Hofstadter argues that sometimes people who are dispossessed, who feel their country has been taken away from them and their kind, develop an angry, suspicious and conspiratorial frame of mind. It is never enough to believe their opponents have committed honest mistakes or have legitimate purposes; they insist on believing in malicious conspiracies.Isn't there also a mentally healthy theme in American political life? That is, don't most ordinary people instinctively turn away from those who are serving up such noxious fare? I'd like to see a poll about how much people are following the ideation around the Libby indictment. My guess is that only people who already hate Bush are engaging with this material. Lots of former supporters tell pollsters they think Bush isn't doing a good job, but I tend to think they are simply asking for a better show of competence. They haven't given themselves over to the abject Bush-hating purveyed by the left.
"The paranoid spokesman," Hofstadter writes, "sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms - he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization." Because his opponents are so evil, the conspiracy monger is never content with anything but their total destruction. Failure to achieve this unattainable goal "constantly heightens the paranoid's sense of frustration." Thus, "even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes."
October 30, 2005
"The tragic thing is that at the exact moment when the Republican Party is staggering under the weight of its own mistakes..."
"... the Democratic Party's loudest voices are in the grip of passions that render them untrustworthy," writes David Brooks aptly but unfortunately behind the wall of Times Select. Writing about the response to the Libby indictment, Brooks sees "some Democrats" as a good example of what Richard Hofstadter called "The Paranoid Style in American Politics":