• April 16, 2014

Crazy Talk and American Politics: or, My Glenn Beck Story

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Steve Brodner for The Chronicle Review

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Steve Brodner for The Chronicle Review

Most academics probably paid little attention at the end of January when Glenn Beck explained to his listeners that the protests in Egypt would lead to the establishment of a Muslim caliphate that would engulf Europe while China would extend its domination to New Zealand and, curiously, the Netherlands would fall to Russia. But there is a sense in which we should have.

Glenn Beck claims about two million daily viewers on his TV show, and that in addition to a three-hour radio program, best-selling books, and an Internet "news" site known as The Blaze. True, for more than a year his ratings have been falling from their peak of three million daily viewers. But millions continue to turn to this Fox News personality for an interpretation of their world, and the interpretation they get is lunacy.

Propaganda and its place in American politics is not my academic specialty. But I have been prodded to think about it a lot in recent months because I have been made into a central character in Beck's stories about the evils that have befallen America.

According to Beck, I—together with my husband, Richard Cloward, with whom I frequently collaborated before his death—am the proponent of a theory of "orchestrated crisis" that lies behind an array of threats to American society, including the emergence of Students for a Democratic Society, Acorn, George Soros and the Open Society Institute, the New York City fiscal crisis, the election of Barack Obama, and the recent financial meltdown.

The plan for all that is said to have been laid out in an article we published in The Nation magazine in 1966 and, according to right-wing blogs and those who post on them, the influence of our plan is evident everywhere in American politics and public policy, but especially in the Obama administration.

Online posters eagerly identify the connecting threads that depict me as puppet master: I taught at Columbia University when Obama was a student there, and I probably taught him. I spoke at a conference in the 1980s that he probably attended. I was on Obama's transition team. Obama's policies, and especially health-care reform, are obviously a plan to implement my crisis strategy.

None of that is true, of course. So what was this strategy that excites such paranoid imaginings? The article we wrote in 1966 was based on research we had done on the low receipt of welfare benefits by the eligible poor. The research was inspired by our evaluation of the storefront services provided by an early antipoverty program on the Lower East Side of New York City known as Mobilization for Youth.

Our evaluation had shown that most of the troubles for which local residents sought aid had to do with poverty. They could not pay the rent and feared eviction, or they did not have cash to buy shoes for their children when school opened. Through Mobilization for Youth, social workers helped them apply for welfare benefits. So, we wondered, why were so many people in the neighborhood who were eligible for welfare not receiving it? Perhaps there was a widespread problem.

To find out, we scoured the findings of neighborhood surveys in New York and other cities, many of them done in connection with urban-renewal proposals. We concluded that there was a huge reservoir of desperately eligible poor people who were not receiving assistance, largely as a result of the machinations of the welfare bureaucracy.

The Nation article, entitled "The Weight of the Poor: a Strategy to End Poverty," called for large-scale campaign by social workers, lawyers, community organizers, and the poor themselves to claim benefits. Such a campaign, we thought, would not only relieve some of the acute poverty in the slums of America; it would also generate rising welfare costs for cities and states at a time of intensifying racial conflict.

The latter could prod a national Democratic administration that depended on urban constituencies to reform the archaic grant-in-aid welfare system, which still retained features of the old poor law, to introduce some kind of federal guaranteed-income policy. And in fact, by the end of the decade, even Richard Nixon, under the tutelage of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, became, a cautious advocate of a national guaranteed income.

The article had traction. It was published at a time when civil-rights and economic-rights protests were rising in Northern cities, and it helped inspire a movement of welfare recipients, social workers and lawyers known as the National Welfare Rights Organization. The group was led by a former associate director of CORE, then a major civil-rights organization, and it attracted staff and volunteers who wanted to join in the newly coined effort at "community organization."

I suspect that the heated political environment would have sparked a movement among the minority poor with or without the article, and with or without whatever help we provided, but that is clearly not what observers on the right have thought, or at least it is not what they have said.

Which brings me to the old ploy of attributing popular disturbances to "outside agitators." Beck often says that the inspiration for his theories comes from the research he does in the wee hours of the night. Indeed, in a voice suggesting intimate connection, he urges his listeners to do their own research.

In this case, his research was easy, and in fact had already been done by a number of intellectuals of a sort who made the crossing from left to right in the early 70s. Prominent among them was David Horowitz. He had been an editor of the left-wing Ramparts magazine, but became a vociferous propagandist for the right and is now known for naming the 100 "radical" academics he considers most "dangerous."

In a 2006 book written with Richard Poe, The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, Horowitz said that the strategy outlined in our article (the so-called Cloward-Piven Strategy of Orchestrated Crisis) was a blueprint to "collapse" the capitalist system. Others who had made the left-to-right crossing echoed the argument, so it was available for the Beck programmers with no research at all.

Indeed, they do not seem to read very much. Until early January, when I wrote a short article in The Nation on the need for protests by the unemployed if they are to gain voice and influence in American politics, they paid no attention at all to anything I had written since my 1966 article.

Lunatic though they are, the ravings about our plan for an orchestrated crisis to destroy capitalism—or a Muslim caliphate that will devour Europe—are important because they provide theories of a sort to people who are made anxious by large-scale changes that have overtaken American society. Those include deindustrialization and our loss of pre-eminence in the world, changes in family and sexual norms, and, perhaps most of all, the growing diversity of the American population and the election of an African-American president. Social scientists themselves do not agree about the causes of all these developments, and people without the luxury of time and training are often left angry and confused.

The contemporary political economy thus poses grave challenges to democratic possibilities, not only, as is often said, because a sharply skewed distribution of income and wealth empowers business and the rich, but also because the sheer complexity of our economic and political system makes democratic choice and deliberation difficult if not impossible. Democratic possibilities depend crucially on the ability of the public to understand what is happening to our society and why, and especially on the ability of the public to decipher the role of government policies.

But who can decipher the impact of a policy to regulate financial institutions when the policy and regulations run to the length of an encyclopedia, and the text of the encyclopedia deals with such incomprehensible matters as credit default swaps? The blank space in the democratic process is an invitation to propaganda by those who want to limit the democratic influence of the public, and propaganda is flourishing in American politics today.

The challenge to educators, and especially to university educators, seems to me clear. We have both an opportunity and responsibility to try to deal with public-policy issues and fill in the blank space that endangers democracy.

Frances Fox Piven is a professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a past president of the American Sociological Association.

Comments

1. becauseisaidso - February 11, 2011 at 08:23 am

This is very reminiscent of the German propaganda in the 1930s regarding the mythical "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", which supposedly laid the plans for a world-wide Jewish conspiracy and provided justification for Jewish suppression. The processes remain the same--only the names have changed. Dangerous ground, here.

2. kgschneider - February 11, 2011 at 10:38 am

Come on, Frances, you know it's all true! Just kidding. One of your former students here, pleased to see you reason so eloquently even as you're being hassled by one of Satan's sycophants. People do have this way of making up facts when to fill a vacuum--it's very common in workplaces, where myths prevail about people, places, and things.

3. seiu615 - February 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Hundreds of thousands of people support you, Ms. Piven, and have been influenced by your writings and your life. I am one of them. Thank you for writing back, for fighting back, for not staying silent about Beck. Please keep it up -- we are so grateful for all you have done.

4. delonix - February 11, 2011 at 04:28 pm

I Wish that millions more would support you. Thank you for this summary, and I count myself among your supporters.

5. dank48 - February 11, 2011 at 05:10 pm

Thank you very much for that cogent, clear explanation. It's a dubious honor, obviously, and probably one you would have gotten along fine without, but an honor nonetheless to have been attacked by the likes of Glenn Beck.

6. 22067030 - February 11, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Five comments so far, all rather decorous compared to the 57 comments (as of now) following Peter Schmidt's column at http://chronicle.com/article/On-Death-Threats-Pushback/126333/ . Take a look: some of the commentators have clearly lost it.

I sympathize with the five people above and their comments about this ruckus. But Beck is not a nice middle class person; he is a high-powered performance artist who uses people like Frances Piven as stage props. It's more like dirty boxing, complete with brass knuckles slipped into gloves. And his bosses are more impressed by his ratings than by grumbles from critics.

Here's a comparison. Many years ago, Rush Limbaugh took on Mike Royko, but quickly backed off. The reason was that unlike Piven, Royko knew how to deal with the likes of Limbaugh, as Limbaugh quickly realized.

Returning to the present, I do not think that Beck or his crazier fans are at all impressed with our criticisms of his irresponsible rhetoric. He probably is contemptuous and appreciates only the attention he is getting.

We need to develop a more effective method of dealing with the Glen Becks of the world. And Frances Piven has a particular stake here because of one pathetic irony: while few of the disadvantaged people she is trying to reach read the Chronicle, many of them watch Beck. Some of them may even be sending her threatening messages.

The question is not how tragic, or how outrageous this is. It is what to do about it.

-----GLMcColm

7. supertatie - February 12, 2011 at 09:19 am

I appreciate Dr. Piven's thoughtful commentary, and the background against which her work in the 1960s was written. But the events that Beck has pointed out about the past have happened, and the actors he mentioned had a pivotal role in it. In countries like Cambodia and in the former Soviet Union, intellectuals agitated for "change," and many had peaceful, idyllic aspirations for how it could come about. But they quickly lost control of the widespread anger - anger which was not caused by them, of course, but by the oppressive regimes or deplorable conditions under which the people lived. From those historical facts, of course, Beck projects, postulates, and prophesies. Could his predictions be false? Sure. Dangerous? No more so than the policies which the Left has pushed for for five decades.

The biggest disappointment with this commentary is that it contains the usual shibboleths - that conservatives in this country are raging over the loss of America's stature in the world, that whites object to changing demographics, and that hordes of Americans can't deal with a black President.

This is abject nonsense, and a thinker of Dr. Piven's stature should know better. Millions of so-called "independent" Americans voted for Barack Obama, and millions more conservative or "right-wing" Americans would gladly vote for a black man - or woman - who shared their concerns about fiscal profligacy, the collapse of our public education system, and government policies that, after 40 years, we can definitively conclude reward and encourage depravity and irresponsibility. The success of and support for individuals like Allen West, Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Alveda King, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams is proof.

The concerns of those who listen to Glenn Beck are not of the increase in the number of Hispanics, or blacks, or the fact that the country has a (legitimately) African-American President of the United States. Conservative Americans want ALL neighborhoods to be safe, and schools with a predominantly black (or otherwise minority) populations to be sources of success for the children who attend. They want all families to be whole, and healthy, with grown-up mothers and present fathers.

They want to reduce the number of Americans on drugs, and in prison for drug use and sale.

They want strong companies with good jobs, and they understand that an entry-level job is not one where most Americans stay put for the entirety of their careers.

Conservative Americans object to the policies the Left has pushed for years, not because they are racists, but because while those policies seemed well-intentioned at the time, the ensuing decades have amply demonstrated that paying teenagers to have children, and giving Section 8 housing to women who have multiple children by different men, most of whom are never around to father them, is a recipe for more illegitimate children by teenaged mothers, and complete familial breakdown. (A significant number of black writers also acknowledge this, and they, too, are on the receiving end of criticism for saying so.)

Conservative Americans are not sexual prudes or freaks who want to deprive others of pleasure or companionship. They can see what the liberalization of sexual mores has done to popular culture - television shows, films, music, and advertising - and the kind of behavior it is encouraging in children. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases in teens 40 years ago was miniscule, and there were only a handful of the diseases. Today, there are dozens of STDS, and infection rates of 12 - 21-year-olds can run as high as 1 in 5, 1 in 4, and even 1 in 3 in some areas. Scientists are discussing skyrocketing rates of infertility, cervical and anal cancers, and head and neck cancers from human papilloma virus (HPV). But the Left's response is, "we need to have more sex! We need to talk more about sex! We need sex in schools!"

The great sacrament in the Church of the Left is abortion. If any private corporation was selling a product that resulted in the deaths of millions of black babies every year, there would be criminal prosecutions. But Planned Parenthood - founded by a woman who advocated eugenics - performs millions of abortions, a disproportionate number of them on black and Hispanic women each year, and the Left's response is, "More money for Planned Parenthood!" Kermit Gosnell was not the exception; Kermit Gosnell is the FACE of abortion. He himself was understandably baffled by the counts of murder against him. "The one count I can understand," he said, "because someone died. But I don't understand the other seven." Why would he understand? His job, quite clearly, was to kill those babies. He did. So are we prosecuting him for their murder because it wasn't as neat and tidy as we would like?

Not only have the anti-poverty programs and sexual liberalization agenda of the left NOT addressed the problems they have intended to solve; they have worsened it. And in doing so, the expenditures associated with these programs - and the problems they have created and exacerbated - are driving the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

These are the concerns that Americans who self-identify as "independents" and "conservatives" have. And yet they see themselves demonized in the media and in academia each day as racist, ignoramuses, thugs, cretins - and even potential criminals. Yes, conservative Americans are angry about being characterized this way. They are tired of being lied to - and about.

Some conservatives, in fact, predicted these things decades ago, and they were treated then with the same disdain and antipathy that Beck and Limbaugh are now. Liberals won the arguments at the time. But now that so many of those predictions have come true, the demonization of people like Beck that you folks are trying to inspire is backfiring on you. Those who believed you - and believed IN the policies you espoused - feel completely betrayed.

Americans no longer trust liberals in the media, or academia, or government, because they are still pitching the same tired agendas that people feel have been completely and definitively discredited. Glenn Beck succeeds with his conspiratorial musings because the average person cannot understand how anyone can see the results of their actions and not admit it. No one, they think, can be that stupid. Therefore, they conclude - it must be deliberate. It must be part of a plan. Now, add to that mix the scholarly writings of leftists from the 1930s who advocate for "creating a crisis that can thereafter be politically exploited," and is it any wonder that people can be persuaded to believe that is precisely what is happening?

Dr. Piven, if you and others like you wish to take the national conversation back from the conspiracy theorists and demogogues, then you must start by admitting where you were wrong and by admitting that even those with whom you disagree want the betterment of their fellow man.






8. shanestreet - February 12, 2011 at 11:34 am

This commentary from Fox Piven is perverse. The problem does not stem directly from her 1966 The Nation article, but from the more recent one (http://www.thenation.com/article/157292/mobilizing-jobless) in which she writes:

An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

The Greek riots were violent and resulted in at least two deaths. Fox Piven explicitly supports violent action.

Perhaps she believes in peaceful riots, whatever those might be. Perhaps we should ignore the incivil commentary of tenured radicals. Perhaps academic professional leftists should not be taken at their word.

9. mrsdillie - February 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Prof. Fox Piven is disingenous in the extreme. I'm a bit surprised that she chose the Chronicle for this "explanation", but preaching to the choir has always been her strong suit. As quoted above:

An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

How protests by the unemployed turn them in employed isn't explained. How do people get jobs? Does the author have any idea?

Hiring thousands of people at minimum wage to dig holes and re-fill them isn't an actual solution. If Prof. Fox Piven has any ideas, I'm sure people would like to hear them. Otherwise, she's got old-fashioned notions about economics, the role of the government and how business works.

10. libmale - February 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Kudos to "SUPERTATIE" for a superbly written response to the argument that Fox-Piven submitted. I find it appalling that the most illiberal people I meet or read are"Liberals" Note all the ad hominum remarks are in their replies, both to Fox?Piven and Peter Schmidt's article on ALD.

11. seftonst - February 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm

May I add too, my kudos to Supertatie. Supertatie ? a big potato ? I don't think so, judging by the character and insight that he/she shows.

From here in NZ, the Beck/Piven debate has been barely reported but the structure and the characters are recognisable. Not just for the mock outrage from the academic "taken out of context" but for the cries to shut the debate down so that damage is limited.

Supertatie has articulated the concerns of many of us. I would like to see Dr Piven's response.

12. lyndon75 - February 12, 2011 at 01:27 pm

Supertate makes perfect sense as s/he defends the classical conservative position (as opposed to the conservative fundamentalism espoused by those like Beck and Tea Party representatives in Congress). The problem begins in the section where s/he begins to rant about "the Left" (suddenly a monolith with a capital letter,which distinguishes "it" from convervatives and independents) wanting sex in school.

No reasoned thinker accepts this characterization. Why equate sex education--a process whereby all individuals gain the tools they need to understand how to make better choices about sex, reproduction, and disease prevention--with sex? Why is knowing about sex considered more dangerous than allowing kids to be preyed upon by adults (because they don't know what's happening) or pressured by peers (because they haven't learned methods to protect themselves)?

Then the tone shifts and the post becomes a very angry indictment of support for women choosing to have control over their fertility. This completely invalidates the fairly reasoned defense of conservatism in the first part of the post.

The latter portion sounds like a raving mad person, frankly. I'm sorry you get so upset, Supertatie, about the caricature of "the Left" that you carry around with you. But that doesn't make it true, and it doesn't make for a helpful engagement with the serious issues we face together as a nation and culture.

13. seftonst - February 12, 2011 at 02:09 pm

"Why equate sex education--a process whereby all individuals gain the tools they need to understand how to make better choices about sex, reproduction, and disease prevention--with sex?"

You are missing the point.

If sex education is and has helped in the manner you say, why are all the social statistics (teen pregnancies, teen abortions, teen STD's etc, etc)bad and getting worse ? Not just in the US, but throughout the developed world, where the mantra has always been for more condom "educational" tutorials and less restraint. Supertatie is right in more ways than one.

14. dr_alate - February 12, 2011 at 02:18 pm

supertatie- Your comments are formed from the typical conservative disengenuous perspective. You say you want the problems of inner city America to be fixed, but the *only* solution that is brought up is brought up but personal responsilibity. Certainly personal responsibility is needed in the situation and government has made mistakes in the past, but what is your proposed solution? Government gives up completely and doesn't help to house the children that were born into these families through no fault of their own? Should they live on the street instead? The same conservatives that are so angry about supporting huge number of children want to run planned parenthood out of inner city neighborhoods. Nevermind the fact that planned parenthood provides low cost birth control. And you hate abortion but when has any of these conservatives offered to adopt some of the resulting children?

You can't have it both ways. Conservatives love children, until they are actually born.

15. supertatie - February 12, 2011 at 02:45 pm

Lyndon75:
Thank you for your observations, and even for your criticism, which you offer without resorting to ad hominem attacks. But I want to defend the positions I take at the end of my earlier post.

My point about abortion is not about restricting women's control over their lives. But as with other liberal positions, many of the things we were told and promised back in the late 1960s and early 1970s (when Roe v. Wade was decided) have been proven demonstrably false. What we were told about fetal development has been disproven by the advent of ultrasound. And the accessibility of abortion has not, in fact, reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies; it has become another form of birth control. Nor is there much room for discussion about whether abortion ought to be restricted to the very early stages of a pregnancy. Abortion advocates become apoplectic at the very thought of ANY restrictions on abortion, even in the last trimester, when we know from scientific and medical advances that children born can and do survive. Better, in their view, to allow viable babies to be brutally destroyed than to entertain any discussion about the procedure. Most Americans (and I would guess that this includes a significant number of self-identified "pro-choice" Americans) see this position as unreasonable.

So do many physicians, who refuse to perform abortions not because of fear of the odd murderous nutcase, but because their medical education makes them even more aware than the average person of what is developing in a woman's uterus, and it is not just "a clump of cells." Certainly not past a few weeks' gestation.

Nor is there any room for discussion of abortion's disproportionate impact on minority populations. It is particularly distressing to me to hear someone like Ruth Bader Ginsberg defend abortion because, after all, it was legalized so that we would have "fewer of the populations we don't want any more of," and she gets a complete pass on that statement. Had Scalia or Thomas or Roberts or Alito made such a statement, they would have had their heads handed to them. And it is expressly stated in the Civil Rights Act that abortion cannot be mentioned. So even when conduct which would give rise to a lawsuit for (disparate impact) discrimination is taking place, abortion gets carved out as some sort of sacrosanct exception. How does this make logical, legal, philosophic, or scientific sense?

Responsible "control over fertility" ultimately revolves around control over sexual behavior. Arguing that abortion is "control over fertility" is like arguing that smothering my aging mother with a pillow is "control over health care costs." (And while we're at it, let's also dispense with the specious argument that conservatives care only about children while they are in utero, or that they cannot oppose abortion unless they themselves adopt unwanted children. First, there is AMPLE scholarship now about the charitable giving, in time and money, of religious and other conservatives which proves the former statement false. And second, I can maintain - for example - that one should not kill one's grandmother even if I am unwilling or unable to care for the woman myself.)

This is not science, and it is not progress. Your point about lumping too many liberals or progressives together is a valid one, and I agree that some of my generalizations were sweeping. So I will retract them. But while admitting to that, I think it nevertheless strengthens rather than weakens my overall point. I will rephrase my earlier statement to argue that the debate on matters like abortion and welfare and sex education have been hijacked by what I will refer to (out of deference to your correct observation) as the "ultra left". And this is precisely why the "ultra left" is losing the arguments, and in some cases, losing the elections as well.

Americans are generally reasonable. They can comprehend basic logic. They can tolerate differences that are not forced down their throat, or which they are not asked to teach their children are "OK." (I may love my family and friends who have divorced, I may understand that divorce is often necessary, and I may even need to divorce at some point myself, but that does not mean that I will teach my children that divorce is something to be aspired to, or make me a hypocrite if I will not do so.)

So, in addition to growing weary over the "ultra left's" debunked philosophies and failed government policies, many Americans along the political spectrum are also fed up with the way their views are characterized.

To be fair, even with some generalizations, nothing in my post sounded "raving mad." Calling it such only proves my point.

16. coochiecoo - February 12, 2011 at 09:11 pm

Let's take Supertatie's commentary point by point.

"This is abject nonsense...."

This is the first problem. Dismissing Fox-Piven out of hand. One could do the same to you, but let's not go that route. So many on the right do spew "abject nonsense," Glenn Beck chief among them, but again, let's deal with your specific points.

"Millions more conservative or "right-wing" Americans would gladly vote for a black man - or woman - who shared their concerns about fiscal profligacy, the collapse of our public education system, and government policies that, after 40 years, we can definitively conclude reward and encourage depravity and irresponsibility."

These conservatives were silent and twice voted for Ronald Reagan, whose budgets consistent exceeded revenues (though he raised taxes in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987), once for George H. W. Bush, and twice for George W. Bush, who shared zero concern for "fiscal profligacy," pushing tax cuts, two wars, and an unnecessary Medicare drug prescription that were funded by borrowing from China and numerous other debtors. Dr. Fox-Piven is wrong in attributing the conservative overreaction to Obama to his race; conservatives behaved this same way towards Bill Clinton, but have ramped it up several notches under Obama. The issue is not that conservatives care about "fiscal profligacy," or even functioning economics, but in winning, domination of the US political system, and pushing through their repeatedly failed economic and political ideology. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as leaders and policy-makers exemplify this. Their repeated subversions of the US Constitution merited minimal outcry from conservatives, and still do not. Any conservative worth her or his salt would have made a citizen's arrest on Cheney alone years ago for abetting in the outing of a covert agent, but as with so many things, Cheney is given a pass. If you are going to make arguments about what "conservatives" would do, at least back them up with facts, because as the facts stand, conservatives have since 1980 repeatedly done the exact opposite of what they claim, and the Bush administration's recklessness, incompetence, and criminality, which most conservatives supported, provide proof of this.

"The success of and support for individuals like Allen West, Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Alveda King, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams is proof."

The support of most of these individuals is subjective. Only West has demonstrated any real electoral appeal. John Kerry, a person reviled by the right, along with Allen Franken, Keith Ellison, Nancy Pelosi, etc., all have more demonstrated (as measured by real votes) than any of the individuals you name. When a black extreme conservative candidate can win a statewide election, perhaps your line of argumentation can stand as a valid example.

"The concerns of those who listen to Glenn Beck are not of the increase in the number of Hispanics, or blacks, or the fact that the country has a (legitimately) African-American President of the United States."

But you make this assertion again without any proof. In fact when interviewed or polled supporters of Beck have more than once cited undocumented immigration (pushed by George W. Bush and international corporations, which the GOP and conservatives strongly supported), the alleged illegitimacy of Barack H. Obama's candidacy, and his election, all as things that upset them. Perhaps you have missed either the factual or anecdotal evidence, but these things you dismiss have been repeatedly documented.

"Conservative Americans want ALL neighborhoods to be safe, and schools with a predominantly black (or otherwise minority) populations to be sources of success for the children who attend. They want all families to be whole, and healthy, with grown-up mothers and present fathers."

If this is true, then why do conservatives repeatedly support policies, such as the supply-side policies of George W. Bush, which resulted in a net of only 1 million new jobs (vs. over 22 million under the (neo-)liberal Bill Clinton), along with the now extensively documented, disastrous deregulated behavior of the giant banks and Wall Street, that have impoverished and made homeless millions of Americans? Why do conservatives fight viciously against unions, including small-scale ones, which are the proven creators of what we came to know as the American middle class? Why are conservatives, if they are for "whole" and "healthy" families, so actively in favor of tax and economic policies that reward decent-paying wages so that parents can support their families, and so against any health care system that lowers costs and universalizes care the way that occurs in nearly all of the US's peer nations? The US spends 2 to 3 x nearly all of its peer nations on health care costs, with worse outcomes, and huge gaps in coverage for millions? If conservatives cared about what you say they did, even factoring in tort reform, the hobbyhorse of most conservative commentators, the reviled Obama health care plan would be viewed as far better than anything that exists (except Mitt Romney's system in Massachusetts) for the majority of Americans today. Just asserting "conservatives" believe in things and expecting us to believe them wouldn't even pass a basic class in logic.

"They want to reduce the number of Americans on drugs, and in prison for drug use and sale."

If this is the case, again, why haven't conservatives pursued policies to this end? The war on drugs has been a disaster, as have the grossly unfair and racially weighted laws, which have primarily benefitted the prison corporations and rural communities, whose own drug use has received minimal public attention.

"They want strong companies with good jobs, and they understand that an entry-level job is not one where most Americans stay put for the entirety of their careers."

But if an entry-level job pays well, what is wrong with keeping it one's entire life? Not everyone can be a CEO? And if conservatives want "strong companies with good jobs," then again, why do so many support companies that offshore jobs, fight unions, and engage in policies in which the children of affluent and well-connected people have a better opportunity to rise to the top than those who are not? Also, why don't conservatives militate against racist, sexist and homophobic policies that have been repeatedly proven to still unfortunate exist, particularly in terms of hiring and promotions? Even recent blind-testing based on race, ethnic and first name hiring studies have been undertaken and show persistent racial, ethnic and similar biases. Are these "good" jobs for everyone, or just for some people?

"Conservative Americans object to the policies the Left has pushed for years, not because they are racists, but because while those policies seemed well-intentioned at the time, the ensuing decades have amply demonstrated that paying teenagers to have children, and giving Section 8 housing to women who have multiple children by different men, most of whom are never around to father them, is a recipe for more illegitimate children by teenaged mothers, and complete familial breakdown. (A significant number of black writers also acknowledge this, and they, too, are on the receiving end of criticism for saying so.)"

President Bill Clinton, with a Republican Congress, effectively destroyed the welfare system. If you do not believe this, you can inquire at the relevant departments at nearly all 50 of the US states, as well as the District of Columbia, and you can also inquire at the US Departments of Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, and see how radically things have changed. I will grant you that the programs you outline have widely been considered failures. But you must then acknowledge the radical changes that occurred more than a decade ago. During the 2010 campaign, I heard Senate candidate Rand Paul rant about "welfare queens," and it was clear that he was engaging in rhetoric untethered from reality, not least because his own state not only has changed its policies on welfare and public housing, but also because the majority of people in his state on the transformed welfare programs are white.

"Conservative Americans are not sexual prudes or freaks who want to deprive others of pleasure or companionship."

This is untrue. Conservatives across the country and in individual states have repeated voted for sexually repressive measures, and continue to do so. Your assertion unfortunately is not borne out by the facts. I wish it was. It has been liberals and libertarians who have repeatedly fought and won to ensure sexual freedom, sexual autonomy and the rights of companionship in state and the federal legislatures and the courts.

"They can see what the liberalization of sexual mores has done to popular culture - television shows, films, music, and advertising - and the kind of behavior it is encouraging in children. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases in teens 40 years ago was miniscule, and there were only a handful of the diseases. Today, there are dozens of STDS, and infection rates of 12 - 21-year-olds can run as high as 1 in 5, 1 in 4, and even 1 in 3 in some areas. Scientists are discussing skyrocketing rates of infertility, cervical and anal cancers, and head and neck cancers from human papilloma virus (HPV). But the Left's response is, "we need to have more sex! We need to talk more about sex! We need sex in schools!""

You grossly mischaracterize "the Left." In fact, most liberals believe in sexual education, to empower young people with the correct knowledge to make the right choices--that is called "freedom"--in terms of their bodies and lives. Bodily, sexual and personal autonomy are among the most basic freedoms most of us possess. Conservatives militate against sexual education (which has proved effective in lower both the pregnancy and STD transmission rates), they militate against policies that would provide free or low-cost contraception for teens and adults (which would reduce the pregnancy rate), and they militate against keeping the government OUT of our private sexual affairs. In fact, during the latter years of Bill Clinton's presidency, the rates of STDs, including HIV/AIDS, and of teen pregnancy, as well as the number of abortions, just like the crime rate, were falling. Under a reviled (by the right) liberal president, the very things you claim conservatives wanted, were occurring. Yet instead of supporting Clinton, conservatives went so far as to attempt to impeach him. Under Bush, as the rate of STDs, teen pregnancy, and crime, etc. rose, conservatives were silent. Why? What exactly do you believe in, in terms of what's really going on? Or is it just, as I asked eaerlier, an issue of being unhappy with not being in power? If you are getting what you claim you want but under someone who is not who you like, does that invalidate the reality of the world around you?

"The great sacrament in the Church of the Left is abortion. If any private corporation was selling a product that resulted in the deaths of millions of black babies every year, there would be criminal prosecutions. But Planned Parenthood - founded by a woman who advocated eugenics - performs millions of abortions, a disproportionate number of them on black and Hispanic women each year, and the Left's response is, "More money for Planned Parenthood!" Kermit Gosnell was not the exception; Kermit Gosnell is the FACE of abortion. He himself was understandably baffled by the counts of murder against him. "The one count I can understand," he said, "because someone died. But I don't understand the other seven." Why would he understand? His job, quite clearly, was to kill those babies. He did. So are we prosecuting him for their murder because it wasn't as neat and tidy as we would like?"

There is a way to reduce abortions. Provide free or low-cost contraception to all sexually active men and women. If sexually active people knew about their reproductive health, instead of believing myths and adhering to failed dogmas, and had free or low-cost ways of preventing 1) STDs and 2) unexpected pregnancies, women would not have to get abortion. Yet some women want abortions, some require them. They should thus be safe, affordable, and legal. The "Left" you decry has repeatedly given into conservative demands about abortion, to the extent that in some states abortions are very difficult for women, especially poor women, to access. Racializing your argument may seem clever, the fact remains that if women want and need abortions, they should be able to get safe, affordable and legal ones. If you do not like abortion, do not have one, but do not try to control the bodies of women who seek to have them.

Not only have the anti-poverty programs and sexual liberalization agenda of the left NOT addressed the problems they have intended to solve; they have worsened it. And in doing so, the expenditures associated with these programs - and the problems they have created and exacerbated - are driving the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

"These are the concerns that Americans who self-identify as..."conservatives" have. And yet they see themselves demonized in the media and in academia each day as racist, ignoramuses, thugs, cretins - and even potential criminals. Yes, conservative Americans are angry about being characterized this way. They are tired of being lied to - and about."

I am an "independent," and I do not share most of your concerns. On top of this, numerous Americans see self-identified conservatives, like Rush Limbaugh (who has repeatedly made anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-gay, etc. comments), Pat Buchanan (a notorious anti-Black racist and anti-Semite), Haley Barbour (repeatedly offering praise for known white supremacist organizations), George Allen (who even denied his Jewish heritage and used an outrageous French racial slur against a South Asian-American), Tom DeLay (a convicted felon), Jack Abramoff (a convicted felon), Jonah Goldberg (who unfortunately wrote an entire book that mischaracterized in the most fundamental way the concept and practice of "fascism"), and on and on. I mean, do you not consider the repeatedly documented Constitutional and treaty violations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, just to give one example, as valid? Are we supposed to simply ignore these characters, who are major figures in conservatism, and who both received an overwhelming majority of conservative votes in 2000 and 2004? As far as I recall, the truly conservative candidates facing them in both elections did not receive a majority of conservative support, so what are most of us to believe? Our eyes and reality, or conservative rhetoric that repeatedly fails to match either?

"Some conservatives, in fact, predicted these things decades ago, and they were treated then with the same disdain and antipathy that Beck and Limbaugh are now. Liberals won the arguments at the time. But now that so many of those predictions have come true, the demonization of people like Beck that you folks are trying to inspire is backfiring on you. Those who believed you - and believed IN the policies you espoused - feel completely betrayed."

What predictions? Just look at conservative economics. The US even had a Democratic, (neo-)liberal president buying into conservative economic ideas about deregulation. In 2008, we saw the end-result of those ideas, in the second worst economic collapse in US and global history. In almost every way, conservative economic policies, centered on deregulation, self-regulation, and laissez-faire approaches led to the profound impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people. Continued conservative economic policies in countries such as Ireland, Greece, Latvia, Spain, and now the UK, with its coalition-conservative government, are leading to economic contraction, the mass suffering of millions, and even worse outcomes for future generation. We can see this with our eyes, but facts back this up. All the fine words in the world about what conservatives believe in or want are regularly belied by what conservatives do, and what the effects of conservative policies are. In the case of the beloved Ronald Reagan, he raised taxes more in his first term than Barack Obama, who has unfortunately repeated CUT taxes, so far has. Yet you cannot even get a conservative thinker and leader like Rush Limbaugh to admit what the objective record shows, which is that Reagan raised taxes in 8 of his 10 years in office! I am willing to give conservatives a hearing if more would even challenge someone like Limbaugh, who cannot even admit what is documented truth.

"Americans no longer trust liberals in the media, or academia, or government, because they are still pitching the same tired agendas that people feel have been completely and definitively discredited."

Actually, most Americans do trust "liberals," conservatives do not. You cannot generalize from your perspective onto the general population. Millions of American young people enrolled in institutions of higher education learn from and challenge their liberal professors, and pay little attention to the steady disinformation campaigns that conservatives, including ones like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, aided and abetted by propaganda outfits like Fox News as well as the corporate media, who regularly lie to fellow conservatives. That is a good thing. You can make all the claims you want, but as the last presidential election showed, more people believed what they saw than all the corporate and plutocratic dollars could force them to believe, which was that Barack Obama, who is proving every day that he is the second coming of Dwight Eisenhower, was a better choice than the erratic John McCain and his grossly unqualified running mate Sarah Palin. This is a woman who makes public comments about monetary policy yet demonstrates she does not have a clue as to what she's talking about. It's her right, as it is every citizen's, to comment on anything and everything, but that does not mean that she should have been, or should ever be, the vice president. You may claim that "Americans no longer trust liberals in the media, or academia, or government," but the fact remains that most Americans, according to poll after poll, want to retain and improve the major policies liberal administrations and Congresses have enacted. All the mythmaking in the world isn't going to change that, though I will give conservatives credit for endlessly trying.

"Glenn Beck succeeds with his conspiratorial musings because the average person cannot understand how anyone can see the results of their actions and not admit it. No one, they think, can be that stupid. Therefore, they conclude - it must be deliberate. It must be part of a plan. Now, add to that mix the scholarly writings of leftists from the 1930s who advocate for "creating a crisis that can thereafter be politically exploited," and is it any wonder that people can be persuaded to believe that is precisely what is happening?"

Glenn Beck succeeds because like demagogues from time immemorial, a small pocket of people are guiled, and liberals, sadly, have failed to challenge most of the conservative shibboleths, instead taking the approach that liberalism as a mode of action suffices to challenge conservatism as an ideology and practice. Again and again, when Beck's most diehard adherents are asked basic facts about the Constitution, the workings of the government, actual government policies, current and past, they cannot offer correct or factual answers. I say this not to condemn them, but to say that Beck is perpetrating a dangerous game that those who truly hold power encourage. It is more important to them to have Beck's followers calling Obama a "socialist" and "communist" rather than realizing that over the last 25 we have witnessed a wholesale and ongoing transfer of the nation's wealth to the top 1%. This does not benefit Beck's followers, most of them at least, at all. Just as discussing who has pushed for undocumented immigration--it wasn't liberals, primarily--not just with words but with governmental policies would shock many Beck supporters. But that's not discussed either. Keeping people in the dark benefits those who already have power. As Orwell wrote, so it is. Conservatives, if they cared about the things you claim they do, would do more to ensure that this wasn't the case. But the reality shows something quite different, day in and day out.

17. coochiecoo - February 12, 2011 at 09:23 pm

This sentence

"Why are conservatives, if they are for "whole" and "healthy" families, so actively in favor of tax and economic policies that reward decent-paying wages so that parents can support their families, and so against any health care system that lowers costs and universalizes care the way that occurs in nearly all of the US's peer nations?"

should read

"Why are conservatives, if they are for "whole" and "healthy" families, so actively in favor of tax and economic policies that DO NOT ensure decent-paying wages so that parents can support their families, and so against any health care system that lowers costs and universalizes care the way that occurs in nearly all of the US's peer nations?

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