Linguistics and current politics

My new orders just came. Amazon’s delivery system is amazing. I got Max Boot’s The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right and Steve Kornacki’s Red and Blue (the author picture shows him at a desk, not at his board. Big mistake) Just started the latter. Great review for folks like me who lived through it all – the 84 convention, etc.

I’ve been reviewing verbs in Urdu and it reminded me of a book I bought years ago comparing verbal aspect in Slavic and Indian languages. Excellent so far. Rajit Chatterjee’s mentor, Paul Friedrich, is a fascinating guy. Slavicist or worked a lot in Michoacan on Purepeche – Tarascan, and I’ve talked to some Purepecha in Patzcuaro, Mexico. It’s so neat I know both Russian and Urdu well enough to follow the arguments (he cites only Hindi but the vector verb constructions are the same).

I think what I get out of Boot’s book is a view of conservatism by a conservative, revealing the crucial distinctions between conservatism and what most Americans call conservatism which is really reactionary politics, the politics of resentment. Here are a couple of quotes from Kornacki’s book: the shift from Democratic to Republican in the South: “It was a tension fueled by many factors, but its roots could be traced all the way back to the country’s original sin.” (p.23) “After Mondale’s drubbing, Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, set out to study the mass exodus of blue-collar whites from the party. He keyed in on Macomb County, Michigan……Race, Greenberg reported, was a major factor. The working-class whites of Macomb, he wrote, “express a profound distaste for blacks, a sentiment that pervades almost everything they think about government and politics…..Blacks constitute the explanation for their vulnerability and for almost everything else that has gone wrong in their lives.” This was 1985.

Those are the sentiments I have reported here over and over and elsewhere. But all the talk was of how far we’ve come. And then along came Trump and ripped the scab off. The word “distaste” has to jump out at you. It’s more than “they’re taking our tax money and giving welfare to the Blacks” complaints. It is “distaste”, what you feel toward vomit or mac ‘n’ cheese (or is that just me?) I guess you have to have grown up with that class of people, working-class Whites who look down on White Southerners for being racist but don’t want Blacks in their neighborhood.

Here’s a thread to follow: the development of charter schools: trace it backwards and you get to the White Academies, in the news recently due to the campaign remark of Cindy Hyde-Smith and reporters tracing her upbringing to attendance at a White academy.

Dec. 24 …. waiting for Santa. Rick Tyler on Morning Joe was plain spoken when he said that racism undergirds Trump’s appeal. As Ted Cruz’ campaign manager he has conservative bona fides and more and more conservatives are – finally – beginning to see they can’t let the racists in their movement slide. After all, Buckley himself kicked the Birchers out of the movement. I note in Boot’s book that as a conservative he felt closer to the neocons like Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz b/c they shared his Jewish, East European roots while so many others in the movement were Catholics with extremely conservative social values. But the neocons, many having roots in Europe, Jewish or not, failed to imbibe the racism inherent in American society. One wonders why Catholics, with a long history of anti-racist teachings, do seem to embrace the vicious anti-Black bigotry seen in campaigns.

Dec. 25 … Good Christmas. Reading both Boot and Kornacki. The details of the 94 route of Democrats via Gingrich’s pulling together the GOP into a disciplined party homing in on resentments and complaints raised in my mind the notion of intensification or jelling. As the idea slithered through my mind of the GOP hardening and intensifying until it overflowed the bounds of American normalcy, viz. Trump, I was presented with the picture of a nearly ossified Democratic Party controlling Washington for decades. The entire government came to be run as if Democrats would always be in power, a sure recipe for an ugly surprise. Ninety-four was it. Now it is the Republicans’ turn.

Morale: be flexible, listen, watch your enemies and learn from them.

One other thought: Gingrich used media to reach the mass of voters via C-SPAN cameras in the House chamber. Trump used twitter and mass rallies and the Russians used Facebook. No wonder Trump and all dictators move first to control the media.


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