Tuesday, October 6, 2009

War on the Right: New Brand, Same Old Product

John C. Santore reports at Media Matters yesterday that there’s increasing internecine fighting in the American political right, as the Republican party casts about for new directions and new leaders. Lindsey Graham and Glenn Beck have been trading insults, Joe Scarborough is miffed at Rush Limbaugh for gloating over America’s loss of the Olympics, and David Brooks wants to distance himself and thinking Republicans from Beck, Limbaugh, and the other right-wing talking heads spewing out a constant stream of lies and invective about the new president.

But it’s not so easy. It’s not so easy for neoconservative intellectuals who have made common cause with—and significantly empowered—Limbaugh, Beck, and others for years now suddenly to disclaim any affiliation with these fellow travelers of the neoconservative movement. Or better, it’s not so honest for neocon ideologues like David Brooks to claim that Limbaugh and Beck have nothing in common with him and other fiscal conservatives representing the elite power centers that determine the direction of popular political and cultural discourse in this country.

This was one of the primary points I wanted to make in my two postings last week (here and here) about Brooks’s call for a new culture war centered on economics. Dig beneath the rhetorical layers of the discourse of fiscal conservatism, and you’ll find the same bedrock ideological foundations that support Limbaugh, Beck, and other culture warriors of the right.

At base, it’s all about a philosophy that promotes the rights of the individual over against the good of the whole. Whether that philosophy is dressed up in religious or economic garb, it’s the same philosophy.

And it has had and will continue to have extremely deleterious effects on American culture, as long as its fundamental assumptions remain unchallenged in this period in which the influence of neocon ideology remains powerfully persuasive at the center of American culture and thought. Until we begin to think seriously about the common good and act to rebuild the common good in a culture fractured to its core by a philosophy of economic individualism, the culture wars will continue, and those who benefit most from the culture wars—the economic overlords of the nation—will tacitly encourage them, as they dip their hands deeper into the till while we quarrel about same-sex marriage and abortion.