Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Republican "War" Metaphor Endangers the Nation

Today, GOP Sponsored put up an article that advocated a military coup to "resolve the Obama problem". The author has been published on Newsmax for a decade and given a staff line right next to its prominent writers makes Newsmax's attempt to distance itself from the article they removed from their site appear to be lacking in credibility.

The problem has been noticed before: The Republican Party has been utilizing the war metaphor in its internal language to rally the troops, making it inevitable that we would see what we have seen today and recently. From the Newsmax article to the Facebook poll on the assassination of President Obama, to the Joe Wilson outburst on the floor of Congress, to the blunt statements by Rush Limbaugh explaining his desire to see President Obama fail in addressing the problems of the country, it gives legitimacy to Thomas Friedman's argument that the right is not simply trying to be a loyal opposition (which implies a loyalty to America over individual interests, but that's another story), but rather attempting to de-legitimize the President with potentially dangerous consequences.

While Friedman hits what is going on, he is missing how it is being done and what makes it legitimate in the eyes of those doing it: the use of the war metaphor. If you listen to conservative rhetoric for the last 15 or so years, they have employed the use of the war metaphor in such a way that it has created a world where all is fair in order to win the war, to regain power, and to defeat the left. It legitimizes the use of lies and propaganda from a group that uses morality as part of its platform, an obvious contradiction, but in war, all is fair and truth is often the first casualty (both obvious cliches but also make the strategies legitimate in the eyes of the base).

While the use of war language is effective to rally the base and organize them, it creates only two possible conclusions if it isn't pulled back: either the opposition must surrender or it must be killed.

In war, soldiers are either killed or made prisoners of, which explains why so much of politics in the last 15 years has been about personal politics, not issues or policies.

In war, there are no compromises, only victories and losses while fighting for your ideals or values, which might explain the lack of Republicans willing to compromise.

In war, loyalty is the highest value and departure from that loyalty is justification for killing or destruction, which might explain why lifetime Republicans who depart from the party faithful are attacked so heavily as not being credible in their books or statements.

Until the war metaphor is broken within Republican discourse, the trajectory that it presents leads only to the inevitable: the assassination of a President or a violent overthrow of the nation. The left will not surrender, thus, it leaves only the destruction of the left as its possible end result unless its trajectory is disrupted.

Kenneth Burke first brought us the idea of entelechy, which is essentially the trajectory of a discourse. He argued, essentially, that the trajectory of Nazi discourse employed by Hitler would lead to the genocide of the Jews unless it was broken. And if it had not been broken by the allies, there is little doubt that it would have continued until the Jewish race was essentially destroyed.

That is NOT to proclaim that the Republican Party are Nazis, that simply is not true. However, it is this type of rhetoric that is employed in every military conflict (it doesn't imply genocide, but the WWII example best illustrates the point), and it is only by destruction or surrender that it is ended. Put forth in a domestic political situation, where sides won't peacefully surrender it leads to only one conclusion: violent conflict. Unless it is discontinued that is.

The right must start to temper itself or it will inevitably lead to a stronger response from the left, and a stronger response from the far right, and lead to eventual violent actions such as an assassination or a violent conflict. These leaders should remember that in violent conflict, these political leaders and their pundits are often prime targets in civil unrest because of their profile in chaos.

It does not mean that the right should back down from procedures to delay or stop bills from passing. It does not mean that the right should back down from political ads to disrupt policies or even go after issues that they feel should be gone after. But it does mean that they should move away from uses of the war metaphors, where it is a fight against the left, where anything goes, where winning is the most important thing over the process and being good representatives of the people.

If they don't, what may come next will benefit no one as America moves back into second world or even third world status as it destroys its own infrastructure, destroys its own society and businesses, and removes itself from being the leader of the free world. Americans deserve better, regardless of party.

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