Article 43


Republican Redux 16


A Conservative Explains Why Right-Wingers Have No Compassion
A former Republican Senate Congressional staffer on why right-wingers think people without insurance deserve to die.

By Mike Lofgren
February 7, 2012

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-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 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(1) 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 passive and unpolitical but also by creating in his structure an interest in actively supporting the authoritarian order. The suppression of natural sexual gratification leads to various kinds of substitute gratifications. Natural aggression, for example, becomes brutal sadism which then is an essential mass-psychological factor in imperialistic wars.

According to Reich, a patriarchal, sexually repressive family life, reinforced by strict and punitive religious dogma, is the “factory” of a reactionary political order. Hence, the right wing’s ongoing attempts to erase the separation of church and state, its crusade against Planned Parenthood, its strange obsession with gays. Consider the following political platform, which sounds almost as if it were taken from a speech by Rick Santorum:

The preservation of the family with many children is a matter of biological concept and national feeling. The family with many children must be preserved ... because it is a highly valuable, indispensable part of the ... nation. Valuable and indispensable not only because it alone guarantees the maintenance of the population in the future but because it is the strongest basis of national morality and national culture ... The preservation of this family form is a necessity of national and cultural politics ... This concept is strictly at variance with the demands for an abolition of paragraph 218; it considers unborn life as sacrosanct. For the legalization of abortion is at variance with the function of the family, which is to produce children and would lead to the definite destruction of the family with many children.

So wrote the Vlkischer Beobachter of October 14, 1931. As Altemeyer warns, they are not going away: certain psychological constructs and the political expressions they give rise to, persist over time and across cultures.

1. E.g., Isaac Newton’s eccentricities and unpleasant personality did not invalidate his mathematics. We are interested in the message not the messenger.



Conservatives Of All Stripes Ignore the Suffering of Their Fellow Americans

By Rmuse
Politics USA
June 29. 2012

As a virtue of empathy, compassion is concern for the suffering of others, and a fundamental part of Christian love. It is also one of the cornerstones of social interconnection and humanism that is the basis of the highest principles in philosophy, society, and community. Unless someone has been hiding in a cave for the past three years, they understand that Republicans, teabaggers, Libertarians, and a major segment of the religious right have abandoned any sense of compassion for their fellow Americans, but especially the poor. Indeed, conservatives of all stripes have demonstrated that instead of compassion, their agenda is increasing the suffering of tens-of-millions of Americans to reward the wealthiest Americans.

What is particularly noteworthy, and hypocritical, is the number of so-called conservative Christians who ignore the suffering of Americans in the richest country in the world, and one Republican U.S. senate candidate from Wisconsin is sick and tired of reading sad stories about people struggling in the Republican-caused recession. What Eric Hovde prays to his god about is that the media start writing about the issues such as lowering the corporate tax rate, slashing spending, and reducing the deficit.Ӕ Hovde made his comments during a speech to the Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, and he pointed to a reporter and said, I just pray that you start writing about these issues. I just pray that you stop always writing about the person couldnӒt get food stamps or you know, another sob story.

A campaign spokesman clarified that Hovde was really talking about how ԓout-of-control government spending is whats really hurting the poor and making human interest stories possible in the first place, so the press, and the public at large, should be focusing onҔ cutting taxes for the wealthy and their corporations, cutting social safety net spending, and reducing the deficit. According to a National Journal analysis, the press already spends more time talking about the deficit than Republican-caused unemployment or rising poverty rates in part because corporate-controlled media follows explicit instructions from Republican politicians and policymakers. In fact, the press has been remiss to report that Republicans are attempting to cut food stamps for 50 million Americans, slash Veterans benefits, cut health spending for children, women and seniors, or give $10.7 trillion in tax cuts to the rich. The main stream media has also not irritated Mr. Hovde with a truly sad report from the Office of Research at the United Nations ChildrenҒs Fund (UNICEF) that America has the second highest rate of children living in poverty in the developed world.

However, the story is not about the press failing to report on the dire conditions of an incredibly large segment of the population, but about the lack of compassion Hovde and Republicans have toward their fellow Americans. Hovde is a self-professed devout Christian and like so many of those kinds of Christians,Ӕ his primary concern is giving more entitlements to the wealthy instead of caring for the poor, or as Hovde calls them, another sob story.Ӕ It is shocking that Hovde thinks cutting social safety net spending will help the poor, because besides creating more sob stories,Ӕ Draconian budget cuts kill millions of jobs and when coupled with more Republican tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, the loss of revenue and borrowing will drive up the deficit.

Most human beings do not like being reminded that their neighbors, family, and friends are hungry, homeless, or barely surviving, and if they have the slightest bit of humanity and compassion, do whatever they can to assuage their suffering. Christians are admonished by their namesake to care for the poor regardless the personal cost, and in Hovdes bio it says his ғfaith taught him to provide shelter and supportive services to people in crisis, especially street and neglected children in the United States, Africa and Latin America. However, his faith in conservatism teaches him to promote cutting supportive services to people in crisis and drives him to pray that the press writes more stories about giving tax cuts to corporations, cutting food stamps for hungry Americans, and deficit reduction that must certainly cause him great conflict as a devout Christian.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Republicans, especially conservative Christian Republicans, lack concern for the suffering of others and are devoid of empathy or compassion that their lord and savior based his entire ministry on. That men like Hovde prays for the press to stop writing sob stories about the poor, and prays they concentrate on reporting how important it is to slash food stamps, VeteranԒs benefits, healthcare for seniors and children, and focus on deficit reduction informs that they are not Christians in any way, shape, or form, and lack basic humanity. What Republicans have demonstrated is that they are callous and cold-hearted toward the suffering of others and they appear genuinely thrilled at the prospect of creating an entire nation of poverty-stricken Americans subsisting to reward the wealthy.

Hovde is not the only Republican hoping the press helps convince Americans that giving corporations and the wealthy proceeds from spending cuts and deficit increasing tax cuts, but he is the first to say he prays to his god that they promote the cold-hearted, compassionless agenda of increasing poverty and killing jobs to afford the wealthy greater riches. There is little doubt that millions of compassionless Christians pray every night that Republicans are successful in creating a nation of peasants and hungry children, and instead of being astonished, Americans should be habituated that this new, cold-hearted class of conservative Christians not only prays for greater poverty and tax cuts for the wealthy, they pray for President Obama to die. One cannot help but wonder; what would Jesus do?Ӕ Based on the Christian bible the answer is clear; he would condemn the lot of them to everlasting hell-fire and eternal damnation which is better than they deserve.


Posted by Elvis on 05/13/13 •
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