“Take Back Our Country”: From Whom? Oh. The Voters.

take back1 199x300 Take Back Our Country: From Whom? Oh. The Voters.There’s a persistent refrain among Sarah Palin fanatics — and New Confederacy governors like Rick Perry — that they want to “take back” America from the thieves who took it from them. You can read some of these quotes in Kate Zernike’s NYT’s story on Palin:

“It may not be this year, it may not be next year, but we’re going to take our country back,” said Sherry Haner, 54, who was standing in the cold on Wednesday outside a mall in Grand Rapids, Mich., hoping to make it into the overflow crowd after failing to get one of the 1,000 bracelets Barnes & Noble had handed out as tickets to the [Palin] signing.

Clinical denial and self-deceit are necessary to the “take back our country” meme. The deception is made obvious by a recent poll that 52 percent of Republican voters believe ACORN stole the election for President Barack Obama. Obama won the national popular vote, 53 percent to 46 percent. Before anyone says, well, Democrats said the same thing about Bush, I’d ask that they remember that Gore won the popular vote in 2000. Even so, I don’t like the “take back” theme, no matter who uses it. It’s not always the case that something was taken. We might have just lost it.

What’s most alarming about the Palinsyndrome is its implicit denial of democracy. The “stolen election” theme is necessary to disguise the real sentiment behind the right wing movement:  there’s a natural order to life, certain of us (usually white and fundamentalist Christian) are supposed to rule the greater number of sinners. If this natural order is not in place, it must have been subverted by forces of evil. They can’t come out and say that democracy itself empowers these alleged satanic forces, so they say democracy was subverted, by ACORN, in this instance. But it’s not what they really feel.

As George Lakoff, Daniel Elazar and others have taught us, the authoritarian, orthodox Calvinist strain has always been a part of the nation’s political culture. The vehemence of the reaction to Civil Rights in the South wasn’t there just because the white’s still wanted to punish the blacks. It was because the whites’ entire worldview was turned upside down. In the great chain of being in their heads, whites lived at a higher altitude.

But the essential anti-democratic theme of this worldview is seldom explored by mainstream journalism. It’s overlooked so it can be made legitimate within the context of democracy. This has always puzzled me. The U.S. Constitution was established to protect against authoritarian tyranny. There are some who believe freedom is found in obedience to authority, but that’s not what democracy has ever been about. It’s about the empowerment of the individual. It’s in the people — all of them — that authority resides.

And here’s where an asymmetry leads to the disadvantage of progressives. Our moral worldview keeps open a place for all kinds of beliefs, even beliefs that challenge the fundamental principles of democracy. The Right can, without contradicting its own worldview, seek to eliminate the rights of its opponents altogether — and feel it just because, after all, they are only trying to restore the natural order of their universe.

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About Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”