Political Animal


February 18, 2012 9:33 AM A World View Encapsulated in a Backward Glance

By Rich Yeselson

Michelle Goldberg and Michael Tomasky have excellent columns up at the Daily Beast, which catalog the comprehensive push by conservatives around the country to demean, control, and otherwise subordinate women who don’t conform to traditional gender roles. In Oklahoma, a bill passed by the State Senate would outlaw in vitro fertilization, since it depends upon frozen embryos. In Virginia, a woman seeking an abortion will be subject to invasive ultrasounds of her fetus. And, of course, we have seen how the fight over “religious freedom” done in the name of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has quickly shifted to a fight over birth control, more broadly.

As with the continued rear-guard fight against same-sex marriage (activists in both Washington state and Maryland plan to challenge via referendum same sex marriage legislation passed or about to be passed in those respective states), we are seeing an old story replayed yet again: conservatives are entirely reactive to long standing efforts by women and gay people to obtain greater autonomy and equity in civil society and their personal lives. Fifty years after Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and forty three years after the Stonewall Riots, conservatives are still, in the famous phrase of William F. Buckley, standing on the railroad tracks of history and yelling “stop.” It is a restorationist credo to which we could also include efforts to bring back the gold standard and weaken the social insurance state. Yet this is a future obsessed nation, always fascinated by the next new thing, be it the iPad three or Jeremy Lin. And thus conservatism always has to set up a new bulwark in defense of freedom several miles back from it’s earlier bulwark—even Oklahoma can’t bring itself to prohibit birth control altogether. It will never be 1962 again, or 1920, or even 1870, the train of history keeps hurtling forward. The greater the current offense to the way things were—and now it’s a bi-racial/cosmopolitan/intellectual president raised in a Muslim country—the more rabid is the effort of conservatives to retain something of the old world, the more feverish is the desire to sail their boats against the current.

Modern conservatism and its political vehicle, the Republican party, is fittingly represented in 2012 by a movement of people who first came to public attention by dressing in clothing worn in the 18th century.

Correction: I’m embarrassed enough by this sloppy error to call special attention to it. The exact and, in context, William F. Buckley quote—one of the most evocative in the history of American conservatism—is as follows: “….if NATIONAL REVIEW is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” This is taken from the mission statement of the National Review in 1955.

No railroad metaphor—that was entirely of my own creation and should not have sullied Buckley’s lovely, if all too revealing, prose. Guess I must have been thinking about how great it was that Wilson nationalized the railroads (Irony alert!).


  • hells littlest angel on February 18, 2012 11:51 AM:

    And don't forget the re-institution of the poll tax via voter ID laws.

    What's next, bounties on scalps?

  • Josef K on February 18, 2012 12:02 PM:

    By definition, conservatives seek to keep things static. The only real surprise here is how the Republicans have moved from nostalgia to outright reactionary violence (both rhetorical and otherwise). There've always been scoundrels and con-men manipulating the populace to their own ends, but those ends are usually sane and comprehensible.

    These days? The conservatives are so angry as to be incoherent, and well-financed enough where they don't need to be. That their backers tend to be somewhere between eccentric to barking mad doesn't help any.

    This period of our history is definitely not going to end well.

  • Barbara on February 18, 2012 12:09 PM:

    Anybody who hasn't read the NYT article on out of wedlock births among women under 30 should. What really struck me wasn't how retrograde these efforts at turning back the clock are, though of course they are, and not even how irrelevant and futile they are -- but they are also destructive because they are leaving many people in an economic and cultural vacuum, particularly those under the age of 30 and their children. By doubling down on the old (abstinence outside of marriage, submissive wives) they are blocking a conversation about how people can ethically relate to each other in a world where gender and economic roles have permanently changed. So men are still hearing that they are the head of the family, even though their wives contribute as much economically as they do and resent being held to an inferior position by someone who can't even do his own laundry. Off the soapbox now, but as my children are growing up I feel like we are raising a lost generation.

  • MNRD on February 18, 2012 12:09 PM:

    It's fear of being overwhelmed by a rapidly changing world. And this GOP is stoking that fear in order to benefit politically against this President.

  • DRF on February 18, 2012 12:14 PM:

    The pro-choice movement is going to lose the battle over abortion rights if it continues to see the pro-life/anti-abortion movement as merely an attempt to "control, demean and otherwise subordinate" women.

    The pro-life movement has long ago staked out their position very clearly as a moral one: that abortion is the taking of innocent lives. Until the pro-choice advocates come to grips with this argument--accept it as a sincere belief on the part of nearly all of those active on the pro-life side and not as some sort of smoke-screen to hide anti-feminist types--they will continue to lose ground in this country.

    The Virginia bill to require ultrasounds isn't an attempt to "control" women or even to humiliate them; it is part of a broad-based legislative effort by the anti-abortion movement to discourage women from getting abortions, plain and simple. This effort includes defunding groups like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion services, erecting barriers to obtaining abortions and barriers to providing services.

    I say all of this as a pro-choice supporter. But if you want to win this struggle, you need to understand the motivations on the other side, and demonizing anti-abortion supporters as simply being "anti-women" is neither correct not productive.

  • Mimikatz on February 18, 2012 12:15 PM:

    It has frequently been remarked that fundamentalism, whether Christian (Catholic or Protestant), Muslim, Jewish or some other form, is really a radical reaction tom change that the adherent finds so literally upsetting that he or she feels it must be staved off for existential reasons. In other words, marginal personalities whose identities are so wrapped up in their belief system, which is the source of their privileged position as well, that change must be resisted at all costs.

    Catholic teachings on sexuality are based on their core belief in male supremacy and hierarchy. They can't abide independent women and can't admit they were wrong in Humanae Vitae or people might suspect they were wrong about a few other things right back to the virgin birth. They can't risk having their faith stand on its own without divine sanction because their own faith isn't strong enough. Protestant fundamentalists have a similar dynamic based on biblical inerrancy.

    This is why Jesus's teachings on peace, helping the poor, renouncing materialism and the like
    don't inspire nearly such vigilance.

    Fortunately people who have been let our of the box rarely if ever go back. The train left the station long ago and they are left just shouting on the platform.

  • Mimikatz on February 18, 2012 12:29 PM:

    DRF: The inherent contradiction in the so-called "pro-life" position was summed up years ago by Pat Schroeder: They believe life begins at conception and ends at birth. For them only the unborn are innocent. The post-born, if they had the misfortune to be born to a single mother or struggling family are undeserving of government assistance or support. This is why they are so hard to take seriously, and why pro-choice people seek to understand the psychological reasons behind virulent anti-choice positions. And it is definitely rooted in the desire to keep women subordinate and maintain male privilege in a rapidly changing world. All of the evils of the modern world, like working women, single parenthood, women beginning to dominate I. Higher education and in the professions and attaining positions of power, stem from women's freedom from the tyranny of reproductive biology. How otherwise to explain things like the Virginia ultrasound law, which would be rape by foreign object if not sanctioned by law? These folks want only to humiliate and punish women who have the misfortune to get pregnant by mischance. They are losing the battle and they know it. There will be no going back.

  • Rick B on February 18, 2012 12:54 PM:

    @Josef K

    Right. Conservatives are people who hold socially powerful positions in the current day and age. They will resist changes that challenge their power. In much of America that still means that mostly rural politicians hold the strongest positions. The Constitution was designed to give greater power to rural landlords (and slaveholders) to protect America from the mobs who lived in cities.

    Only, sometime in the last two generations the majority of the American population moved into cities and away from rural area. Urbanization and population growth threaten the power of rural landholders like nothing else in American history ever has.

    What are conservatives angry about? City people are threatening to take their power away. Urbanization, industrialization and population growth are causing massive social and political changes and the conservatives are on the losing side of those changes.

    The losers in the demographic changes are retreating into conservative politics and rigid evangelical religions which try to force society into the cultural norms that died away years ago. But the new generation, kids under age 30, simply do not comprehend the world those people are so rabidly attempting to defend.

    The only thing the conservatives can do is to make the shift to the future much harder - by, for example, refusing to acknowledge the fact that the human industrial activity is destroying the ability of the planet to support life.

  • JoanneinDenver on February 18, 2012 1:00 PM:

    May I most respectfully throw the BS flag on your comments. I speak as a pro-life feminist. The Pro-Life movement, IMHO, was taken over by republicans after their 1994 victory and the so-called "right to life amendment" was abandoned. The amendment would have given federal civil rights protection to unborn children, but would have also, of necessity, given power to pregnant women which is the only biological way to protect life before birth.

    The pro-life philosophy was subordinated to the states rights movement, by republican men. That is why, without any exception, and in lock step formation, all so-called pro-life people call for the overturning of Roe and the issue returned to the individual states. There, it is argued, let the "people decide"....the Barabas solution for those of you of religious bent. Right now, the right to an abortion is an absolute civil right that women possess in their first trimester. The goal of all the state restrictions and so-called personhood amendments is to throw the issue into the federal courts and ultimately give the Supreme Court THE case to use to overturn Roe.

    I couldn't be the only person who sees the Constitutional threat in this approach.
    If the states have the right to define who is a person, why would they stop at fetal life? What about so-called "Anchor babies?" What about people in a persistent vegetative state? What about redefining what "person" means in terms of the 14th Amendment?

    This is not about a war on women, this is about a war on the federal constitution. Exploiting the profound conflict that many women feel about abortion is a tactic. The goal is to weaken the federal constitution and its protection of civil rights.

    I supported Pat Schroeder long term commitment to the getting the Family Medical Leave Act and then finally signed by Bill Clinton.

  • knightphoenix2 on February 18, 2012 1:06 PM:

    DRF @ 12:14 PM,

    Please. That "saving the babies" position is only a fig leaf to justify their harassment of women who violate traditional sexual mores. Not to mention, trying to get them back into traditional dependency and subserviance to men.

    Besides, as Mimikatz above pointed out, their actions belie their true intentions even more clearly. If they truly wanted to reduce abortions, they would make contraception freely available, and they would support unmarried women who kept their babies.


    Instead, as part " ... of a broad-based legislative effort by the anti-abortion movement to discourage women from getting abortions, plain and simple." They are using state-sanctioned "rape by object" to "discourage and intimidate" women from getting an abortion.

    Under what circumstances can this NOT be considered a broad-based, continuous attempt to humiliate, torture, and control women?

  • pj in jesusland on February 18, 2012 1:15 PM:

    There is a clear distinction in the environmental services profession between conservation and preservation. Conservation means managing human interaction with nature in ways that sustain the environment for use by future generations. Preservation means trying to keep an area exactly as it appears now with minimal human intervention.

    The GOP is dominated not by Conservatives but by Preservatives. They are brined in a permanent 19th century world view, pickled for posterity, the Gherkins Of Politics. A bunch of sourpusses.

  • DRF on February 18, 2012 1:51 PM:

    To mimikatz--The "life begins at conception and ends at birth" thing makes a good bumper sticker, but it's a gross over-exaggeration and misundersanding of the pro-life movement. Truth is, there is absolutely nothing inconsistent with wanting to protect the sanctity of life of the innocent (which is certainly how pro-lifers see it) on the one hand and opposing certain government assistance programs. I don't agree with either of those positions, but you really don't have a clue about the people on the other side of this argument if you believe that this somehow reveals some sort of contradiction which exposes bad faith. No offense, but it's just delusional to think that these people aren't genuine in their belief. And I believe one explains the Virginia bill as one intended to make abortions as unpleasant a choice as possible.

    joanneindenver--I'm not sure what you mean by saying that the pro-life philosophy was "subordinated" to the states' rights movement. As I see it, at least two of the strategies employed by the right to life movement have been (1) to enact legislation at the state level that would make legal abortions increasingly more difficult to obtain, and (2) to mount challenges to Roe v. Wade that will, they hope, lead to its reversal. Throwing the issue back to the states isn't about states rights advocates coopting the movement; it's about removing the Constitutional protection and thereby allowing state legislatures to outlaw abortion. Undoubtedly, the pro-life movement would love to see an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting abortion, but they realize that isn't in the cards at this point.

    I don't see the Constitutional "threat" you describe. One way of the other, someone--whether the Supreme Court or state legislatures or referenda--is going to define when life begins for purposes of abortion law.

    knightphoenix2 is more blatant than either of the above in accusing the pro-life movement of hiding their real agenda. All I can say is that if you don't realize that these people are absolutely sincere, that they have a moral position that is perfectly defensible and is not hypocritical or a pretext for something else, then you are never going to prevail in winning hearts and minds on this issue.

  • Tom on February 18, 2012 2:17 PM:

    The necessity of abortion arises from the subordination of women in their most intimate relationships.

    Almost every abortion is an unwanted pregnancy. Almost every unwanted pregnancy is the result of a woman having intercourse on her partner's terms, not her own. A woman who has been slut-shamed into not getting birth control that is under her own control. A woman who, while afraid of getting pregnant, is more afraid of offending her partner by insisting on a condom.

    Yes, there are birth control failures. Yes, there are complications that make what started as a wanted pregnancy into one that should be terminated early. But the vast majority of abortion come from unwanted conceptions that the woman could not prevent for interpersonal reasons.

    That is why abortion rights are necessary to the equality of women and why restricting abortion rights are efforts to control women and keeping them subordinate.

  • JoanneinDenver on February 18, 2012 2:34 PM:

    @ DFR
    " I don't see the Constitutional "threat" you describe. One way of the other, someone--whether the Supreme Court or state legislatures or referenda--is going to define when life begins for purposes of abortion law."

    I am sorry that I have failed to persuade you of the constitutional threat that the overthrow of Roe represents. Unlike you, I am pro-life and I am very familiar with the so-called "right to life movement." The reason I was given that the republican men dictated that the human life amendment be honored only in the
    abstract was the fear that if they voted to outlaw abortion, they would not be re-elected and the election of conservative politicians was more important than anything else.

    The issue is not, nor has it ever really been, "when does life begin?" Biologically, life begins at conception. Legally, personhood begins at birth, as defined, ALREADY, by the Supreme Court. The latter finding was incorporated in a CIVIL RIGHT that all women have in during their first trimester. The VA law and others which attach regulation to the first trimester are a direct attack to this CIVIL RIGHT. Roe gives states the right to regulate abortion in the second trimester and the right to prohibit within the third trimester, within certain legal parameters.

    The route that you are describing would let EACH state define "when life begins" for the purpose, not of abortion, but of defining legal rights of the fetus and thus establishing who is a person, on a state by state basis. Some states might not grant personhood until an infant has lived for a certain number of days; other might define personhood as beginning at conception. Still others, might decide that "personhood" can not be conferred on those infants with certain profound disabilities. What madness would this create? What would this do to
    our federal system of laws?

    The only way pro-lifers can address the abortion issue consistent with the federal constitution and our history of civil rights is to advocate for a Human Life Amendment to the constitution. They absolutely refuse to do this because it is not expedient and it would be contrary to the conservative philosophy of the right wing republicans.

    I do agree that the conflict about abortion is becoming more and more profound as women and their mates become more knowledgeable about life before birth.
    I also do not dismiss the genuine beliefs of people in the pro-life movement.I miss the bright women who were once active in the pro-life movement. They have either left or become subordinate to the wishes of republican politicians.

  • RickDFL on February 18, 2012 2:46 PM:

    It is not an nvasive ultrasound, it is rape. The people proposing this are rapists and child molesters. They don't belong in a legislature, they belong in prison with the rest of their kind.

  • HBY on February 18, 2012 3:02 PM:

    "the fight over religious freedom done in the name of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has quickly shifted to a fight over birth control"

    WHOA!! Full stop!! You have that absolutely bass ackwards.

    A fight over contraception is being twisted by the Catholic church to try and make it appear to be a fight over religious freedom.

  • latts on February 18, 2012 4:20 PM:

    they have a moral position that is perfectly defensible and is not hypocritical

    Ah, yes-- the sincere morality that focuses like a laser on others' transgressions. The lazy, self-flattering kind of morality that seeks social domination and claims to speak for God in its quest for control. Very impressive.

    I certainly can't be the first or only person to observe that this particular type of moral code does nothing to improve its advocates own character, nor does it register as the admirable combination of humility and openheartedness that most societies-- most faiths-- recognize as divinely inspired.

  • Mimikatz on February 18, 2012 4:33 PM:

    DRF: The extreme anti-abortionists do not have a rational moral position. Anyone who refuses to allow an abortion to save the life of the mother because of some "morality" that prefers an inchoate life to a present, suffering one is not rational in my book. Go watch the interesting movie from the '60s "The Cardinal" to see what I mean. Even he later realized he had been wrong to treat his sister so severely. Or someone who would require a low-income woman to shortchange her existing children by having another child she can't afford to care for. And of course the lie at the core of their position is their objections to birth control. If they truly abhor abortion and want to help women, make birth control readily available and give kids accurate sex education instead of trying to shoehorn everyone their Victorian double-standard pseudo morality.

  • Daddy Love on February 18, 2012 4:34 PM:

    On the contrary, the image of conservatives standing on "the railroad tracks of history and yelling 'stop' " is both more accurate and more evocative than anything William F. Buckley ever said.

    They're on the losing side of every social issue, and every time they take another step backward they dclare again that THIS time, now that it's (slavery, votes for women, interracial marriage, segregation, Social Security, MEdicare, etc.) that's at stake, the fate of Western Civilization and indeed our very existence as a free people are in danger. It's fun to watch but tiring to listen to.

  • Rrk1 on February 18, 2012 5:23 PM:

    For a while it appeared that 'conservatives' only wanted to turn the clock back to the 50s. Now it seems that the reactionaries in control of what was once a fairly sensible, if conservative political party, are beyond reactionaries. They are nihilists. They aim for sometime in the 19th century, if not earlier, somewhere around the stone age. For a time when men were men and women were nothing. But their moral worldview obviously does not change with the times. No sir. They stand for the same things they have always stood for: the subjugation of women, Blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, and anyone else they don't like or who looks different.

    Having already alienated Black, Hispanic and homosexual (except for the Log Cabin Syrup types) voters quite successfully, this batshit crazy crowd has now taken on women (again). Who is it, exactly, that the nihilists think will vote for them? Taking on the women has to be the last straw on this camel.

    Now if only the media would ridicule these imbeciles right off the stage. But then I fantasize too much.

  • TCinLA on February 18, 2012 7:52 PM:

    These people are NOT "conservatives." They are right wing radicals. In other words, fascists.

    Here is an article by Mike Lofgren, a former career Republican operative who finally broke with them last year, explaining this. DRF: perhaps you of all people here need to read this, since you are so confused. The right wing position regarding abortion is clearly spelled out and has nothing whatsoever to do with "morality." (emphases mine)


    Tuesday 14 February 2012

    by: Mike Lofgren, Truthout | News Analysis


    Lofgren's first commentary for Truthout, "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult," went viral, drawing over a million unique views.

    Although Mitt Romney used the word "conservative" 19 times in a short speech at the February 10, 2012, Conservative Political Action Conference, the audience he used this word to appeal to was not conservative by any traditional definition. It was right wing. Despite the common American practice of using "conservative" and "right wing" interchangeably, right wing is not a synonym for conservative and not even a true variant of conservatism - although the right wing will opportunistically borrow conservative themes as required.

    Right-wingers have occasioned much recent comment. Their behavior in the Republican debates has caused even jaded observers to react like an Oxford don stumbling upon a tribe of headhunting cannibals. In those debates where the moderators did not enforce decorum, these right-wingers, the Republican base, behaved with a single lack of dignity. For a group that displays its supposed pro-life credentials like a neon sign, the biggest applause lines resulted from their hearing about executions or the prospect of someone dying without health insurance.

    Who are these people and what motivates them? To answer, one must leave the field of conventional political theory and enter the realm of psychopathology. Three books may serve as field guides to the farther shores of American politics and the netherworld of the true believer.

    Most estimates calculate the percentage of Republican voters who are religious fundamentalists at around 40 percent; in some key political contests, such as the Iowa caucuses, the percentage is closer to 60. Because of their social cohesion, ease of political mobilization and high election turnout, fundamentalists have political weight even beyond their raw numbers. An understanding of their leaders, infrastructure and political goals is warranted. Max Blumenthal has done the work in his book "Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party." Blumenthal investigates politicized fundamentalism and provides capsule bios of such movement luminaries as James Dobson, Tony Perkins, John Hagee and Ted Haggard. The reader will conclude that these authority figures and the flocks they command are driven by a binary, Manichean vision of life and a hunger for conflict. Their minds appear to have no more give and take than that of a terrier staring down a rat hole.

    Blumenthal examines the childhoods of these religious-right celebrities and reveals a significant quotient of physical and mental abuse suffered at the hands of parents. His analysis of the obvious sadomasochistic element in Mel Gibson's films - so lionized by the right wing - is enough to give one the creeps. But the book is by no means a uniformly depressing slog: the chapter titled "Satan in a Porsche," about fundamentalist attempts to ban pornography, approaches slapstick.

    According to the author, the inner life of fundamentalist true believers is the farthest thing from that of a stuffily proper Goody Two Shoes. They seem tormented by demons that those in the reality-b

  • TCinLA on February 18, 2012 7:54 PM:

    Here's the rest of Lofgren's analysis:

    According to the author, the inner life of fundamentalist true believers is the farthest thing from that of a stuffily proper Goody Two Shoes. They seem tormented by demons that those in the reality-based community scarcely experience. That may explain their extraordinary latitude in absolving their political and ecclesiastical heroes of their sins: while most of us might regard George W. Bush as a dry drunk resentful of his father, Newt Gingrich as a sociopathic serial adulterer and Ted Haggard as a pathetic specimen in terminal denial, their followers on the right apparently believe that the greater the sin, the more impressive the salvation - so long as the magic words are uttered and the penitent sinner is washed in the Blood of the Lamb. This explains why people like Gingrich can attend "values voter" forums and both he and the audience manage to keep straight faces. Far from being a purpose-driven life, the existence of many true believers is a crisis-driven life that seeks release, as Blumenthal asserts, in an "escape from freedom."

    An observer of the right-wing phenomenon must explain the paradox of followers who would escape from freedom even as they incessantly invoke the word freedom as if it were a mantra. But freedom so defined does not mean ordinary civil liberties like the prohibition of illegal government search and seizure, the right of due process, or the right not to be tortured. The hard right has never protested the de facto abrogation of much of the Bill of Rights during the last decade. In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.

    Robert Altemeyer, a Canadian psychologist, has done extensive testing to isolate and describe the traits of the authoritarian personality. His results are distilled in his book "The Authoritarians." He describes religious fundamentalists, the core of the right-wing Republican base, as follows:

    They are highly submissive to established authority, aggressive in the name of that authority and conventional to the point of insisting everyone should behave as their authorities decide. They are fearful and self-righteous and have a lot of hostility in them that they readily direct toward various out-groups. They are easily incited, easily led, rather un-inclined to think for themselves, largely impervious to facts and reason and rely instead on social support to maintain their beliefs. They bring strong loyalty to their in-groups, have thick-walled, highly compartmentalized minds, use a lot of double standards in their judgments, are surprisingly unprincipled at times and are often hypocrites.

    There are tens of millions of Americans who, although personally lacking the self-confidence, ambition and leadership qualities of authoritarian dominators like Gingrich or Sarah Palin, nevertheless empower the latter to achieve their goals while finding psychological fulfillment in subordination to a cause. Altemeyer describes these persons as authoritarian followers. They are socially rigid, highly conventional and strongly intolerant personalities, who, absent any self-directed goals, seek achievement and satisfaction by losing themselves in a movement greater than themselves. One finds them overrepresented in reactionary political movements, fundamentalist sects and leader cults like Scientology. They are the people who responded on cue when Bush's press secretary said after the 9/11 attacks that people had better "watch what they say;" or who approved of illegal surveillance because "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear;" or who, after months of news

  • TCinLA on February 18, 2012 7:59 PM:

    Turns out it was longer than I thought. This really is the end.

    They are the people who responded on cue when Bush's press secretary said after the 9/11 attacks that people had better "watch what they say;" or who approved of illegal surveillance because "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear;" or who, after months of news stories saying that no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, nevertheless believed the weapons were found. Altemeyer said:

    Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds. They would march America into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result.... And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going away.

    Twenty to 25 percent is no majority, but enough to swing an election, especially since the authoritarian follower is more easily organized than the rest of the population. As for Altemeyer's warning that such personality types "are not going away," the rise of the Tea Party after 2008 showed that he was a better prognosticator than Max Blumenthal, who thought the radical takeover of the GOP during the Bush presidency had "shattered the party."

    Altemeyer cites clinical data to show us how certain people score high on psychological tests measuring authoritarian traits and that these high scores strongly correlate with right-wing political preferences. What Altemeyer is lacking is a satisfactory explanation as to why a significant percentage of human beings should develop these traits. We obtain some clues in Wilhelm Reich's "The Mass Psychology of Fascism," written in 1933 and unfortunately only obtainable in a stilted 1945 translation full of odd psychological jargon. One does not have to agree with Reich's questionable later career path and personal eccentricities to notice that his 1933 work is a perceptive analysis of the character of the authoritarian political movements that were rising in Europe. Anyone reading it then and taking it seriously could have predicted the new totalitarian regimes' comprehensive repressiveness, extreme intolerance and, within a few years, nihilistic destructiveness.

    Reich appears to see fascism as the political manifestation of an authoritarian psychology. Who are the authoritarians?

    Fascist mentality is the mentality of the subjugated "little man" who craves authority and rebels against it at the same time. It is not by accident that all fascist dictators stem from the milieu of the little reactionary man. The captains of industry and the feudal militarist make use of this social fact for their own purposes. A mechanistic authoritarian civilization only reaps, in the form of fascism, from the little, suppressed man what for hundreds of years it has sown in the masses of little, suppressed individuals in the form of mysticism, top-sergeant mentality and automatism.

    Here again we see the paradoxical nature of the authoritarian personality: rebelling against authority while hungering for it - exactly as the contemporary right wing fancies it is rebelling against big government while calling for intrusive social legislation and militarism. In the midst of dire economic circumstances, why do they expend inordinate energy brooding over contraception, abortion, abstinence education, gay marriage and so forth and attempt to transform their obsessions into law? Reich said:

    The formation of the authoritarian structure takes place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and sexual anxiety.... The result of this process is fear of freedom and a conservative, reactionary mentality. Sexual repression aids political reaction not only through this process which makes the mass individual p

  • pj in jesusland on February 18, 2012 9:35 PM:

    Virginia is on the verge of enacting personhood legislation that looks a lot like the terms of the failed Mississippi referendum. Some of the curious legal questions raised by the Zygote Rights Movement:

    1. Do forms of contraception that prevent blastocysts from implanting themselves on the wall of a woman's uterus become murder weapons and the women become murderers?

    2. Are the blastocysts of foreigners, here legally and illegally, subject to Virginia's personhood laws?

    3. Since apparently blastocysts will hold the same rights as persons and corporations can they form Blastocyst Super Pacs?

    4. Since blastocysts can't represent themselves can they assign power of attorney to people?

    5. Can Blastocysts own property, inherit property or claim the right to an inheritance?

    6. Do blastocysts get social security numbers?

    7. What if a lab-fertilized egg fails to get implanted in a recipient?

    So many questions. Blastocyst rights attorneys are lining up for all the potential lawsuits.

    And women across the state are lining up to vote against Ken Cuccinelli later this year.

  • joanneinDenver on February 19, 2012 7:37 AM:


    And your point is what? These right wingers, regardless of their psychological
    make up, are entitled to the full protection of the law. They can vote. Their right to practice their religions, most compatible with their psychology, is absolutely guaranteed by the First Amendment.

    @pj in jesusland
    It is impossible to protect a blastocyst/embyro unless you are protecting the mother. The heart of the craziness of Roe was to legally institutionalize an adversarial relationship between the mother and the unborn "life" she carries.
    That is biological absurd. The goal of the VA legislation is to get a test case to the Supreme Court so Roe can be overturned. Then each state will determine
    how to rule on legal protections for the unborn. VA legislation requires an intrusive ultrasound procedure prior to an abortion. I believe that will become standard. That legislation does not confer personhood status. The personhood movement does not depend on legislation; it favors popular referendums.

    Overturning Roe will DESTROY a civil right that women currently have and it will do NOTHING to grant any kind of civil right status to the unborn, regardless of their state of development.

    For the record, I am a strong believer in contraception. I look forward to the day when a MALE contraceptive has been developed that is as effective as the birth control pill.

  • zandru on February 19, 2012 11:54 AM:

    "I look forward to the day when a MALE contraceptive has been developed that is as effective as the birth control pill."

    Thanks, joanneinDenver, but I'll wait for a day when women can trust a man who says he's using that kind of contraception...

  • pj in jesusland on February 19, 2012 1:48 PM:


    You are only partially correct when you state, "VA legislation requires an intrusive ultrasound procedure prior to an abortion. I believe that will become standard. That legislation does not confer personhood status."

    FYI, this past week the Virginia legislature passed two bills, one requiring the ultrasound procedure prior to having an abortion. The other was Del. Bob Marshall's House Bill #1 which defines personhood at conception and "provides that unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth."

    You are properly concerned about Roe but the personhood legislation is an equally if not more pernicious intrusion into a woman's control over her own body.

    And here's another interesting question raised by Virginia House Bill #1: should it pass, can we claim blastocysts as dependents for tax purposes?

    Perhaps the IRS will want to weigh in on this one.

  • djfs on February 19, 2012 4:30 PM:

    Don't understand your reasoning, "In Virginia a woman seeking an abortion will be subject to invasive ultrasounds of her fetus". So, let me try to understand this, a woman seeking an abortion really should have no concern for her fetus (the baby whose life she has chosen to end), so the concern isn't over an invasion to the fetus,(even though the fetus is soon to be significantly invaded by instruments that will tear it apart)but this should not be of concern to the uninformed mother, because this is not a living being to her and therefore, cannot be "invaded" or made uncomfortable, or have any feeling of any kind, so she's already made that uninformed judgment. Then, the invasive ultrasound must be of consequence to her, right? Maybe I can undestand this. Let me see, this actually non-invasive (it's exterior to her body, not interior)procedure would only serve to give her a view of her soon-to-be exterminated child. It would only serve to provide one last chance for this baby to have its true being shown to its mother so she can make a well-informed "choice" instead of one veiled in unknowing and darkness. I think that it is much better to have the mother be very well informed of exactly what she's about to do, instead of spending the rest of her life living in regret, depression,guilt, as so many post-abortion women have done in this country when they do see the actual action they've been duped into commiting, instead of giving this little life up for adoption to someone who will love it or possibly even keeping the baby themselves and finding this was the most wonderful miracle ever in their lives. So, all-in-all, I think the Virginia law is definitely something that will benefit women (as well-as unborn children) very nicely.

  • HBY on February 19, 2012 5:06 PM:

    "And, of course, we have seen how the fight over "religious freedom" done in the name of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has quickly shifted to a fight over birth control, more broadly."

    You've added the words "more broadly" to try and mitigate your error. But you've still completely mischaracterized the facts.

    The facts are: The Catholic church is trying to make a fight about contraception into a fight about "religious freedom".

  • JoanneinDenver on February 19, 2012 5:16 PM:

    @pj in jesusland
    I did not know that there was a second bill, a personhood bill passed in VA. Thank you for the information.
    I think that that both bills violate Roe. However, if Roe is overturned before the personhood bill is challenged legally, then personhood would become the law of the state.

    Yes, I think that mothers and/or fathers should be able to take an unborn child as a deduction. Absolutely. They cost a fortune and that does not begin at birth, but way before. Now, I understand that there might be a bit of a problem with those New Year Eve conceptions...but it could be worked out...


    Why is anyone going to bed with someone they don't trust? That is, of course, just my opinion, not one I would hope to see enshrined in legislation.

    How many men have found themselves saddled with child support because the woman insisted she was "protected?"

    As for the "perfect male contraceptive," I would envision some kind of visible sign that would would verify that the male was indeed "protected." ....maybe a chemical in the contraceptive that would turn the penis blue or polka dotted...or a discrete tattoo ...behind the ear or someplace. It could be a great pick-up line..."Check out my tattoo?' But, then we might run into that trust thing again.
    I am trying here.

    Personally, I remember our cry from the olden days..."If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they keep a baby out of the womb?"