analogy

A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

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An Example of Alaskan Virtue

In the early nineties, a disgruntled group of anti-abortion activists in Oregon decided to shift gears, and the Oregon Citizens’ Alliance rose to influence trying to compel the state to exclude homosexuals from societal participation; the ballot measure was so broadly worded that a “gay panic defense” would succeed in any question of murdering a homosexual or suspected homosexual, because prosecutors would be forbidden from not condemning homosexuality as “abnormal, perverse, and wrong”. While some of us frequently joke that marriage equality owes much to such merry bands of stooges insofar as they moved the question of gay rights to the fore as no gay rights activist possibly could, it was a grave time that even saw homophobes resort to terrorism.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK)Well, we didn’t call it terrorism back then, did we? It was just firebombing faggots, a method viewed at the time as questionable for its potential to create sympathy toward homosexuals.

Which is telling. But the aspect we might consider today is a persistent one: Why is the idea of consent as relates to sexual intercourse so irrelevant to the conservative political outlook?

I’m sorry, is that a harsh question?

Deal with it. We’ve been hearing this sort of talk for decades.

The latest manifestation comes from Rep. Don Young (R-AK):

At a Wasilla High School assembly Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Don Young didn’t temper his notoriously abrasive personality for his young audience.

Numerous witnesses say Young, 81, acted in a disrespectful and sometimes offensive manner to some students, used profanity and started talking about bull sex when confronted with a question about same-sex marriage.

(Hollander)

Then again, this is Don Young. The octagenarian congressman has a penchant for bigoted gaffes.

Which, in turn, says something about the virtues and values along the Last Frontier.

But here is the functional problem: This is part of a long-running rhetorical bit whereby social conservatives aim for comedic style points. The problem here is that in winning the debate on style points, conservatives are (A) dehumanizing their opponents, and (B) erasing sexual consent.

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