The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bush & Hitler

Get a liberal riled enough and he may compare George Bush to Adolf Hitler, at which point his credibility is irreparably damaged. But are Bush and Republican methodologies at all like those of the Totalitarian leader and his party? Let's examine using criteria from Hannah Arendt, a highly regarded expert on totalitarianism.

On totalitarian leadership:

1. Leaders of totalitarian movements are generally unimpressive but charming.

Sounds like Bush in a nutshell. Everybody seems to agree that he's a really nice guy, but despite his going to Yale and Harvard, his academic record was, shall we say, unimpressive.

2. Leaders are a bridge between the core of the ideology and the uninvolved.

For the politcally uninvolved, it's hard to say what Karl Rove or Tom Delay are up to, but Bush is highly visable and gives the masses a watered-down taste of conservative ideology through the bully pulpit.

3. Leaders are the embodiment of military brutality, but can appear normal to the outside world.

While Bush is definitely a hawk, I think "embodiment of military brutality" is a little strong. Then again that whole torture issue is kind of nasty.

4. Statements are geared towards public consumption, but Public, Party, and Elite hear statements differently.

No Shit. You could say this about Democrats too, but just as an example "save social security" is really "dismantle social security."

5. Elites take words as policy.

Applicable for sure. If the core of the Republican has decided on an issue and Bush has vocalized it, you can bet it will be discussed as upcoming policy by all the conservative blogs, mags, and radio shows, not to mention internal Republican talking points for legislators.

On the organization of the movement:

The Arendtian model for totalitarian movements is that of an onion: harmless on the outside, but pungent as you peel away the layers.

There are four layers to the onion: Front Organizations, General Party Members, Party Elite, and the Leader. As you get deeper into the onion, it is more likely that the members will not believe much of their own ideology, but rather use it as a political and economic tool.

I believe that many of those active in the Republican Elite fall into this catagory. All the social policy is used by loosely connected organizations to catch those who really don't believe totally in conservative ideology, but are concerned with such things as abortion or prayer in schools. Organizations like the NRA, Anti-Abortion groups and the Taxpayers League catch political novices with a watered-down "common-sense" version of right-wing ideology and the more new catches buy into these front organizations, the more likely it is that they will be politically socialized to the right wing.

When you get to the core of the party, they are only concerned with the economics of advancing themselves and those like themselves. They are cynical of the social dogma, but are wise to utilize it.

Before leaving comments please note that I have definitely criticized Bush personally, but really have passed no judgements on his/the Republican's methodologies.

The fact that Bush is a near prototype for the Authoritarian Personality will be saved for a latter occasion.


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