Tuesday, July 16. 2013
I took a look at Nate Silver: Senate Control in 2014 Increasingly Looks Like a Tossup, following a link from TPM with the grimmer title "Nate Silver Predicts GOP Holding 50-51 Senate Seats After 2014 Election." In a nutshell, he sees Democratic incumbents Begich, Hagan, Landrieu, and Pryor as vulnerable, with only the slightest chance of upsetting Republicans McConnell and Collins, and Republicans having huge edges in contests to replace retiring Democrats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, versus a very slight (20%) chance of the Democrats picking up the empty Republican seat in Georgia.
This is all fairly reasonable, but it's early and lots of things can change. I remember when Silver had a Kansas senate seat all but locked up for a likely Democrat -- before Kathleen Sebelius wrecked her career by becoming Obama's HEW Secretary, leaving a void that was filled by a Democrat who raised something like $20,000 against several million for Jerry Moran. And in 2012 he figured Republican seats in Missouri and Indiana were safe, and even at the very end he still had "red state" North Dakota in the Republican column. So it's still very early, and Silver knows that better than TPM.
I read through this stuff not because it's very important. At this stage it isn't, although it does suggest that the Democrats' laissez-faire attitude toward party politics continues to hurt them (and needless to say us) by not recruiting and advancing credible candidates and backing them up with functional organizations (like the ones Clinton and Obama built for their own purposes). It's just that long ago I got about as deeply into political geography as Kevin Phillips (back when he wrote that hideously prophetic book, The Emerging Republican Majority), so I have an especially informed sense of the lay of the land.
Still, I wouldn't be writing about this bit of trivia except as I was scanning through the comments I ran across this (from steelers01):
Then there is bevus:
I'm struck here not just by the level of delusion but by the itch to turn these fantastical notions into a gun fight. And also with the characterization of "worthless Americans" -- one of those cognitive steps in dehumanization that turns a person into a target, although it may also be a play on "wealthless," an accurate description of most Americans. The idea that the "worthless" masses are out to destroy is an old conservative trope -- true only insofar as the old order is inflexible and violent, which seems to be the commenter's conviction.
As for the charge that liberals buy votes, I'm reminded that in 1860 the Republican Party's slogan was "vote yourself a farm, vote yourself a tariff" -- probably the best deal in American political history. (One that brought my great-great-grandfather to Kansas. He acknowledged the favor by naming his first son Abraham Lincoln Hull.) Back then the Republicans were the liberals, the Democrats the defenders and apologists of slavery -- roles that have pretty much swapped 150 years later. Indeed, in 1861 we did have a civil war, as the conservatives of the day fought to defend their racist empire from the "worthless people" who voted for farms and tariffs and an end to slavery. We haven't degenerated that far yet, but when conservatives see every attempt by voters to electe a government that serves the people's interest as a sign of their worthlessness, we aren't far off.
Not every right-wing comment is as deranged as these two, but nearly every one is misinformed and/or careless. But even there the same memes have taken deep root: the notion that the nation is being sapped by undeserving parasites, that those people are always someone one doesn't know, and that we're better off hurting ourselves than letting them get away with it. So you start with ignorance and moral superiority, add spite, and pretty soon you're stockpiling arms and ready to start a civil war against the most powerless, hardest struggling people around.
Sixty-some years ago Lionel Trilling said that the conservatism of the day amounted to nothing more than "irritable mental gestures." Today is has mutated into something far more insane, and far more dangerous. But it isn't enough to point out a few examples, like I did above. You need to understand that all this is caused by a deep breach in the trust that holds society together. It hasn't fully broken yet, otherwise you couldn't stand to go to work, to shop, to do anything outside your gated community and gun-secured house and nervous family. But we have hit the point where an awful lot of business is predatory, where companies tread all over workers and deceive customers, where no one can ever have enough money to ensure their future security, where people go around telling you you have to be armed to defend yourself against the government you voted for. Without trust our world falls apart, and once broken trust is all the harder to earn back.
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