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The Center Right Fallacy
Republican messaging strategies and think tanks have gaslit people into thinking this is not a Center Left society.
Philadelphia, PA/USA - July 25, 2016: View of FOX news broadcast suite during the DNC Convention. Courtesy of Shutterstock.
Fox News has become an influential purveyor of untruth. They either spread it through the hosts or do man-on-the-street interviews like this to attach culpability to the people they have relentlessly gaslit.
Dana Milbank is one of our more honest and informed voices within America today. He has recently written a book that puts the blame of Republican disillusion on Newt Gingrich.
I couldn’t agree more, however, there is a tendency to overlook the role that small government ideology had in playing up tribal fears and gaslighting a nation that needs its social safety net.
I connect the degradation of the Party of Lincoln to Reaganism. I see Newt Gingrich as an outgrowth of that. Though the years before Gingrich’s ultimate rise were less combative than the political culture he reined in, I believe pushing an overly simplistic idea that there needed to be limited government was the true incubator for what would later come.
America’s political project has progressively moved towards the enfranchisement of formerly marginalized citizens whether that be women or LGBTQI+ citizens. Even if that means geographically isolated Americans - who are more connected to the information highway than before (for better and for worse).
This has been done through a public and private partnership over the last 150 years that has favored the private sector more than the public. The movement from dual federalism to cooperative federalism during the New Deal years made this economic and social development possible within a nation previously full of backwaters.
Americans still love their Social Security and they take advantage of public education, especially Americans who live in higher-valued neighborhoods and aren’t forced to pay for education out of fear for their child’s safety. However, the distribution of these resources has happened along traditionally discriminatory lines reflective of our history. We still have health inequalities on Native American reservations. There are systemically segregated and urbanized communities of color that are overcrowded and have lost funding from population migrations that are reminiscent of the legacy of the mid-20th century “White flight.” As well as a later loss of tax bases and investment that also reflects a larger migration to the suburbs - by people of color too.
Overall, the small government fallacy was a demagogic tool perfected with the introduction of “Reaganism.” It influenced antagonism towards the government in general and with little rationality for those not well schooled in public affairs. There are esoteric academic reasons for promoting better tax efficiency and the separation of powers, but that could not be messaged to a wider public.
So instead, this small government rhetoric relied on creating racial and social scapegoats that one could claim “the government” and “the media” were unduly giving an advantage to others who were to be feared and hated:
We see the progeny of this thought pattern in the attacks on diversity today as if it is making the nation less meritocratic - which also comes from the idea of an idealized meritocratic past. If anything, the nation is more meritocratic today as it tries to include more people that were historically pushed to the fringes of society - including impoverished White Americans.
I connect this downfall to Reaganism and Reagan’s political strategy - no matter what the man himself thought or believed. The nation does value when its government preserves its beautiful topography and diverse habitats and also when it upholds health standards.
This is the worldwide era of big bureaucracies and we can deal with that reality by making it as benevolent as possible. Just like with teenage experimentation. The small government fallacy has convinced many conservatives and moderates that this nation is Center Right and not Center Left.
So, this new political party needs to figure out which side of the coin it is on, or else it is just empty rhetoric.
The Brain Washing of my Dad documentary (linked above) talks about how conservative media and think tanks created a messaging ecosystem by using small government demagoguery and fear to distract target voters from their economic interests while inflating social animus.
This is a Center-Left nation that has been gaslit by the Reagan Republican Party and powerful private messaging entities.
That is why so many believe it is a Center Right one, especially the folks who could use Center Left policies the most.
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