Paranoia and the Parties

Yesterday I discussed an article which notes that Democrats are heavily influenced by moderates and even conservatives while the Republican Party is dominated by the extremes. This has been a common observation made by many political observers. George Packer recently expressed similar views, noting the paranoia often seen from the right. Packer was criticized by Jonah Goldberg who cited what might be comparable degrees of paranoia from some on the left.  Packer responded, pointing out the fact that those on the far left are outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party while the more paranoid views from the right are seen in mainstream conservative and Republican belief:P

There’s plenty of criticism of Klein, Moore, Nicholson Baker, and other paranoid stylists of the left in my book on Iraq, “The Assassins’ Gate.” I didn’t mention them in discussing Hofstadter and the current reaction to Obama for this reason: Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck have far more power in the Republican Party (it sometimes seems to include veto power) than Klein, Lee, and Moore have in the Democratic Party. The views of right-wing commentators in the grip of the paranoid style (Obama is a stealth radical, the Democrats are imposing socialism) are much closer to mainstream conservative and Republican belief than the views of their counterparts on the left (the levees in New Orleans were blown up by the government, the White House had something to do with 9/11) are to mainstream liberal and Democratic belief. The reasons are complex, but I would list these: the evangelical and occasionally messianic fervor that animates a part of the Republican base; the atmosphere of siege and the self-identification of conservatives as insurgents even when they monopolized political power; the influence of ideology over movement conservatives, and their deep hostility to compromise; the fact that modern conservatism has been a movement, which modern liberalism has not.


  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I think it amusing to note that Goldberg mentions a host of names most liberals don’t give the kind of credence that conservatives give Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. Noam Chomsky is not someone generally invited to Democratic Party functions or quoted by even the most liberal Democratic candidates. The most liberal US Senator, Bernie Sanders, is an intelligent man respected by Democrats… but he is a registered member of the Democratic Socialist Party, and even he is not some paranoid conspiracy theorist.

    The pundits to whom liberals are giving credence today are Arianna Huffington, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Al Franken. Liberal? Yes. Aggressive in voicing their views? Yes. Paranoid conspiracy theorists? Hardly. Indeed, Franken is best known for providing strict references for his facts and calling conservatives out when they fail to do the same or misrepresent their sources in their references.

    Many of the individuals quoted by Goldberg are celebrities with no political following or influence beyond their circle of associates.

    Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity are all taken dead seriously by far too many conservatives, on the flip side.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    “The pundits to whom liberals are giving credence today are Arianna Huffington, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Al Franken.”

    Plus there is a limit to the credence they are given. I would consider their views but I would not accept what they say as fact without evidence to back them up. (Franken is remarkably good at substantiating what he says considering that he started out in comedy, not politics).

    Many conservatives repeat what Rush says without questioning it. I also recognize that, even if I enjoy them and generally agree, there often is some hyperbole to Olbermann’s Special Comments. As you say, the rants of people like Hannity are taken dead seriously, even though there is far more hyperbole (as well as misinformation) in what these conservative say.

  3. 3
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Yes, Olbermann goes over the top for effect, like he were still in sports and not politics, and I have to admit that is part of why I like him. But I know when not to take him completely seriously. Republicans, the other hand, not only take Bill O’Riley completely seriously but take Olbermann caompletely seriously too. The thing that bothers me is I think Bill O’Riley is more serious than I want him to be.

    Al Franken started out as an Ivy League political science major and he went into show business because comedy and performing arts were his college hobby. He studied for the job he ended up doing after comedy. 🙂

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Much of this also comes down to many on the right having a far greater “follow the leader” mentality. There’s good reason for the term ditto heads. Liberals are far more likely to listen to Olbermann and agree with parts, disagree with parts, and realize that he is going over the top for effect. Ditto heads actually take everything Rush Limbaugh says seriously.

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    Eclectic Radical says:

    I agree completely. If the Democratic Party’s political weaknesses shows anything, it is that Democrats think for themselves a LOT, even when it is bad for party unity. Moderates, conservatives, and liberals disagree frequently across those lines and amongst themselves. Among the Republicans, even the moderates frequently walk in lockstep with the party leadership and the Olympia Snowes are very rare.

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