2007

21 November 2007: Republicans & Fear

Republicans continue to use fear as tactic

The words of the day, with respect to Stephen Colbert who is unable to enlighten us due to the writers’ strike, are triple ex—exercise, excoriate, exorcise. Recently they came to mind watching three events unfold.

The first was the departure of Rep. Debbie Stafford from the Grand Old Party for the non-theocratic version. That caused leading Republicans to become exercised and to excoriate her to the point, that had she not left the Republican Party by volition, she would have been exorcised.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Stafford came to the conclusion she would be more welcome and comfortable as a Democrat, despite the fact that on a wide range of issues she is still very much in concert with the Republican canon. It seems that Stafford was not particularly adept at toeing the line, a prime requisite for Republicans.

Another event was the hysterical response to Governor Ritter’s executive order providing state workers the opportunity to give input to their supervisors about what is happening on their jobs. Keep in mind his directive does not provide that which might actually affect workers’ ability to provide for their families: collective bargaining or striking, as the writers of the Colbert Report have done, or seeking binding arbitration.

Nevertheless, that did not stop the Denver Post from running a silly front-page editorial condemning it along with “business” and Republican Party leaders who became exercised, excoriated Ritter, and began the process of exorcism: This “could very well doom his governorship,” warned the Post’s editorial. Doom? One wonders which holds the title of Mr. Doom better—the Post or Tom Tancredo with his Big Boom ad, our third event. Perhaps we should call them “respectfully,” Doom and Boom, eh?

In addition to their meanings, the sounds of words help create visual imagery within the mind of the reader or listener. In this case, the predominate consonants in the three words are “x” and “r.” The “x” sound causes one to sense separation, while the “r” suggests hardness, rigor, or rigidity. (Note the “r” in each of those words.)

Each of the aforementioned words connotes “fear,” and fear is an underlying practice and operating psychology for authoritarian personalities.

After Stafford announced her decision, the force of Republicandom came down upon her hard, forgetting their relishing the exact same choice, only in their direction, by former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell in 1994. Then, it was more like Campbell, having encountered Buddha under the Bodhi tree, became enlightened.

Now, it’s understandable that party leaders and members become upset with an office-holder’s decision to switch parties since he/she got there in the first place using the party’s resources. However, demonizing them, such as what was done to Stafford to the point of calling into question her mental fitness and acumen, goes beyond the pale.

As for Ritter, the Post’s editorial mournfully intoned, “A Colorado promise broken,” while the headline over the news article read, “Ritter’s big gamble.” It was neither a broken promise nor gamble, but that didn’t stop the hysteria machine from kicking into gear.

And of late, Tancredo’s apocalyptic warning of impending holocaust for America if we don’t close the border with Mexico as of yesterday would be great fodder for the likes of Jon Stewart if it weren’t for that inconvenient writers’ strike. To be sure, the wingnuts are bound and determined to bring about the Last Days of Revelations. But, they’ll need to act fast as the two culprits most likely to bring them about are out of jobs on January 20, 2009.

The germane question for us, though, is with regard to fear and hysteria: “Why employ it?” The answer is “because it works.”

As Presidents Bush and Cheney continue to beat the war drum for Iran, repeating the script from the current debacle, those who would opt to commit personal body harm rather than challenge their leaders will fall obediently into line. According to recent polls, Bush’s approval rating is between the high 20s and low 30s. But among Republicans, it’s in the mid-70s and, bizarrely, a good number actually still believe Saddam had WMDs.

When Chicken Little along with the boy who called wolf did their things, the majority of people soon caught on, but alas, not all. Those with authoritarian personalities have a predilection to get caught up in hysteria much as they did in Salem in 1692 and McCarthy’s America in the 1950s and have in Bush’s 2000s.

John Dean, a true conservative who spent time in the slammer for his egregious actions during Watergate, explores the mind of the authoritarian personality in his book Conservatives Without Conscience. In my next column, I’ll explore more deeply the authoritarian personality and the complementary social dominators.

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