[A little early this week…but this couldn’t wait]
The National Review was long considered the intellectual light among the conservative darkness. Those days appear to be passed.
Eliana Johnson has produced this gem of an article lambasting President Obama for calling the Holocaust “senseless.” According to Johnson, the violence may have been wrong but was totally sensible, people! Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.
Nazism may have been an ideology to which the United States was — and to which the president is — implacably opposed, but it is hardly “senseless.” By the early 1930s, the Nazi party had hundreds of thousands of devoted members and repeatedly attracted a third of the votes in German elections; its political leaders campaigned on a platform comprising 25 non-senseless points, including the “unification of all Germans,” a demand for “land and territory for the sustenance of our people,” and an assertion that “no Jew can be a member of the race.” Suffice it to say, many sensible Germans were persuaded.
For those keeping score the statement “no Jew can be a member of the race” was scored as “sensible” in this article. The justification — as far as I can tell — is the mere fact that a plurality of anti-Semites voted for it. At least they’re setting a high threshold for mass murder over at the National Review these days.
As the tipster who sent me this article said, “Gore Vidal once called [National Review founder William F.] Buckley a Crypto-Nazi. I don’t think there’s anything Crypto there.” Indeed. This screed is smooth “Naziism good, Judge! Will of the (slim plurality of the) people!”
The redefinition of “sense” is critical in forging the new language of the Right. For years, conservatives lambasted liberals for “moral relativism.” Liberals, they said, were undermining the country by believing there could be any perspective beyond the traditional, white, heterosexual, Protestant male “morality” developed — unsurprisingly — to favor that worldview. These laments were designed to shame the country, by and large steeped in this traditional morality, into rejecting the liberal message.
But times have changed drastically. The majority of the country has declared support for marriage equality, preserving the social safety net, and maintaining a progressive tax system. The hegemony conservatives held over “morality” is gone. In its stead, conservatives have to define morality by their persistence as a minority. Just as CNN reports by showing a right winger and liberal back-to-back and proclaiming that they espouse “two valid opinions” regardless of the facts, conservatives can only thrive by convincing undecided voters that the fact that only 1/3 of the country still supports them, they still deserve the imprimatur of sensibility.
Moral relativism used to be about understanding other points of view. For Johnson and the new conservatives, moral relativism now means accepting naked prejudices as long as a nugget of old guard wingnuts continue to cling to those views.
Keep an eye out for this messaging. It has ties to the knock that President Obama is “arrogant” and “overreaching” for interpreting big electoral wins as a mandate. It also has ties to their defense of their majority in the House of Representatives even as they capture fewer votes than the Democrats. The liberals are now the philosophy of moral absolutism. How times have changed…