The Party of Fear

W was re-elected by inciting a sense of fear among voters. Al Qaeda was still rampant, Bin Laden has not yet been caught, we are fighting two wars (unfunded and at least one incited under false grounds) and there could be a bomb (or a democrat!) in your closet for all you know.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the Republicans have fanned all the flames they can here, with these several scandals they have created. The New York Times rightly refers to this stunt as “vast Republican opportunism on display this week.” They are desperately trying to weave together a theme the Obama has rigged the government against Conservative 501(C)4 groups, against any soldier who was in Libya a few years ago, and slightly – very slightly – in the press. They have translated these matters into an excuse for a radical overhaul of the IRS and all matters related to tax. They have attempted to strip the administration of its competence in managing international security.

A group that seeks nonprofit status is, by statute, not allowed to be political. What could possibly be non-political in a name like Patriot, or Tea Party? The same would hold for a group calling itself Libertarian, Progressive, or Socialist. One only wishes the IRS would have targeted any such group so that it would follow its legal mission.

The Republicans pursued Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky, and Dan Rostenkowski. And the Democrats had Iran Contra, and Newt Gingrich. And there was Abscam, and, golly, bunches of other scandals, all this heightened with Watergate. Politicians are almost always having affairs, and unethical with money. But we’ve had scandals in America as long as we’ve had America. These days, though, it simply seems like we have government by scandal. Or we have a lack of government, no thanks to scandal. Smear politics, sideshows… be afraid, be very afraid.

The public used to believe that the purpose of a hearing was to find justice through learning the truth. Now, depending on what side you are on, we each see it as “gotcha” government, solidifying or even deepening partisanship rather than getting beyond it for any sense of common good.

Air America, the talk radio with an openly leftist perspective, began to attempt a counter to the success of conservative media, whose patriarch was Rush Limbaugh. Air America’s kingpin was to be Al Franken. He soon lost that post, and the network is defunct. Things have worked out for Franken, though he barely won election in a highly contested and close vote for the US Senate. Talk radio and television are still going strong. There wasn’t enough to grip an audience on the left. I submit it is because the right is far better at scaring the public, and that fear-mongering sells. It sells ads, and it hooks ears.

Conservative-generated scandals tend to involve something scary: the government is going to require you to register before you use the toilet; foreigners are taking paperclips from your desk; and so forth. And those usually play well into those that suspected that sort of thing all along. That category of scandal works best for the right.

Government, we now seem to agree, is broken. The far right is tacitly happy about that, and would love to dismantle it, and maybe reassemble a tenth of it. The far left would like a new agency empowered to oversee transparency and a restoration of good government. Both sides would like to fight back when the other guys overreach. And the downward spiral continues.


It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place…
it’s when we start spilling our sweat, and not our blood.
– David Hume

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About Jim

I've been leading outdoor environmental education in the YMCA since the 1970s. I love teaching nature, history, current events, being a dad, fixing stuff, groups, and general thinking.
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One Response to The Party of Fear

  1. JP says:

    A good, if depressing summary of where we are. I think part of the reason right wing talk radio succeeds and lefty radio doesn’t is that the purpose of the right wing radio jocks is to, as you say, instill fear, stir up fear and hatred of the other side. And of course most of what they say isn’t true, so it takes hours of repetition every day to be able to continually hold in your head things that just don’t match any kind of reality or empirical evidence. (i.e. you’ve never seen Obama take away anyone’s gun, so to believe he is going to take away our guns, you need to have someone reinforce that lie for a few hours each day.)
    As one of those on the left, I don’t need hours of talk radio every day to reinforce the facts and reality of the world I see. And I have better things to do. My interests are too broad to spend three hours a day listening to Rush Limbaugh (even if he said anything I agreed with) or Al Franken, even though I largely agree with him on the issues.
    What we have is a battle between those who believe government has value and can do good things for people, and those who have bought Grover’s idiotic idea that we need to shrink government to where we can drown it in a bathtub. If we get to that point, we’ll all be drowned with it.

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