Apart from the couple of years where I lived in the relatively liberal city of Orlando, the rest of that time has been spent in the reddest of red districts. Needless to say, after having been raised as an extremely religious conservative Republican and after all of these years here in the Bible Belt, it’s safe to say I’m quite familiar with the right-wing mindset that is now becoming more and more mainstream in the GOP.
During that time and through my constant, daily contact with conservatives in real life, I’ve found that many of them are relying on what seems to be an ideology of cutting off their nose to spite their face. Yeah, I know this is old news to a lot of you, but let me explain further.
Way back in 1932, the famous comedian Groucho Marx appeared in a movie called “Horse Feathers.” In this film his character, Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, has a scene called “I’m Against It,” which perfectly encapsulates the current mentality of many self-described conservatives these days. You can watch the video clip here.
Just like Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the average Republican voter seems to be suffering from a serious case of “I’m Against It,” solely because President Obama proposed it or because they’ve been told that the idea is part of a liberal plot to destroy America – even if the idea is something that goes along with conservative principles.
Don’t believe me? Just look at the conservative rallying cry of “states’ rights” that they bring up every time the President signs something they don’t like or the Supreme Court issues a ruling that sets them off on temper tantrums that I usually only see from little kids after they’ve been told to turn off the TV and go to bed. Republicans responded with bitter outrage when the Affordable Care Act was passed and then seemed to have a collective coronary when the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate portion of it which remains their greatest gripe with the law, despite the fact that the individual mandate was a proposal from the Heritage Foundation back in the 1990s in response to “HillaryCare.”
Want another example? How about the fact that Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado over legal marijuana? Where’s all the states’ rights champions on the right coming to the defense of Colorado and their decision to stop throwing people in jail over a damn plant and make tax dollars off it instead? Or how about all of the “traditional marriage” advocates who are beside themselves that states have decided that adults can make civil contracts with each other, regardless of whether they have opposite reproductive organs or not?
Need more? Many Americans, conservatives included, are currently outraged that a guy murdered two NYPD officers in cold blood over the weekend. Yet if you mention the fact that he was a violent felon with an apparent history of mental illness and that he should have never been able to get his hands on a gun, suddenly they become very quiet. Or how about the fact that the majority of officers killed in the line of duty were in the South, a region with notoriously loose gun laws – and that the majority of the alleged offenders were also white? Despite crime statistics and data to the contrary, you’ll see articles like this one from The National Review that blame a culture of hatred toward law enforcement for incidents like the one in Brooklyn – except when it’s a bunch of anti-government white guys pointing guns at federal agents, then suddenly they’re just “taking a stand against government overreach.” Oh yeah, don’t even get me started on the conservative hatred for unions, but they sure love the police unions and the NYPD, especially after 9/11.
Want to watch a great example of what I’m talking about? Simply mention that you think it would be a good idea for all semi-auto gun sales to be done through a licensed dealer who would perform a background check, and suddenly you’re part of the great liberal conspiracy to take away their guns. In case you’re wondering, I’m also a gun owner who is seriously considering buying an AR next year when I get my tax return – through a licensed dealer, of course.
Just the other day, I listened to a somewhat drunk oilfield worker who used nearly every racial epithet when talking about President Obama. He was convinced that the delay on the Keystone XL pipeline was somehow part of a plan by the president to punish Louisiana conservatives, even though that pipeline would not run through the state. When I explained the fact that the pipeline would not be of any long-term help to the Louisiana industry, and it would actually probably hurt them, he refused to listen to reason and still wanted the pipeline, because President Obama was against it. Just last year, they freaked out because Michelle Obama suggested that drinking water was a good thing and conservatives also had a meltdown over her partnering with Subway to promote a better diet. I’m only half joking when I say that if President Obama said that drinking bleach was a bad idea, there would be at least a few that would appear on a YouTube video with a jug of Clorox. “You can’t tell me what to do Obama, you’re not my real dad!”
As a writer who identifies as a progressive, I do recognize a lot of hypocrisy and inconsistent arguments from the left as well – so don’t think y’all are off the hook either. But as someone who spent the first two decades of his life as a conservative, the blatant hypocrisy and “whatever Obama says, I’m against it” behavior from the right is both staggering, and sadly effective when you realize how many people continue to vote against their self-interests.
I got out. I grew up, but there are far too many people across this country who will act out of defiance and not rational thought. Then again, Lyndon Johnson perfectly predicted the future of right-wing media and politics when he said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
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