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Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 19, 2018

 
The Overton Window at Work 

by tristero

In a recent post, Digby quoted from this Politico article discussing the latest infighting among the GOP, where the Freedom Caucus blew up a Paul Ryan-backed farm bill. This passage jumped out:
Almost immediately, Republicans pointed fingers at each other. Freedom Caucus members said GOP leaders brought the matter on themselves by failing to pass a conservative immigration solution for Dreamers sooner. GOP leaders blamed the conservatives for upending a core Trump priority.
Got that? It's the conservatives versus GOP leaders. The Freedom Caucus are now deemed conservatives instead of the far-right radicals they were just a few years ago. And GOP leaders are now considered moderates rather than rightwing conservatives.

If that's the case, then Republican like Colin Powell or George H. W. Bush — both of whom used to be thought of as very conservative —are now left-leaning liberals. On that scale, substantial distinctions between liberal, progressive, and left wing ideologies get lost - there simply isn't any space in the public discourse to make them. Nancy Pelosi's politics look like they are one step to the right of Communism.

But it gets worse. Re-read that last sentence: "GOP leaders blamed the conservatives for upending a core Trump priority." Yep, you read that right. Trump, unquestionably a GOP leader, is now considered a moderate Republican.

And that, dear friends, is the Overton Window at work. And here's why I make sure that my passport is always valid:

If the media characterize Trump as a moderate and the Freedom caucus as conservatives, then what were once considered ultra-right extremists now have a secure seat at the table of America's national discourse. They're merely to the right of conservatives now. And that dominance of rightwing ideologies in the discourse allows the ultra-right to claim they have thoughtful, if unusually bold, ideas. One way they do this is by insisting the media draw an ever-so-fine distinction between Nazi ideology and their own, something they've taken to calling "white nationalist European identitarianism," aka WNEI (pronounced "Weenie").

But back in the reality-based universe, this is obviously a distinction without any substantial difference. Just look at the crowds of rabid Sieg-Heilers at Weenie rallies. And thus, the most extreme and murderous of modern ideologies is no longer on the fringe of American political/cultural discourse.

In fact, it hasn't been for quite a while. But when the press characterizes Ryanism and then, fercrissakes, Trumpism as mere moderation... we are all in deep, deep trouble. This is very unlikely to end well.