Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rhetoric, the Founding Fathers, and the Republican National Convention

The Republican party continues to invoke the "Founding Fathers" and the Constitution to create hysteria in the upper middle class. Fear of giving their money to those poor people, who don't work, and suck on the nipple of the government, has rallied the white, protestant, wealthy Republican base with chants of smaller government. Most of us understand that politics is not about reality and truth (yes, I am talking about Paul Ryan), rather it is about posturing for citizens that have no ability to discern what is reality and truth mean. Charles Lemert, writing about Baudrillard's theory of hyperreality says it well:
“Then, one hardly need mention what political life has become – a fury of posturings by people who know almost nothing and care of it even less. It is not that the elected do not, in some instances, wish to be honest brokers but that they know the people who vote do not, on average, know any longer what honesty means. In a world where things are so unreal, what is honesty?” (Lemert - Postmodernism is not What You Think, 29)
Let's look at how the speakers at the RNC used the Founding Fathers to posture for Republicans that could know almost nothing and/ or could care less about what the founders actually said: 
Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey

"Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to know that social acceptance and popularity is fleeting and that this country's principles needed to be rooted in strengths greater than the passions and emotions of the times."
Ted Cruz, Texas

“This national movement is fueled by what unites us: a love of liberty, a belief in the unlimited potential of free men and women.

I want to tell you a love story. It’s the story of all of us, a love story of freedom.

It’s the story of our Founding Fathers, who fought and bled for freedom and then crafted the most miraculous political document ever conceived, our Constitution. The Framers understood that our rights come, not from monarchs, but from God-and that those rights are secure only when government power is restrained.
Or we can return to the founding principles of our nation-free markets, fiscal responsibility, and individual liberty.
How do we turn things around? How do we get America back to work? President Obama thinks the answer is more and more government.

Government is not the answer. You are not doing anyone a favor by creating dependency, destroying individual responsibility.

“Each of you comprises the fabric of our nation. Together, we must revive our many-century love story with liberty and restore that shining City on a Hill that is America."
Sharon Day, RNC Co-Chair
In 1775 our Founding Fathers rose up to establish our liberty. Today, we need to defeat a President whose actions threaten our liberty!

In this way, we are in a similar position as our Founding Fathers. Just as they were called upon, we are being called upon. What they started, what they believed in, we must defend!
It is our duty, as citizen activists, of this great Republican Party, to fight to restore the values of our Founding Fathers.
Rick Santorum
"Under President Obama, the dream of freedom and opportunity has become a nightmare of dependency with almost half of America receiving some government benefit."
Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin
"In a few weeks, we will celebrate the 225th anniversary of our federal Constitution. 
Moments like that remind us that what makes America so great, what makes us exceptional, is that throughout our history, in moments of crisis, be they economic or fiscal, military or spiritual. 
What makes America amazing is that there have always been men and women of courage who were willing to think more about the future of their children and grandchildren than they did about their own political careers. 
Let this be one of those moments. Let this be our time in history so that someday we can tell our children and grandchildren that we were there, that we changed the course of history for the better."
I wonder what constitution and which Founding Fathers the leaders of the Republican party are referring to. The cry of states rights and the invocation of the Constitution only operates as mind numbing rhetoric, that forgets that the Constitution created a federal government and replaced the Articles of Confederation. Carolyn Berkin comments about how the world of the Founders would be completely alien to Americans today, even those who suggest that they are Constitutional purists:
“It takes a conscious act of imagination to see America through the eyes of its founding fathers and to share their perspective may be disturbing. These men inhabited a world alien to modern Americans, a world in which the United States was a fragile, uncertain experiment, a newcomer, and to some degree a beggar at the gates of power and prestige among nations.” (Berkin, A Brilliant Solution, 5)
Berkin goes on to illustrate the dire circumstances that led to the Constitutional Convention that led to the replacement of a nation of states to a strong, unified, central government.
“In 1787 our treasury was empty. Debts to foreign governments and debts to our own citizens could not be paid, and this was a blow to the nation's honor as well as to its future credit. Everywhere these men looked, anarchy seemed to threaten, for the Revolution had unleashed new expectations and a new rhetoric of equality and political participation.

These new ideas threatened a social revolution that would destroy not only their own fortunes but also the rule of law. All around them civil strife seemed to be erupting unchecked, and news of uprisings in western Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Massachusetts during the previous year shook the confidence not only of these wealthy men but also of Americans of all social classes.

With no police force of any sort, military or civil, the restoration of law and order was in doubt. Even worse, a political disorder on the highest levels had reached critical proportions. The cooperation among the states, forged in the 1770s and sustained during the war, had vanished with independence. Competition and exploitation reigned, and the revival of a fierce localism pitted Virginian against Marylander, New Yorker against New Jerseyite, Georgian against South Carolinian. And while state governments vied with one another, the "league of friendship" called the Confederation that Americans had established as their first national government grew more impotent, more lethargic, and more incompetent with every passing day The nation was on the verge of self destruction- or, worse, of simply fading away. Not a few French and English officials in America predicted that soon enough this upstart experiment in republicanism would come to an end.” (Berkin, A Brilliant Solution, 5, 6)
The Constitution formed a national government and supplanted the government of the states. It did so, because the confederacy did not have the tools or unity to protect the nation, establish law and order, establish credit, pay its debts, and left the newly established nation of the verge of Anarchy.

The RNC platform that incites irrational fear about the "big" government that is hell bent on stealing all the money from the marginalized rich people, is a platform that caters exclusively to the rich. Ann Romney, Ted, Cruz, and Rick Santorum can attempt to identify with Mexican immigrants with the stories of their family's journey to American and the myth of boot strap capitalism, but their rhetoric does not change the fact that the "small government" they purport they will create will aid the rich, criminalize latinos, destroy schools, negate infrastructure, dismantle emergency response systems, demoralize teachers, and increase the struggle of poverty.

We the People, now reside in a nation with the highest childhood poverty rate of all Western industrialized nations, the largest expenditures on prisons, a ever growing gap between rich and poor, a declining middle class, increasing racism and fear of Mexican immigrants, and failing school systems. This has not occurred because Americans are lazy and because the poor are trained to be dependent on the government. The poor are dependent on the government because the nature of late capitalism is one that values profits over people. Our values of hard work and independence have led to a faceless economy in which large corporations answer to shareholders that live behind the stock market. It isn't that our poor don't want to work, it is that the dismantling of profitable companies in order to provide greater returns to shareholders, whose only worry is their 401k, has destroyed the jobs that helped create a strong middle class as well as profits for the owners. Poor people want to work, but the Republican ideology of uninhibited free markets, deregulation, and tax breaks for the wealthy have created a system that is unsustainable. The Republican ideology continues to blame the poor for a world that the wealthy have created, a world that benefits the rich and fucks the poor. 

So, Mrs. Romney, no Democrat, and definitely not President Obama, has ever advised anyone to strive for mediocrity.
Ann Romney: 
"It's true that Mitt has been successful at each new challenge he has taken on. It amazes me to see his history of success actually being attacked. Are those really the values that made our country great? As a mom of five boys, do we want to raise our children to be afraid of success? 
Do we send our children out in the world with the advice, "Try to do... okay?""
That is ludicrous and an unintelligent statement. Democrats understand that even a mom that works three fast food jobs does not make enough money to support her family. They know that in service industry job (some of the only jobs available to the working poor), when a mother become ill, her car breaks down, or she has to care for a sick child, the chances of her keeping her job are slim. 

The message isn't: "Hey poor people, you should sit around all day and collect a welfare check." Rather the message is: "Listen Americans, we are a wealthy nation. We possess the wealth to provide health care and to end childhood poverty." If the wealthy would stop hoarding wealth, then we could create a better world.

This election isn't about small or large government. This election is about the fear of rich, white, Christians that are no longer the only voice in America. This is about homophobia, racism, and superflous wealth. 

You are not carrying on the tradition of the Founding Fathers, none of us are. We live in a different world than they did. We have internet - they had the pony express. We have airplanes - they had buggies. We are the dominant military power in the world - they were a brand new nation at risk of dissolution. We recognize your rhetorical devices and we refuse to accept them.

If you want to appeal to the spirit of the Founding Fathers, then appeal the spirit that was grounded in Enlightenment principles of justice, equality, and the progress of humanity that would lead to the end of wars and poverty.

The National WUW? Blogging Convention,

No comments: