Katie Ryder has written a fascinating article for Salon.com where she interviews Arthur Goldwag whose new book, The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right, argues that the racist and conspiracist approach of today’s far-right pundits is largely the same as it was 50 years ago.
Why is this resurgence of the “old hate” happening now?
We’re going through a historic shift in this country. We were on an incredible run of prosperity in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, thanks to the New Deal social compact, thanks to big unions, thanks to very strong regulation – thanks to all the things that Glenn Beck’s followers think are the most evil things in the world. Fairly unskilled, uneducated people were able to earn a good living, and send their children to college. And that’s changed. Income inequality is growing. If you look at American history, the bottom has dropped out of rural people’s lives every five years, but there used to also be a manufacturing class that made a decent living. There used to be a route for people that weren’t well educated to make a decent living. There isn’t anymore. There’s a lot of anxiety about our individual positions in our society, and our country’s position in the world. If you’re not educated to be able to understand it, and you’re trapped in a disadvantaged life, you might become really, really angry.
The interview has a great deal of discussion of this “New Hate.” Check out the Salon.com site (Inside the New Hate).
After reading the article I felt that the author was begging the question of whether the more right leaning, conservative elements of American politics have always represented the party dedicated to using class and race distinctions to create fear and hatred in America to further their own political and social agendas. But if all Republican Presidents represented this skillfully nurtured world of hatred, how do you explain Dwight Eisenhower? But then I remember that Ike would have run as a Democrat if the more progressive party offered him a better tee-time. So, after eight years of Mr. Nice Guy, John Kennedy stepped forward to run for president and, as Goldwag reminds us, the hate machine that had been somewhat quiet blasted out of it torpor accusing Kennedy of wanting to force the country to become Catholic (amongst many other fabricated charges). After that there was Lyndon Johnson, arguable the most effective president this country has had since Truman (it is interesting that so many of the things Truman was once cheered for are now being considered as bad in the long view and many of the things Johnson did are now being recognized as even more important than they seemed at the time … except that damned war). Of course after Johnson came Nixon and things really got ugly fast.
Another point Goldwag makes in comparing the New Hatred to its historical counterparts is that the New Hatred is right out in the open: when Newt Gingrich calls President Obama the Food Stamp president it is not only inaccurate, it is open racism that appeals to all those angry white men in the south who have swallowed the lie that their economic difficulties are the direct result of the black man getting more from the government, of the undocumented Mexicans taking all the jobs and burdening all the schools, and of the muslim in the White House secretly scheming to turn this country over to the terrorist … or was it the socialists?
I know that when I first learned Ron Paul had been an active member of the John Birch Society, I immediately wrote him out of my book. Is that part of the New Hatred? Probably not: I have been appalled by the Birchers since the late 1950s. There’s a lot to learn about hatred in the John Birch Society: look them up. Remember, they even sponsored one of the Republican presidential debates last year.