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“I want my country back”

May 27th, 2010

Before the 2008 US election, I wondered how rightwing commentators, quick to hurl the charge of anti-Americanism against anyone who disagreed with the policies of the Bush Administration, would deal with the election of a Democratic President. I shouldn’t have worried. In this , Janet Albrechtsen makes it clear that she sees no need to change her views. An anti-American, according to Albrechtsen is someone who supports the current President of the United States, favors the policies of his Administration, and opposes demonstrators invoking revolutionary slogans against the current government.

All of this is summed up in the favorite slogan of the Tea Party crowd “I want my country back”. In the view of this overwhelmingly white and mostly upper-income group, which started operations within weeks of Obama’s inauguration, the only legitimate government is one that embodies their tribal values and hatreds. If the majority of Americans vote for a different government, then, as in Albrechtsen’s twisted logic, that just means most Americans are anti-American.

Update: Quite a few commentators seem to think I’m misrepresenting Albrechtsen here. I find this bizarre. The first use of the term “anti-American” in her article is para 3, which reads (with emphasis added, given that it seems to be needed)

Not just the sleep-inducing sound and sight of five voices all nodding and shaking their heads to the same anti-American melody. Yes, we all voted for Barack Obama , yes, we all want action on climate change, no to religion, nuclear power, the Tea Party movement, the Bush administration (“evil was being actively pursued every single day”),

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  1. Freelander
    June 1st, 2010 at 01:49 | #1

    I am certainly not going to jump to any rash conclusions until Janet Albrechtsen and Andrew Bolt tell me what really happened.

  2. smiths
    June 1st, 2010 at 11:05 | #2

    some people dont get it, some are starting to,
    but the axis of evil is not what it used to be,
    and its easy to strut around with your chest puffed out when you can confidently identify with the ‘goodies’
    but it all goes wobbly in the mind when you know deep down that you are now well truly in the ‘baddies’ team
    people like albrechtson are the canaries that should be telling us we have been switching teams,
    as is probably always the case though, the cognitive dissonance is louder than the voices of clarity,
    and remember well before anyone comments on this,
    anti-israel is anti-semite
    you have been warned

  3. Jim Rose
    June 1st, 2010 at 18:15 | #3

    @Freelander
    From your remarks about Reagan it is easy to understand why the Left held power in Australia for 3 of the last 60 years. So busy snipping that the bulk of the voters now regard the Left as a bunch of irrelevant and increasingly over-educated whining sore losers.

    The condescension and vitriol of the Left puts people off and leads them to suspect that the Left has nothing of substance to say and has no real solutions to offer. All the sound and fury is to cover this up.

    Special interests have their say, but the big ticket public policies survive in political competition because they are popular with the majority of voters.

    The Greens and Left cannot break-out of their political ghettos because their views and policies they want are deeply unpopular with the bulk of voters.

    The real problem for the Left lies deeper than any lack of reform proposals or a failure to press them home with the voters. The Left had since 1975 to understand its lack of political appeal. It is getting nowhere with condescension and self-importance.

  4. Freelander
    June 1st, 2010 at 18:31 | #4

    Given that I am not ‘Left’ as you put it, I am not sure how sound your generalised inference from any of my observations about Ray Gun could be. I recognise that voters vote people to positions of power who are woefully unqualified for those positions. You seem to have said as much yourself. I acknowledge that Abbott, by far worst of an awful bunch, might inhabit the lodge. We could have had Latham. We had Whitlam and Howard. At least Whitlam was a mixed bag and there have been some lasting benefits from his reign. All we can be thankful for about Howard is that he has now power walked his way into history, having not only lost government but his ‘safe’ seat, as well. Having become a past tense is his only lasting accomplishment.

  5. Alice
    June 1st, 2010 at 19:04 | #5

    Jim is punch drunk fighting ghosts who are non existent old “enemies within” which he labels the “left” (never mind the real left collapsed with communism quite some years? decades ago? We are all “normal” now Jim Rose – your party is just losing – thats all).

    Freelander – I suggest ignore the goose. He cant even face up to the fact that the conservatives are on the nose with the majority in this country and the conservative federal opposition especially cant relate to the younger generation (the conservative opposition I might add, with their heavy weighting of combative old men, have done nothing for the young who are probably neither “left” or “right” and still trying to make up their minds who they will vote for).

    In other words the conservative parties old enemies are ghosts – they dont exist anymore and using them, make the libs look somehow “disconnected.”

    Doh. You can tell them where they are going wrong (no compassion, no appeal to youth, no compromise). You can try to help the conservatives in this country see why they are stuffing up, but if they choose not to navel gaze its their own fault isnt it?

    I really dont care who wins as long as they do “good economic policies” for the majority and dont make a mess that needs cleaning up later.

    Im not left or right. I cant stand State Labor but federal liberal is just as bad. So what? Ill vote either way and not be a tribal about unlike Jim Rose (poor old fella).

    Jeez – someone whould hire me to run the campaign.

  6. Alice
    June 1st, 2010 at 19:54 | #6

    @Jill Rush
    I know – I have had first hand experience. Ive been reading the “ugly stepsisters” (JA and MD) since Howard was voted in and out but unfortunately people forgot to either vote in or out that politically – ingrained Rupert Murdoch, who, had he not inherited the title of media baron, which I suspect he has always been rather disappointed in his choice of career and would have been much more suited to conservative prime minister aspirant, chief of police or general of army….

    Forgot to get rid of the ugly stepsisters when the mood changed in Australia. Just goes to show he really isnt much of a media baron is he …otherwise his papers would be fatter, more interesting, more in tune and he would sell more.

    He never was a Packer.

  7. Freelander
    June 1st, 2010 at 20:23 | #7

    @Alice

    The loony left are not worth attacking as those who should know better left the loony left some time ago. Interestingly many of those who should have known better then became members of the loony right. I used to attack the loony left but as they are finished and have little influence, the loony right have more than taken their place as the source of danger. For the west, the loony right is a source of realised danger rather than, as the loony left for the most part were, simply a threat.

  8. Freelander
    June 1st, 2010 at 20:29 | #8

    Janet’s anti-American melody is interesting: “Yes, we all voted for Barack Obama, yes, we all want action on climate change, no to religion, nuclear power, the Tea Party movement, the Bush administration (“evil was being actively pursued every single day”)”

    How (wishing to have) voted for Obama, wanting action on climate change, saying no to religion, nuclear power in anyway anti-American? Also, given the numbers of Americans against the T party and Bush, how is opposition to them anti-American either. Very strange characterisation of anti-Americanism. Simply crazy if she even read that opinion piece and then let it be published under her name, let alone wrote it.

  9. June 1st, 2010 at 21:41 | #9

    @Jim Rose

    Just to check your statement about “the Left (holding) power in Australia for 3 of the last 60 years. It would seem to indicate the Whitlam government for those three year. So presmuably the Hawke and Keating and governments were not of the Left? And ditto the current Rudd government?

  10. June 1st, 2010 at 21:42 | #10

    @Jim Rose

    Just to check your statement about “the Left (holding) power in Australia for 3 of the last 60 years”. It would seem to indicate the Whitlam government for those three years. So presumably the Hawke and Keating and governments were not of the Left? And ditto the current Rudd government?

  11. Freelander
    June 1st, 2010 at 21:44 | #11

    Left, clearly an infinitely malleable definition.

  12. Alice
    June 1st, 2010 at 21:45 | #12

    @Freelander
    Jimbos is just feeling left right out Freelander.

  13. paul walter
    June 1st, 2010 at 22:04 | #13

    The truth is, David Jago, we have never had a”left”government- the country is both naturally properous and well cocooned from realities that face other people living in less fortunate regions across the world.
    As Freelander suggests, “left” is malleable and with JR becomes deliberately nebulous, as to defy definition.
    If you question, say , Israel attacking a flotila of peace activists bringing urgent aid to that open air concentration camp that is Gaza, on the high seas, you will there fore be singled out as “left”, regardless of what argument you present to express your doubt.
    “Contempt prior to investigation”is the feature of this sort of name calling passed off as argument, from people like JR, who are actually happier when unfortunate coincidences and contradictions are NOT exposed and demonstrated, lest they be forced to the effort of reexamining their own consciences, also

  14. Donald Oats
    June 1st, 2010 at 22:20 | #14

    What is this “Left”? Does it consist of those who no longer read Murdochery Media anymore? Or does that include too many small “l” liberals?
    Or bastards who drink cafe au lait?
    Or who read books without pictures on every page, without pictures on any page?
    People who think Andrew Bolt should be celebrated this June 3rd? (Less than 48 hours to go!)

    It used to be the commies, back then it was easy to know.

  15. June 1st, 2010 at 23:57 | #15

    Paul,
    Despite there being no “left” government in Australia the size of the State has been on a relentless increase – essentially since at least federation. Do you see the increase in the size of the State as a “right” thing then or do you have an alternative explanation?

  16. Freelander
    June 2nd, 2010 at 00:54 | #16

    The work of government is an important driver of productivity and an important contributor to productivity. Just like much productivity is due to better regulation. All other things equal, more advanced economies should be expected to have relatively larger governments.

    You can’t expect a modern economy to be run like a community of hobos.

    The goods and services produced and delivered in a modern economy don’t just happen like some hobo manna of used newspapers floating in on a friendly breeze.

    Modern economies are run using economics; not hobonomics.

  17. June 2nd, 2010 at 06:52 | #17

    The Whitlam government was almost certainly the last time Australia had a clearly left-of-centre government. Since that time the ALP-led governments we have had have not been significantly more politically communitarian or socially inclusive than governments of the centre or right in Europe.

    It has been a regular feature of Australian politcal life for the Hawke-Keating governments to be credited by the coalition ideologues with the kind of right-wing reform they like. Certainly, the Kawke-Keating regime

    a) smashed up the unions, most importanly the left-leaning BLF, attacked the pilots’ federation
    b) Strengthened laws against secondary boycotts
    c) Engaged in major privatisation of state assets
    d) Made the governor of the RBA an independent figure
    e) Strengthened the US alliance and invaded Iraq with Bush senior; endorsed the pro-Zionist policies of US governments
    f) Introduced punitive detention for asylum seekers

    and thus set down the basic parameters within which the ensuing Howard regime would operate

    The Rudd regime has not significant revised these arrangements and has of course been pursuing a policy of “tough on boatpeople” and persisting in the occupation of Afghanistan. It recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of Israel. Rudd opposes gay marriage, drug law reform, and a free flow of information on the internet. He’s a strong backer of coal combustion.

    It would be hard to characterise this as left-of-centre in any recognisable sense. Rudd is not to be significantly distinguished from the policies of the official conservative Angela Merkel in Germany who in some respects is probably more liberal than he is.

  18. Jim Rose
    June 2nd, 2010 at 08:14 | #18

    Freelander, you are not of the Left, but then express mixed admiration for the Whitlam venture. Sorry, I did not spot you as a Hawke-Keating supporter.
    Alice,
    you may not have noticed the recent opinion polls that suggest that Abbott, a devotee of rancid right-wing populism, is closing the gap with Rudd. These polls are available to you on the front pages of the newspapers. A conservative led government in the UK, and the chances of the republicans retaking congress also has escaped your attention. Where is the Left on the up aside from the rent-a-crowd street rable you mentioned a few weeks ago?

    David Jago, we agree. There is the Left and then the centre-left and then new labour. A test. Try to say the words Tony Blair is a left-winger without gagging.

    Paul Walter, as for nebulousness, I have repeated referred to the Left being out of power for all but 3 of the last 60 years. This implied reference to 1972-1975 seems to identify who is left and who was centre-left!

    Fran Barlow, nice summary of the case against Hawke, Keating and Rudd as left-wingers. The case of Tony Blair would qualify as common knowledge.

  19. gregh
    June 2nd, 2010 at 09:32 | #19

    @Fran Barlow
    Can only agree – the notion that modern Labor, at least as far as the executive goes, is ‘left’ is ridiculous. Modern Labor is the party for ‘class traitors’.

  20. Freelander
    June 2nd, 2010 at 09:35 | #20

    @Jim Rose

    I do something those on the extreme right (and left) seem incapable of – I think. That you can source nothing of any value left as a legacy of the Whitlam government suggests that you do not.

  21. Jim Rose
    June 2nd, 2010 at 11:52 | #21

    @Freelander
    Freelander, that lines you up as a Rudd supporter.

  22. Freelander
    June 2nd, 2010 at 11:59 | #22

    Does it. News to me.

  23. Jim Rose
    June 2nd, 2010 at 12:12 | #23

    @gregh

    The ALP followed the swinging voter into the middle class.

    In generations gone by, the swinging voter was the working class Tory, willing to vote for either party, if they offered what they wanted or because they happened to be still standing when they threw the tired and smelly incumbents out. This is how Whitlam beat Billy McMahon is a close match on points.

    The swinging voter is now in the middle class, so any party that wants to win must bow to its will. Democracy is based on the will of the people. That will is expressed by the middle-class swinging voter.

  24. Jim Rose
    June 2nd, 2010 at 12:15 | #24

    @Freelander
    Freelander, are you now or have you ever been a Rudd supporter?

  25. gregh
    June 2nd, 2010 at 12:19 | #25

    @Jim Rose
    Most times the ‘will of the people’ doesn’t mean a lot though Jim Rose. It only has meaning after the fact as a fairly empty explanation of past behaviour and has little predictive value It’s a placeholder or shorthand construct used when a fuller explanation is either not available or too long to give in the situation.

  26. June 2nd, 2010 at 12:52 | #26

    Pr Q said:

    Update: Quite a few commentators seem to think I’m misrepresenting Albrechtsen here. I find this bizarre. The first use of the term “anti-American” in her article is para 3, which reads (with emphasis added, given that it seems to be needed)

    The first use of the term “anti-American” in her article is also the least significant application of the term, since it focuses on banal aspects of the syndrome. Pr Q omits subsequent key passages where JA presents the core aspects of “anti-Americanism”.

    Later on in her piece JA does list the attributes of “anti-Americanism” that really annoy her – and me – which is the Cultural Left’s propensity to moral vanity, smugness, snobbishness, intellectual blinkers, ideological closure, cultural elitism, declinism, etc

    The festival’s big event at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday evening started and finished as a caricature of all that has gone awry with the Left.

    Not just the sleep-inducing sound and sight of five voices all nodding and shaking their heads to the same anti-American melody.

    [snip]

    But it’s the smugness of the Left that strikes you the most. Are there different views? Not among decent-minded people surely.

    There would be no such intellectual integrity on display in the Town Hall. No fascinating exploration of what Fallows traces as the “jeremiad” national ritual where Americans issue harsh warnings about American decline as a rallying cry to get people to address problems.

    No honest appraisal of history where America is always depicted as in decline for one reason or another.

    This is the same kind of blubbing uniformity you find at a Tea Party convention.

    Let’s Talk About America should have been called Let’s Attack America, remarked my friend as we walked out.[Emphasis added]

    She specifically excludes (using the “not” disqualifier) the banal party political and policy attributes of anti-Americanism as being comprehensive proof of “anti-Americanism”. Instead she focuses on the cultural traits as being conclusive evidence of anti-Americanism.

    Just to tidy things up in the tradition of analytic philosophy, JA’s argument is that “voted for Barack Obama…” etc” are necessary, but not sufficent, conditions for being an “anti-American”. A sufficient condition for being an “anti-American” is snobbish elitism towards the traditional cultural identity of America’s populist heartland.

    Necessarily, if one is an “anti-American” (Q) then one must perforce have “voted Obama…” etc: (P) if Q => P. In that all “anti-Americans” invariably “voted for Obama…” etc

    Sufficiently, if one is a cultural elitist (P) then one must be “anti-American” (Q): if P => Q. In that all cultural elitists are, by definition, “anti-American”.

    As an empirical proof of my logical argument, I present exhibit A: James Fallows, who satisfies the necessary conditions for “anti-Americanism” (voting Obama, action on climate change), but not the sufficient conditions (cultural elitism, ideological dogmatism). In his case, JA waives the charge of anti-Americanism. Yet according to Pr Q’s construction, JA should have damned him with this charge. Ergo Pr Q’s construction has no predictive legs.

    Its easy, in retrospect to see the fallacy in Pr Q’s approach, since it was pre-cooked by JA herself, in typical fashion with her barely coherent ranting and rambling style.

    But Pr Q makes a hash of it by selective quotation. He quotes JA where it suits his point, and ignores her where she doesn’t. Then fallaciously concludes that her notion of “anti-Americanism” is internally contradictory.

    A perfect examply of how ideological posturing re-inforces epistemic closure.

  27. Jim Rose
    June 2nd, 2010 at 12:53 | #27

    have you got anything better a means of resolving political differences than trying to persuade each other and elections?

    Arguing that the will of the people cannot be well measured and summarised through elections and that the will of the people is fairly empty anyway throws doubt on the growth of government in the 20th century as having popular support and democratic legitimacy.

    Governments grew large because the middle class became a well-organised politically articulate support base for social insurance.

    At the start of the 20th century, governments were a post office and a military. 100 years later and governments are now a slightly larger military and a large system of social insurance with a few special-interest deals thrown in. There has been ample time for right-wing or left-wing populism to upset this status quo. Such attempts failed because their ideas were not popular.

  28. gregh
    June 2nd, 2010 at 13:23 | #28

    @Jim Rose
    not really the space or place to argue this in depth Jim Rose, the point of interest is what exactly does the ‘will of the people’ mean in politics that is anymore special than saying it is the will of the people that Woolworths and Coles supply most groceries. That is, the contextual frame of ‘the will’ renders its attribution to ‘the people’ somewhat superficial

  29. Jim Rose
    June 2nd, 2010 at 14:08 | #29

    @gregh

    Democracy is the idea that the people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

  30. Alice
    June 2nd, 2010 at 19:36 | #30

    @Jim Rose
    They got democracy Jim Rose – they voted the conservatives out in the US and Australia. You seem to have some trouble dealing with the outcomes of democracy. Now isnt it time you helped your party admit where it went so horribly wrong. Thats the trouble. You did go horribly wrong. Most people who vote just want to think they are being treated fairly, and the government is governing fairly, in the best interests of all (not elites, not super profit earning industries, not donators). Clearly the conservatives (the modern conservatives) arent managing that Jimbo.

  31. Freelander
    June 2nd, 2010 at 20:26 | #31

    @Jim Rose

    “rent-a-crowd” I like it.

    Of all the silly things that right wing loonies say, when they trot this one out, it has to be one of the silliest. I like the way the crazy right wing dress their proselytizing with a full complement of ‘stock phrases’ like ‘latte drinking’ ‘Chardonnay socialists’ and so on. So unthinking. And so similar to the left wing crazies with their ‘stock phrases’ and stock analysis, Comrade.

    Of course, originality, at either end of the spectrum, would be nice.

    What really amuses is how stock standard and clone-like libertarian proselytizers are, like Maoist little red-book clutching cultural revolutionaries, when each one of them fancies themselves as an ‘individual’. At least left loonies don’t engage in this aspect of self parody.

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