Thursday, November 04, 2004


Bush Voters are either Stupid or Evil

If it wasn't so infuriating I'd be laughing...

I'm a member of an academic listserv, and for the past 2 days there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the outcome of the election. Take a gander: I've copied representative posts below, with names and instutional affiliations omitted. Each entry is a separate post; one or two are by the same posters, but for the most part they were written by different individuals.

my attitude is MAKE THEM PAY - time to find some political groups that are going to help me fight Bush's expected initiatives on 1) no help with healthcare for the poor (guess who, women) 2) end of legal abortion 3) end of hopes for same-sex marriage 4) increase of gap between poor and rich via such things as permanent tax cuts for the rich 5) home land nazicurity.....

I think it was pretty appropriate that I was lecturing on the fourteenth century and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse this morning.

Unfortunately, there are people in academe who voted for Bush...some of my best friends did, and it is hard to believe that they ignored that something known as the enlightenment actually took place a few centuries ago.

For some very-well educated people in this country and for many not so well-lettered, reason pales when facing revelation. The war in Irak is for them a holy war, Bush said it, it is a "crusade"...

For the poor people of this country, I feel very sorry. They will get infinitely poorer in the next four years. For Bush and his followers in his administration, the future looks great: there is plenty of money coming their way soon.

I agree with [the poster who wrote "MAKE THEM PAY"]- raise the bar-- if they want to promote a radically conservative, fascistic, fundamental Christian agenda, then we should array forces on the left with an equal amount of passion and deliberation. Push the hot topics-- if they want to tell us how to live, let us respond as adamantly...The new civil war...

I am stunned, and sick. I hadn't wanted to believe this administration could so thoroughly disguise its record and its agenda to so many people. I finally understand how people of good will in Germany must have felt in the 1930's: do we get out while the getting is still good, or do we stay and fight this evisceration of democracy?

And selfishly I'm thinking that if we stay and fight, and lose, we'll all be tarred with the same shameful brush. The triumphalist rhetoric occludes the fact that there ever even was significant dissent.

It's the 8 year-old son factor that weighs heaviest on my mind right now considering last night. In all seriousness, what advice can anyone give for those of us who really, truly are considering leaving the country, if not to protect our scholarship and sanity, then at least to protect our children who will be 18 in another ten years? I agree with the various motions to become more active in a variety of different organizations and fight this thing, but I cannot help but wonder, will we be reaching the people who most need to be swayed?

For instance, I do know people in the midwest and other areas who probably voted for Bush. Clearly, a good number of people did vote for Bush (just perhaps not very many on this list!). . . . They [Democrats] clearly have the academic vote, but what can we do to help them reconnect with people other than our colleagues, who are probably already of like minds? [Name omitted], I think you are right that there are people (probably not most of us) who are really going to suffer -- and a good number of them probably were responsible for putting him in the seat for 4 more years, as well as strengthening the republican presence in the house and senate.

Although I speak from a big blue state, we have gubernatorial evidence that even in California, their message is persuasive to many people.

This is what it must feel like to live in Italy under Berlusconi or Austria with Schroeder. My only consolation is that they will overreach, soon. My greatest fear is how many people will die in the process.

You voice my sentiments and fears very well, [name omitted]. I would like to think there is some hope in education, which we all engage in as part of our professional lives. But trying to impress upon the young women on this campus (in a VERY red state) that their lives and those of their daughters would be seriously limited by voting for Bush has been extremely difficult, if not impossible. One more reason why feminist teaching and WS programs need to keep happening. I think about the nation like an addict... nothing will change until we hit bottom and there's nowhere else to turn. For me, we're there. But this is obviously not the case with half of the electorate.

The vote was a 51/49 split. Not to mention the multitudes that didn't vote. But the fact that the turnout was so much higher than previously and gave these results is demoralizing. Worse, Congress went further right too, and we are about to lose the Supreme Court, what's left of it. Looks like we are about to get Scalia as Chief ... -- no I will never bring myself to call him a "justice." Having said all that, I think what [name omitted] has said is exactly right. We will just have to keep fighting and educating people. The biggest single cause here as I see it is the disinformation and manipulations of the mass media. People aren't informed, and I say that in full knowledge that much of that 51% don't want to know, and that a whole lot has already happened that is staring them right in the face. What more overreaching do they require? A lot, apparently. The exit polls had a lot of people citing "values." If they could see the carnage being wrought in Iraq, or in a different form on their own poor compatriots, I don't think we would have had these numbers. <>But exile is not an option for most of us. Stand and fight.

First, a few facts: There is no reason to be depressed. We are back where we were a few days ago, very little has changed. There are no more red staters now than there were a week ago. You did not just wake up in another country. Those whose agenda we fear most managed to move from 49% approval to 51% approval, largely by using homosexuals as boogeymen. They are unlikely to be able to repeat this turnout, unless they somehow find a way to ban gay marriage ... again?

The big picture: Tuesday was the high water mark of our aristocracy's cynical exploitation of a largely rural cargo cult.

Suggestion: Be the backlash.

The continuing struggle: We are right to fear that the right will use this 'mandate' to justify escalating the kulturkampf (here's one example: )

Know your enemy: There are shifts within the right that you might not know about. Moderates are losing out to extremists, and the latter's policies are awash in red ink and blood. Their anencephalic policies are no more likely to succeed in the real world than they were a week ago. Their fantasy world may make for a formidable political machine, but its alienation from hard facts is crippling to policy. Consider this:

Divide and conquer: There are divisions among those for whom 'feminist' is a dirty word. Do not make the mistake of the recently re-elected one, i.e., driving different enemies together because you failed to distinguish between them. Reach out to moderates, while making sure that the most risible extremes of the culture warriors are known far and wide. If they want to chant their loyalty oaths or sing 'Let the Eagle Soar,' just make sure there's a camera pointed at them. Shame is a powerful weapon.

(If you can speak to bread-and-butter issues in a frightening world while your opponent is speaking in tongues, then you are the sober alternative. Everyone's on a political stage right now, so find a part to play.)

It's not like you have an option: We have no choice but to make the most of our present situation, and I think the best way for the values of civilized people to triumph is to give the lunatics just enough rope to hang themselves (while trying to prevent any lasting damage to society, e.g., SCOTUS). It takes little leverage to sicken most of America with the antics of these extremists.

So: don't give up, and have the sense to pick your battles. Forge communities, frame messages, don't give up.

This was the overwhelming tenor of the list through yesterday and this morning. I was extremely tempted to post myself, but I'm in a vulnerable position professionally--I'm an untenured assistant professor, and one of my dissertation committee members is on this list (in fact, this person is the author of one of the posts I've listed above). What I wanted to say was this:

In light of [listmember's] call for community--not just among liberals but among all Americans--I have a few comments I'd like to make.

First, I am truly dismayed by the rampant condescension evident on this list towards Middle America. Poor gullible Heartlanders (not to mention conservative minorities)--they're too stupid to know what's good for them. We, of course, with our degrees and academic posts, are far wiser, and impervious to manipulative rhetoric. I'm sure that if we make sure to teach all our students good critical thinking skills, they'll all end up with politics just like ours.

Of course, this attitude doesn't seem to be limited to condescension towards the population of 30 out of 50 states--one poster implied her colleagues who voted for Bush are stuck in the Dark Ages. Even on a list such as this one, I have no doubt that there are at least a few members who voted for Bush (not that they'd necessarily feel comfortable joining this conversation, with its current tenor). Let us remember that this community also includes those who consider themselves feminist as well as (gasp! horror!) Republican. If we are to reach out to others, we must not deeply insult them in the process, or indulge ourselves in derogatory remarks when we think they're not listening.

Fortunately, a few brave souls who posted this afternoon suggested that there may be members of the list who don't share the assumptions informing the discussion so far, and who might feel silenced. I am heartened in particular by this poster, who is responding to another's claim that liberals are a more heterogenous group by nature and thus more "respectful (i.e., less intrusive) about others' beliefs."

I have found this thread to be interesting, to say the least... this contribution especially so. On the one hand, the writer recognizes the heterogeneity of liberals, and yet many of those contributors to this thread fail to recognize the extremes of heterogeneity among its members, seemingly equating "feminism" with "liberalism." I am heartened by those contributors espousing communication as a means to fostering community, and yet several entries seem to silence dissention and/or debate by assuming a certain homogeneity in the audience. I, too, am frustrated with the current political scene -- with the political headway of the religious conservative extremists -- but I am equally disheartened by the rancor of the liberal extremists as well. As an independent voter, more conservative than some yet more liberal than others, I find less and less to admire from those on either side of the fence as I watch them move farther and farther away from each other. I think a surprising number of people would agree with me, if my conversations both in academia and outside are any indication (if I had a nickel for every time I heard the statement, "I don't like either candidate, but I can't NOT vote" or even "so I won't vote"...). How can we, as a nation, reach out to each other and find some common ground? How can we foster community when we refuse to listen to those who don't agree with us, when we neglect to work together toward solutions? How can we move forward when we are so busy moving apart? My great fear is that this country will continue widening its great divide, and the threat to our future will not be from without but rather from within.

You go, W. H.

I'll have a few more things to add later, but I've got a stack of midterms to grade...

So true. I made a mild criticism of Kerry to a colleague of mine (I work at a major research university), and she now refuses to speak to me. At all--in person or by e-mail. Another colleague came up to me and began to rant about the "rednecks and retards" who voted for Bush. This person knows perfectly well that I grew up in the semi-rural Midwest, and that I get along well with my family. I was utterly repelled by her remarks--in fact, I was reminded of an incident from my undergraduate days when I was hounded by a member of Campus Christians (or some such group) who tried to save my soul for Jesus by telling me how immoral, evil and hell-bound all people like me (leftish feminist, at the time) were.

I do have a few anti-Bush friends who were disappointed but philosophical, and with whom I can still speak openly about political topics without fearing for our friendship. The vast majority of my friends and colleagues, however, have lashed out with the sort of venom that I had (until now) associated with a Barry Goldwater loyalist who's just discovered Che Guevara in the pantry.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I will say that I'm glad I voted for a third-party candidate.
Hi, Julia

I know from your comments on my blog that you don't think arguing liberals are giving aid and comfort to the terrorists amounts to silencing dissention. And yet you quote the following as something you agree with,

"...several entries seem to silence dissention and/or debate by assuming a certain homogeneity in the audience."

I find your views on the topic curious.

I find your inability to distinguish between dissent and actually siding with the enemy over your own country curious.

Perhaps you need to spend a few years living under Sharia?

Just a thought.
There's a little thing called context, Alex.

Speaking of context, I don't recall ever saying anything about silencing liberal dissent--my questions on your blog were about your use of the word "fascism."
Julia, I lucked into your blog and I'm glad I did. It's nice to know that academia hasn't been completely overrun with liberal mobthink. (Just mostly.) I'm in a similar position here in the creative writing world. I talk about it a bit in my endorsement of Bush, if you care to read it here:

Anyway, thanks for the insights. I've bookmarked you and I plan to drop in from time to time. Thanks again.
Stina, your comment ("The vast majority of my friends and colleagues, however, have lashed out with the sort of venom that I had (until now) associated with a Barry Goldwater loyalist who's just discovered Che Guevara in the pantry.") gave me a giggle. That is the irony, though, isn't it--that the academic left is generally responding in the same mode they despise in the right?

Welcome, to both you and Jim!

Your comment, though meant to describe my views, also represents what I think of your own positions. Your arguments that criticizing Bush a la Moore represents siding with the enemy, rather than dissent, seem to reflect an inability to distinguish between the two.


Using "fascist" to describe arguments that seek to silence dissent by conflating it with treason is pretty standard usage.

Okay, bored now.
Alex, when the Secret Police come breaking down Michael Moore's door and drag him off, then we can talk about fascism. There's a big difference between observing a fact--that Bin Laden and pals have appropriated Moore's rhetoric--and saying that this fact means that the US should prosecute Moore for treason. Nor do I think it is fascist to say that one personally finds Moore unAmerican--not for dissenting, but as one who essentially vilifies his own country (and makes wads of cash doing it, but that's only partly his fault). I find him a disgusting human being, but that's not fascism. (Sheesh--you'd think I wouldn't have to explain "nuance" to a Kerry supporter).

Geraghty's article does not once equate dissention with treason, so I'm really not sure why we're having this conversation to begin with (and why we're having it on my blog).

If you would like to participate in on-topic discussions in a constructively critical way, you are more than welcome here. But if you're just going to troll, you won't get any more responses from me.

Given that your comment is not particularly inviting to further debate, I won't respond to the substance of your argument here. I would like to note, however, that the charge you quote of "suppressing dissent by assuming a homogeneity withing the audience" is what gave rise to these questions of what constitutes supression of dissent - hardly off topic.
After I sent this email to Alex, I thought that perhaps I should make it available on the blog as well.

Dear Alex,

I'm emailing you because I feel like this discussion is better suited for a
forum other than the comment section on various blogs.

I can see that there is a connection between the discussion regarding the
silencing of dissent and the argument that claiming liberals are giving aid and
comfort to the terrorists amounts to silencing dissention. The problem is that
I never made that argument, nor did Winston--I looked over the comments on
Rose's blog, and Winston consistently referred to Moore and company, not all
liberals. If expressing the opinion that Moore is, in a sense, providing
sympathetic rhetorical support for bin Laden means that one is suppressing
dissent, isn't that opinion then also being suppressed when one is then called
fascist for holding it?

It's certainly true that there is an assumption of a kind of political
homogenity in the NRO article, and to a certain extent in the readership of
Rose's blog (quite a few know each other outside the blogosphere, and in many
ways we're participating in a continuing discussion that you've entered the
middle of). But since the poster on the listserv I cite explicitly believes
that the listmembers are a heterogenous bunch even while she makes assumptions
of homogenity, I don't think that I'm being inconsistent, even if your own
assumptions about my position regarding Moore are true--perhaps that is
something that needs to be said on the blog, but it's part of a meta-discussion
orginating on two other blogs that requires a bit of background to establish
context. If you were to give the link to those discussions, so that other
readers can perceive that context and even join in, that would be useful.

The main thing that bugs me is that too often you don't seem to read people's
comments very carefully, and then you draw out a discussion based on your
misreading. Perhaps we can all try to be more charitable and attentive readers?


Can you not appreciate the difference between the two types of dissent we are talking about? At a certain point, dissent becomes treasonous.

You have proven yourself incapable of having an intelligent conversation, as you play the usual lefty/academic game of equivocation, always choosing to use the defintion of a word which best suits your stance, while ignoring the fact that your interlocutor is using it in a different way.

Given your ridiculously partisan blog, I cannot say I'm surprised. "Detached Observer"--riiight.
Detached Observer is ironic. I am anything but.

Winston, this whole discussion you've not made any arguments for your positions, but just wrang your hands at how I do not understand...

Your latest post is a case in point. No, I cannot appreciate that at a certain point dissent becomes treason. If you have any arguments for this, I'd be interested in hearing them. No, I was not playing the academic game of equivocation...if you can cite a specific example, I'd love to see it.
Basically, I'm finished talking with you. You appear to have no conception of what treason is, nor are you able to distinguish between voicing dissent against the government and providing aid and comfort to the enemy; you cannot appreciate the Moore and his fellow travelers have allowed their hatred of Bush to force them over that line.

I don't feel obligated to provide you with definitions of either treason or giving aid and comfort to the enemy. As a citizen of the United States, which I assume you are, you should already know the definitions of both.

Why don't you go play with your friends over at Democratic Underground, where 71% of the posters are more depressed by this election than they were by 9/11? I'm sure they'll appreciate your point of view over there.
I do have to wonder: When we reach summer 2008 and the United States has not become a fascist state, a dictatorship, or a theocracy, will all of those hysterical people on Julia's listserv admit they were wrong?

I'm thinkin' not.
Well, we reached 2004 without this happening, and I remember all the predictions my fellow academics were making when the 2000 election was finally settled (for the rest of us--not for them).

They are as likely to apologize about this and admit that they were wrong as Chomsky is to apologize and admit he was wrong about Vietnam and Cambodia, those workers' paradises.
What really kills me--apart from the depressing knowledge that these people are alleged by themselves and others to be our intellectual creme de la creme--is how anyone can claim there isn't systemic, entrenched political bias in the academy.

When people are afraid to hint that they don't believe the non-Republican candidate (doesn't really matter who it is, does it?) walks on water, that's a huge problem. And yet I remember just a few months ago, when the Colorado legislature was looking at Horowitz's proposal, how many academic bloggers claimed they'd never encountered bias, or that there was no proof of bias. What shameless, bald-faced lying.
Yes, I'm currently being forced to teach a text that claims that tolerance isn't enough--we must actual accept the "truths" of other cultures, even those which would rather us dead, apparently, given discussions I've had with fellow instructors who think this a wonderful opporunity to expose the Dutch as intolerant in the wake of Van Gogh's murder.

No discussion of Muslim intolerance, natch.

Groupthink, baby. It's a frightening thing.

Thankfully, in reading carefully through the listserv posts Julia has excerpted, I can see that they are already falling back on their failed political strategy of trying to find reasons to demonize the Right, which means they will be completely unable to understand the real reasons for their defeat at the polls.

That, at least, is heartening.

You distinguish "dissent" from "giving aid and comfort to the enemy". I don't mean to be clever, but the latter phrase is one of the most "Orwellian" in political discourse.

Note well how this phrase occludes the issue of WHO the enemy is. My family and I don't happen to have any enemies in Iraq, for instance. Moreover, when a president bombs someone else's women and children to pieces, the question of "the enemy" gets somewhat more interesting (e.g. Aid and comfort to whom?).

Remember, Loose lips sink ships!

JW - Christian, conservative, scholar in the humanities
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