There is a small but significant segment of the population who belives that this...
is the landscape that the typical American lives in, and that this...
is what the typical modern American looks like.
I've mentioned before Bob Altemeyer's observation in his "The Authoritarians" how right-wing-authoritarians are obsessed with believing that there is a universal standard for normality and that they are it. While there is certainly arrogance, self-rightousness, and feelings of entitlement on the left, I think it is the far Right's tendency to believe that it is not just normal but normalcy (along with being far more likely to see cocksureness as morally good) that leaves conservatism decidedly more prone to hubris than liberalism. Remember the crows of 'liberalism is dead' earlier this decade when the GOP was sweeping the country with 51-49 victories. Remember when Karl Rove had 'The Math' just before the 2006 backlash. The rise of the Reagan coalition led to thirty years of rightist bragging about their coming 'permanent majority' but the fact of the matter is that they already had a semi-permenent majority who's time has now passed. The defection of southern Democrats by all rights should have been fatal to the party. Instead it was always at worst a significant minority. While it's true that the GOP, enjoyed a general run of success in getting its candidates into the White House, a predictible pattern of overreach, from Watergate to Social Security 'reform' to Gingrich being Gingrich always kept them from the long unbroken hold on power they always just knew was right around the corner.
But while it was the hubris of Republican leaders who brought the party down, it is the fantastically delusional and sad arrogance of 'The Base' at the pattern that seems to be keeping the party down. American Rednecks; who bolted the Democrats en masse when the donkeys broke their agreement to keep the niggers down, can now claim to have been the ruin of both major American parties. GOP victories in the early part of this decade had the camo ballcap crowd riding pretty high, and after Bush's reelection in 2004 there was real hope of never having to see some uppity dyke in a nosering or hearing some pinhead on the teevee say that they should buy one of those faggy little cars ever again. The clucking editorial tone of the "North Platte Telegraph" tells you everything you needed to know about red America's attitude in those days. Everyone knew that the sane, reasonible, salt-of-the-earth people voted Republican, and the fact that the GOP won was proof that it was the home of the sane, reasonible, and salt-of-the-earth. The urban elitists would stew in their coffee shops and deservedly suffer through structural rot while the real Americans enjoyed their tax cuts and cheered as their invincible masculine force expressed itself through military conquest.
But these military conquests went increasingly sour; and Huuricane Katrina revealed the fact that manly assurance in emergencies is not the same thing as knowing what to do in them, and so suburban moderates inevitebly became fed-up with incompetant right-wing government, and Rural White America was suddenly left without the dispropoertinate social influence it feels divinely entitled to. Understand though that the "Real America" crowd will absolutely never stop feeling entitled to rule everyone else. It's entire self-image and sense of self-worth is premised upon being the eternal universal norm. The hunter who feels that hunting is the only way his sons can learn the indispensible truth of man's mastery over nature can never understand a world in which perfectly conservative businessmen eat arugula because, they just don't like grilled meat that much. The retiree who is sincerely bothered by having to press 1 for English cannot conceieve of an America where walking one's dog past storefronts in four languages is banal. The very free market that right-wingers revere as a divine arbiter of moral justice has produced a nation that is decidedly urban and multithnic. It is a world where the White rural conservative is not the embodiment of sanity and salt-of-the-earthiness but rather an emberassment to everyone else. This cannot possibly be. Multiculturalism is not the natural byproduct of economic and technological development but rather a dark conspiracy among scholarly elites. The urban centers that so many Great Fathers lose their children to are not the proud centers of civilization that most people have considered their cities to be but rather unspeakibly evil hell holes full of violence and vice. A sense of superiority is the universal human addiction, and for the man who believes himself superior, equality is as unthinkible as slavery. If a person's sense of entitlement is threatened than the already-powerful human capacity for delusion will go into overdrive in order to protect it. The American good-old-boy would rather believe the most insane nonsesnse rather than accept that he is the weirdo in modern society, and so he does.
That's why right-wing rhetoric since 2006 and especially 2008 is based so heavily on agrievement, (The liberal media, the supposed enviromental hypocrisy of Al Gore and Hollywood celebrities, the War on Christmas) and usurption (President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim. The way that certain 'ACORN' employees lookes the other way at a 'pimp's' shenanagins is proof that they tampered with the election, well somehow damnit. President Obama is a Communist Nazi. Illegal immigrants plan to establish Aztlan. Black dance troupes are planning their savage vengence against us all.)
What makes the delusion worse is the bullies need to believe that he is operating from a position of strength. At the top you have the Bill Kristol's and Karl Roves of the world, who, despite being exposed as and played for fools countless times in the past three years, still imagine themselves to political genuises with the ability to frame national debate in their favor. At the bottom of course are the rural whites who imagine themselves to be the country's eternal essense. And in between the two are the Limbaughs and the Hannities and the Becks linking the mud flap and country club classes together in one big naked esctatic whirl of fantasy.
Right-wing media knuckleheads may have the power to turn their fans out for tea-party rage orgies but, as the Times' David Brooks has pointed out, their actual political power is and has been grossly overrated. Limbaugh and company failed to prevent the nomination of the "moderate" John McCain, failed to turn the close primary fight between Clinton and Obama into a crippling blow for the winner, failed to make Peoria moderates see Sarah Palin as anything but the lunatic she is and finally of course failed to preven the election of The Other.
But of course the epilepsy cases of AM radio are more popular with their fans than ever before. The ditto-chamber provides a cacoon from a social reality that cannot possibly be. Here in the reality of hippy-socialise freaks, reaching out to moderates would seem to be the obvious way for the GOP to recover from recent losses, just as reaching out to moderates is the obvious strategy for any minority party anywhere. In Limbaughland it is exactly the appeal the moderates that has purged the real majority from power. Here there are millions of phantom patriots who stayed home on election day out of disgust towards McCains insufficient hatred of brown people. In Limbaughland the tea-party tantrums are a better measure of ideological strength than elections. In Limbaughland the thirteen million citizens of Limbaughland are an invincible arm ready to overwhelm a nation of 300 million. In Limbaughland it matters not that the thirteen million number has remained static for twenty years as the country has grown significantly larger in all areas except the hinterlands where Limbaughlanders hail from.
And the Rove's and the Kristol's who can't and the GOP members of Congress, who can't imagine themselves as anything but shapers of opinion, as anything but manipulative masters of imperial fate, hear this mouse in the megaphone and feel assured that they are still Lords.
And so the Republican party will continue to overplay its hand as it did when in power. Any public disontent towards the president will be interpreted as a massive popular rejection of him. Any temporary advantage gained by Democratic timidity will be pissed away by grandiose bluster that reminds the general public of what assholes these people still are. Hubris cannot possibly be unlearned by the mind that considers hubris a virtue, and conservative confidence that we will always be living in 1994 will likely asure that 1994 will not happen again.