Friday, August 28, 2015

The Sorry State Of Political Discourse

Where G.K. Chesterton and B.F. Skinner Meet: On Real Time with Bill Maher, 21 August 2015 | PopMatters:

...Trump’s jingoism, however, isn’t really much different from that of his Republican rivals — it’s just more colorfully unapologetic and imbued with television’s sense of inane fun. Everything Trump utters can be filed under the rubric of nationalism, which probably explains his support from evangelicals, who normally would blanch at his gluttony and wanton libido. But perhaps Trump’s omnivorousness explains his popularity: even prudes can tire of their own chastity and sexual repression, and Trump’s the only candidate who isn’t an uncloseted prude.

As for Real Time, there are two moments worth mentioning. In an exchange with Maher, National Review’s Charles Cooke admitted that leftists should indeed gloat over Trump’s embarrassing and destabilizing success, but then only mustered a spineless rhetorical retort: “Are [Republicans] going to be a party of classical liberals (in the old sense of the term) or the party of white identity politics”? Sadly, this constitutes the oratory of the conservative intelligentsia. That his idea must be phrased rhetorically already admits that classical liberalism no longer exists on the right — but it hasn’t existed since Reagan tied the knot with the Moral Majority.

The argument continued as Maher expressed incredulity over the alleged scandal of Hillary Clinton’s email accounts, but again Cooke reverted to weak rhetorical tactics. When Maher asked, “Even if the scandal is what you say, is it as important as climate change or income inequality,” or, we presume, any of the issues to which conservatives claim blindness. Cooke answered, “Here’s why it’s important… it’s about privilege,” and went on to explain that the Obama administration prosecuted lower-level peons for lesser offenses.

True, but Maher’s question remained unanswered — Maher had asked why this alleged scandal is more important than the real scandals of income inequality and so forth, but Cooke responded by ignoring the qualifier, as if his earnest voice alone could erase the comparative framing inherent in the question...

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