Daily Kos had an article earlier this month titled “Fear is the mindkiller: Focus group peers into the Republican brain.” In it they quote from research by Democracy Corps:
Understand that the base thinks they are losing politically and losing control of the country – and their starting reaction is “worried,” “discouraged,” “scared,” and “concerned” about the direction of the country – and a little powerless to change course. They think Obama has imposed his agenda, while Republicans in DC let him get away with it.
This echoes something I discussed in depth almost two years ago. In my post “Keep the Change” I noted:
William O. Beeman, a professor of Anthropology at Brown University and author of “Fighting the Good Fight: Fundamentalism and Religious Revival,” also notes this varying response to change and talks about the responses of those who resist change:
In essence, all such movements are a natural consequence of human processes of cultural change. In every society on earth change proceeds at an uneven pace. Some society members embrace change with relish. Others find it oppressive and troubling. When people feel that change is being imposed on them, some will find it necessary to resist–sometimes violently. The dynamics of revitalization thus are tied to inter-group dynamics. When a group in society perceives itself as having its power and authority usurped in the course of social change, the group comes to blame both internal and external causes for its fall from power.
As far as internal issues are concerned, Beeman notes that decline is often associated with individual failings. “They accuse members of society of becoming weak and irresolute to the point where they let others oppress them.” Regarding external issues, Beeman says “…the group objectifies an Other, and identifies it as an oppressor. Usually the movement advocates resistance — sometimes violent — to that oppressor.”
As with the movements Beeman discusses, the Republican base is choosing some extreme responses to the change we’ve been experiencing – like our recent government shutdown and flirtation with government default. They’re also “objectifying an Other” in their extreme negativity towards President Obama. These behaviors, and the fact that some people actually consider them reasonable, can be disturbing to those not viewing the world through that lens of fear.
It might be helpful to gain an understanding of the big picture here. I think “Keep the Change” has something to offer in that regard.