Paul Nevins

Paul Nevins
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
October 29
Paul Nevins is the author of "The Politics of Selfishness: How John Locke’s Legacy Is Paralyzing America "(Greenwood /Praeger/ABC-CLIO). The central thesis of this important and unconventional work is that the United States has begun to experience a number of profound, interrelated problems that are caused, both directly and indirectly, by the country's dogmatic and often unconscious adherence, collectively as a political culture and individually as Americans, to the political philosophy of John Locke. That ideology, which is the bedrock upon which the American liberal democracy has been founded, asserts that human beings are by nature solitary, aggrandizing individuals. Hence, preoccupation with the self in all of its manifestations and attributes - as opposed to the whole, the public interest - has become the primary focus by which political, economic and societal decisions are made. Consequently, the preferred form of social and political relationships with others, including the state as the organized expression of political society, is solely contractual and is designed primarily to protect private property in all of its forms. "The Politics of Selfishness" provides compelling historic and contemporary evidence that U.S. institutions, at all levels, are failing because of the country's uncritical embrace of the anti-social individualism which is John Locke’s legacy. Paul Nevins has been a trial attorney in private practice since 1982. He concentrates in public and private sector employment law and litigation, related civil rights and constitutional law claims, and contract claims. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Paul Nevins taught in the Boston Public Schools. While teaching, Mr. Nevins served as a member of the Executive Board of the Boston Teachers Union, Local 66, AFT/AFL-CIO. Paul Nevins served as a conscript in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970. In 1969, he was a founder and the first chairman of GIs for Peace at Fort Bliss, Texas.This was the first organization of active duty soldiers who publicly opposed the Vietnam War. Mr. Nevins received an A.B. Degree from Suffolk University, a Master of Arts Degree from New York University, and a Juris Doctor Degree from Suffolk University Law School. He lives and works in Boston.


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JANUARY 4, 2012 1:36PM

Are GOP Supporters Reality-Based ?

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       New York Times columnist David Brooks, in an opinion piece yesterday, correctly reported that “The Republican Party is the party of the white working class. This group — whites with high school degrees and maybe some college — is still the largest block in the electorate. They overwhelmingly favor Republicans.” Brooks further  observed that white-working class “members generally share certain beliefs and experiences. The economy has been moving away from them. The ethnic makeup of the country is shifting away from them. They sense that the nation has gone astray: marriage is in crisis; the work ethic is eroding; living standards are in danger; the elites have failed; the news media sends out messages that make it harder to raise decent kids. They face greater challenges, and they’re on their own.”
       Brooks’ solution to this disconnect between the GOP's base and its elite was to recommend the kind of politics espoused by Rick Santorum who, because of his alleged working class-background and strong family and communitarian values, Brooks claimed, would strike a resonant chord among members of  this neglected but essential GOP constituency.             
       As a self-described "conservative," Brooks’ endorsement of Santorum’s working class values needs to be viewed within the broader context of GOP political rhetoric. While campaigning in Iowa, Newt Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of being a “Massachusetts moderate” while Romney himself depicted President Barack Obama as someone who wanted to destroy this country’s “free enterprise” system with its values of hard work and individual advancement and replace it with a “European entitlement system.” Simultaneously, Santorum , Bachmann, Perry and Paul all expressed concerns that the U.S. was in danger of metamorphosing into some kind of socialism state that, because of oppressive government regulation, was strangling economic productivity.
       All of this rhetoric, of course, diverts attention from the real problems of this country: A dysfunctional political system dominated by a wealthy elite, their lobbyists and enablers; and an economy that, because of the out-sourcing of American jobs and manufacturing,  restrictions on the ability of employees to unionize and bargain for higher wages, “free trade,” increasing automation, extraordinary economic inequality, and declining levels of education and literacy, among a multitude of other problems,  have caused the incomes of  most Americans to stagnate or decline since the 1970s.    
       As the magnitude of social, political and economic problems has increased over the past decades in the United States, the dysjunction between reality and political rhetoric has grown wider and the rhetoric more hysterical. Exit polls from the Iowa Republican caucus, for example, revealed that almost six of every ten voters considered themselves to be evangelicals or born-again Christians and were concerned about social values, while only three out of every ten voters thought that the economy was the most important issue bedeviling the country. 

       The preoccupation of GOP voters with social and moral values, as opposed to economic concerns, once again illustrates the phenomenon of “false consciousness” identified by Karl Marx and most recently chronicled by Historian Thomas Franks in his book, “What’s The Matter With Kansas?”  The determination of  predominantly working-class white males and their female counterparts to consistently support politicians and issues diametrically opposed to their own economic interests forecloses the possibility of any serious civic dialog. It also provides a sobering commentary that calls into question the ability of this country’s  political system to address, in a meaningful way, any of our real problems.

        If Mitt Romney can be  viewed as a moderate and Barack Obama is a socialist, then the evangelicals may very well be right: The apocalypse is at hand. Rather than provide a spiritual transformation, however, it may instead signify, in the lyrics of P. F. Sloan, that we are “on the eve of destruction.”               

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At the risk of oversimplifying, I have felt all along that all these "moral" and "cultural" issues are raised only to distract from the fact that the Teabaggers, the GOP, and conservatives generally have only one real agenda : "back to Bush"---that is, even more deregulation of corporate America, still more tax cuts for the rich, and a total lack of accountability by either group. In short, the same policies that created this colossal mess and massive human suffering. In terms of corporate dominance of government and society, they can't even pretend to have anything new or different to offer voters.
The support that white working class Americans give to the Republican Party (and really to right wing tribalism) is due to psychology not politics, despite the triumphalism of conservatives like David Brooks who think working class support for the GOP is a vote of confidence for conservative ideas. Nothing could be further from the ruth.

After all, what is the first counter-argument a right wing demagogue like Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh offers whenever they are criticized? Answer: My ratings are better than yours. I've got a bigger audience than my critics. Might makes right, no matter what the empiracle reality might be.

One of the first to recognize that mass movements are more about psychology than politics was Eric Hoffer, author of "True Believer", which is a classic study of mass movements.

People join mass movements like the Tea Party, he says, less because of their compelling vision or doctrine than in order to repair their "spoiled" and "frustrated" lives.

Hoffer, who was given the Medal of Freedom by President Reagan in 1983 for his writings on the rise of totalitarianism, specifically Hitler's, noted the central importance of self-esteem to both psychological well-being and the unity of mass movements.

He theorized that the fanaticism and self-righteousness at the heart of all mass movements are rooted in self-hatred, self-doubt, and insecurity. His most important insight may have been that all mass movements are essentially the same in terms of the kind of personalities attracted to them and the benefits they confer on committed members. Ideas, per se, don't count. Group solidarity does. That is how unemployed German workers fled into the arms of their German industrial tormentors and the Nazi Party these industrialists like Krupps supported rather than protest against them, because workers were attracted to the "blood and soil" strength of the fascists and the sense of security it gave them.

Therefore, said Hoffer, it is much easier for a fanatical Nazi to become a fanatical Communist even though those two belief systems are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, than for either to become a mainstream liberal. Hitler's propaganda chief said the same thing.

It's not surprising, then, that today's far right neo-conservatives began their career as committed communists, or that a far right Catholic theocrat like Fr. John Richard Neuhaus first became politically active as a man of the Left, advocating the violent overthrow of the US government for its war in Vietnam.

For the "true believer," says Hoffer, the substance of a mass movement isn't as important as the sense of security, solidarity and certainty they derive from the movement itself.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident." For the Tea Party right, the importance of that statement from the Declaration of Independence lies not in the substance of ideas like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so much as the fact that those "truths" are themselves "self-evident," absolute.

No wonder these personalities are gravitating toward someone like Rick Santorum whose Opus Dei Catholicism invites individuals to subordinate their identities, their anxieties and their free will to the hive.
Donegal Descendant has it right -- the moral/cultural issues are a means to distract Evangelicals and other low/no-information voters -- while the economic elite pick their pockets. Fools that they are, they then blame it on the "guvmint", rather than the people they put in guvmint -- and those who've bought them off (see Koch Bros and Wisconsin for one sorry example).

Not by the way, cultural values or family values, as they would have it, is another example of coded language. At it's dark heart, the Republican base is racist to the core. This is well-known to Republican political elite. It's called the Southern Strategy, and it has been employed by every Republican President since Nixon. Lee Atwater -- who helped elect many of those Presidents -- spelled it out in his "deathbed" confession:

Atwater: "You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

The results of the recent Iowa caucus is all the proof anyone should need that the Republican base has gone over the edge. Take away the 25% or so that went for Romney and that means roughly 75% of the base supports a racist homophobe -- Santorum, or a racist, Randian Libertarian -- Ron Paul, or a reprobate -- con-man, womanizer and egomaniac -- Newt Gingrich.

Meanwhile, these hypocritical latter-day Pharisees rabidly denounce the one candidate in the 2012 Presidential election -- Barack Obama -- who on the surface at least seems to be a family man interested in alleviating the economic troubles that have destroyed countless families.

Some people seem to think Obama will win re-election easily. I remind them that in 2008 just barely short of sixty-million of the ignorant and willfully blind voted for a doddering old coot and a vacuous bimbo. That alone ought to tell you what the future holds for this noble (sort of) experiment in self-government.
I just posted in another thread that I thought Obama is toast. The combination of disaffected, disillusioned liberals and hard-core Obama hating conservatives is more than enough to insure his one-term presidency. Don’t know why some people figure him to be a shoo-in, but the best I can say about that is I think it delusional, but that I hope, hope, hope I am the one who is wrong and that they are right.

The GOP supporters may or may not be reality-based; I really cannot tell. But liberal America, by and large, has stepped back from reality in a major way.

When it comes to legislation that will impact negatively on individual rights, the milk is already out of the teat. There is no getting it back in—no matter if the president is a Democrat or a Republican.

The best we can hope for is a president who will appoint federal judges who are not so ideologically from the right that some restraint by the judiciary can still be hoped for.

That ain’t gonna happen if a Republican—ANY REPUBLICAN—gets control of the Oval Office.

In my opinion, anyone who has a progressive political agenda in mind who is not backing Obama and doing it with some enthusiasm at this moment—has taken leave of his/her senses!