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[T]he Communists have installed in the presidency a man who, for whatever reasons, appears intentionally to be carrying forward Communist aims... With regard to [this man], it is difficult to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason.
Surprisingly, this is not from a book written by Michael Savage, or any of the current basket of nuts, about Barack Obama. No, it is from a cult classic of crazy conservatism:The Politician, published in 1963, is about Eisenhower. (EISENHOWER! The man who beat the Nazis! A traitor?!) It was written and published by Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society.

The JBS is the great-grandfather of all of the modern conservative nuts. They were so powerful, had so many members, but had such insane leadership, that the man who feared communist conspiracy everywhere eventually fell to a conspiracy at the hands of his own conservative brethren. Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and a few others all met in Palm Beach and agreed to attempt to "excommunicate" Robert Welch. (I almost wouldn't believe it either, but Buckley has actually admitted it!) At that meeting they defined the Bircher Fallacy:

The fallacy [...] is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists.
By now you're asking, "What the hell is this article about?" Yes, yes, I'm getting there! Keep with me. And keep that quote in mind!

Here's the thing, Conservatives were this crazy in the 1960's. (Even before the hippies!) They are this crazy today. And they were this crazy all through the intervening years. Liberals seem to forget how much we hated them, and they seem to forget how much they hated us. (Didn't Newt recently say that he missed Clinton? Really, I'm asking, I was unsuccessful in finding the link for it.) But, liberals seem to suffer from this overmuch (and not the least because Reagan was far more extreme than Clinton. This is why I love Rick Perlstein:

It is a quirk of American culture that each generation of nonconservatives sees the right-wingers of its own generation as the scary ones, then chooses to remember the right-wingers of the last generation as sort of cuddly. In 1964, observers horrified by Barry Goldwater pined for the sensible Robert Taft, the conservative leader of the 1950s. When Reagan was president, liberals spoke fondly of sweet old Goldwater.
So, here's my question, and the main question I'm asking in this article: Why are they still so crazy? Is there just something about the conservative mindset that predisposes itself towards insanity? Let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. (Obviously, we shouldn't forget, there are a few sane conservatives. The crazy ones just tend to be a bit, well, louder.)

(I'll try to answer it after the break!)

Let's step back for just a second and ask a question: what exactly is conservatism? It's a kind of ideology. (Duh.) It is a political ideology. It is defined, not in a vacuum of ideas, but explicitly against the ideology of the left wing of the American political class. (I think I'm going to make my next post about this.) The Right Wing views itself as being at war with the Democrats and the Liberals in the country. They view the Democrats as posing an actual, existential threat to their way of life (and perhaps their actual lives).

Turn on any Republican on the radio or on the TV for a few minutes, and you'll see that this is true. They actually think that we're out to get them! They fear the dictator, Barack Obama. This is not just some nonsense on the part of the commentators.

People believe this. People are scared of this. People are scared of the ways that the world is changing. Change can be scary!

It's reasonable to be afraid of change. It's even somewhat understandable to think that there are sinister causes behind the change. There is an especially human quality, we look for patterns in almost everything. When the world changes, there isn't always an explanation for that change. (Sideline: I'll not delve into this, but there are usually explanations, they are just very complex and have to do with broad social forces that are not always totally organized, and can only really be explained with Chaos Theory, and not conspiracy. Okay, end sideline.) But, our hunt for patterns, our hunt for proximal causes leads us to see unifying causes when there aren't any.

The Islamists in the Middle East do not have some kind of secret communal conference where they determine how they want to proceed in the take down of Western Society. It's the Bircher Fallacy. Merely because things do not go our way, it does not then mean that there was a subjective intention that caused that. The president does not have infinite power, no one does. No one person controls the economy. No secret cabal does either. It is merely the coming together of tons and tons of disparate forces and people that causes all of these outcomes. And neither Goldman Sachs, nor the Federal Reserve, nor JP Morgan, nor anyone is responsible for everything that happens in their banks or in the economy. These things seem so reasonable, and that's because they are. Conspiracies do happen, but they do not always happen.

However, when things are going against you. When the world looks like it is changing in ways that you do not like. And, when people -- like the president -- have made decisions that you cannot understand the subjective rationale for. Then, you can very easily come to the conclusion that there are secret rationales for their decision. You can come to the conclusion that there is a conspiracy.

In response to one of my facebook posts recently, a conservative friend responded, "If you're an Obama voter you have some or all of these problems: unintelligence, ignorance or a common mental disorder." He does not even try to, perhaps merely cannot, connect with the other half of America. There is no empathy. Not just in his comment, but in general. Ideologues, hyper-partisans, whatever you want to call them: they cannot understand the motivations of the other party. They cannot put themselves in their shoes. They have no empathy for the other party! That's why they appear crazy to us! Of course, they don't just appear crazy, by any objective standard they are crazy!

This is not sociopathy. This is merely the struggle that defines our human condition. The struggle between friend and enemy, between the same and the other, between good and evil, whatever you want to call it. When you are locked in mortal combat with an enemy, you do not feel empathy for him! You only think of his evil.

In understanding what makes conservatives crazy, you must understand that it is not merely that they are gullible or that they are dumb. They are genuinely afraid, they are afraid so very much of the time. It is not that war is invented for them, they already percieve the war. They already believe themselves to be soldiers in the war. All they need is for someone to connect all the dots for them. To tell them who they are fighting against, who is causing the scary changes in the world. They're just asking for the cause.

But the world doesn't really work like that. Cause and effect are not so simple as that in a complex world. It is a quirk of the human mind, a necessity of evolution, I think, that we feel compelled to look for causes and connect the dots. We feel compelled to find out what moved the bushes at the edge of our vision. That is why we are so suseptable to conspiracy theories! That is why we are all, liberals included, not always the best at understanding the world. And sometimes we are Ann Coulter. She's not the worst, though. It could be worse! She could be Robert Welch.

How do we solve this? How do we convince the crazies otherwise? Ugh. Who knows! I'll try to solve that next time. Maybe. Hopefully we'll figure it out eventually. Or, as my conservative friend argues would be best, we'll split into two separate countries, and the country of the Randian elitists will survive and the country of sane people will fail, just like Greece! (I don't really pretend to understand him.)

Originally posted to Greg Meyer on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 07:13 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Rabies... n/t (11+ / 0-)

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 07:29:42 PM PDT

  •  Mnay different reasons... (21+ / 0-)

    They cant believe they got bested by Obama. They cant believe he has favorability as high as it is. They dont like Obama cause he is smart. They dont like the black guy. Take your pick. Who knows why. I have my own theory, but I will keep that to myself cause many would think I was crazy but it is what it is.

    They are going to be even more crazy on Nov 7th.  That alternate universe is a bitch. Reality just keeps intruding.

    Shit starter extraordinaire/takin' it to the extremely gifted idiot savants that are ruled by the republican establishment. Why can't I go to that alternate reality?

    by tdslf1 on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 07:31:19 PM PDT

    •  The same could have been said about Clinton (7+ / 0-)

      There was a sense of disbelief among Republicans in 1992 that a bubba beat them and their pedigreed Bush.

      My belief is that Reagan's 1984 electoral landslide created a permanent expectation by Republicans, especially conservative Republicans,  that America had finally and forever found its conservative roots.  Of course every election should now reflect the 1984 results.  And if it doesn't, well it would if only they still had Reagan running for office.

      And those unrealistic expectations were extended  by 1990s advent of the likes of Limbaugh & Co. spewing divisive propaganda, etc.  Such unrealism was reflected by viewing Bush's slim 2004 victory as a "mandate."  

      The GOP has regressed to a state like an immature child or immature adolescent.  They long ago eschewed  a sense of moderation and reason.

      •  Bring back Govt. Civics classes. Allow people (4+ / 0-)

        not corporate masters... first place at the dinner table!
        Democracy for ALL... for a welcome change.

        Fairness Doctrine would clean up a lot of this because it would not allow people to just spout corporate paid propaganda lies... they would need to prove it with FACTS.  That way we could slowly get back to real news and education for average people who don't look at alternate news much.

        ~ For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
        ~ John F. Kennedy ~
      •  Not so much Limbaugh... (6+ / 0-)

        ... as Roger Ailes, who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, and proposed a "GOP-TV" network to both of them.  Neither president bought into that nonsense, of course ... it took Rupert Murdoch to achieve THAT dream.

        And the main thing FOX news sells the public - not so much in its advertizing, as in its PROGRAMMING, is that good, old Conservative FEAR that Greg spoke of.

        Also, re: the fear of change, another popular definition of a Conservative is one who stands astride the broad arc of history, with his right arm extended, palm forward, screaming "STOP!"

        OF COURSE the New Right is wrong - but that doesn't make WRONG the new RIGHT!

        by mstaggerlee on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 02:15:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Been crazy for a long time. (7+ / 0-)

      I remember learning about the Birchites back in the 6th grade. In 19-freakin-56! They thought fluoridation a communist plot, and sought to assassinate 'baddies' by putting teflon shavings into their cigarettes.  This was common knowledge back then, and most everybody thought them dismissible crackpots.  Should have known better.  

      But times were good then with a good and pretty sensible Republican president and moderate congressmen and senators on both sides who actually had the good of the country as their goal, even if they had different approaches.

      Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

      by triplepoint on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 08:48:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You missed a VERY important point about the JBS. (8+ / 0-)

      Robert Welch was a CO-founder of the John Birch Society.  One of his partners in that endeavor was a guy named Fred Koch.  You may be more familiar with his sons, Charles and David.

      Ties a kind of a neat ribbon around everything, doesn't it?

      OF COURSE the New Right is wrong - but that doesn't make WRONG the new RIGHT!

      by mstaggerlee on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 12:41:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But, Robert Welch was so much funnier! (0+ / 0-)

        I actually did know that, but there was already enough in this article.  I already am working on a followup, there's just so much to write about with conservative crazies.

        The issue, really, is that they understand liberals.  They get us.  We don't get them.  That's why we've lost election after election.  That's why Bill Clinton was really Ronald Reagan 2.0.  (Heck, even old Goldwater endorced him over Dole in 96!)

        The real liberals have to take this party back, and I think we can!

  •  It's Future Shock (12+ / 0-)

    The conservatives (the name implies that they want things to stay the same) are unable to adjust, adapt, fit into a future where people don't agree with them and don't fall all over themselves to follow their lead. They can't accept the fact that the US demographics are changing and white men are become a minority.

    They can't accept that American women are able to think for themselves and don't really need to rely on a man - which is why so many white men marry women from other cultures. If you can't be "the man" in your own house with a modern American woman, you find someone who will accept the notion that she is only valid when the man she marries is stronger than she is.

    Until conservatives learn to accept change and adapt to an ever more rapidly changing world, they are going to hate those of us who have accepted, adjusted and adapted.

    I reject your reality and substitute my own - Adam Savage

    by woolibaar on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 07:38:17 PM PDT

  •  There are persistent subcultures (12+ / 0-)

    on the right and the left, but they aren't the right or the left.  The right, today, is dominated by the kind of loonies that were called Birchers back in the 60s.  That's because, in large part, there's no longer any sane middle to keep it in check.  But this too will change.  Everything does.

    For what it's worth, there have always been crazy elements of the left as well, although they haven't been in ascendancy.  Back in the late 70s, early 80s, Pacific Radio willingly gave voice to people who theorized that the CIA was behind the drug epidemic as part of a plan to destroy the American black community.  A few years later, they were the culprits behind AIDS.  Move forward a generation, and you get the 9/11 Truthers and we can see an intergenerational tradition forming.

    You would think crazy bullshit like that would be so easily discredited nobody would want to be associated with it, but you'd be wrong.  People love conspiracy theories.  It's just that usually there are enough people to shake their head in disgust to keep it from becoming the conventional wisdom.

    It was interesting how the CIA-selling-coke-to-blacks conspiracy theory was revived shortly after George W. Bush became president.  I have no doubt he had a coke problem, and that his daddy was an old CIA hand with connections, but there was an undercurrent, if you paid attention, of appealing to that old CT when it was theorized that George W. had been a CIA coke airlift drug runner with his best friend before he got into the oil business.

    •  But only the right-wing nuts have power now. (7+ / 0-)

      While it's true that there have been plenty of crazy conspiracy theories generated by the left, they pose no serious threat to the nation. The right-wing crazies do, because they have
      -a mass base;
      -unprecedented amounts of money to spend;
      -Major mass media centers which take them seriously and give them plenty of air time;
      -Many office-holders at the state and federal level who either agree with them or cater to them.

      It's untrue that there is no center. Barack Obama is a centrist, very willing (in my view too willing) to compromise if he can find counterparts willing to negotiate seriously. Except for a few high profile cultural themes (most notably gay marriage and abortion), the Democratic platform of 2012 isn't significantly different from any Dem platform going back to 1948, when the Party began to champion civil rights. Obama's economic policies are considerably to the right of Lyndon Johnson's, his foreign policy way to the right of Jimmy Carter's. So there's a strong center. The problem is 99% the Republican Party and the crazies who shape its platform.

      "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be." - Thomas Jefferson

      by Blue Boomer on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:03:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good book (8+ / 0-)

    "The Republican Brain".

    Tribalism, mobilization against scary things, and snap judgments are all survival mechanisms without which our species would not exist today. They're not in themselves "crazy".

    You could try to un-scare them so that they could feel safe looking at new data, but it's incredibly difficult to talk down a scared animal even when it doesn't have Fox News constantly reinforcing its fears.

  •  This world is crazy enough without making up (3+ / 0-)

    goblins everywhere like they do? But then their hate mongering has made about 1% of them rich.

    Conservatives supported slavery, opposed women’s suffrage, supported Jim Crow, opposed the 40-hour work week, the abolishment of child labor, and supported McCarthyism. from 'It's The Conservatism, Stupid' by Paul Waldman July 12, 2006

    by arealniceguy on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 09:55:14 PM PDT

    •  And won several state houses. That's their (7+ / 0-)

      ground game.

      Get the states and work on the SC and Congress and the President. Just pass laws locally. Abortion, voting registration, austerity, cutting government jobs, etc.

      They are winning the real ground game with their craziness.

      Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive. And... It’s the Supreme Court, stupid!

      by auapplemac on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 03:04:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  & they've couched their ideology in god's name-- (4+ / 0-)

        in a sort of neo-con-christianity that preaches an 'abundant life' that =prosperity, but diminishes civic responsibility, e.g. feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, care for the widow (and helpless)...(Read Matthew 26).

        the good news is about getting ahead, without an ethical core or foundation, because, hey, 'my sins are forgiven, I can do or say what I want'....there is no conscience, and therefore, no compassion, or any kind of broad or open minded perspective.

        Also, power is wrapped up in the patriarchal hierarchy of the 'church' which women have very little voice, except in some progressive strains...

        When fear and loathing become partners with this sort of 'faith'...when god and money comingle to create the new corporate ruling class that doesn't give a flip about anybody seems evident that the core of the good news of Jesus has been high jacked to serve other, less 'godly' purposes, but still 'in the name (and authority) of god.'

        •  While I agree with some of what you wrote, many (0+ / 0-)

          religious organizations and church groups do charitable work. When there's a disaster, some of the first responders are church groups.

          Many just don't believe the federal government has the Constitutional authority to use tax dollars to feed and house the needy (unless it is a major disaster.)

          I don't agree, but that is their frame of thought.

          There's also a Calvanist strain running through many who at least in the back of their mind believe the poor are part of G-ds design.

          Progressives will win only when we convince a majority that they, too, are Progressive. And... It’s the Supreme Court, stupid!

          by auapplemac on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 11:51:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Squirrels accumulate acorns. (5+ / 0-)

      21stCentury American mingies accumulate dollars. The only difference is that other Americans respect the mingies' claim of ownership, even when they merely hoard and don't use. That dollars, unlike acorns, neither rot nor sprout is another difference, which means that dollars can be hoarded indefinitely. Nevertheless, since dollars are invented, figments of the imagination which we render in material form (paper or electrons), we could easily counter the hoarding population by just making more dollars and circulating them as needed. That we don't do that is a mistake growing out of some silly traditions. We need to give them up. For our own well-being.  Money is a useful tool and should not be played with.

      We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 03:26:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Money is many things. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Money is a store of value.  Money is a claim on future production.  Money is a way to facilitate trade.

        The Paulists and gold bugs focus hardcore on the "store of value" part.  They are fine with compromising "facilitating trade" if in their perception more trade would hurt future value.

        Money is a claim on future production.  Under Peak Oil, future production will require more resources and effort.

        I'm not sure that there is a coherent leftist position on money.  Mostly they seem to hate it.  It's bizarre, and I don't understand it.

        -7.75 -4.67

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        There are no Christians in foxholes.

        by Odysseus on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 07:49:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm uploading part of a seminar presentation (4+ / 0-)

          on money now. The original video was an hour and 47 minutes. Just the first twenty minutes is taking 238 min. Looks like Youtube is continually congested. I'll try to remember to leave a link when it's done.

          We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

          by hannah on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 08:31:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Here you go-- (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Wray puts it in a nutshell.

          We organize governments to provide benefits and prevent abuse.

          by hannah on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 11:29:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Various comments. (0+ / 0-)

            The idea that a sovereign government can "never run out of money" is one of those impractical truths.  It's only actually applicable in very rare circumstances.  Weimar Germany certainly didn't run out of marks, but hyperinflation hammered them all the same.

            The Paulists are correct that "just printing your way out of deficits" means that citizens get paid back by less valuable currency than they expected.  The question is whether and why those expectations were rational.  Money is a claim on future value.

            I really don't buy the Modern Monetary Theory principle that the only reason to use money is to meet government obligations.  One reason, sure, but not the only reason.  Money facilitates trade independent of government obligations.

            -7.75 -4.67

            "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

            There are no Christians in foxholes.

            by Odysseus on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 09:46:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Yes but conservatives want change (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The change they want is for the worse!

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:10:29 AM PDT

  •  At the core of conservativism are two (17+ / 0-)

    emotional engines that can be described in pictures. One is a terrified child hiding under his bed screaming with fear of life itself.  The second image is the same child hoarding every toy in sight and hitting anyone how seems to be having fun.

    That's really all they are.

    The Long War is not on Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran. It is on the American people.

    by Geonomist on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:34:29 AM PDT

  •  A lot of it is an authoritarian mindset. (11+ / 0-)

     Birchers and their ideological  descendants  fight tooth and nail for the freedom and liberty to be told exactly how the world is and exactly what to do.

      It's like comfort food for the intellectually lazy.

    "Let Mitt Romney go bankrupt!"

    by PlinytheWelder on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:36:54 AM PDT

  •  I blame Santa Claus (5+ / 0-)

    One of the first things that a child growing up Christian in American remembers is the trauma on the day they found out that there was no Santa Claus!  Their most trusted confidants, their parents, had been lying to them.  And yet, it was for their own good.  How could they believe their eyes and ears after that?  They must trust those close to them, no matter what the facts.  Cognitive dissonance rules.

    Similarly, as grownups.  I wrote about this a while ago, Ronald "Shotgun Wedding" Reagan:  A Study in Cognitive Dissonance.  Your point about "nonconservatives sees the right-wingers of its own generation as the scary ones" is well taken (though I never thought of the McCarthy-era right-wingers as "cuddly").

    Still, we live in the post-Southern Strategy political landscape, where too many are voting with their sphincters and not with their brains.  They keep hoping that Santa will bring them presents.

    "What doesn't have credibility today is the truth." -- Bill Moyers, The Daily Show 6/22/05

    by Baron Dave on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:38:11 AM PDT

  •  Fear is conservatives' bread and butter! (4+ / 0-)

    It's their ONLY game...and people react to it! Why do you think the US has military spending ways superior to ALL ther countries together, yet the GOP still wants to increase it?

    So conservatives' only hope to get elected and be in power is fear. But as the fear factors get debunked with time AND conservatives always get little fewer in number, they need to find new fear factors AND use old ones BUT have to get even more crazy and loud every time to get the same effect, especially since they are more and more outnumbered.

    •  at least partly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      becaue 90% of our R&D budget is in the military.  if that science and engineering was seperated out, the US military budget is only about 3 times the size of china, and not bigger than the next 26 countries combined.

      still huge, but there's a lot in there that's less 'military' and more 'Science!'

      We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

      by ScrewySquirrel on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 09:44:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  sociopathy and empathy (10+ / 0-)

    I am wondering why the diarist dismisses the idea that sociopathy is rampant in the right wing. The term 'sociopath' is clearly defined;

    a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial,  often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.
    and psychopathy;
    a mental disorder in which an individual manifests amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, failure to learn from experience, etc.
    Note that the criminality is not a necessary characteristic of a sociopath, unlike antisocial behavior (like refusing to accept the legitimacy of people unlike oneself) and a lack of moral responsibility (like demanding completely unfettered gun rights or banking practices) and social conscience (caring for the plight of others).
    As for the psychopathy, I can't testify to the accuracy of others' ability to love (a very subjective definition, and one I find puzzling in this context), but the rest of that definition is right in the sweet spot for our reactionary friends. Especially the failure to learn from experience.
    I would say that the definition encapsulates nicely the actions and motivations of much of the right wing, from the shock troops up to the mid levels of republican power. I believe those above that level are by and large truly malicious sociopaths, who have embraced the Machiavellian aspects of sociopathy and are essentially out to loot and destroy, because they would rather tear the whole thing down than ever come to terms with the reality of life. That and there's a lot of money to be had.

    Every attempt at conversation with a true right winger I make quickly uncovers a core of not only lack of concern for other people, but an active contempt and desire to see those (usually hypothetical) people suffer. This desire,  in my experience, is never cast as an opportunity for those 'others' to see the error of their ways or achieve some sort of salvation, but merely to see them suffer. There is a satisfaction in the misery of other people that I see over and over again among the right wing.

    R-Money/R-Ayn, the ENRON Ticket, is not a campaign; it's a hostile takeover bid.

    by kamarvt on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 04:46:12 AM PDT

  •  and it isn't just their politics (15+ / 0-)

    My father was active in the John Birch Society. I still have the local newspaper articles from when he ran for Congress (and lost) on the George Wallace ticket. Nothing -- NOTHING -- has changed in his mind in the interim. He campaigned for Eisenhower, then decided Eisenhower was a communist. Reagan was a turncoat and a communist. We should return to the gold standard. Abortionists deserve the death penalty. Vietnam was treason because Congress never declared war. Get rid of all the "pointy-headed professors" and we'd all be better off (Dad having refused the college education his parents intended for him, and having been rejected for the priesthood because even in his teens, his bishop could see his Paul Ryanoid rigidity). Etc etc etc.

    After over sixty years of observation (it took me fifty years to figure him out, with professional help to extricate myself from his abuse) I can confidently report that his delusional paranoid grandiosity and rigidity extends to virtually every aspect of life, though he cares most about politics. What he did to my poor mother (and she let him, and colluded in his abuse of their children)...

    The most important thing to understand about people with this mindset/personality disorder is that it arises from a profound sense of shame and insecurity. As for the inability to empathize, in my father's case I believe some form of autism/Asperger's contributes, as he is utterly incapable of grokking what's in someone else's mind, and there are a lot of socially awkward math/science geeks on his side of the family.

  •  Some are crazy. Some just want to be left alone. (8+ / 0-)

    In trying to get in the head and heart of some of my conservative acquaintances I discern a completely understandable (though disagreeable trait).  Setting aside the crazy ones I see that some of the not crazy ones have a universally human desire to resist perceived attempts to be controlled.
    These certain ones are not callous to the plight of poor and needful people.  They just do not want somebody else determining who will receive their resources for assistance and how much of it they are going to give.  They don't like polluted rivers anymore than liberals but they don't want somebody else telling them how to properly dispose of waste.  They want to park where they want to park, drive as fast as they want to drive, own whatever gun they want to own.
    Taken to the extreme -- commonly -- this is antisocial, for sure.  But not crazy.  Mean and selfish -- yes.  But not crazy.

    "The opposite of faith is not doubt. It's certainty."

    by Simul Iustus et Peccator on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:48:05 AM PDT

  •  i just finished reading about stalin's purges (4+ / 0-)

    in the 1930s.  stalin needed the population to live in perpetual fear in order to keep everyone in line & that's why he got rid of so many of his opponents, political rivals, & top generals in the army.

    the leaders of the conservative movement have much in common with authoritarians like stalin (& hitler) in that respect -- keep people afraid, & tell them only you can protect them from threats, real & imaginary.

    the rest, as they say, is history.

  •  Interesting Diary! OWS & shades of redistribution (4+ / 0-)

    drive the fear you associate with conservatives. Their answer to both OWS and Redistribution is that America stands for a land of opportunity not a land of prescribed results. Opportunity and socialism are somewhat antithetical, so conservatives are constantly on the lookout for closet communists, also fitting the fear motif. Given so much opportunity, conservatives are left with rationalizing lack of economic success with a dearth of personal responsibility.

    "If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost." Winston Churchill

    by Kvetchnrelease on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:11:36 AM PDT

  •  Corpus callosum (4+ / 0-)

    As I was reading this, I couldn't help think about the distribution of function between the left and right hemispheres. In some sense, from the perspective of each, the other is almost impossible to understand—surely crazy—because their whole reference is just different. Yet, each is critical to the overall functioning of the organism.

    Luckily, placental mammals have evolved a large structure, the corpus callosum, whose role is to interconnect and to facilitate communication between these two very alien bodies.

    American politics has always depended on just this kind of mediation for survival. Just look at the Constitution, or even the Articles of Confederation: just chock full of compromise from bottom to top. Sometimes we forget that the bedrock of our nation is compromise between individually crazy factions.

    That's what Obama wants to do. He wanted it in 2008, and he still wants it. We need it. It's easy to talk about how crazy the others are, but it's damn hard to get them to sit down and to negotiate with them in good faith.

    Well, so much for the corpus callosum.

    •  Excellent point to emphasize (5+ / 0-)
      the bedrock of our nation is compromise between (individually crazy) factions.
      For all the Tea Party spewing about the Constitution, and right-wingers claiming that we're a Christian nation, etc., the fundamental point is overlooked: The Constitution was created through compromise.  

      Yet to hear the Tea Party rant, you would think the "founding fathers" were a homogeneous group that reached unanimous outcomes.  And did so with the genius to anticipate issues for 200+ years.

      If I were to have one hope for Obama's messaging in the next term, it would be to use his WH podium to make this point over and over and over, and then to specifically highlight every time Republicans fail to negotiate in good faith.  

      I think he did the former somewhat in his first term, but he had too much patience to do the latter.  Republicans were allowed to leave their messes in the dark of the night like cockroaches.  Expose them to light and see what happens.  Obama has to embarrass Republicans; they seem to respond to no other motivator.

  •  Yes, it's about fear (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    efrenzy, walkshills

    I've been preaching this for some time. The Republican Party is an authoritarian party, and authoritarianism is rooted in fear. They are afraid, and they want you to be afraid.

    It has everything to do with why the Democrats are a party if inclusion and the Republicans are a party of exclusion. And why finding a middle ground has become so difficult. It's not an easy problem to solve.

    Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

    by tcorse on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 06:59:25 AM PDT

    •  And if you're not afraid like they are (0+ / 0-)

      then you're either a complete fool or are in cahoots with those they fear.

      liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

      by RockyMtnLib on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 07:57:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  For many it's about fear but (0+ / 0-)

      for some it's also, or only, about greed.   It seems that for a lot of those, even the some of ones who are experiencing fear, a lot of it is about selling fear.  Those are the ones I have a lot less sympathy for.

  •  We can't change them. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And they will always be with us.

    The reason that they are so disruptive now is that they are united. There are economic incentives for those who fund Limbaugh, et al.

    What we need is for them to be divided. We need to some of them to be left-wing crazies. The problem is that there is no one with both the motivation and the resources to do this.

    The best thing that could happen medium term is for the Christian Right to fall out with the Libertarians.

    The long-term solution is to create a society thats supports individuals so that they don't grow up so fearful. And we are doing that, slowly but surely. That's what the paranoid delusional sociopaths are really afraid of, subconsciously. They are afraid that they are dying out. Of course, there will always be some - it's a matter of inborn temperment to a degree. But there really will be fewer of them.

  •  Up last night with my 3 year old... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    this just in, walkshills like 4 AM. He knew we wanted him to sleep but couldn't remember after 3 minutes. So I laid on the floor. When he started talking or moving around I would remind him "be quiet" and "go to sleep" and he would try...for 3 minutes, then he'd forget and we'd do it again. After 10-15 times, he finally fell asleep.

    This anecdote may seem like a non sequitar, but I truly believe that some people "forget" every bout of cognitive dissonant education, from whoever, shortly after it occurs, definitely somewhere between elections.

    However, unlike my three year old, they don't really want to do what's best for themselves and everyone else, they want to feel indignant and correct.

    Forgetting is an important way to facilitate those feelings.

    (-9,-9) pragmatic incrementalist :-P

    by Enterik on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 07:23:07 AM PDT

  •  You are so right -- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    efrenzy, grollen, walkshills
    In understanding what makes conservatives crazy, you must understand that it is not merely that they are gullible or that they are dumb. They are genuinely afraid, they are afraid so very much of the time.
    My next door neighbor, in her late 60's, has been periodically sending me right-wing conspiracy emails that I try to ignore because I just can't engage her in debate. The most recent was just too much to ignore, and I told her it was a bunch of lies. She replied immediately, apologizing for sending it to me and saying "I get 3 or 4 of these a week and they scare me so much, my blood pressure is up and I can't sleep for worrying about what's going to happen to our country."

    I tried to reassure her that it's all politics and all aimed at making sure she votes Republican but I don't think she could grasp it. I'm going to use some of the points from your diary if I get a chance to try again.

    •  like my aunt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      el dorado gal, grollen, walkshills

      I have to remind her that this is sent to her with the purpose of scaring her into voting republican, and none of it is based on truth. When i show her the truth  (snopes, media matters, google, etc.) , she gets mad at the people who sent it to her.

      "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" T. Jefferson

      by azureblue on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 10:19:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Genetics and Environment (0+ / 0-)
    “Forty, perhaps 50 percent of our political beliefs seem to have a basis in genetics,” said Hibbing, whose studies were included in Jost’s analysis. While genetics are unlikely to “hardwire” people into being liberal or conservative, Hibbing said that genes could make people more or less likely to have certain values or react to situations in a particular way.

    Progressive Candidate Obama (now - Nov 6, 2012)
    Bipartisan Obama returns (Nov 7, 2012)

    by The Dead Man on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 07:45:32 AM PDT

  •  Here's an article on the subject: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ohkwai, walkshills

    The Paranoid Style in American Politics, written by Richard Hofstadter back in 1964.

    He essentially concludes that it's not confined to American politics and has always been a feature of political struggle.

    "...a mentality disposed to see the world in this way may be a persistent psychic phenomenon, more or less constantly affecting a modest minority of the population."
    In other words, they act crazy because they are crazy, and will always be crazy.

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 08:11:08 AM PDT

  •  I agree with the fear/ opposition thing. (0+ / 0-)

    IMHO, Conservatives define themselves by their supposed enemies. "I'm a Cold War warrior" "I'm a soldier om tje war against communism/ Sharia/ whatever."

    OTOH, Liberals define themselves based on their friends. "We're the ones defending our libraries." "We're here together to help avoid our books being burned."

  •  At least Jesse Jackson Jr (0+ / 0-)

    Is dealing with his mental issues,i cannot  say that about a lots of conservative politican ,who are certified crazy

  •  It's the threat of change (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grollen, Chitown Kev

    Change is threatening to some people, and whether they're right about how things used to be isn't important. A change from how they think things used to be is what matters. Combine that with a time of genuinely rapid change, and crazy isn't hard to come up with. Liberals certainly can be prone to irrationality, but we have the good fortune of being disposed by personality to accept or even welcome change. I'm not suggesting liberals are any more happy about change in the form of economic dislocation than anyone else, but change that's more vague in its ramifications, like demographic change, doesn't threaten a liberal worldview, whereas for conservatives, current change is threatening their worldview and sense of identity. I find thinking about political attitudes in terms of how people respond to change helps understand politics across cultures.

  •  Conservatives' brains (0+ / 0-)

    Conservatives tend to work from the reptilian part of the brain and hence, they have to have something to fear.

  •  I disagree with your terms. (0+ / 0-)

    There are conservatives, thinking people who hold certain views.

    The folks you describe fall into other categories.

    Neocons were an offshoot of PNAC, and I suspect that those who created the TeaBuggerer movement were spawned from the anus of Neocons.

    They are not conservative. They are fucking nuts. And when they aren't fucking them, they look for a war to start over future nut growing capacity and nuclear weapons.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 09:25:08 AM PDT

  •  I kinda think it is the Dems who are (0+ / 0-)

    motivated by fear of the Repubs getting hold of the controls again.

    The Repubs are motivated by hate - straight up.

  •  Some of the pining for Goldwater comes from (0+ / 0-)

    the perception that post-retirement Goldwater was, apparently, far more moderate than pre-retirement Goldwater.

    Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter libertatem solummodo quam Nemo bonus nisi simul cum vita amittit. -Declaration of Arbroath

    by Robobagpiper on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 09:59:10 AM PDT

  •  crazy going in (0+ / 0-)

    they were crazy to begin with- made so by ignorant ideology, bordering on superstition and devoid of real world experience. driven by fear of the unknown, unwilling to learn, Self made isolationists who view the world as us vs. them, and a boogey man under every bed.

    Nothing can be done about the purposefully ignorant fear mongers. They began with a false premise, and they will not see that, so all you can do is stay away from them and let them live their false premise unit it comes to its conclusion. Which is, give them enough rope to hang themselves, and they will.

    "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" T. Jefferson

    by azureblue on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 10:09:03 AM PDT

  •  So who the hell is crazy here anyway??? (0+ / 0-)

    My answer: Rick Pearlstein for this idiocy -

    In 1964, observers horrified by Barry Goldwater pined for the sensible Robert Taft, the conservative leader of the 1950s. When Reagan was president, liberals spoke fondly of sweet old Goldwater.
    Pining for Taft? Fondly of Goldwater? BS, it never happened. I suspect on this issue at least, Mr. Pearlstein has as distorted a perception of reality as Sarah Palin.
  •  As My Grandmother Used To Say "There Is No Cure (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for stupidity."  I don't like to sound elitist, but, in a nutshell (no pun intended), that is why the right wing continues its craziness of the past 50 years. The righties never learn from their mistakes - so they just keep repeating them, and even doubling down on them. It is the definition of insanity (and stupidity) all wrapped into one package.

  •  Still free online ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Bob Altemeyer's book "The Authoritarians."

    Also see link to "Comment on the Tea Party Movement."

    The Authoritarians

    In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot." ~ Czeslaw Milosz

    by Caneel on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 11:29:03 AM PDT

  •  essentially, they are bullies who will not change (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    "There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home." John Stuart Mill

    by kuvasz on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 11:34:41 AM PDT

  •  I Feel The Need To Correct You (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Not to worry, you get T&R's, but...

    This is about media access, and about a bunch a billionaire neofeudalists who want to impose their views on organized society. These people felt the Renaissance was a mistake, let alone the American Revolution. They're the ones who finance the Rushes, the Becks (although I suspect Beck knew it was a joke, but took the joke a little too far and was too crazy, and last but not least, untrustworthy, fro them), the Michael Weiners (Savages).

    These guys aren't "conservative". They're far right, batshit crazy rich assholes, who want to go back to lords and serfs.

    The real issue, as many commentators have noted, is that what they have accomplished is to push the spectrum to the right where the center is skewed. The Dems these days are the Centrist/Center Left GOP of 25-30 years ago. Obama would be a centrist Republican if he ran for office in the '70s and '80s.

    That's the real problem, and the only way you're going to get any balance is to equal the media access playing field. Networks like Current and other commentators like Maddow, Schulz., etc are a start.

  •  IMO instrument that makes the diff is talk radio (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    because it is a ubiquitous coordinated monopoly that can repeat without correction, loud enough to create made-to-order  corporate constituencies and sabotage the feedback mechanisms a democracy needs to function.

    at the root of its success is the secret of political power- the need for certainty and fear/avoidance of uncertainty. that need for certainty makes certainty more important than truth, and is why giving the talk radio gods a free speech free ride has been such a monumental mistake.

    the root of the insanity, the secret of power, and why most humans have that irrational need for certainty (some more than others) is explained here:

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and partisan lying by broadcasting sports on Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 01:57:51 PM PDT

  •   2 Cents (0+ / 0-)

    One of my favorite questions.

    Here's a condensed version of my take on the problem.

    There are lots of large groups whose members uniformly believe things that are false, so we should see what they have in common, if anything.

    First, they have leaders who will benefit by making the group think/believe certain things.

    Second, they have leaders who are sociopaths.

    Third, they have followers who are drawn from the most gullible segments of the population.

    In my work with evangelical (fundamentalist to most folks) organizations they aimed their marketing dollars at certain groups and ignored others. Women were often a broad target, and especially less educated women (one big time Florida TV pastor only targeted women over 55). The feeling at the time was that adult males 26+ offered a poor return because they'd been out in the real world and were not "open" (likely to fall for) the Gospel. (That has changed but it was a fundamental belief at the time).

    Another bit of methodology was hitting a large audience, after which the susceptible (those "open" to the message) would self-identify. You could stop spending time or money reaching the rest, who would be tough sells.

    Two quick things that are pertinent to this topic is that people are A) likely to believe that same things that people around them believe, and B) they will not go out of their way to find out if there is a valid opposing view.

    There's a lot more, of course, but that will give you the idea.

    The general population is not good at discrimination; that is, determining truth from fiction, the practical from the utopian, etc. The Right knows that this ability does not help their cause (getting recruits), which is the reason behind their moves to undermine the public school system in America. Good education is an antibiotic to the spread of their diseased thinking.

    Conservatives exist, by and large, in a closed universe, a bubble. So they continue to be Conservatives, breed Conservatives, promote Conservatism, and believe in Conservatism. It is their "normal".

    And like any pathogen, they attack nearby good cells, spread by any available means, and fight antibiotics with slight mutations.

    And this doesn't even get into the important specifics of the elites funding the whole thing for their own economic and self-image advancement, Nor does it cover the surprisingly large number of fronts opened up by the Gullibles.

    I've read a lot on the subject, and discussed it with people in and out of Conservatism until it makes my eyes bleed, but my conclusions may still be wrong. Who knows, a genome search may find a defective gene somewhere in what was previously thought of as junk DNA that explains gullibility and Conservatism. Or not.

    A Southerner in Yankeeland


  •  Seth Godin on Marketing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "If you knew what I know..."
    "you'd see it was obvious."
    This is the foundation of the rational pitch, of the fact-based marketing campaign.
    Two challenges:
    1. Can you teach us what you know?
    2. Once we know what you know, will we actually think it's obvious, or is this also a matter of belief or worldview?

    It's a very different thing to say, "If you believe what I believe, then this path would be obvious..." because getting someone to share your beliefs is far more difficult than getting them to know what you know.
    Obvious is a good place to be if you can get there.

    Case In Point:

    In a recent Washington Post story about food labeling, Sarah Kliff quotes Nigon:I did find one customer who had noticed the calorie labels: Dick Nigon of Sterling, Va. He and his wife, Lea, had stopped by McDonald’s after seeing an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery. Dick had ordered for the couple, noticed the calorie labels and liked them.
    “I like that you have the information before you order,” he told me, when I asked about the labels. “It’s better than some kind of government health mandate in Obamacare.”
    I told him that the calorie labels were, in fact, a government health mandate in Obamacare.
    “Well that changes things a bit,” he responded. “I thought this was more of a voluntary sort of thing. Now I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.”
    How do you teach a Republican what you know, when they consistently let their "beliefs systems" override FACTS?
    Whoever figures that out WINS.
  •  Because they're bad people. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And there will always be bad people.  Moving on...

    Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

    by Troubadour on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 03:10:23 PM PDT

  •  I think modern conservatives are that way (0+ / 0-)

    because the right wing media (most media nowadays) puts fuel on the fire of all their resentments. They resent having to work for an asshole boss for less money and no benefits, and the radio tells them about teachers having benefits-it's the teacher's fault! Taxes are taken out of their paycheck and they hear on the media about poor people who make too little to pay federal income tax-it's the fault of poor people and black people and so on. The media is not reporting on the machinations of people like the Koch Brothers or groups like ALEC.

    Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

    by Dirtandiron on Mon Oct 01, 2012 at 05:14:03 PM PDT

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