Degenerate De*gen"er*ate (?), v. i. To be or grow worse than one's kind, or than one was originally; hence, to be inferior; to grow poorer, meaner, or more vicious; to decline in good qualities; to deteriorate.
When using such terms as degenerate it is important to define the terms, lest a confused reader think that the discussion is veering off into sexual matters. It is a shame that such a useful word, such a descriptive word, has become a pejorative. It has become a conversational show-stopper. This is pity because it describes the yahoos who beat down Move On activist Lauren Valle to a TEA.
As a matter of fact the whole TEA Party movement is degenerate. It has definitely caused a general decline in any good qualities the Republicans had. Granted this kind of nastiness has long lurked under the surface. Old reports from Nixon’s campaign report of him grinning when blue-collar toughs beat up on Anti Vietnam War protesters way back in the early 70’s. But that was background noise to huge campaign rallies. The Paul beat-down was much more central to the Paul campaign.
The candidacy of both Father and Jr. Paul has attracted the violent edges of the right-wing like a picnic in the park attracts ants. At one time, not so long ago, right-wingers had a marginal code of chivalry. It was always a bit weird in that it protected long-hairs of the fairer sex, but not long-hairs of the male variety. Thus, it was OK to thump a 110 pound hippy male but not a 110 pound female, hippy or no. Where these marching orders came from are a mystery, but it seems the hall-pass for the girls has expired. Now three burley manly-men can wrestle a petite twenty-something to the ground and stomp on her while she is helpless.
What is worse is that the mighty Wurlitzer of the Right Wing-nut noise machine defended the actions of the Rand Paul thugs. Seems our heroine was part of the “professional left” and thus not entitled to any right of physical safety, never mind the freedom to protest. That was degenerate. It was not long ago when real conservatives in good standing ( Barry Goldwater how we miss you) would not have tolerated such goings on. But today the right is only too happy to become ever more vicious, ever more meaner in its day-to-day operations.
They defend such a slide by judicious projection. The argument is that the mean ol’ liberals are making them act like uncultured barbarians. It is because liberals are pointing out the possibility of racial antipathy, of bigotry and of misogyny in the TEA party ranks. You must understand only the members of the TEA party are “real Americans.” Everyone else is what, a fake American? It appears to be “real” one must be old, rural, white, preferably Southern, drive a pick up, and eat really crappy unhealthy food. It is hard to figure out what this “majority” consists of, because so many are excluded. Anyway, it is definitely the fault of those non-TEA elements that politics and policy have become a WWE no-holds-barred steel cage match.
Looking from the outside one can see the long slide down. Never has the right been so whiny, so easily offended. Never has it been so easy to push them off the deep end. One can see this in the self-described “rodeo clown,” Glenn Beck. The man does not even bother to offer a civil tone. No, it is straight to the show-stoppers. It is a guarantee that Beck will pull out at least one before the first commercial break. Sing along with Uncle Glenn when you remember the lyrics! Nazi, Communist, Socialist, anti-Christian, Un-Godly, subversive, etc., etc., etc., these are the charges lofted ad infinitetum and ad nauseum by Beckroo Bonzi, the cowboy clown. They are the litany of hate and fear.
This too is degenerate. William Buckley, would never be caught dead with such direct appeals to the lizard brain. The father of the National Review was always careful to cover any such appeals with a thin patina of respectability. Big Bill was alway confident in the intellectual underpinnings of the Conservative agenda. He believed, truly and steadfastly, in the superiority of the Conservative project. He was willing to engage in the mental cut and thrust of debate.
Beck, on the other hand, cuts off all debate right at the start of his presentation. It is well beyond the casual lies he uses to support his ideas, the out-right disregard for empirical facts. It is much more toxic stuff. Beck does violence to the language, violence to the presentation, violence to the politics, and violence conversation. There is no middle ground. Once Beck is on one of his hobby horses, there is no end to hate and bile that pours out of the T.V.
Conservatism is exhausted, it can only define itself by what it is against. Free-market extremism is not a philosophy, it is just back-lash against the regulatory structures set up by the New Deal. “Pro-Life” extremism, no abortion for any woman,ever, is not a morality inspired stand. It is just straight-up misogyny, a reaction to the sexual liberation of women. The build a bigger fence mau-mauing of John McCain and others is not a serious policy proposal, it is an attempt to go back to a mythical whiter, less complex United States. The anti-tax hysteria is not some great fight for self-sufficiency, it is free-loading. It is people wanting to live off prior investments in the public sphere without having to chip in their fair share.
The contradiction is made stark at TEA party rallies where the faithful gather together to bitch and moan about big government while seated on their medicare subsidized scooters. The TEA party is a call to cut any kind of government that does not benefit the narcissistic needs of the ex-urban, self-satisfied, self-absorbed, privileged, white-flight, upper-middle class and others . Conservatism has imploded into conceits of these people. As Amanda Marcotte so succinctly puts it , it is now a amalgam of proud assholes.
It is only that type of person, that type of personality, that could ever think that mugging a young woman for her political views was a good idea. It is only a class A “jerk” that could offer any kind of defense of such a action. Ms. Marcotte makes this very clear. Those Paul supporters did this, not despite the fact that many ( and especially liberals) would find the action disgusting, but precisely because those not of Ran Paul circle would find the action offensive. This goes a long way in explaining the “ he wasn’t stepping on her face, he was stepping on her neck defense” meme trotted out by Wing-nut media. That was no accident, that was not bad messaging, that was deliberate. It was a proud flying of the “jerk” flag. It was degenerate, it was a regression to the vicious authoritarian streak that always lurks in the right wing.
Of course trying to point out such possibilities will only bring out the grade-school taunts of the TEA party faithful. It is 2nd grade all over again. It’s “I’m rubber and you’re glue ...” TEA party types get a free pass no matter how mean or stupid there arguments may be. Sister Sara is especially exempt for any messaging that appears to be the spiteful, mean-spirited, vicious, catty, vulgar, just plain rude, or wrong. She is Saint Sara of the Great White North and has replaced the Virgin Mary in the Holy Trinity. She is always free of sin.
That is how one of the great notions of classical conservatism, individual responsibility gets degraded. That is how the notion of accountability goes by the way side. “Real Americans (tm)” are never wrong, they are never held to account. Only those fake Americans are, you know the communist, socialist, progressive, fascist, liberal, social justice types. Being part of God’s Army, as lead by Sister Sara and Brother Beck, means never having to say your sorry.