Monday, September 25, 2006


A Country in Crisis Mode

In the New York Times, Charles Baxter writes about one Congressional campaign in Minnesota. His observations, however, apply across the country.

...we are facing a choice between a "conservative" who wants to institute radical reforms and a "progressive" who wishes largely to maintain the status quo. In Minnesota’s Sixth District, liberalism is the new conservatism. [...] Having allied herself firmly with the president’s policies on Iraq and privatizing Social Security, [incumbent Michelle Bachmann] also advocates eliminating the estate tax. For supporting these radical reforms she is called an "archconservative," though what she is trying to conserve, other than large family fortunes, is never scrupulously clear. [...] The problem faced by politicians who wish to preserve the social programs enacted by their grandparents is that President Bush has been wildly successful at creating an air of constant crisis, both foreign and domestic. Crisis rhetoric, which is inherently radical rather than conservative, dissolves social stability. In this sense, terrorism has infected every subject and every discussion, even locally. Alarmism has become so ubiquitous in discussions of Iraq, the decline of the family and financing for Social Security and education that polarization is assured. Extremity, after all, is more newsworthy than good sense. This outlook has the effect of trivializing most local issues — who cares about farm-price supports when radical Muslims want to make Stillwater part of the caliphate? And it ensures that the volume will always be turned up to 11 — at least until everybody begins to suffer crisis fatigue and tries to calm down.
It's worth repeating: "Crisis rhetoric, which is inherently radical rather than conservative, dissolves social stability." It's not just the "crisis rhetoric" that's threatening our social stability. Bush's "You're On Your Ownership Society" directly attacks our sense of community and undermines our ability to make progress by sharing responsibility and effort. This isn't conservatism. It's anarchy. And y'know, somehow it doesn't seem to be a good idea to have people in charge of the country who will create anarchy. Remember that on Election Day: if you think "one nation, indivisible" is still a good idea, don't vote for Republicans.
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