Opinion: Why conservatives keep creating imaginary enemies to fight

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
64,515
43,178
113
Opinion by
Paul Waldman
Columnist
June 18, 2021 at 12:29 p.m. CDT


Conservatives haven’t had a lot of high-profile, practical victories lately, ways they can show their supporters that their side is winning important battles. Democrats took the White House and control of Congress, Obamacare is remains in place, same-sex marriage is legal, and those on the right fear they’re losing every cultural conflict.

So if you can’t defeat a real enemy, why not take on an imaginary one?
Thus it is that “critical race theory” — an academic approach to understanding the way race operates within systems and institutions — has become the new conservative bugaboo.
Though it is no more a topic taught to children than post-structuralism or computational quantum chemistry (if you ever encountered it before this year, you probably went to grad school), the entire American right is now donning its battle gear to fight this threat to their children’s education and way of life. The fact that this is a phantom threat is essential to understanding how the strategy works.



“We will eventually turn it toxic,” wrote the conservative think-tank fellow who played an important role in birthing this effort. “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’”
Turning outrage into action, a wave of bills have been filed in state legislatures that either explicitly or implicitly ban the discussion of critical race theory in schools. Among states where such bills have recently passed are Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho and Iowa. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) promised to “make sure there’s not a single school board member who supports critical race theory.”
The key characteristic of this manufactured controversy is that it is a symbolic battle masquerading as a practical one. By passing laws to ban an idea that is never taught in schools from being taught in schools, they’re trying to create a threat, then claim they vanquished it, thereby offering their supporters a feeling of reassurance and agency.


ADVERTISING


That doesn’t mean these bills will have no practical impact; teachers are reporting that they’ve become terrified of even addressing topics around race now that it could run afoul of state law. But none of this has anything to do with what critical race theory actually is; it’s a stand-in, a tool to create a new Lost Cause narrative in which conservative Whites are society’s true victims.
By now, this routine should be familiar; we went through the same thing a few years ago with the imaginary threat of “sharia law.” Republicans didn’t quite know what it was, but they wanted everyone to be afraid of it, so in state after state they passed laws forbidding its use in court.
The current controversy has something in common with that one, that when you find the GOP legislators most enthusiastic about passing a ban, chances are they’re knuckleheads who have no idea what they’re legislating about. When pressed about what critical race theory really is, Republican legislators seem to know only that it has something to do with race and it makes White people feel bad.



Another key element of these frenzies: They’re usually marked by a combination of organic local activism and elite direction from conservative organizations, often located in Washington. And critically, they are fed by agenda-setting and cheerleading from conservative media — especially Fox News. They’re simultaneously grass roots and artificial turf, which creates the self-reinforcing cycle that spreads and sustains them.
For instance, the liberal group Media Matters for America recently documented that Fox News has been bringing on one guest after another, identified only as concerned parents or educators, to complain about how critical race theory is allegedly infecting their schools. But it turns out that these reg’lar moms ‘n dads “also have day jobs as Republican strategists, conservative think-tankers, or right-wing media personalities.”
A central focus of those media discussions is that what may seem at first like an intellectual or symbolic discussion will have tangible effects on your life, effects that are positively revolutionary and terrifying. So when President Biden signs a law making Juneteenth a national holiday — a worthwhile gesture, but not much more — Tucker Carlson tells his audience that “our country is getting a new Independence Day to supplant the old one.” Might as well cancel that Fourth of July barbecue.



On one level, this is all a backlash to the national debate about race that emerged after George Floyd’s murder last year. That debate, which featured lots of institutions and people trying to grapple with the persistence of racism, left conservatives feeling intensely alienated, even threatened — feelings which were ripe for exploitation by right-wing political and media figures.
But it goes deeper, into the broader cultural alienation conservatives have been experiencing for years.
The idea that your own children will be taught something you disagree with has long been a potent weapon to rile people up, particularly conservatives who already feel their children are growing up in a world that rejects their values, and adopting ideas about race and sexuality and gender that are far more liberal than theirs.



They may even grasp that the large societal forces that fill them with anxiety — perhaps none more than the steady racial, ethnic and religious diversification of America — are out of their control. They can elect a xenophobic bigot as president, but immigrants will continue to arrive and he’ll fail in his project to make America white again.
That’s enough to make you despair. But you can pass a measure at your local school board or a law in the state legislature and say, “We banned critical race theory from the classroom! Victory is ours!” That’s the nice thing about imaginary enemies: They’re not hard to defeat.

 

z_ape

HR Heisman
Gold Member
Mar 8, 2010
6,260
4,710
113
It's not imaginary.

You could argue that it's overvalued as a problem given the attention it is getting.

Of course we could've said the same of BLM where cops killing black men was concerned.
 

DooBi

HR Heisman
Sep 18, 2006
5,796
5,897
113
This has to be a joke or it's a great example of irony. The left has at least a dozen threads on the front page of this board creating some stupid problem of the most dire consequences. Many about Trump. The left is obsessed with him. It's really pathetic imo.
 
  • Haha
Reactions: RileyHawk

FormerlyCyberCy

HR Legend
Nov 17, 2005
14,555
4,886
113
This has to be a joke or it's a great example of irony. The left has at least a dozen threads on the front page of this board creating some stupid problem of the most dire consequences. Many about Trump. The left is obsessed with him. It's really pathetic imo.
Get trump to drop his 2024 run and we’d be happy to let the justice system deal w his crimes.
 

ThorneStockton

HR Legend
Oct 2, 2009
22,226
29,810
113
These culture war based "wins" might resonate with the Trumper types, and gullible/vulnerable whites, so I get that appeal from a political operations perspective. However, it's largely a turnoff to those with a firm grip on reality, educated and successful types. If you're living a satisfactory life, does it really fire you up if a trans girl uses the women's restroom, gays are getting married or if your equally successful neighbor is Indian, and on and on.

Are happy people easily triggered by these grievance politics and culture wars?

I wish the Republican party would recalculate and try something different.
 

z_ape

HR Heisman
Gold Member
Mar 8, 2010
6,260
4,710
113
These culture war based "wins" might resonate with the Trumper types, and gullible/vulnerable whites, so I get that appeal from a political operations perspective. However, it's largely a turnoff to those with a firm grip on reality, educated and successful types. If you're living a satisfactory life, does it really fire you up if a trans girl uses the women's restroom, gays are getting married or if your equally successful neighbor is Indian, and on and on.

Are happy people easily triggered by these grievance politics and culture wars?

I wish the Republican party would recalculate and try something different.

The left talks about identity politics only... constantly.

So that the right does is only to be expected.

The problem is the right doesn't have much else going on and it's strongest point of attack on the libs right now is cultural stuff. So it gets over played. Repubs don't have much a political identity anymore, much of its base is no longer economically conservative, so it goes after the culture stuff all the harder.

That's how I see it. Definitely not letting the left off the hook for this stuff.
 
  • Haha
Reactions: RileyHawk

ThorneStockton

HR Legend
Oct 2, 2009
22,226
29,810
113
The left talks about identity politics only... constantly.

So that the right does is only to be expected.

The problem is the right doesn't have much else going on and it's strongest point of attack on the libs right now is cultural stuff. So it gets over played. Repubs don't have much a political identity anymore, much of its base is no longer economically conservative, so it goes after the culture stuff all the harder.

That's how I see it. Definitely not letting the left off the hook for this stuff.

I guess I should have added a disclaimer in the thread about Republican culture war, in my post about Republican culture war, that the Democrats utilize identity politics. Thanks for the reminder to stray off topic.
 

z_ape

HR Heisman
Gold Member
Mar 8, 2010
6,260
4,710
113
I guess I should have added a disclaimer in the thread about Republican culture war, in my post about Republican culture war, that the Democrats utilize identity politics. Thanks for the reminder to stray off topic.
lol. That's the standard around here?
 

binsfeldcyhawk2

HR Legend
Gold Member
Oct 13, 2006
16,735
19,381
113
CRT is the replacement for the Common Core boogeyman of 6 years ago. Cons love scaring parents away from "public school indoctrination" and into home schooling or private (religious) schools. You know, where they won't be "indoctinated."
CRT is toxic garbage.
 
Last edited:

95Hawk

HR Heisman
Nov 21, 2001
6,559
13,564
113
Low IQ voters are attracted to shiny things. Especially things that justify their anger and hatred and validate their feelings of low self-worth.

The GOP has perfected the use of the boogeyman to attract and retain said troglodytes.
 
Feb 9, 2013
13,060
35,596
113
Low IQ voters are attracted to shiny things. Especially things that justify their anger and hatred and validate their feelings of low self-worth.

The GOP has perfected the use of the boogeyman to attract and retain said troglodytes.
You should see my parents’ mail. I love them to death, but whatever mailing list they got on...its like a murderers’ row of stupidity. Cotton, Cruz, Paul, Trump, Save America this, Make America that, Radical Leftist Takeover, etc etc. And that’s just what’s on the outside of the envelope. I can only imagine the contents inside. Not to mention the garbage emails they get. Makes me want to cry.
 
Last edited:

ThorneStockton

HR Legend
Oct 2, 2009
22,226
29,810
113
lol. That's the standard around here?

There is no standard that I am aware. Would a disclaimer have deterred you from bringing up the Democrats/left in a post/thread about Republicans or would you have viewed it as a welcome to comments about the Democrats?

I'm not sure there's a winning hand if someone is determined to "what about this..." or "both sides that"
 

z_ape

HR Heisman
Gold Member
Mar 8, 2010
6,260
4,710
113
There is no standard that I am aware. Would a disclaimer have deterred you from bringing up the Democrats/left in a post/thread about Republicans or would you have viewed it as a welcome to comments about the Democrats?

I'm not sure there's a winning hand if someone is determined to "what about this..." or "both sides that"

I don't really care much either way. Just thought it was funny somebody cared given the way this place is. I was just making a point I could've without even quoting your post.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ThorneStockton

blhawk

HR All-American
Oct 30, 2001
3,712
4,097
113
This has to be a joke or it's a great example of irony. The left has at least a dozen threads on the front page of this board creating some stupid problem of the most dire consequences. Many about Trump. The left is obsessed with him. It's really pathetic imo.
Seriously think you did too much meth back in the day. Or still are. He just tried to overturn a free and fair election and used the justice dept to cover his crimes. Call it obsessed or TDS or whatever you want to make yourself feel better.....if you don't think this man is still a major threat to this republic you are dumb, brainwashed, or just a traitor and shitstain American. Maybe all 3
 

BioHawk

HR Legend
Sep 21, 2005
34,266
31,136
113
It's not hard to figure out. The Republican party have zero policies to run on. If they gave their base 5 seconds to think about it their base might realize how badly they are getting screwed over by Republican policies. They have to keep them angry and distracted. It's a strategy that is failing, by the way. That's why they are going all in on voter suppression.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Red Hills Nole

stout1

HR Legend
Jan 21, 2004
11,614
4,983
113
You should see my parents’ mail. I love them to death, but whatever mailing list they got on...its like a murderers’ row of stupidity. Cotton, Cruz, Paul, Trump, Save America this, Make America that, Radical Leftist Takeover, etc etc. And that’s just what’s on the outside of the envelope. I can only imagine the contents inside. Not to mention the garbage emails they get. Makes me want to cry.

My best friend’s dad has given thousands of dollars to MTG. He gets some truly nutty mail. Of course he also subscribes to The Epoch Times so he was already on some crazy mailing lists.
 

HotelAlphaWilcoKilo

HR Heisman
May 26, 2007
8,249
4,461
113
Not so, and it has never been taught in any elementary or high school in the US.
BUT! If you REALLY UNDERSTOOD IT!

It really should be!

If you disagree you just don't understand it!

But, it also has applications beyond how you DON"T UNDERSTAND IT!

IT'S NOT BEING TAUGHT OUTSIDE OF LAW SCHOOLS!!!!

(But, it should/could be and is totally applicable to DEI TRAINING!)
 
  • Haha
Reactions: sob5

DooBi

HR Heisman
Sep 18, 2006
5,796
5,897
113
Yep, it's true. Conservatives only care about the unborn while they are in the womb. Once they're out, the need to pull themselves up by their boot straps and become productive members of society!
Ironic thread is ironic.