Washington Monthly Blogger: The Conservative Movement Is a Nonstop 'Hate Machine'

A lot of politically engaged persons, right and left, believe that those on the other side are well-meaning but mistaken. Then there's the Washington Monthly's Martin Longman, who in two Wednesday posts (here and here) tried to support the idea that "[m]aking people hate each other is at the core of right-wing politics."

Longman opined that "resentment is the key ingredient in [conservatives'] political toolbox" (italics in original) and that "[a]s long as there is some accountability, they are pretty good at forgiveness, but compassion and empathy are tremendous challenges for them."

From Longman's first post (emphasis added):

Conservatives have an easy time understanding the world as a “fallen” place where sin is ever-present and perfection always eludes even the best of bureaucratic planners, but they seem to have great difficulty in understanding that the world is also a place with broken people who through genetics, environment, or misfortune are in need of societal assistance. As long as there is some accountability, they are pretty good at forgiveness, but compassion and empathy are tremendous challenges for them.

But, quite aside from all that, we can see that resentment is the key ingredient in their political toolbox...

There are severe problems with this. For starters, the way this tends to manifest itself is in scapegoating and stereotyping certain groups of people who are classified as insufficiently enterprising. In America, this means blacks and Latinos. So, while the political strategy may start out as colorblind, it immediately transforms into racism.

Secondly, this idea that being on government assistance is “debilitating” is an exhortatory argument that, while having merit, is no way to deal with those who are genuinely in need. Public policy is not the same thing as life advice. We give assistance to mothers with dependent children because the children need food and clothes regardless of why the mother is unable to provide these things herself...

But this appeal to resentment is seemingly an indispensable strategy for the rich, who need it to rally support for policies that will allow them to grow ever-richer and avoid any kind of constraints on their activities, even if those activities degrade the environment, harm consumers, or lead to an economic calamity.

Making people hate each other is at the core of right-wing politics.

And from his second (emphasis added): 

When you start off with the view that 47% of the population are “takers” who get public assistance or pay no taxes, you need to set that 47% against each other and get some of them to vote for you because they believe you will beat the crap out of the folks they don’t like. If you don’t do this, you’ll never win.

But, what if there were a right-wing party that wasn’t just a tax and regulation-averse vessel for plutocrats? Could they maybe compete without cranking up the hate machine and pitting Americans against each other?

Maybe, or maybe not. But a hate machine is what they have, and they never stop inflicting it on the rest of us.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters