Tuesday, May 4, 2010

McCain's Need for Closure

Apparently John McCain doesn't think the Times Square bomber should be read his rights.
"Obviously that would be a serious mistake...at least until we find out as much information we have...Don't give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it's all about." 
He goes on to suggest the man should probably get the death penalty.

An obvious reason for McCain's bluster is that he's been trying to walk back his moderate image for years.  But he's also simply joining a chorus of conservatives for whom taking the most severly righ-leaning position is de rigeour.

Taking a long view, you could see this as a function of electoral politics. You could say that mid-nineties conservatism was a far-right reaction to moderate liberalism, but to elect Bush Republicans had to move back leftward, who was more moderate in many ways. With the election of Obama, the right is now able to say that Bush wasn’t far enough to the right. All of which would make fertile ground for party discipline/epistemic closure, where every conservative needs to demonstrate his batshit cred.

This dynamic exists on the left, but there has just never been the sort of fealty to a nut base as there is on the right today. The 9/11 Truthers or Haliburton paranoids were never a very big influence on the left. And there is no thought machine on the left like there is on the right. You could say that this is Journalism and Academia, which are overwhelmingly liberal. But that’s absurd – they aren’t institutions like talk radio or Fox news, or the various conservative outlets. There is no ideological power objective – just a bias toward a liberal analytical framework. And built-in mechanisms for objectivity – peer review and journalistic standards – at least attempt to transcend dogma.

The broader conservative movement has moved further and further from an ideological reaction to the actual left, and towards an emotional reaction to its own bastardized view of the left.  McCain doesn't want to avoid reading this guy his rights.  He wants to avoid appearing to sympathize with a notion of the left as soft on crime.  The McCain of the past, along with many other reasonable conservatives, might have found no incongruity between conservatism and an embrace of the rule of law.  But to admit as much in today's conservative climate would be evidence of "siding with the enemy".  There is a freight train bound for glory, and you are either with them, or against them.

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