Monday, October 17, 2016

The GOP's Dark Image of America

The Republican Party likes to talk about supposed American exceptionalism to the point where most thinking people want to vomit.  It's an image that is out of touch with reality and that conveniently ignores all of the ugliness in America's past and failed policies such as the Vietnam War disaster and the more recent debacle in Iraq.  Yet, despite this unreal vision of America, today's GOP has done a 180 degree turn and, if believed, would describe America as a dark and hopeless place.  Perhaps the vision is true for aging white supremacists who cannot tolerate the growing equality of other segments of society ranging from blacks, Hispanics, to LGBT citizens. The 1950's are gone forever, despite the fantasies of the far right.  A column in the New York Times looks at the out of touch view of America now peddled by the GOP and not just Donald Trump.  Here are excerpts:
I’m a baby boomer, which means that I’m old enough to remember conservatives yelling “America — love it or leave it!” at people on the left who criticized racism and inequality. But that was a long time ago. These days, disdain for America — the America that actually exists, not an imaginary “real America” in which minorities and women know their place — is concentrated on the right.
To be sure, progressives still see a lot wrong with the state of our society, and seek change. But they also celebrate the progress we have made, and for the most part the change they seek is incremental: It involves building on existing institutions, not burning everything down and starting over.
On the right, however, you increasingly find prominent figures describing our society as a nightmarish dystopia.
This is obviously true for Donald Trump, who views the world through blood-colored glasses. In his vision of America — clearly derived largely from white supremacist and neo-Nazi sources — crime is running wild, inner cities are war zones, and hordes of violent immigrants are pouring across our open border. In reality, murder is at a historic low, we’re seeing a major urban revival and net immigration from Mexico is negative.
[Y]ou find almost equally dark visions, just as much at odds with reality, among establishment Republicans, people like Paul Ryan, speaker of the House.
Mr. Ryan is, of course, a media darling. He doesn’t really command strong support from his own party’s base; his prominence comes, instead, from a press corps that decided years ago that he was the archetype of serious, honest conservatism, and clings to that story no matter how many times the obvious fraudulence and cruelty of his proposals are pointed out.
[C]onsider the portrait of America Mr. Ryan painted last week, in a speech to the College Republicans. For it was, in its own way, as out of touch with reality as the ranting of Donald Trump. . . . Mr. Ryan’s remarks were intended as a picture of what all such [progressive] policies do.
According to him, it’s very grim. There will, he said, be “a gloom and grayness to things,” ruled by a “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy.” We will become a place “where passion — the very stuff of life itself — is extinguished.” And this is the kind of America Mrs. Clinton “will stop at nothing to have.”
Gallup finds that 80 percent of Americans are satisfied with their standard of living, up from 73 percent in 2008, and that 55 percent consider themselves to be “thriving,” up from 49 percent in 2008. And there are good reasons for those good feelings: recovery from the financial crisis was slower than it should have been, but unemployment is low, incomes surged last year, and thanks to Obamacare more Americans have health insurance than ever before.
So Mr. Ryan’s vision of America looks nothing like reality. It is, however, completely familiar to anyone who read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” as a teenager.
So why does the modern right hate America? There’s not much overlap in substance between Mr. Trump’s fear-mongering and Mr. Ryan’s, but there’s a clear alignment of interests. The people Mr. Trump represents want to suppress and disenfranchise you-know-who; the big-money interests that support Ryan-style conservatism want to privatize and generally dismantle the social safety net, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
The big question is whether trash-talking America can actually be a winning political strategy. We’ll soon find out.

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