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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Going back to Ann Coulter « Previous | |Next »
February 3, 2003

In a previous post, called 'Anne Coulter & the US Gaze', on the old Public Opinion weblog here, I observed that I did:

".... not understand the emotional drivers of the Republican Party's foreign policy. Oh I know that this is centred around 'us & them; fighting a war with an enemy that is variously defined; and needing to destroy the enemy. But I cannot comprehend the political unconscious that surfaces in the expressions of hate in the texts of the attack journalists, such as Anne Coulter."

I said that the neo-con political unconscious sees politics as blind fury and that it has a political logic of, 'if you are not with George Bush, then you are against him, and so you are with the enemy.' In passing I noted that such a political logic makes the Democrats (I mentioned Al Gore) traitors, if they question what Bush is doing in his foreign policy.

Then I thought no more of it because I was focused on the consequences of the political logic in the sphere of international relations in relation to those Islamic European nations were who were critical of US foreign policy. So did those disgusted liberals here

Since that post I have read Anne Coulter's response to President Bush's State of the Union speech here called 'War-Torn Democrats'. The charge of treason figures prominently in it. This is a whole different ballgame to regime change in Iraq.

Here is the reasoning behind the introduction of treason. Coulter says:

"There's a rallying cry to unite the Democrats! If there has been a material breach "by everybody's standard," then and only then, we can boldly ... go to the United Nations! This is the fundamental problem of the anti-war movement. They can't bring themselves to say it's a mistake to depose Saddam Hussein, and "don't hurry" is not really a call to arms.

But why not hurry? Democrats claim they haven't seen proof yet that Saddam is a direct threat to the United States. For laughs, let's suppose they're right. In the naysayers' worst-case scenario, the United States would be acting precipitously to remove a ruthless dictator who tortures his own people....

Either we're removing a dictator who currently has plans to fund terrorism against American citizens or -- if Bush is completely wrong and Eleanor Clift is completely right -- we're just removing a dictator who plans to terrorize a lot of people in the region, but not Americans specifically."

Now let us grant that Coulter has given a reasonable statement of the public debate over the war with Iraq in the US. This form of public agitation is what you would expect in a liberal democracy that presupposes the American naton: ie vigorous political debate over a course of action amongst those who belong to the nation. After all these are two of the three big ideas of the liberal conception fo the nation--the third idea is collective enactment of general policies by democratic means.

What then does Coulter's neocon political unconscious do with this very liberal idea? It makes a big jump to treason. I kid you not. She ends by saying:

"The Democrats' jejune claim that Saddam Hussein is not a threat to our security presupposes they would care if he were. Who are they kidding? Democrats adore threats to the United States. Bush got a raucous standing ovation at his State of the Union address when he announced that "this year, for the first time, we are beginning to field a defense to protect this nation against ballistic missiles." The excitement was noticeably muted on the Democrats' side of the aisle. The vast majority of Democrats remained firmly in their seats, sullen at the thought that America would be protected from incoming ballistic missiles. To paraphrase George Bush: If this is not treason, then treason has no meaning."

Coulter's unconscious leap is hard to grasp in Australia where a majority of citizens oppose the US going it along with a band of allies. The UN and global governance still have a big following in Australia.

What then is the significance of this leap by the neo-con political unconscious? Well, its national imaginary is based on unity of the nation. For this unity to exist those who belong to the American nation must concur instinctively on the fundaments of Christianity and its role as an authoritative source of public morality that unifies the nation. Those who differ, by questioning the understanding of good and evil, threaten national unity and wholeness; and so they form an internal constituency that must be marginalised in public life. The unity of the (Christain)moral nation at a time of crisis requires the state to be re-nationalised and massive violence to be wrought against dissent.

And what does this mean now? (It used to mean dispossessing Amerindians).

Well it takes us way beyond the Wall Street understanding of politics. The Wall Street Journal's image of neocons as 'conservatives [who] have offered policies that emphasize freedom, market solutions, and the dangers of big government' is too concerned with the market. This is both misleading and self-delusional. That understanding merely attaches the label 'conservative' to market liberalism. Conservatism is far more than a fashion label. We are, after all, talking about treason here, not market regulation.

What the blind fury of Anne Coulter's political unconscious shows is the neo-con repudiation of a liberal social order. National unity overrides a liberal order based on individuality, tolerance and the agitation of public opinion. A liberal political order has to be sacrificed to ensure national unity. National unity is required for war and this justifies intolerance. So political liberals---with their rights, freedom of expression, set of procedures, public deliberation, seperation of church and state etc ---have to be disciplined in the name of unity and order.

Liberals have every right to be disgusted with what is happening in Bush's America---do they not? They thought that the very idea of an American nation was founded on the classical tenets of liberalism. Seeing this trashed in the name of restoring the vital essence of a unified Christian nation would arouse the big disgust.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:51 AM | | Comments (0)