Today's War on Nate SIlver: Quiet Flows the Don Edition
The Daily Wang: November 1, 2012

Rick Perlstein: Romneyland

Rick Perlstein explains why right-wing elites are not bothered by the magnitude of Mitt Romney's lies:

Mail-order conservatism: All righty, then: both the rank-and-file voters and the governing elites of a major American political party chose as their standard bearer a pathological liar. What does that reveal about them?

An Oilfield in the Placenta: In 2007, I signed on to the email lists of several influential magazines on the right…. I mainlined a right-wing id that was invisible to readers who encounter conservative opinion at face value….

Dear Reader, I’m going to tell you something, but you must promise to keep it quiet. You have to understand that the “elite” would not be at all happy with me if they knew what I was about to tell you. That’s why we have to tread carefully. You see, while most people are paying attention to the stock market, the banks, brokerages and big institutions have their money somewhere else… [in] what I call the hidden money mountain… All you have to know is the insider’s code (which I’ll tell you) and you could make an extra $6,000 every single month….

Then came news of the oilfield in the placenta….

If you have shied away from profiting from the immense promise of stem cells to treat disease because of moral concern over extracting stem cells from fetal tissue, pay close attention. You can now invest with a clear conscience. An Israeli entrepreneur, Zami Aberman, has discovered ‘an oilfield in the placenta.’ His little company, Pluristem Life Systems (OTCBB: PLRS) has made a discovery which is potentially more valuable than Prudhoe Bay.

Davidson concluded by proposing the lucky investor purchase a position of 83,000 shares of PLRS for the low, low price of twelve cents each….

Back in our great-grandparents’ day, the peddlers of such miracle cures and get-rich-quick schemes were known as snake-oil salesmen. You don’t see stuff like this much in mainstream culture any more; it hardly seems possible such déclassé effronteries could get anywhere in a society with a high school completion rate of 90 percent. But tenders of a 23-Cent Heart Miracle seem to work just fine on the readers of the magazine where Ann Coulter began her journalistic ascent in the late nineties by pimping the notion that liberals are all gullible rubes…. [W]hy [do] conservative leaders treat their constituents like suckers[?]

The history of that movement echoes with the sonorous names of long-dead Austrian economists, of indefatigable door-knocking cadres, of soaring perorations on a nation finally poised to realize its rendezvous with destiny. Search high and low, however, and there’s no mention of oilfields in the placenta. Nor anything about, say, the massive intersection between the culture of “network” or “multilevel” marketing--where ordinary folks try to get rich via pyramid schemes that leave their neighbors holding the bag--and the institutions of both evangelical Christianity and Mitt Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And yet this stuff is as important to understanding the conservative ascendancy as are the internecine organizational and ideological struggles that make up its official history--if not, indeed, more so… tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place--and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began….

In 1977, Democratic Congressman Charles H. Wilson of California proposed timid regulations to inform donors exactly how much of their money was going to the cause they thought they were supporting. The Heritage Foundation raced forth with an “issues bulletin” announcing that any such rule changes would subject “church leaders” to “vicious” attacks, and would “increase the paperwork on every Christian organization… inevitably lessening the funds each charity can use for its stated purpose.” (Christianity itself being the obvious target of this Democratic subterfuge of “reform.”)…

This method highlights the fundamental workings of all grassroots conservative political appeals, be they spurious claims of Barack Obama’s Islamic devotion, the supposed explosion of taxpayer-supported welfare fraud, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq…. [I]t’s not really useful, or possible, to specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins. They are two facets of the same coin….

Dear Fellow Conservative,

Do you know which special interest has given more money to the Obama and Clinton campaigns than any other?

If you guessed “trial lawyers”—well, okay, that’s too easy. But can you guess which special interest came in second?

Labor unions? Nope. The Green Lobby? Nope. AARP? Wrong, again. NEA? Nyet.

Give up? Okay, here’s the answer: Wall Street.

That’s right. According to CNNMoney.com, Wall Street securities and investment firms have given over $35 million to Democratic candidates this election cycle. . . . If you’ve been wondering why the financial industry has been in meltdown—and taking your 401(k) or investment portfolio down with it—now you know.

Let’s face it: The former frat boys who populate Wall Street today understand economics about as well as the pinko professors whose courses they snored through. . . . Trusting them with your money is like trusting Bill Clinton to babysit your underage niece.

But I know someone you can trust to manage your investments. . . . His name is Dr. Mark Skousen—that’s “Dr.” as in “Ph.D. in Economics and Monetary History,” something you don’t get by playing Beer Pong with your frat buddies. For the past 28 years, subscribers to his investment newsletter, Forecasts & Strategies, have profited enormously from his uncanny ability to predict major market trends before they happen. . . .

For instance: In the early ’80s, Dr. Skousen predicted that “Reaganomics will work” and said “a long decade of profits is coming.” . . .

The “bottom line,” as they say? Don’t let the Democrats run the country. And don’t let Wall Street frat boys manage your investments. Do it yourself, with the genuinely expert guidance of freedom-loving economist Mark Skousen in Forecasts & Strategies.

That letter is signed by Ann Coulter…. It is a perfect portrait of the nether region of the right-wing con, figure (politics) trading places with ground (commerce) a dizzying dozen times over in the space of just these several paragraphs. There is the bizarre linguistic operation that turns “liberal” (or, in Coulterese, “pinko”) into a merely opportunistic synonym for “stuff you don’t like.” There’s the sloganeering alchemy that conflates political and economic magical thinking (“freedom”!). There’s shorthand invocation of Reagan hagiography. And then, presto: The suggestible readers on the receiving end of Coulter’s come-on are meant to realize that they are holding the abracadabra solution to every human dilemma (vote out the Democrats—oh, and also, subscribe to Mark Skousen’s newsletter for investors, while you’re at it).

There’s a kind of mystic wingnut great-circle-of-life aura to this stuff. Mark Skousen, a Mormon, is the nephew of W. Cleon Skousen, author of the legendarily bizarre Birchite tract The Naked Communist, which claimed to have exposed the secret forty-five-point plan by which the Soviet Union hoped to take over the United States government. (Among the sinister aims laid out in the document: gain control of all student newspapers; “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”) Upon its publication in 1958 (it was republished in 2007 as an ebook), the president of the Church of Latter-day Saints, David O. McKay, recommended that all members read it.

Mark Skousen also… founded an annual Las Vegas convention called “FreedomFest”—2012 keynoters: Steve Forbes, Grover Norquist, Charles Murray, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey—which advertises itself as “the world’s largest gathering of right-wing minds.” This event points to another signal facet of the conservative movement’s long con: convincing its acolytes that they are the true intellectuals, that anyone to their left is the merest cognitive pretender. (“Will this 3 Minute Video Change Your Life?” you can read on FreedomFest’s website. Because three-minute videos are how intellectuals roll. Click here to learn more.)…

And what of Willard M. Romney’s part in the game? There’s a lot going on with Romney’s lying, not all of it related to his conservative identity; he was making things up as a habit, after all, back when he was a Massachusetts moderate. To a certain extent, Romney’s lies are explicable in just the way a lot of pundits are explaining them. When you’ve been all over the map ideologically, and you’re selling yourself to a party now built on extremist ideological purity, it takes a lot of tale-telling to cover your back. But that doesn’t explain one overlooked proviso: these lies are as transparent to his Republican colleagues as they are to any other sentient being. Nor does it account for a still more curious fact—for all the objections that conservatives have aired over Romney’s suspect purity in these last months, not one prominent conservative has made Romney’s dishonesty part of the brief against him….

In part… Romney’s prevarications are evidence of simple political hucksterism—“short, utterly false sound bites,” repeated “so often that millions of Americans believe them to be the truth.” But… [e]ach constituent lie is… pointing to a larger, elaborately constructed “truth”… [that] conservatism is the creed of regular Americans and vouchsafes the eternal prosperity, security, and moral excellence of God’s chosen nation, which was doing just fine before Bolsheviks started gumming up the works.

A Romney lie in this vein is a pure Ronald Reagan imitation—as in this utterance from 2007: “In France,” Romney announced on the campaign trail, “I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up.”… Romney picked up the marriage canard from the Homecoming Saga, a science fiction series written by Mormon author Orson Scott Card…. [S]ince reality is never Manichean enough, fables have to do the requisite ideological heavy lifting—to frighten the target audience to do the fabulists’ will. That’s the logic of the pitch for the quivering conservative masses….

M. Stanton Evans, a legendary movement godfather, stood up. He said my invocation of Richard Nixon was inappropriate because Richard Nixon had never been a conservative. He proceeded, though, to make a striking admission: “I didn’t like Nixon until Watergate”—at which point, apparently, Nixon finally convinced conservatives he could be one of them. And that, at last, may be the explanation for Mitt Romney’s apparently bottomless penchant for lying in public. If the 2012 GOP nominee lied louder than most--and even more astoundingly than he has during his prior campaigns--it’s just because he felt like he had more to prove to his core following. Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite. In this respect, as in so many others, it’s like multilayer marketing: the ones at the top reap the reward--and then they preen, pleased with themselves for mastering the game. Closing the sale, after all, is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing that you have the skill and the stones to just brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher. Sneering at, or ignoring, your earnest high-minded mandarin gatekeepers--“we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” as one Romney aide put it--is another part of closing the deal…

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