Friday, March 15, 2013

"Extrapolation: A Game For Conservatives

The following excerpt, that we are calling "Extrapolation: A Game For Conservatives," is from a very long essay by Jeff Smith at called "Why Conservatives Are Always Wrong,"

"Politics in general is a tough game, and we can’t expect those who play it to be scrupulously fair. It can be a public service to analyze an opponent’s position for its possible consequences, even if this is done with something less than academic rigor. No one looks to politicians anyway to enlighten the public, raise people’s esteem for the other party or tell the whole truth even when it’s politically inconvenient.

"The problem arises when one side shies away from the game while the other is busy raising it to an art form. While conservatives have learned to bank on public ignorance and to redefine “truth” as whatever serves their political goals, Democrats have continued playing a different, older and milder game in which certain kinds of demagogic arguments are off-limits. They’ve been astonishingly slow, not just to see the conservative attacks coming but to mount such attacks of their own. And today’s conservatism is a target-rich environment. It really does include a vitriolic hatred for America, as we’ve seen, if by America we mean the actual, smut-infested, soft-on-crime, evolution-teaching, terrorist-coddling, heterosexual-hostile den of iniquity in which, somehow, despite not holding political power, the left has been forcing everyone else to live. If Democrats choose to play Extrapolation themselves, they have so many fine moves available that it’s hard to know which one to pick first:
Ø Why do conservatives prefer a poorer, more primitive America to the prosperous, modern nation we’ve got? (This is implied in their attacks on public investment, and their misunderstanding of its historic importance in creating wealth.)
Ø Why do conservatives want to give China control of the U.S. economy, and force your children and grandchildren to work longer hours? (These are logical consequences of tax cuts and the need they create for massive government borrowing.)
Ø Why do conservatives favor the spread of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease, and apparently feel that we need more rather than fewer paralyzed children? (These are not-implausible results of putting limits on stem-cell research.)

"And so on. Under the rules of Extrapolation, the conservatives’ own game, these are all fair questions. Artfully framed – and that’s what political strategists are paid to do – they could force answers (or defensive non-answers) from conservatives, at the very least changing the dynamics of the debate.

"Some say Democrats shouldn’t go this route because it will further 'lower the level of political discourse.' But that objection overlooks both the logic of deterrence and the psychology of bullying. Deterrence keeps the peace by neutralizing either side’s advantage. If Republicans knew that the same weapons were aimed at them, shameless demagoguery might not look like such a good bet. And bullies are famous for panicking when they come up against someone willing to fight back.

Before he became House Speaker, and at times after, Newt Gingrich cut a fine figure as a political bully. Once, he advised fellow Republicans to make frequent use of words like 'sick' and 'traitor' in characterizing their opponents. But when President Clinton accused them of proposing to cut Medicare, those Republicans suddenly didn’t know what to do. Gingrich got nowhere with his spluttering protests that the word 'cut' was an underhanded Clintonian extrapolation. From then on the advantage was all Clinton’s, and Gingrich – once touted as the obvious next president – was gone even before Clinton left office.

"In the end, though, even if the Democratic Party produces no more Bill Clintons, even if none of the politicians we rely on to advance liberal goals ever learns to play the conservatives’ game, the cause won’t be lost. Progressive reform will continue to make its way, steadily and, at times, spectacularly. I suppose it’s understandable that so many progressives, surveying the dismal politics that have prevailed in the U.S. through most or all of their adult lives, are given to thinking that things have never been worse. But on even a moderately longer view, that’s nonsense. Sometimes when I’ve heard fellow progressives make this complaint, I’ve asked them, 'compared to what?' At that, they’re invariably stumped. The years preceding the cultural upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s were obviously no golden age: Racism, sexism and general cultural conformism were certainly more overt and stifling back then than they’ve been since. True, since 1980 we’ve mostly been living the politics of backlash. But what brought on the backlash? It was conservatives’ terror at the rapid progress against racism, sexism and cultural conformism that they’d seen in the 1960s and ’70s. It’s precisely because things were progressing, and fast, that reaction set in."

Other moves in this game of Extrapolation might include:

Ø Why do Conservatives hate babies but love fetuses? At every turn, Conservatives seem to take away funds for day care, education, and nutrition - but seek to eliminate reproductive choice for women, including the elimination of birth control in a world gone mad through wild population growth. Not a new tactic, but a goldie oldie!

Ø Why are liquor store owners, bar tenders, and places serving alcohol liable if one of their customers kills someone after they have been served too much alcohol, yet gun store owners and manufacturers aren't liable when someone shoots an innocent person to death'?

Ø Why do those Tea Partiers who are obviously over 65 call for cuts in government domestic spending, while participating in the Social Security and Medicare programs? (By the way, let's take an oath to use the term "domestic spending" instead of "entitlements" from now on. It's way past time that we allow memes like "death taxes," "pro-life," ad infinitum, to remain in the public consciousness.)

Ø Why after fifty years of demonstrations, most people don't think that Abortion is a critical issue facing the country. Why?

Ø The GOP is the party of "job creation" and Big Business, but the stock market always goes up under Democratic administrations and down under GOP administrations. Why?

Ø Conservatives always respond that we have free medical care in our Emergency Rooms, but how do you cure cancer or diabetes in an Emergency Room?

The list goes on and on, only limited by your creativity and enthusiasm for The Hunt...disobeying the rule about never asking your opponent a question that you don't know the answer to, some of the most innocuous questions explode in the average Conservative's face.

The segment from Sarah Palin's famous melt-down:

"Couric asked Palin about her taste in periodicals:

“ COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?

"PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media, coming f—

"COURIC: But like which ones specifically? I’m curious that you—

"PALIN: Um, all of 'em, any of 'em that, um, have, have been in front of me over all these years. Um, I have a va—

"COURIC: Can you name a few?

"PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where, it's kind of suggested and it seems like, 'Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C. may be thinking and doing when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.[10]

And The Hunt is on - "Come back with your shield - or on it!" - the parting cry of mothers to their sons in Sparta, according to Plutarch. Mothers whose sons died in battle openly rejoiced, mothers whose sons survived hung their heads in shame.

We talked about some pretty famous internet trolls last September in a post called "The Proud And The Profane," and the list of left-of-center trolls has grown exponentially since then.  Give it a try!


Gus Portokalos: There are two kinds of people - Greeks, and everyone else who
wish they was Greek.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding