Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lest We Forget that Rick Santorum Supporters are Real People Too



It is easy to demonize one's political foes.

Red state and Blue state; political polarization; epistemic closure; the great sort; "real America." These are catch phrases which obscure as much about political reality as they reveal. Ultimately, politics is about people and their choice (or not) to support particular policies, personalities, and goals.

However, I am always mindful of the lie which is false equivalence: while the volume may in fact be turned way up on both sides of the ideological divide, there is no equivalent on the Left or from moderates to the propaganda machine of Fox News and the right wing echo chamber. Moreover, the sophistication of their eliminationist appeals, and ability to create an alternate reality for their believers, is without peer. This is not a criticism. It is an observation and a backhanded complement.

With Rick Santorum's rise and popularity among the Republican base, it has become abundantly clear that emotion--perhaps as it always has--rules over reason for a significant part of the voting public. Given the psychological predispositions of the most ardent culture warrior conservatives, one either "gets" Rick Santorum's appeal, or is left shaking their heads in disbelief. This is as much a function of how conservative's brains are hardwired, as it is political socialization, and the sources which Republicans trust to give them cues about political decision-making.

In all, politics is about real people--and their foibles, confusion, passion, and personal, local understandings of social reality. On occasion, the "public" speaks back. The Youtube promo by Right Wing Rants in defense of Rick Santorum, and my observations about the latter's race baiting, Christian Nationalism, and hatred of black liberation theology is a great object lesson in the power of the Right-wing media echo chamber.

There is a good amount of sincerity in these two three videos which makes them all the more troubling. Like many voters, Right Wing Rants does not simply accept the talking points from Fox News and their fellow propagandists. As researchers such as John Zaller and others have pointed out, for a political appeal or cue to be truly effective it has to be reconciled and integrated with preexisting beliefs. Pundits and analysts often overlook this fact in their efforts to make sense of the populist conservative political imagination.



The Right-wing media is persuasive because they offer a worldview, an alternate set of facts, and an emotionally compelling narrative which speaks directly to their public. In short, conservative spin doctors have figured out how to sell their ideology as a faith and a lifestyle where the proclamations, edicts, and conclusions are self-evident. This is especially appealing for low information voters.

There is no cognitive dissonance for the true believer: the facts are shaped by the conclusions and the ideological priors. The Left is still mired in a politics which attempts to speak to the head and not to the heart. And for that reason, among others, conservatives have been able to move the country rightward, and the Democratic Party has willing aided and abetted the shift.

All of the Right-wing talking points on race, Obama, white victimology, a skewed reading of political history, and disingenuous colorblind conservative politics are present here. Fascinating and eerie. Once more, politics is about "real people." We forget that fact at our peril. This is the face of the loyal opposition; he may be one voice in the wilderness, but he is not alone...and he will be voting on election day.

4 comments:

sabrinabee said...

Wait... So is he saying that the white Christians of the past are not the same but the Republicans of the past are? I love how he emphasizes that the FIRST people that were lynched by the KKK we're white Republicans and blacks, almost as if blacks were an afterthought. "oh and them too..." Anybody knows there was no lynching going on leading up to the Jim Crow movement until whites decided to become Republicans, right?

Chauncey the man was so earnest I was almost convinced you were Huey Newton reincarnated. Seriously though, if people like him applied even a part of the energy he spent trying to discredit you on finding out exactly where they are getting their news from, this country would be better off. For example, if he had done a Wikipedia search on why Fox Entertainment won, in a court of kaw, the right to embellish the information it feeds to the public, he might have realized that it is he that is being duped.

Such as shame, because you are correct, Fox and the Republican party have perfected to art of propaganda politics. Sure you have some coming in its wake but no one does it like Fox. Truly sad for this country.

Tny8 said...

His bit about "white Democrats" . . . Are people really this obtuse? When he's having a good day does he talk about how gay he feels? How can you have a discussion about the complexities of race when we're still at "The Complexities of English 101". I'm sorry I can't offer anything of substance to your comments but I just - they make me tired.

chaunceydevega said...

@Sabrina. Don't try to make sense of it. That is the point, it doesn't make sense at all but it is compelling. A good conspiracy theory is "good" precisely because of that fact.

@Tny8. He gets one votes as do the rest of us. Democracy is a sham.

fred c said...

The great curse of the Internet is that guys like this can now feel like they are the equal of Walter Cronkite, speaking ex cathedra from the comfort of their own dining rooms. Feeling like big-time pundits, but only repeating the crap that they hear, through the filters of their own prejudices, needs and desires.