Monday, August 30, 2010

American anger, civilly expressed . . .

Long, long, ago, when I was young and easy, William F. Buckley ran for mayor of New York City. I got to hear a few of his witty, erudite speeches when they were broadcast by some NYC station big enough to reach my Massachusetts boarding school, and I have been a fan of  the late Mr. Buckley and his National Review ever since.

It's one of the sources I turn to when I need to understand the conservative's point of view.

This Saturday, close to 100,000 folks answered Glenn Beck's call to rally in Washington to hear Sarah Palin, Mr. Beck and others tell them what God wants for America. This, to me, means that Mr. Beck's message, whatever it is, resonates deeply with a lot of people in this country. And so yesterday I turned to the National Review to try to understand why this is so and came across an excellent article by Victor Davis Hanson on "The Sources of American Anger."

Mr. Hanson lists 6 issues he sees as underlying the anger of those who find inspiration in the messages of Mr. Beck, Ms. Palin, and others of similar political and religious persuasion..

Here they are, much abridged. . .
1. Two sets of rules. The public senses there are two standards in America — one for elite overseers, quite another for the supposedly not-to-be-trusted public. The anger over this hypocrisy surfaces over matters from the trivial to the profound. . .
2. The bigot card. In reductionist terms, the public now accepts that when particular groups fail to win a 51 percent majority on a particular issue, they resort to invoking racism and prejudice. . .
3. The law? What law? Americans accept that they cannot pass legislation in violation of the Constitution. But they do not believe that a single judge can nullify the electoral will of millions without good cause. Thus in Arizona and California, there is a sense that judges who favor open borders or gay marriage are willing to use the pretense of constitutional issues to enact such agendas despite their current unpopularity . . .
4. The futility of taxes. We talk of returning to the Clinton income-tax schedules. Yet in the late 1990s, those hikes ended up, along with the Republican cuts in mandates, balancing the budget — without new health-care surcharges, or talk of a VAT, or caps lifted off income subject to Social Security taxes. Not now. The public recognizes that the advocates of higher taxes are not willing to make the sort of across-the-board spending cuts that once succeeded in balancing the budget. In other words, those who will start paying much more of their income to the government in the form of taxes fret that, unlike the 1990s, this time the additional federal revenue won’t balance the budget, and will be all for naught. . .
5. Disingenuousness. There is also a growing belief that the Obama administration is advancing an agenda that it cannot be fully candid about, because that agenda does not command broad support. As a result, we are habitually asked to believe that what administration appointees or supporters say is not what they really mean, or at least was taken out of context. . . . All this dissimulation started with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose mistake was not saying the outrageous things he said — Mr. Obama and the compliant media had contextualized his corpus of hate well enough — but finally insulting the media at the National Press Club. The former was seen as a misdemeanor; the latter proved a felony. . . .Do Obama supporters, then, reveal their true beliefs only in gaffes and unguarded moments, while filling their official statements and communiqu├ęs with pretense?
6. A culpable America? Finally, the public has added up the apology tours, the bowing, and the constant emphasis on race, class, and gender crimes, and concluded that this administration sees America, past and present, as the story of a culpable majority denying noble minorities their rights — period. . . .Surely someone in the past — perhaps even white males — must have been doing something right for America to evolve into a place that our present-day critics apparently enjoy.
Do read Mr. Hanson's entire article if you have time. But, more importantly, think about what he's saying. And, if you're not a believer in all things Glenn Beck-ian, try walking around in a believer's shoes for just a moment or two and viewing this country from that angle.


  1. Those shoes don't fit.

  2. Giving people a chance to express their outrage does the country good. They are marching on Washington, not strapping bombs to their chest or sitting in a book depository in Dallas. I was part of the Million Mom March against handguns. Didn't do any good, really, but made me feel better. Of course, I probably wouldn't have done the bomb or depository thing, anyway.

  3. I'm ditto with Arnie. (By the way, re: Item No. 5, Rev. Wright's rant to the National Press Club didn't really seem to get nearly as much attention as the two or three angriest snippets of his sermons which the cable shows had played over and over and over and over early in Obama's campaign.) I would add a 6th "issue" for those who support Beck's and Palin's message: they resent the erosion of that comfy old-shoe America where authority figures were always white, and languages other than English were almost never heard, and you could make a pretty good living without much formal education ...So when times get hard, the changes that have happened with these things become the targets of their anger. -- Chris