Reactionary Politics

A friend of mine, who is staff for a prominent modern West Coast Republican congressman, told me that on April 29, a plethora of voters called in opposition to the Puerto Rico Democracy Act. An ocean of misinformation had engulfed these voters and caused them to drown out their rationality.

When experiencing one of these angry (white) voters that day, the emotion and hate was on full display. Getting red in the face as he talked, one conservative screamed at me, “This is a push by the Democrats to make Puerto Rico a state so they can have a filibuster proof majority!”

When I told him that he apparently knew absolutely nothing about the bill, he replied, “I know that the Obama administration cares nothing about the American people or the American people.” When I pointed out that the current status of Puerto Rico, as little more than a territory that is not fully included in our country yet not a country of their own, is a relic of a colonial past, he said, “They need to learn english! If they don’t learn english, they’ll just be second class citizens.” I told him that he was obviously looking at things he didn’t comprehend with little more than his prior prejudices, to which he said, “It’s not prejudice! It’s principle.” I pointed out to him that he was confusing his prejudices with “principles.”

Why such high emotion on a bill that came out of nowhere? Two words: Glenn Beck. Since moving to Fox News, Beck appears to be on the way to taking the place of “America’s Newsman” as the sole proprietor of information to millions of small-town conservatives. With few other sources of information, they suddenly find themselves becoming experts on issues they know nothing about because they heard or watched Beck talk about it for ten minutes. Beck, who jokes about being a “pee-brain” and a “rodeo clown” regularly, is hardly John Stuart Mill and shouldn’t be viewed as such.

The Puerto Rico Democracy Act was sponsored by several Republicans, including our favorite here at United Liberty: Texas congressman Ron Paul (though for whatever reason he was absent during the actual vote). Alex Castellanos wrote an excellent article for the National Review in which he demonstrated that Puerto Rican democracy was fully in line with positions taken by Republicans previously.

Glenn Beck failed to mention in his tirades that the bill didn’t guarantee statehood for the Puerto Ricans. It was to be a vote on whether they would be able to have “free association” with the United States, become their own country or become a state. Lionel Trilling once lamented that “the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse do not, with some isolated and some ecclesiastical exceptions, express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”

Beck and his ilk represent the modern incarnate of Trilling’s disparaged reactionaries. It’s unfortunate that he is the sole source of “information” for so many.


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