Listening to the Right

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Charles Blow has been listening to talk radio:

Lately I’ve been consuming as much conservative media as possible (interspersed with shots of Pepto-Bismol) to get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right. My read: They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged.

Well, sure, though this is hardly unusual.  A sense of besiegement has been the right’s stock in trade for as long as I’ve been alive.

But there is something different about their tone these days, and I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is.  My tentative take is that there’s an inchoate quality to their fears that’s new.  In the past they were fighting against specific things: communism, hippies, Bill Clinton, Islamists, abortion, etc.  But communism is dead, the hippies are grown up, Clinton is off doing good works in Africa, al-Qaeda is pretty quiet, and it’s pretty obvious that the culture wars have been lost. They’re doing their best to slot Obama into the old Clinton/Gore role, but he just doesn’t fit and the media isn’t playing along the way they did in the 90s.  So they’re stuck.  Who, exactly, is their enemy these days?

I’m not sure they know themselves.  But maybe that makes it worse.  A nuclear-armed USSR may be scary, but at least it’s something you can identify.  These days that’s a lot harder.  Like a horror movie where you’re surrounded on all sides by something you can never quite make out, I guess it seems to them like there’s something horrible going on, but it’s something so insidious that they’re only allowed to catch occasional foggy glimpses of it.  Budget deficits?  Healthcare reform? Top marginal tax rates going back to 39.6%? Negotiations with Iran?  Those aren’t things that normally stir the blood.  But what if they’re really just stalking horses for something far more malign?

I dunno.  Maybe that’s the reason for the apocalyptic tone.  The actual policies that liberals are pursuing aren’t that big a deal even by right-wing standards, but if besiegement is your stock in trade then that only means there must be something else going on that you’re not being allowed to see.  Because there has to be something, doesn’t there?

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