“I want my country back”

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”),

131 thoughts on ““I want my country back”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. @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

  4. @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.

  5. @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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