Sunday, October 05, 2008

Deciphering the Dog Whistle: What Are Conservatives Really Saying?

Apr/May 08 Grassroots Press column:

The political Silly Season began over a year ago, so I thought I’d finally dive in and write about politics. The source material for this essay is Todd G. Dickson’s article in the Feb. 29 Las Cruces Bulletin, entitled "Marquardt touts legislative experience in Congressional bid." Conservative Terry Marquardt of Alamogordo is running in the Republican primary for the Congressional seat vacated by Steve Pearce, who is making a run for U.S. Senate. Marquardt says he is the most conservative candidate, in the mold of Pearce and the late Joe Skeen.

Judging from the article, Marquardt has nothing original to say, but why should he? The 1980 Reagan playbook has stood the test of time very well... not because of a superior philosophy, but because progressives have been unable to successfully articulate a compelling vision. A rabid Republican base, a corporate-controlled press, and a spineless Democratic Party have proven an unbeatable combination in recent decades. But this year just might be different.

Bloggers use the term "dog whistle" to describe Republican discourse. Conservative politicians speak in a code calculated to stir up their base, while leaving liberals relatively clueless. Just as only dogs can hear a dog whistle, only fellow conservatives truly understand the coded message. (Liberals become bored and restless whenever conservatives start to speak, and quickly tune them out. This is a big mistake.) One classic example of "dog whistle" is the Republicans’ use of the term "state’s rights" in the 70s, which was code for "keeping blacks in their place."

As a public service, I will translate Marquardt’s conservativese into plain English, in the hope that non-conservatives might better understand what he’s really saying.

According to the article, Marquardt says that "people are willing to spend money for national defense, but are upset by wasteful spending." Marquardt "supports... a federal balanced budget and ending ‘earmark’ spending." Translation: He supports unlimited military spending; but to balance the budget, social programs like Social Security and Medicaid will have to be cut.

Marquardt opposes universal health care. He is quoted as saying, "Universal health care will take away from that important doctor-patient relationship." Translation: Universal health care will take away from that important relationship between insurance companies and politicians.

The article continues: "As for the economy, Marquardt supports tax reductions for capital gains and dividends." Translation: Yet more tax cuts for the rich. Imagine that!

He is quoted as saying "I’m for individual liberty, free-market solutions, less taxes and less government interference." This doesn’t lend itself to a quick translation, so let’s look at these points individually:

"Individual liberty," well, who doesn’t believe in this? However, to conservative politicians, by far the most important "individuals" are corporations. Constitutional safeguards for genuine, human individuals are to be ignored whenever possible, and permanently trashed whenever expedient.

"Free-market solutions" means, among other things, privatizing what used to be government functions, such as the military. Privatization is an important part of the conservative philosophy because behind most corporations stands at least one Republican-donating millionaire. Why support government bureaucrats when you could be supporting millionaires instead?

"Less taxes," as we all know by now, really means "less taxes for the wealthy." Sure, you can throw the occasional rebate to the masses from time to time, but conservative politicians never forget where their true loyalty lies... with "the haves and the have-mores."

"Less government interference," you’ve got to be kidding! We now have the most corrupt, intrusive, lying, spying, torturing, Constitution-bashing administration in history, and we’re supposed to believe that electing a Republican will result in "less government interference?" Give me a break! What he really means, of course, is "less government interference in corporate affairs." The rabble, on the other hand, are potentially dangerous, and must be strictly programmed and controlled at all times.

That pretty well covers the translation aspect of this article. In summary, it is obvious that the conservative philosophy has not kept up with changing times. In short, conservatives have become irrelevant. It is the task of the Democrats to sell a more realistic vision that addresses our rapidly-worsening situation.

I hope Marquardt is the Republican nominee, because the voters deserve a stark choice. For the Democrats, I prefer Bill McCamley. I think his promotion of the spaceport hype was a big mistake, but policy-wise he's an infinite improvement over Steve Pearce. McCamley comes across as a sharp guy who articulates well. I think he has the best chance of any Democratic candidate in recent memory. Whoever the Democratic candidate may be, he will have to run a creative, mistake-free, and well-funded campaign to have any kind of chance. This is, after all, the notoriously conservative 2nd Congressional District, but this year the stars are as well-aligned as they’ll ever be.

Turning to the rest of the state, we find that Heather Wilson’s congressional seat is a very feasible Democratic pick-up, and Tom Udall’s seat in congress is traditionally a safe Democratic stronghold. Udall is polling very well so far in his Senate race, and I sure am enjoying watching Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson tear each other to shreds. Just think – one of them will lose in June, and the other will lose in November!

This is a unique opportunity for a major Democratic sweep in November. We could end up with our entire Congressional delegation Democratic.

Unfortunately, politics as now practiced is irredeemably trivial and corrupt. Our political system is unable to confront the fundamental problems – global warming, peak oil, economic meltdown, galloping authoritarianism -- we are faced with. Despite everything, I continue to hope there’s hope... what else do we really have? Pardon my skepticism, but I assume that Obama is using "hope" as a ploy to gain power, and that he will prove to be yet another agent of the status quo system that is destroying our planet. Hopefully he will prove me wrong; the other candidates are much worse.

Turning to more interesting topics, I always thought the so-called "transformation of consciousness" on this planet was a great concept, but saw little evidence that a critical mass could be formed quickly enough to do much good. But now, for the first time, thanks to the combination of Eckart Tolle’s commonsense mysticism and Oprah Winfrey’s media savvy and star power, I am acknowledging that -- just maybe – truly meaningful change might be possible. Contact for details about her ongoing "New Earth" web event.

Astronomers are making exciting breakthroughs into understanding the nature of our universe. (Notice I said "our" universe, not "the" universe.) From the Sky and Telescope website: "Researchers have confirmed some key predictions of the ‘inflationary universe’ theory of how the Big Bang itself erupted from a much larger, underlying pre-existence, which could be producing inconceivable numbers of other, separate big-bang universes all the time." Hmmm. Combine this "underlying pre-existence" concept with the fact that our universe consists of only 4.6% "ordinary" matter (the other 95.4% is dark energy and dark matter which humans are unable to perceive directly), and we find that what we usually take to be "reality" is but the thinnest sliver of something inconceivably vast and incomprehensible from which words and thoughts must, of necessity, turn back. Which is what the mystics have been saying all along. I’ll chew on these topics and see if anything interesting presents itself. Stay tuned.

(Gordon Solberg spends most of his time hugging trees at his micro-farm, Soarbird Ranch, near Radium Springs.)


Post a Comment

<< Home