Invisible University--aa1971@wayne.edu

The GOP as the Stupid Party?
An inadequate conceptualization

(see earlier version

from Paul Krugman, The Crazy Party (New York Times: 9-19-13):

Early this year, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, made headlines by telling his fellow Republicans that they needed to stop being the “stupid party.”  . . . .  In recent months, the G.O.P. seems to have transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party.


This comment by Paul Krugman reveals something about the theoretical nonchalance of journalists and commentators when it comes to discussing the often bizarre performances of the Republican far-right.  Bobby Jindal, who first used "stupid" to characterize the Republican Party, was referring to the sado-sexual rhetoric of, among others, Tod "legitimate rape" Akin, and Richard--"rape is God's will"--Mourdock.  Krugman, however, referring to the march to financial Armageddon of Tea Party Republicans during the first two weeks of October, 2013 as "crazy," is in error when he distinguishes between stupid and crazy: the homogeneous inner logic of the GOP right--ressentiment--is the driving force  in all of these instances.  That is, psychopathology and cognitive primitiveness are two sides of the same coin.  What is striking is the way the blatant sado-sexual psychopathology of the base-oriented rhetorical performance of the GOP is unremarked; or rather the way it is transformed into the inoffensive and simplistic epithet stupid

While there are issues of cognitive performativity--which presumably is what the word stupid refers to--stupid is just the wrong concept to apply to the sado-sexual obsessiveness of the right, which is of far greater significance than the endless repetitions of the shibboleths of free market individualism (which themselves function as floating signifiers and performative cues).  The investigation of the cognitive and psychological dimensions of politics is one of the major objectives of this site, and any attempt to deal with them separately, as we often must, should be undertaken with the understanding that ultimately the psychological and the cognitive are dialectically linked.  This page is  concerned primarily with the psychological side--the sado-sexual obsessiveness--of right-wing rhetorical performances during the past few years.  Nevertheless, since both Bobby Jindal and Paul Krugman use the word stupid to mischaracterize these performances, I have decided to present some important data relating to the cognitive state of the nation.  You can skip directly to the material on the sado-sexual performativity of the GOP right if you want

The data in Figures 1, 2 and 3 must be taken into account when discussing cognitive performativity, together with associated theoretical work on cognitive development.  This is clearly not what commentators such as Krugman and Jindal were referring to.  

                      PISA 2012 Scores Just Released (December 3, 2013)
         Figure 1.  PISA Math Scores, 2003 - 2012: 25 Nations
      p62
      NCES, Highlights PISA 2003,  p. 14     NCES, Highlights PISA 2009,  p. 18
       NCES, Highlights PISA 2006,  p. 12     OECD 2013 Key Findings,  p.5

Southeast Asian nations are in light blue; Scandinavian nations + Switzerland in dark blue; Anglo-Saxon nations in orange; France, Germany, Belgium and Poland in green; Italy, Portugal and Spain in brown; the United States in red.   These are the advanced capitalist nations (some have been omitted for the sake visual clarity).  More on Figure 1 at The PISA Results

While the October 2013 debt ceiling and gov't shutdown crisis in the United States was unfolding, the OECD released the results of its first assessment of the cognitive abilities of adults (Stubborn Skills Gap in America’s Work Force, New York Times October 8, 2013).  Figure 2: comparison of average numeracy proficiency among young adults, and Figure 3: young adults, 16-24 year-olds minus all adults, 16-65 are derived from this PISA report.  Figure 1 is bad enough;  in relation to Figure 1, Figure 2 indicates a relative worsening of American cognitive performativity; but it is Figure 3 that is a real shocker.  It suggests that U.S. cognitive performativity is falling off a cliff.  These figures provide a context for assessing the cognitive performativity of the far right.  

To what degree and in what way do these data relate to the theatrical performances of right wing audiences as well as demagogues?  The bottom red line in Figure 1 might be dubbed the Tea Party zone of cognitive performativity, inasmuch as the Tea Party is concentrated in the South (also the stronghold of birtherism).  Youtube now makes it possible to closely analyze thousands of performances of political theater, including the various manifestations of the Tea Party beginning in 2009 (for some of these see Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense).  But there is more than politics, more than cognitive development, that is at issue here.  Are we entering a postmodern dark age, and are the debt-ceiling crisis and recent cognitive assessments moments in the unfolding of such a postmodern dark age?  The Enlightenment presupposition of the rational individual in a market economy--of the Cartesian self as the ontological foundation of society--can no longer be seriously entertained. (Neither can neoliberalism's two other main shibboleths--that markets are magic and institutions don't matter.)

Figure 2: comparison of average numeracy proficiency
among young adults, 16-24 year-olds (adjusted)

x
OECD (2013), OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from
the Survey of Adult Skills
OECD Publishing, p. 83
The two maps (2012 Election Results) show the geographical distribution of the electoral base of the Party referred to by Bobby Jindal as "The Stupid Party" (Huffington Post 11/13/2012).  Jindal was Governor of Louisiana and incoming president of the Republican Governors Association when he made these comments, and thus might be said to speak with some authority.

Map 3, the 144 House members who opposed the deal to end the shutdown and raise the U.S. Treasury debt ceiling (H.R. 2775: No Subsidies Without Verification Act, vote taken on October 16, 2013), is from swampland.time.com.  Click on the link below the map to access the interactive feature.  If we had, in America, a healthy progressivism, teachers, students, and just plain ole citizens with any computer savvy at all, would be all over this and related data.  The Internet makes possible a revolution in mind, where transcendental empiricism moves from the arid forumulations of philosophers to the concrete empirico-theoretical activity of a more varied subset of the human population.  But alas!  What passes for progressivism these days can only be seen as pathetic last gasps of a once vital cultural historical force.

Figures 4 (percent who doubt Obama's citizenship) and 5 (public aceptance of evolution in 20 nations) are superficially self-explanatory.  What is wanting is a thinking that enfolds this data, and seeks out its inner logic.  The key concept here is from Hegel (concrete universal) and Deleuze (plane of immanence).  Both terms point to the same mode of activity, an instantiation of which is this site.
Figure 3: young adults, 16-24 year-olds minus all adults, 16-65 (p. 81)
nd




Fascism as a Plane of Immanence

One will never understand what is happening now in the United States unless one is prepared to consider the question of "fascism."  Of course, serious people, respectable people, shun this word, viewing it as an epithet, not a concept.  Yet Robert O. Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004) provides us with a characterization--a conceptualization--that points directly to the current right wing of the GOP:

The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism.  p. 84

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.  p. 218

Paxton gets more specific:

The United States itself has never been exempt from fascism.  Indeed, antidemocratic and xenophobic movements have flourished in America since the Native American party of 1845 and the Know-Nothing Party ofthe 1850s.  In the crisis-ridden 1930s, as in other democracies, derivative fascist movements were conspicuous in the United States.  The Protestant evangelist Gerald B. Winrod's openly pro-Hitler Defenders of the Christian Faith with their Black Legion; William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts (the initials "SS" were intentional) . . . .  Much more dangerious are movements that employ authentically Amerian themes in ways that resemble fascism functionally.  The Klan revived in the 1920s, took on virulent anti-Semitism, and spread to cities and the Middle West.  In the 1930s, Father Charles E. Coughlin gathered a radio audience estimated at forty million around an anticommunist, anti-Wall Street, pro-soft money, and---after 1938--anti-Semitic message broadcast from his church in the ouskirts of Detroit.  For a moment in early 1936 it looked as if his Union Party and its presidential candidate, North Dakota congressman William Lemke, might overwhelm Roosevelt. . . .  p. 201

2012 Election Results

Map 1.  2012 Congressional Elections: Results
cong2012


Map 2.  2012 Presidential Election, by county
electionmap

         Click here to see the New York Times interactive map
         Click here to see House Vote 659 - Passes Fiscal Cliff Deal (Jan 1, 2013)
         Click here for a set of reference maps and charts
Finally, Paxton brings us up to date.  Altough Anatomy of Fascism was published in 2004, it describes the anti-Obama Tea Party uproar of 2009 with uncanny prescience--the Youtube video below (click on link below screenshot) is a good example.  

from Anatomy of Fascism:

Today a "politics of ressentment" rooted in authentic American piety and nativism sometimes leads to violence against some of the very same "internal enemies" once targeted by the Nazis, such as homosexuals and defenders of abortion rights. . . .  The languge and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models.  They would have to be as familiar and reassuring to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans, as Orwell suggested. . . . No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses.  No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance [one minute and 45 seconds into the video above right].  These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.  p.  202 (Emphasis added)

Now look carefully (and several times) at the video of the Tea Party meeting below, then reread the Paxton excerpts.  The word fascism is not to be thrown around casually.  Neither is it to be avoided out of squeamishness, fear, or a simple mindless subservience to conventional taboos.

Map 3. the 231 House GOP votes on the deal to end the shutdown and raise the U.S. Treasury debt ceiling (H.R. 2775: No Subsidies Without Verification Act): red=no (144); blue=yes (87)
xx
click on Time interactive map for the source of this map.

The Factions in the House of Representatives from the New York Times is a great interactive map showing the entire House of Representatives

"I want my country back!"  
("The language and symbols of an authentic American fascism . . . ")
wantcountry
RINO [Republicans In Name Only] American Traitor Rep. Mike Castle
Tap-Dances Around Obama Birth Certificate (July 20, 2009)
                    
Figure 4.  percent who doubt Obama's citizenship
Figure 5.  Public Acceptance of Evolution.
 "Why doesn't America believe in evolution"
                         
brthevo  
             from the DailyKos, "Birthers are mostly
Republican and Southern," July  31, 2009

The Research 2000 findings were pulled
together from a survey of 2,400 adults.

Poll question: Do you believe that Barack
Obama was born in the United States of
America or not?

Choices: Yes   No   Not sure

No + Not Sure = variable graphed




VIDEO:
Santorum: Obama "A Snob" For Wanting Everyone To Go To College
Maps 1, 2 and 3 above right show the geographical distribution of the electoral base of the Party referred to by Bobby Jindal as the "stupid party." The video above is a concrete performative correlate of the maps.  Now deploy relevant texts (such as Paxton's) and concepts as the context for encountering the above video and its associated maps, etc., and we have abstract representations meeting concrete phenomena: the Internet becomes the techno-cognitive axis of a praxiological revolution in thought, where the idea of transcendental empiricism becomes practical activity.  And "fascism" emerges as a fundamental concept, as the inner logic of a plane of immanence (and as a page on this site: Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense).  

What follows below are a few moments in the recent politics of ressentiment, of projection and displacement, of rage and revenge, moments that are remarked upon in the media but yet go uncomprehended.  I have already pointed to the immediate context for Jindal's characterization of the GOP as the stupid party, the two comments by Tod "legitimate rape" Akin, and Richard, "rape is God's will" Mourdock.  As will be seen in the next several panels below, this sado-sexual discursive practice is the essence of the GOP's public presence.  For starters: transvaginal ultrasound.
br
Edward Hopper, Manhattan Bridge Loop, 1928




The GOP's Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill in Virginia, well-covered in the media, was of a piece with Akin's and Mourdock's performances.  This event, taken together with the Akin and Mourdoch rape comments, and others like it, are discussed in the media in terms of insensitivity and political stupidity. Unconceptualized is the primary character of the GOP Right: its sado-sexual discursive practice.  "Don't you realize that you are hurting people" is a liberal plaint when the right wing attacks women's rights (or cuts the food stamp program).  Don't you realize, would be my response to this liberal plaint, that to hurt people--to hurt the other--is precisely the point.  To hurt the other is the source of a perverse joy that the GOP base gets out of the theater of ressentiment that politics provides.  And even when it appears not to be, the sexual obsessiveness of the GOP is present as the inner logic that drive their performances, that generates their rhetoric.  (Dan T. Carter)

The right's sado-sexual obsession recurs, as Nietzsche said, eternally.  In late September 2013, for example, these two anti-Obamacare ads hit the airways:
Before that we had, in late February 2013, Rush Limbaugh's infamous rant against Sandra Flake, another of the right's sado-sexual performances:

Rush Limbaugh - "It Makes Her A Slut, A Prostitute"  Feb 29, 2012

What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps.

On today's show (3-2-12), Limbaugh turned up the heat and suggested that women who use insurance-covered birth control should post sex tapes online: "So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch," he said.

opwl
the owl of Minerva flies only at night.
this is that time,
but there's no owl in sight.
This law is part of the theater of ressentiment and thus one should not take seriously the right-wing rationale of religious freedom (e.g., what if a Baptist baker is asked to make a wedding cake for a gay marriage?).  It is an obvious political move expressive of the sado-sexual obcessiveness of the "base."
Indiana Law Denounced as Invitation to Discriminate Against Gays    New York Times, March 27, 2015

A striking illustration of the cognitive limitations of liberals is that they fail to note the obvious--that is, they fail to conceptualize the generic character of this stream of sado-sexual performances.  The excerpt at the right from a study of Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment makes this clear.  Jamieson and Cappella just don't get it: The vulgarity and sadism of Limbaugh's rhetoric is the main event in this theater of ressentiment, while the "issues" are merely the occasion for the expression of emotionally appealing sexual inuendo and sadism.  This is the stuff of Nietzsche's ressentiment.  

For example, in the theater of ressentiment that is the right, the really lousy rollout of Obamacare just doesn't matter.  Obamacare has already been transformed into a racially loaded epithet, and that is the only way in which the term is "understood" by right-wing audiences.  It is not that they disregard facts, or are even immune to them. They are  pre-operational in their cognitive modality, not concrete operational.  Facts are simply props in the theater of ressentiment.  Surely you must have noticed that by now.
from Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Estabisment (Oxford Univeristy Press, 2008), p.p. 188-89. (Emphasis added.)

Limbaugh's attempts at gender-based "humor" are of the locker room variety.  As the California gubernatorial recall was heating up, Limbaugh informed his folowers that Leutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante--"whose name loosely translates into Spanish for 'large breasts'--leads the Terminator by a few pionts" (August 18, 2003).  A photomontage on the Limbaugh website shows a photograph of Schwartzenegger's head and shoulders from his Pumping Iron days as a body builder.  A naked woman has been transposed onto his shoulders.  Over her breasts is a sign reading BUSTAMONTE.  When Madonna endorsed General Wesley Clark, Limbaugh reported that she had "opened herself" to him.  Why the vulgarity in this message does not alienate the churchgoing conservatives in his audiences a question for which we have no ready answer.

Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense was the first page I constructed that could be described as a plane of immanence, one of Deleuze's fundamental concepts.  But I did not at that time think of it as such.  Rather,  it was Hegel's concept of the concrete universal, which I first encountered in Findlay's Hegel: a Re-examination, that provided the sense of what could be done with the wealth of graphic images and political-cultural performances available over the Internet (Google image searches and Youtube videos).  The web page cited above contains materials from history and philosophy mixed in with the shit of everyday life.  What makes it a plane of immanence is that the psychoanalytic concept of the mechanisms of defense provides the generative grammar, so to speak, for the production of the specific expressions of ressentiment.  

Consider the gun control "debate," which is just another sado-sexual performance.  One has only to enter into the experiental horizon of the right-wing phantasy world, where the gun is a prop in the theater of revenge, a symbol of manhood (see Gibson, Warrior Dreams), and thus linked to the whole culture of violence, revenge, and righteous slaughter (Katz, Seductions of Crime).  While discussions of the 2nd Amendment can be interesting, they completely miss the cultural historical forces behind the right-wing love affair with redemptive violence (Paxton, Anatomy of Fascism). Remember the 2008 GOP primary debates where torture--that is, sadism--was a key issue.

Sometimes the phantasy of the marauding other breaks through its politically coded, euphemistic representations. Thus, Senator Lindsay Graham on why we need assault weapons:

“In 1992 you had the riots in Los Angeles,” Graham said. “I think it was the King event, but you could find yourself in this country in a lawless environment through a natural disaster or a riot. … And the story was about a place called Koreatown. There were marauding gangs going through the area, burning stores, looting and robbing … and raping.”  (see NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, Lindsey Graham play the ‘racial scare’ card in gun control debate,  the Grio, Joy-Ann Reid  February 14, 2013)

And sometimes the phantasy is actually enacted,  as in the hunting down of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and the uprising of white support for the perpetrator in his hour of need.  Not all whites, of course, but the severely and the really white.  (For this distinction see Intel Finalists.)

Of a piece with the above is birtherism.  In this context "racism" should be thought of as a system of cognates, together with the generative grammar of this system of cognates.  Lee Atwater had an intuitive grasp of this.  ➘

cc
The excerpt below is about Puritanism in sixteenth and seventeenth century England.  That it appears so well to describe today's right wing is indicative of the power of the Hegel-Deleuze mode of thinking subsumable under the terms concrete universal (Hegel) and plane of immanence (Deleuze).

from Puritanism as a Revolutionary IdeologyMichael Walzer, History and Theory, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1963), pp. 59-90

About the Puritan saints Walzer writes of " . . . their almost Manichean warfare against Satan and his worldly allies, their nervous lust for systematic repression and control." p. 63 

"They felt themselves to be living in an age of chaos and crime and sought to train conscience to be permanently on guard against sin.  The extent to which they would have carried the moral discipline can be seen in the following list of offenses which merited excommunication in one seventeenth-century congregation:

-for unfathfulness in his masters service
-for admitting cardplaying in his house . . .
-for sloth in business.
-for being overtaken in beer.
-for borrowing a pillion and not returning it.
-for jumping for wagers . . .
-for dancing and other vanities.

Had the saints been successful in establishing their Holy Commonwealth, the enforcement of this discipline would have consituted the Puritan terror." p. 64

"The persecution of witches, of course, was not a vital aspect of Puritan endeavor, but the active, fearful struggle against wickedness was.  And the saints imagined wickedness as a creative and omnipresent demonic force, that is, as a continual threat." p. 79

One begins to get a sense of the deep historicity of the Tea Party when one contemplates Walzer's description of the Puritan saints and Lee Atwater's astonishingly frank interview on republican strategy.  

Joseph E. Lowndes' From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (Princeton, 2009) refers to the "foundational violence of modern Republicanism." (p. 2)
from Wikipedia: (Lee Atwater's Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy)


As a member of the Reagan administration in 1981, Atwater gave an anonymous interview to political scientist Alexander P. Lamis. Part of the interview was printed in Lamis's book The Two-Party South, then reprinted in Southern Politics in the 1990s with Atwater's name revealed. . . . Atwater talked about the Republican Southern Strategy and Ronald Reagan's version of it:
 
Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."[8][9]


For the centrality of violence in the political theater that is the far right (and the cognitive primtivism of the performance) see Alex Jones vs Piers Morgan On Gun Control (CNN 1/7/2013)
.

the Proto-Dorian Convention--the answer to Thomas Frank's question:
What's the Matter with Kansas


The Proto-Dorian Convetion in Action


Consider, Mitt Romney's infamous reference to Michigan's trees (Mitt Romney On Michigan's Trees And Cars, 2/24/12).  Focusing on the innanity of these remarks is to miss the point.  Given the fundamental reality of the elite-mass relationship within the GOP rhetorical field, the speaker has open to him only two rhetorical postures.  The first, and primary one, is to articulate the rage and ressentiment of the base through code words (i.e., floating signifiers).  Even economic issue can be floating signifiers, such as cutting Medicare, as Lee Atwater has pointed out.  Secondarily, there is the posture of proto-Dorian smoozing, of which the trees episode is a good example.  One must take seriously the appeal to lower class whites who identify with the beleaguered rich, on the one hand, and, on the other hand,  are cognitively primitive.  The emotional appeal of the proto-Dorian convention is dealt with in Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense. The Crudeness and vulgarity that perplex Jamieson and Cappella are the aesthetic principles of the right's appeal.  

Here is some more proto-Dorian smoozing: Mitt Romney: "Son Of The South"

from Richard W. Wrangham (Department of Antroropology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University) and Michael L. Wilson (Department of Ecology and Behavior, University of Minnesota, and Gombe Stream Research Centre, the Jane Goodall Institute, Tanzania), "Collective Violence: Comparison Between Youths and Chimpanzees" (Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1036: 233–256 (2004))

cultural and biological approaches provide complementary rather than alternative perspectives in the analysis of human behavior. (p. 234)

Abstract: Patterns of collective violence found among humans include similarities to those seen among chimpanzees.  These include participation predominantly by males, an intense personal and group concern with status, variable subgroup composition, defense of group integrity, inter-group fights that include suprise attacks, and a tendency to avoid mass confrontation. . . .  Youth gangs . . . differ from chimpanzee communities as a result of numerous cultural and environmental influences including complex relations with non-gang society. . .  Nevertheless, the concepts that sociologists use to account for collective violence in youth gangs are somewhat similar to those applied by anthropologists and biologists to chimpanzees. . . .  We therefore view the similarities in aggression between humans and chimpanzees that we review here as being adaptive responses to local conditions, predicated on an inherent male concern for social status. (p. 233) 

(See primate genetic ontology in The Quantum Heterogeneity of Dasein: 5 Genetic Ontologies)
the Proto-Dorian Convention


from Bruce Clayton, "No Ordinary History: W. J. Cash's The Mind of the South", in  Charles W. Eagles, The Mind of the South: Fifty Years Later (University Press of Mississippi, 1992)

Cash offered a gripping argument that the elite had so drilled its superiority into the psyche of the common whites that they intricately and mysteriously connected themselves once and for all with their betters.  Here was Cash's "proto-Dorian convention."  Because of slavery, and the common white's psychological needs, color elevated the common white "to a position comparable to that, say, of the Doric kight of ancent Sparta," Cash wrote. The planters were admired and obeyed not because they were inherently good or capable, but because the lowly white saw in their masters--cotton patch Doric knights, in other words--examples of what they might become.  This belief was a fantasy that coddled the ego of the common man and was thus integral to maintaining the proto-Dorian bond.  When Helper,* Cash wrote, "and others began at last on the eve of the Civil War to point out the wrongs of the common white and to seek to arouse him to recogizing them, they could get no response."  Why?  Becuse "the common white, as a matter of course, gave eager credence and took pride in the legend of the aristocracy which is so valuable to the defense of the land.  He went further, in fact, and, by an easy psychological process which is in evidence wherever men group themselves about captains, pretty completely assimilated their own ego to the latter's--felt his planter's new splendor as being in some fashion his own."  (pp. 11-12)


from W. J. Cash, The Mind of the South (Alfred A. Knopf, 1941)

Yeoman and cracker turned to the planter, waited eagerly upon his signal as to what to think and do . . . because he was their obviously indicated captain in the great common cause.  "The stupid and sequacious masses, the white victims of slavery . . . believe whatever the slaveholders tell them; and thus are cajoled into the notion that they are the freest, happiest, and most intelligent people in the world," wrote the bitter [Hinton Rowan] Helper, gazing in baffled anger at the scene.  (69)


*Hinton Rowan Helper (December 27, 1829 – March 8, 1909) was a Southern US critic of slavery during the 1850s. In 1857, he published a book which he dedicated to the "nonslaveholding whites" of the South. The Impending Crisis of the South, written partly in North Carolina but published when the author was in the North, argued that slavery hurt the economic prospects of non-slaveholders, and was an impediment to the growth of the entire region of the South. Anger over his book due to the belief he was acting as an agent of the North attempting to split Southern Whites along class lines lead to Southern denunciations of 'Helperism'. (Wikipedia)
And what more rewarding form of political theater is there than the scarcely veiled sadistic attacks on the other--from attacks on school lunch programs (Reagan 1981) to attacks on Medicare today.  Bear in mind that among the rightwing masses such programs are identified with the other (however factually wrong this may be).  Think of these performances as lynchings, and you are very close to their inner logic.  The essential element?  The infliction of pain on the other.  And thus, in this context, think of the discourse on torture in the 2008 GOP primary debates.  

Inflicting pain on the other is the cultural eigenvector of right-wing politics, and thus sadism is the core value of the values voters.  (See three incidents: encounters in the raw--not yet available)

Consider Thomas Frank's concept of the Plen-T-Plaint.  This is not only consistent with the above.  It is a detailed mapping of the eigenvector of right-wing politics. 

The cognitive dimension of the politics of ressentiment has a natural affinity with the preoperational and gestural cognitive modalities (see Donald excerpt).  This will be dealt with in Developmental Divergence: Cognitive Development in History

Such discursive limitations lend themselves readily to deployment of the mechanisms of defense--one needs the pesonification of the other, the object/victim of redemptive violence, for right wing politial performtivities to work.  Liberals note, without saying so clearly, the pettiness of right wing charges--where's your lapel pin, why did you appologize for burning the Koran, etc.  Yet they fail to realize that centration (see developmental divergence) and the Plen-T-Plaint are central features of right wing rhetorical  performances, and one argues in vain, for example, that Obama was really born in the United States.  "Truth" is what feels good, and what feels good is whatever facilitates the psychological release that Ressentiment is about.  
from Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas: the Plen-T-Plaint

As culture war, backlash was born to lose.  Its goal is not to win cultural battles but to take offense, conspicuously, vocally, even flamboyantly.  Indignation is the great aesthetic principle of backlash culture; voicing the fury of the imposed-upon is to the backlash what the guitar solo is to heavy metal.  Indignation is the privilege emotion, the magic moment that brings a consciuosness of rightness and a determination to persist. . . .  Everything seems to piss conservatives off, and they react by documenting and cataloguing their disgust.  The result is what we call the plen-T-plaint, a curious amassing of petty, unrelated beefs with the world.  Its purpose is not really to evaluate the hated liberal culture that surrounds us; the plen-T-plaint is a horizontal rather than vertical mode of criticism, aiming instead to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on.  121-3


from Merlin Donald, "The mind considered from a historical perspective: human cognitive phylogenesis and the possibility of continuing cognitive evolution." In D. Johnson & C. Ermeling (Eds.) The Future of the Cognitive Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 360-61

"mimetic representations are evident in human children before they acquire language competence. . . .  They continue to be important in adults, taking the form of highly variable social customs, athletic skills, and group expressive patterns (such as mass demonstrations of aggression or rejection)."