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Political Teams
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, February 24, 2006

Tom Maguire and Glenn Greenwald are having a little bloggers spat over exactly how to characterize the Right. In brief...

  • Greenwald insists that "loyalty to George Bush the Leader takes precedence over allegiance to any recognizable political principles" within the Right nowadays — that the Right is engaging in a cult of personality "to strong authority through a single leader".


  • Meanwhile, Tom Maguire "wondered whether Greenwald actually had any evidence to back up the notion that the folks he named - Malkin, Hewitt, Hinderaker, Goldberg, and Goldstein (mentioned elesewhere) - actually engage in relabeling", why the model seemed to break down in places ["Harriet Miers or immigration"] and whether the theory had any "predictive power".


It's a lovely little sociopolitical theory and a vigorous debate — perfect red meat for the blogosphere. I think both of them miss the mark by a bit, though.

Greenwald is correct to note that many on the right are acting more out of partisan loyalty than political principle — and sometimes accusing dissenters of insufficient loyalty. Maguire is correct to note that there are plenty of examples to the contrary.

This isn't an "authoritarian cult", as Greenwald describes it, though; but neither is it entirely "bilge", as Maguire puts it. What's happening, I think, is a natural social reaction to the political duopoly we have, combined with the emergence of a much more interactive, involved public...especially with the blogosphere and the radio/tv punditry shows. The default intellectual stance is "accept confirmation, doubt contradiction".

There are two teams. Pick a side and play ball.

The overt partisans to whom Greenwald refers are not "authoritarian cultists". That's a cynical, absurd characterization — hyperbole. But there is a substantial number of people who filter information through partisan allegiance. More weight is given to ideas and information that align with their team; less weight is given to those that conflict with their team.

With the enormous data matrix now available — confirming information, contradictory information, and broad areas of doubt — people are using team membership as a signaling mechanism. In the absence of (what they consider) substantial evidence to the contrary, the auto-assumption is that +MyTeam information is correct and -MyTeam information is incorrect. The default intellectual stance is "accept confirmation, doubt contradiction".

It's the political equivalent of blind nationalism. My team, right or wrong.
That's not going to stop when Bush leaves office, nor is it currently restricted to the Right. It's useful to think of the abandonment of ideological principles in those terms, though. That, for example, is why groups like Media Matters and the Center for American Progress have been born on the Left. Not to advance a liberal agenda, per se, but to plug for their team in much the same way as similar organizations do for the Right.

It's the political equivalent of blind nationalism. My team, right or wrong.
 
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Ahem. Nor is it ever restricted solely to the Right. You just notice it in people you don’t agree with.

It all comes down to: who do you regard as an authority for information?

Think for yourself, sure. But you can "think for yourself" about CNN news items and still come up with different conclusions about the accuracy depending on what information you find credible and/or compelling.

Are atheists any less biased about religion by not believing one? Nope. An atheist can’t be any more open-minded about Christianity than a Muslim, because the paradigm filters understanding and experience.

That’s humanity. It’s the mental need to classify and generalize at work.
 
Written By: Nathan
URL: http://brain.mu.nu/
You miss Greenwald’s point. This is not an issue about "teams." That would be nothing new. What distinguishes the current situation from previous ones is not loyalty to a team, e.g., the GOP, the conservative cause, but loyalty to George Bush. Adoration of Bush.

For example, there are die hard supporters of George Bush out there right who see no problem with the massive deficits he is running up. 10 years ago, many of these same people were deficit hawks. But since they value loyalty to Bush above all else, they are willing to set aside any concerns about the deficit. After all, they voted for Bush knowing that he would continue to run up wild deficits. There are other examples of the 180’s many Bush supporters have done - the Iraq war (nation building?), No Child Left Behind (federal government oversight of public education?). On issue after issue, Bush supporters have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other. And why? Because Bush has taken them there.

Now, imagine in 1996 that Clinton had run for re-election on a platform that included an agressive pro-life position, massive tax cuts for the upper classes, anti-affirmative action, and many other anti-Democratic positions. Would Clinton voters from ’92 have come out in huge waves to vote for him. No chance. Sure, some still might have voted for him. But would he have done better than he did in ’92? No way. Bush, by contrast, did better in ’04 that in 2000.

That’s why Greenwald is right - the cult is obvious - and evidence of its existence has been noted time and again on this site.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
...the cult is obvious and evidence of its existence has been noted time and again on this site.
By whom ... you? The owner of "Strawmen R Us"?

LOL!
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
You miss Greenwald’s point. This is not an issue about "teams." That would be nothing new. What distinguishes the current situation from previous ones is not loyalty to a team, e.g., the GOP, the conservative cause, but loyalty to George Bush. Adoration of Bush.
I considered and rejected that. The loyalty is not to Bush, but to the team, including the most prominent player, the quarterback, the de facto team leader. The loyalty is to the team, regardless of the figurehead who calls the plays.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Maybe there was another influencing factor, MK. If you think hard, maybe you’ll remember a few planes crashing into some buildings somewhere on the East Coast...?
 
Written By: Nathan
URL: http://brain.mu.nu/
Jon writes:
The loyalty is not to Bush, but to the team, including the most prominent player, the quarterback, the de facto team leader. The loyalty is to the team, regardless of the figurehead who calls the plays.
Bingo. Greenwald is often astute, but when he ain’t, he ain’t.

George Bush is merely the revered leader of a GOP gone populist, and while he embodies that movement, he did/does not generate or sustain it by functioning as a "charismatic leader."
 
Written By: Mona
URL: http://
I suspect Greenwald is just tired of having to put up with the "BDS - Bush Derangement Syndrome" label thrown around at many of his fellow leftists, and wanted to push back. If you peruse right-leaning blogs for any length of time, you’ll find several examples of criticism of Bush, both of his political strategy and his politics in general. Miers, immigration etc.... you’d have to be blindly partisan not to recognize the heat Bush has taken from this supposed "cult".

On the other side, I cannot for the life of me think of anything the Kos/Atrios crowd had to say about Bush that was in any way positive.

And as for staying with Bush despite his mega-spending, NCLB etc., he still was a better choice than Kerry. It had nothing to do with a cult of adoration, but was merely a case of half a loaf being better than none.
 
Written By: CNH
URL: http://
The loyalty is not to Bush, but to the team, including the most prominent player
I think that was Glenn’s point entirely. The loyalty is to the team, directed mainly at it’s leader, and not to any concept of conservative political ideology.

 
Written By: davebo
URL: http://
Wow...mk, way to offer your opinion as fact. Well done as always. Anyhow, Jon had it right, in my OPINION. As did Nathan, in reference to 9/11. That changed MANY die hard conservatives/republicans priorities in a heartbeat. It is not new, nor is it surprising that many conservatives still defend and/or promote Bush. The same thing happened with Clinton in regards to welfare reform. Many democrats who didn’t want anything to do with welfare reform went along with it because their president did. The problem remains that the democrats have absolutely no power, so they yell, scream and kick their feet ad infinitum. Greenwald is simply engaging in yet another rationalism to help him ease the pain of having NO power. Believe me if situations were reversed, this would hold true for some right leaning blogger and conservatives/republicans in general. I consider myself a libertarian (neo not paleo) and think this president is anything but a conservative. Socially of course, but in what else? It is hard to find anything to identify him as conservative.
 
Written By: ThePolishNizel
URL: http://
The loyalty is not to Bush, but to the team, including the most prominent player, the quarterback, the de facto team leader. The loyalty is to the team, regardless of the figurehead who calls the plays.
Bush and his father each played quaterback. And each violated supposedly core conservative principles: The father raised taxes, the son created huge deficits. The father was deserted by conservatives. The son was embraced.
Miers, immigration etc.... you’d have to be blindly partisan not to recognize the heat Bush has taken from this supposed "cult".
As I believe Greenwald pointed out, the Miers’ unnomination proves his point. She was discarded because she wasn’t seen as being sufficiently loyal to Bush and his ideas. There was this idea that she might think for herself on the court, think differently from Bush, and the cultists were having none of that.

As for the immigration issue, name one bill that the GOP Congress has passed that has even attempted to challenge Bush’s position. And what form has the "heat" to which you refer taken?

The War in Iraq is the best evidence of the Bush cult. No matter how badly things go in Iraq, the Bush cult members will blame every entity under the sun but Bush. The press, Cindy Sheehan, Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, Jack Murtha, the ACLU, and a host of other entities are all more to blame for the problems in Iraq than the Commander in Chief. Remember, the war is going great, if only Sheehan would shut her mouth and the press would report all the "good news."
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
She was discarded because she wasn’t seen as being sufficiently loyal to Bush and his ideas.
That is absolute nonsense. She was an absolute loyalist and everyone knew it. And, most felt, her loyalty was rewarded by a nomination, which is one reason she was criticized. She was discarded because the majority of critics argued she was unqualified, they were right, and Miers had the good grace to understand her nomination was going nowhere and withdraw.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
George Bush is merely the revered leader of a GOP gone populist, and while he embodies that movement, he did/does not generate or sustain it by functioning as a "charismatic leader."
That’s not always the case, however…

There are many followers who like/love GWB solely on his personality. You hear it time and time again from Right-wing talk radio. And you hear it echoed through other media pundits. Such as Chris Matthews,
You know, Tony, there is in the past, it’s not always there, but sometimes it glimmers with this man, our president, that kind of sunny nobility.
And
I like him. Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left — I mean — like him personally.
I’ve heard this impression ad nauseam. Many people like his twang, his bowlegged strut, and the imagined piece of straw hanging from his teeth.
I’ve heard bellows of laughter about his “western white house” in that he causes the Whitehouse press corps to hang around Crawford, Texas. (I don’t know why that’s funny. If anything it’s cruel. West Texas in August is right around the corner from Hades. Most people wouldn’t like it, and odds are, you wouldn’t like it either.)
I’ve heard over and over again on his “down home guy” and “heartlander” persona.
A lot of people like that, and they’ll go to the mat all because of his “personality”.

I personally don’t understand how bowleggedness is charismatic.
And what’s up with the chainsaw!?!… my god, the chainsaw!?

People eat that crap up.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
I see that MKultra Is straining at a gnat again. Talk about delusional. Now, I do think there are some people on the right who are real Bush lovers, but the vast majority merely see him as something better than the alternative.
In My estimation he would not have been a better choice than some democrats, but he was/is a definite better choice than the ones he ran against.
As for "no matter how bad things get in Iraq" Just how bad is it? For the occupation of a land which has never before known democracy, I think its going rather well. Of course, I have a little knowledge of history to give me some perspective. I think that many on the left only have the persective of "marxist" or deconstructionist history, or what they learned from old back issues of Mother Jones.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
Well, Pogue, you might have a little point. If you consider that four out of seven of our last presidents had southern accents, I guess it has some sort of endearing qualities. However, I think that at least half of what you hear about Bush is comming from people who are fed up with the relentless, and sometimes unfair attacks, and so are morea of a reaction than anything else.
 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
She was discarded because the majority of critics argued she was unqualified, they were right, and Miers had the good grace to understand her nomination was going nowhere and withdraw.
Right. It had nothing to do with passages from her speeches such as this:
"The ongoing debate continues surrounding the attempt to once again criminalize abortions or to once and for all guarantee the freedom of the individual women’s [sic] right to decide for herself whether she will have an abortion. Questions about what can be taught or done in public places or public schools are presented frequently to the courts. ... The underlying theme in most of these cases is the insistence of more self-determination. And the more I think about these issues, the more self-determination makes the most sense."
If Miers had been rock solid on the abortion issue, it wouldn’t have mattered if she got her law degree from a correspondence course. I think Robert Novak put it best:
"Miers hardly seems the true believer the Republican base was anticipating when the president’s agents spread the word last week that his choice would please conservatives. In 1988, she was contributing to Al Gore’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. She is listed as chairman of a 1998 American Bar Association committee that recommended legalization of gay adoptions and establishment of an International Criminal Court."
She wasn’t a true believer. That’s how the president’s agents sold her. And when it turned out she wasn’t - well, you know the rest.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Wow, leave it to mkultra to cite a source that absolutely and utterly DESTROYS the point that he is trying to make.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Make that, overall point, as I am sure that he will try to conveniently forget that the last post was only made in support of his overall point.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
The majority elected our government as it stands today. The minority (which LOST) spends their time second guessing our elected officials, and trying to drag the rest of the country into their sorry a$$ debate. When we point out that these are the people the majority elected, they say we don’t question authority enough. They wonder why we support the President which they voted against. I don’t know that it’s blind loyalty to President Bush as much as it is that the people on the right understand that this is who we elected as our President, and it would be ridiculous to NOT support our president. It’s such a stupid, useless game, yet the left continues to play.
 
Written By: Alex
URL: http://
I don’t know that it’s blind loyalty to President Bush as much as it is that the people on the right understand that this is who we elected as our President, and it would be ridiculous to NOT support our president. It’s such a stupid, useless game, yet the left continues to play.
You must be a young man, Alex.
people on the right understand that this is who we elected as our President, and it would be ridiculous to NOT support our president.

Alex,
I would like to introduce to you William Jefferson Clinton.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
I’ll be 50 this year, and until he was impeached, I supported him also. I didn’t vote for him, but I absolutely supported him. I don’t believe you have to be young to have good sense.
 
Written By: Alex
URL: http://
Just another word about this. Just want to make clear where I stand. I am an American. Whomever is elected president of this country, whether I voted for them or not, is MY president, and I will support them and my country. I do not do this blindly. I do this because it is what an American should do. I don’t agree with President Bush on a lot of things, but he’s the President of the United States of America, and until the next president is elected, no matter what party, I’ll support and defend this one.
 
Written By: Alex
URL: http://
Ah,
So I guess your amending your statement from,
“people on the right”
To,
“Me”

Fair enough.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
No. I’m not amending my statement. You’d be hard pressed in finding a leftist who would support their president no matter what party they’re affiliated with. Any and all that I’ve ever had the pleasure to talk to will tell you very quickly that President Bush isn’t THEIR president. I guess America isn’t their country either. At least not until it is under their rules and guidlines. Diversity seems to mean whatever a leftist agrees with. If they don’t agree, it must be wrong. That is why I’m a libertarian, and why I don’t particularly care for socialist/communists that call themselves "Liberals". There’s nothing liberal about them.
 
Written By: Alex
URL: http://
For example, there are die hard supporters of George Bush out there right who see no problem with the massive deficits he is running up. 10 years ago, many of these same people were deficit hawks.
Running up massive deficits is not inherently anti-conservative. There has always been people in the conservative movement who thought that the deficits did not matter. The hard core supply-siders for one group believe that all that matters is cutting taxes, deficits be damned. (and yes "deficits be damned" is my definition of a hard core supply-sider). Big government IS anti-conservative and it is the fact that GWB is using big deficits to create a bigger government that seriously cast doubt on his conservative credentials.


 
Written By: Lighthouse
URL: http://
Oh come on Alex, this not new. I heard lots of right wingers say "He is not MY president" when Clinton was president. The bumper sticker "Dont blame me I voted for X" is as old as bumper stickers. Disdain for and nasty comments about the president goes all the way back to George Washington. Check out a collection of historical political cartoons some time. Abe Lincoln depicted as king of the monkeys comes to mind. At least based on newspapers of the day, the politics in the 19th century was even more nasty than it is today.

Of course we fought a civil war in the 19th century so maybe that is not a good example....
 
Written By: Lighthouse
URL: http://
As I believe Greenwald pointed out, the Miers’ unnomination proves his point. She was discarded because she wasn’t seen as being sufficiently loyal to Bush and his ideas. There was this idea that she might think for herself on the court, think differently from Bush, and the cultists were having none of that.
This is exactly wrong. From what I read, the vast majority of objections to Miers took one of two tacks: 1) (mine) she was simply unqualified — or, at the least, she showed no evidence that she’d given constitutional law the slightest thought — or 2) she was very likely to "evolve in office"; that is, she had no grounded, well-conceived view of constitutional interpretation, and would likely be susceptible to "poetic justice", rather than consistent application.

I know of nobody who argued that she’d be insufficiently amenable to Bush, though I’m certain that some people thought she wouldn’t be a strict constructionist. If you like — and I’m quite certain that you won’t — I’d be happy to pull up my post in which I argued that she’d be too deferential to Bush. But that would ruin a good strawman, so you’ll let it drop.
The War in Iraq is the best evidence of the Bush cult. No matter how badly things go in Iraq, the Bush cult members will blame every entity under the sun but Bush.
Clearly, you don’t read a lot of Right-leaning writers. Inter alia, I subscribe to the Weekly Standard. They’ve frequently criticized policies, tactics and other decisions in the Iraq war. We’ve done the same at this blog.
There are many followers who like/love GWB solely on his personality. You hear it time and time again from Right-wing talk radio.
I don’t get it. I never understood the affinity that many felt for Clinton, either. I never cared for his manner of speaking, his mannerisms, or his accent. He "reads" much better than he sounds. But Bush takes the cake. I can’t listen to him for more than a few seconds at a time.

The only President whose persona I recall enjoying during my lifetime has been Reagan, who was just an undeniably exceptional speaker. He had an incredible charisma. However, I also recognize that persona is not policy, and my serious evaluation is done on policy. Personality only comes into it insofar as it’s likely to affect policy.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net

 
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