 0-)

    Power, and destroying the "Other".

    There is a more accurate name for a political movement like that, and it doesn't begin with a "d".

  •  The Fall of Kaiser Billy (0+ / 0-)

    Several years ago I saw an essay warning that, if we ever managed to defeat the Republicans and get out of the war, they would fall back on Plan B, based on the example of the German conservatives of 1919.  Having witnessed the complete discredit and failure of everything they had enforced under the Kaiser, the German Right tried to tell the opposite of the truth: the defeat and collapse and prolonged suffering were caused by everybody but them, and the only solution was to double down on autocracy and militarism.

    The question is, why did it work?  The Kaiser skipped the country, there no longer was a legal aristocracy, the Army no longer dominated civil government.  It turned out that the German Right was more dangerous without its genteel establishment leadership, and that made it seem fresh and sincere.  Idiots preaching to idiots, gratified to see their own kind on the podium.  

    The huge difference, for which we should all be grateful, is that we don't have one out of every five of our male population marching home from defeat after 4 years of being driven insane in the trenches.  That is what provided the youthful energy that the American Right now lacks.

    But if we want to seal our victory, we must provide millions of disillusioned young whites a road away from madness.

  •  "Solve their problems despite them." (0+ / 0-)

    This is exactly the right thing to do.  We cannot wait for them to be persuaded to act or think in their own interests.  That's not going to happen.  The predecessors of these same folks were apoplectic over Medicare when it was passed and those ancestors (except for Dick Armey, perhaps) would now literally kill anyone who came to take it away.  We must pass a good health care bill.  We'll have to take care of the crazies until they realize how much is in it for them, but that's the only way we're going to get this, or anything else, done.  Just drag them along, kicking and screaming.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 07:26:07 PM PDT

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