Friday, August 26, 2016

More on Clinton's alt-right speech

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have a mixed reaction to Hillary's "alt-right" speech yesterday. I like that she goes after specific individual nasties associated with Trump and even repeatedly calls them "white supremacists" and "white nationalists." With no "Sister Souljah moment" to toss in a both-sides-do-it element. After eight years of Obama's fudging and endless "bipartisan" talk, it's a relief to see.

But she also sticks to the framing that somehow this is a problem of Trump and a clique around him, not the way the Republican Party has been functioning for a long time. Trump may be ruder than nasty Ted Cruz or John Kasich, the hardline rightwinger who passed himself off to the press this year as the Last Republican Moderate. But his racial and xenophobic politics are not outliers in today's Christian Republican White Man's Party.

Trying to draw a sharp distinction between Trump and some imagined more responsible conservatives in today's Republican Party reminds me of how white Mississippians in the 1960s made a conventional distinction between their "courtly" hardline segregationist Senator John Stennis and the meaner image of their other hardline segregationist Senator Jim Eastland.

I was also struck at how she recycled boilerplate rhetoric from 1964 and 1980, "Of course there has always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it rising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone." And, "A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party." There was much more reason to frame things this way in 1964, when there actually were liberals in the Republicans Party. And in 1980, when there was a recognizable moderate faction of people like John Anderson.

Also, "all of this adds up to something we’ve never seen before." I guess that's okay if she's referring to an orange-haired Republican candidate for President. It was Hillary herself who famously referred to the "vast rightwing conspiracy" going after Bill, and the Gingrich "Revolution" (that word that so panics Democrats) was every bit as nasty as Goldwater in 1964. There was that little impeachment business going on, too. John Kasich was one of the lead players in the impeachment drive. The fact that Kasich counts as the Last Republican Moderate is a sign of how the rudeness of the rhetoric, rather than substantive policy ideas, is now the main distinguishing public feature of the various Republican factions.

Jeet Heer at the New Republic argues that Hillary "is trying to heighten the contradictions in the Republican Party." (In Her Alt-Right Speech, Hillary Gave the GOP a Mafia Kiss 8/26/2016)

I think that may be the first time I've ever seen anyone actually use that "heighten the contradictions" phrase without sneering at the concept as a bad idea. Heer argues that Hillary is warning people like Paul Ryan that they will suffer from the judgment of history if they don't renounce Trump. I think that's too imaginative a reading of Hillary's speech. And I doubt seriously that Paul Ryan and most other Republican in Congress actually give a rip about the judgment of history. They're worried about keeping their corporate sponsors happy.

I just think the ideological conformity of today's Republican Party is so strong that this is a long shot, especially for the woman who has been the right's most hated Harpy Demon for 25 years. Or to put it in the quasi-Hegelian terminology, Republicans see their enmity to Hillary as the "primary contradiction" here; any embarrassment over Trump's nasty mouth is taken as a "secondary contradiction."

(As an aside here, the "primary contradiction" thing made me wonder if Hegel actually used the concepts of primary and secondary contradictions. I know that at some point between Hegel's passing in 1831 and now, those concepts were taken up in Marxist political theory and left propaganda. But I don't know where it originated. Note to self for a geeking-out research project.)

The PBS Newshour had this report on Hillary's alt-right speech, Why the ‘alt-right’ is coming out of online chat rooms to support Trump 08/25/2016:

Sleepy Mark Shields and Bobo Brooks took up the alt-right speech today, Shields and Brooks on the alt-right and a general lack of trust in Clinton 08/26/2016:

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