Friday, April 6, 2012

Authoritarian Invective

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (photo by Fred R. Conrad)

Look up the definition of the word “invective.” You will find that it refers to the use of insulting and abusive words.

One of the themes reinforced by the Democratic Party is that “Republicans are bad people.” In her column earlier this week, Ms. Dowd pushes this theme through characterizations of Republicans as sinister, de-humanized beings who are bent on the destruction of America.

She is writing about the Supreme Court of the United States, but her article points out that it is the Republicans on the court who are the problem:

--“This court…is well on its way to becoming the most divisive in modern American history.”

--“It has squandered even the semi-illusion that it is the unbiased, honest guardian of the Constitution.”

--“It is run by hacks dressed up in black robes.”

--“…its reasoning on the most important decisions affecting Americans seems shaped more by a political handbook than a legal brief.”

--“If [Antonin Scalia is] so brilliant, why is he drawing a risible parallel between buying health care and buying broccoli?”

--“In 2000, the Republican majority put aside its professed disdain of judicial activism and helped to purloin the election for W., who went on to heedlessly invade Iraq and callously ignore Katrina.”

--Republicans are “…self-interested sugar daddies and wealthy cronies overwhelming the democratic process.”

--“John Roberts Jr.’s benign beige façade is deceiving; he’s a crimson partisan.”

--“Scalia voted to bypass that little thing called democracy and crown W. president…”

--“[Clarence Thomas] lied his way onto the court…”

--“[Conservative justices have] already been playing Twister, turning precedents into pretzels to achieve their political objective.”

Ms. Dowd sees Republicans on the Supreme Court as risible hacks. They act callously and with disdain, using their façade to hide their lies. Maureen Dowd is teaching us “the right and natural way” to think about Republicans.

Try to set aside all the invective for a moment and look at her remarks from an Authoritarian perspective. One of the hallmarks of authoritarians is that they know they are never wrong.

Maureen Dowd knows that Al Gore won Florida in 2004. She knows that George Bush’s military surge in Iraq was a failure. She knows that the Dred Scott decision of 1857 was not divisive. She knows that it is our current Supreme Court that is “becoming one of the most divisive in modern American history.”

If you look at the Supreme Court of 1857, you will find it packed with members of the Democratic Party, and declaring (according to a PBS review) "that all blacks – slaves as well as free – were not and could never become citizens of the United States."

Maureen Dowd finds this decision of the Supreme Court not sufficiently divisive? How does she characterize the American Civil War?

Ms. Dowd, as it turns out, is a perfect example of an authoritarian figure telling us how we must think and what we must believe. Apparently Kristin Martin is listening.

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