The New Paranoid Style In American Politics: Have You No Decency, Sir?

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Ted and Rafael Cruz are just two more in a long line of American political paranoiacs.

My favorite article about national politics was written by a bow-tie wearing intellectual. No, not George Will, I meant a real, not a FAUX News intellectual. Professor Richard Hofstadter, a Professor of American History at Columbia University, was known as “iconic historian of postwar liberal consensus”. Professor Hofstadter wrote one of the seminal series of works of United States political thought, ‘The Paranoid Style In American Politics’, almost 50 years ago. Like nearly all well considered and well written essays, what Hofstadter wrote then is equally applicable today, perhaps even more so.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the (Goldwater) movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

While most of the paranoid politicians and conspiracies have been right-wing politically, there was a conspiracy against one of the most populist  liberal/progressive and charismatic politicians ever, the Kingfisher, Louisiana Governor, U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate, Huey Long. The conspiracy that led to his being shot to death on the steps of the Louisiana State Capital on September 8, 1935 was all about his “Share the Wealth” program ideas that infuriated and scared the 1%-ers of his time. Over 200,000 mourners attended his funeral.

Here are some of the best Kingfisher quotes.

“I’m for the poor man — all poor men, black and white, they all gotta have a chance. They gotta have a home, a job, and a decent education for their children. ‘Every man a king’ — that’s my slogan.”

“They say they don’t like my methods. Well, I don’t like them either. I really don’t like to have to do things the way I do. I’d much rather get up before the legislature and say, ‘Now this is a good law and it’s for the benefit of the people, and I’d like you to vote for it in the interest of the public welfare.’ Only I know that laws ain’t made that way. You’ve got to fight fire with fire.””

“They’ve got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side, but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen.”

“What did the opposition have to offer? Nothing. All they could talk about was autocrats and high taxes and state debts. Well we have always had taxes, the state has always been in debt, but never until Huey Long was elected did the people get anything for their money.”

And the one that the Tea Party and the Republicans would go to its craziest today.

“A man is not a dictator when he is given a commission from the people and carries it out.”

HueyLong

The more things change, the more they stay same, don’t they? R.I.P. Kingfisher. I wish someone as progressive, brave and outspoken as you were was around today.

The list of conspiracy theories is long and often peculiar. The best known was hatched by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his hunt for Communists that he claimed had infiltrated all branches of the federal government. To be called to testify in front of the McCarthy Commission ruined your reputation and life. It was Attorney Joseph Welsh defending his legal associate, Fred Fisher, of being a Communist by McCarthy, who uttered one of the most famous phrases in US political history: “Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

The irony of Senator Ted Cruz closely resembling (and often acting like) Joseph McCarthy has not been lost on many politicians and members of the media.

There have been many other great political conspiracy theories, too many to list here. Some of the most famous were:

Eugene Debs and the Social Worker Party Movement creating a One World Government

Dr.Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Moment being accused of leading the Marxist-Socialist government takeover (sound familiar?) by the  John Birch Society, the precursor to the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party.

The Vatican dictating US policy when the Catholic John Kennedy became President

But did you know that JFK was really killed over a secret briefing that UFO’s had landed on earth?

There is the long-standing belief that the Trilateral Commission is really in charge and will create an One World Government.

Unless my favorite conspiracy group, the Illuminati, beats them to it first. Any group that has President Barack Obama, The Pope, Queen Elizabeth, George Soros, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z AND Willow Smith in it does have the power to rule the world. I keep waiting for my invitation to join the Illuminati, but none has been forthcoming so far.

So we can add to the list, the Affordable Care Act leading to the inevitable socialized medicine, climate change not existing, The Muslim Brotherhood running Hillary Clinton’s State Department, government austerity leading to economic growth, the Government is coming for your guns, and a wide range of whackballness that has been spewing since President Obama has taken office. Most of this that comes from the minds (or lack thereof) and the mouths of the Tea Party, the right-wing, and its spokespeople, the BachmannPalin Underdrive, featuring lead boy singer, Teddy Cruz. Do they have any decency? No.

It would be easy to dismiss what Rafael Cruz said in his speech that the Marxist-Socialist Barack Obama should be sent back to Kenya, as just more right wing, feed the base rhetoric. But there is a viciousness and hatred to it that is chilling. That he is the father of and chief political adviser to the United States Senator, who is likely going to run for President and is the current front-runner for the Republican Party nomination in 2016, means you can’t dismiss what he says because it’s part of a not-so-hidden political agenda. That what he said is being parroted repeatedly on national talk radio to stir up more hatred and paranoia makes it even more pernicious than all the paranoia and conspiracy theories the United States has previously experienced – combined.
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