Saturday, August 22, 2009

Conservatism: The 5th Estate Chapter One

Chapter One

“We’re an empire now.”

It’s erroneous and even irresponsible to call the latter-day conservative movement a 5th column. The neocons’ hypernationalism, with the Wolfowitz Doctrine calling for simultaneous wars on foreign soil, automatically disqualifies any claim of them being a Trojan horse for any potential invader/occupier from without.

Yet we’ve seen the Republican Party in all its hydra-headed glory take unmistakable steps toward becoming not merely the closest thing that America has to a 5th Estate but a legitimate superstate heedless of any power shifts in the White House, Congress or the Supreme Court. This may or may not be by design but the trends and results are clear enough.

Classically defined, the legitimate four estates from the European Middle Ages are thus: The clergy (the First Estate), the Nobility (the Second Estate), the Commoners (the Third Estate) and the most readily identifiable, the Press (the Fourth Estate). As far as is possible in latter-day America, the Four Estates can be reinterpreted thusly:

The Clergy (Particularly Christian fundamentalists / millenarians / evangelicals without whose support George W. Bush wouldn’t have stood a chance); The Nobility (Or the corporate titans who, in a way, control our government through PAC soft money, other campaign contributions and corporate sinecures); The Commoners (Rural and Middle America, especially those who made the Southern Strategy possible); And of course, The Press, the most identifiable of the Four Estates.

Some have energetically made claims that the blogosphere is the 5th Estate. But the blogosphere, at best a semi-sentient vestigial twin of the media, is largely made up of parts of the first four estates and hardly qualifies as an independent entity. The Commoners, the wealthy, the devout and especially the media have all drifted into the blogosphere. The interclass overlap provides, at most, a common meeting ground, sort of a cybernetic courtyard in which elements of all four established estates can meet and bicker.

Once serving a noble purpose, the fractious, ego-filled blogsphere is today virtually a mainstream entity, that vestigial twin growing larger as the host media shrinks with a very real possibility of the former actually supplanting, if not subsuming, the latter. Any A list blog wouldn’t have a chance of becoming or remaining an A list blog without some corporate sponsorship, advertising and public relations (witness the boutique blog, The Huffington Post and its endless parade of celebrity trophy bloggers). With bloggers getting invited to appear on national TV, syndicated talk radio shows, obtaining book contracts and, in some cases such as Ana Marie Cox, becoming part of the legitimate mainstream Fourth Estate, the politically-plagued blogosphere can hardly be described as a detached entity with no overlap with the other three estates.

Instead, we have to take the GOP’s and conservative movement’s collusion with all four estates a little out of sequence, beginning with the Commoners.

The Third Estate: The Commoners

Instead, we’re seeing the Republican Party digging its talons into the other Four Estates in a manner that never would’ve been possible 40 years ago. The earliest extant example of this is, of course, Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

A masterstroke of political proselytizing, Nixon helped create the Southern Strategy in 1968 by astutely tapping into white Appalachian disaffection with their impoverished lot in life. By getting these Dixiecrats away from the Democrats and their evil Civil Rights and War on Poverty agendas, the GOP had to make these people think that Democrats, liberal policies and the black man was the enemy and that the idea-bankrupt Republicans were the answer to all their problems.

Turning the lower half of the country against their African American neighbors was, to say the least, the easiest part. In a way, Dr. King’s assassination that year and the resultant riots that burned in major southern cities seemed to validate and resurrect atavistic Caucasian fear of the Angry Black Man.

In reality, the Southern Strategy’s M.O. was nothing new. Back in 1863, politicians and activists cynically exploited the anger of Irish laborers who feared losing their jobs to free blacks who would do them for lower wages. The conscription riots of July 1863 had as much to do with racial and socioeconomic antagonism as it did legitimate rebellion against President Lincoln’s “rich man’s war.” Newspaper and eyewitness accounts attest to African Americans getting hunted down, beaten, stabbed, shot, burned alive and openly lynched in the streets of New York City.

While socioeconomic disaffection waxes and wanes and is situational, fear is atavistic and Nixon’s campaign henchmen were frighteningly adept at exploiting them and all without making Nixon look like George Wallace.

But the true ingenuity of the Southern Strategy wasn’t in merely turning White Appalachia and Middle America against their fellow Americans and to get them to vote against their best interests but to ensure that they would continue doing so decade after decade. Slowly, the tide is beginning to turn, as Barack Obama’s Election Day numbers suggest (the president won five southern states: North Carolina, Maryland, Missouri, Florida and Virginia.).

Yet, it ought to be remembered that at the Southern Strategy’s genesis in 1968, African Americans had been empowered with unrestricted voting rights through the Voting Rights Act only three years earlier. It also ought to be noted that African Americans were also newly empowered by President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (the second executive order was signed on January 1st, 1863). In both cases, we saw white America being horror-stricken and violently reacting to a newly-empowered people who had until very recently, been subservient, second or third class citizens.

Yet, throughout 20 consecutive election cycles, it can’t be accurately said the GOP for which they’ve faithfully voted has made the south rise again. In fact, one can trace an unbroken line from the 19th century Democratic Party to the latter-day Republican Party proving how and why the South to this day has never fully recovered from the devastating effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

America is a deeply divided and bitterly polarized nation today but this is not a new phenomenon. Whereas today’s hot button issues such as health care, immigration, abortion and gay rights expose profound partisan and ideological fissures, the Civil War and its corollary issues such as slavery and wealth distribution also sundered a much more politically-engaged America.


At August 23, 2009 at 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did it ever occur to you that every person who assassinated a president was a liberal?

At August 23, 2009 at 8:03 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald (if you want to believe that theory) were liberals? Giteau, the wacko who shot Garfield, was not a liberal (not that liberals were such in the latter day sense) but a disgruntled, delusional office seeker and theocrat who thought he was on a mission from God. Sound familiar?

Leon Czolgosz was an anarchist, which is not the same thing as a liberal. You're really reaching there, pal.

So, no, that hadn't occurred to me because it's simply not true.

And what's this shit that northerners are more bigoted than southerners? Our cracker brothers were running around lynching blacks and murdering civil rights workers and what were we doing? Setting up sundown towns. Our racism may have been less obvious but at least that didn't translate to Klan raids, burning crosses and lynching children just for whistling at white women.

At August 24, 2009 at 6:06 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

The Klan started in... Pulaski, TN. They were headquartered in Indiana.

As for Guiteau and Booth being liberals... you're really reaching now, pal. As for Oswald, we don't know what he stood for. Any close examination into his life would tell you that. There were too many inconsistencies. Plus, it's kind of obvious that he's not the one who pulled the trigger.

I would suggest doing more research before trying do battle with me and painting liberals with a wide brush, sport. Trying to remove the Klan from the south, where you're obviously from, is like trying to remove the baked beans from Boston.


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