I wrote late last year about David Cameron’s big Freudian slip during PMQs when he said:
We are making more money for the rich..
A few people felt I was making too big a thing of it, insisting that, as he’d obviously meant to say ‘we are taking more money from the rich’, it was unfair to zoom in on a ‘slip of the tongue’.
But I think it is significant when politicians let slip something, Freudian or otherwise, that betray what’s really going on under the surface – giving the public a much truer glimpse of their real purposes and nature than their carefully-spun speeches and soundbites ever will.
Well, (on a discussion forum that I’d recommend you join) I came across a few interesting, and amusing, examples of right-wing slips and outright idiocy by some US right-wingers that I want to share with you – both because they tickled me and because, while they don’t translate exactly to this side of the Atlantic, they do provide a very useful insight into the mentality and tactics of the right-wingers in the UK to help the massive state-stripping exercise in which they’re currently engaged.
The first example comes from June last year, as the battle for the US presidency was ramping up. Opinion polls were indicating that the race might be quite close, though in the end it wasn’t, and the Republican party were busy trying to push through a ‘voter ID’ measure that they claimed was to prevent electoral fraud, but in reality had another, darker purpose.
Republican Mike Turzai was giving a speech to a Republican gathering in his home state of Pennsylvania on measures that had been pushed through to help the Republican cause. I’ll quote his statement in a moment, but I would recommend watching the video, so you hear it with your own ears:
Yes, you heard it right (if you clicked). Republicans had claimed that their voter ID plans were to prevent voter fraud. But voter fraud is a minuscule issue in the US – as the Brennan Center for Justice says, you have more chance of being struck by lighting in the US than you do of committing voter fraud. In most places, electoral fraud runs at something like 0.00002%.
The real reason, as many suspected, was to exclude large numbers of poor and ethnic minority citizens from being able to vote – and the Republicans, of course, denied this. But then, Mr Turzai let it slip:
Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done!
And the truth was out. Fortunately, even the massive fraud perpetrated by the Republicans in Pennsylvania wasn’t enough, and Barack Obama won there anyway. But the attempt and the intent were there.
The next couple of examples are less Freudian slips and more overt stupidity, but they bear reading and I hope you’ll enjoy them (in a horrified and perverse way) as much as I did. They both concern statements made by the Republican party in Texas, and the first requires a little more explanation than the second.
A little background for the first, then. During the battle for civil rights for African-Americans, many states attempted to terrorize and intimidate black people into not exercising their voting rights or into casting their vote for candidates who did not represent their best interests. As a result, in 1965 the federal government passed the ‘Voting Rights Act‘ in order to outlaw ‘discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S.‘ Specifically, the Act banned any ‘voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color‘.
Sounds pretty good, right? Hard to imagine anyone outside of the ‘lunatic fringe’ of neo-nazis having a problem with it, isn’t it? Well, sadly not. The Republican Party of Texas, around the same time as the Mr Turzai was letting the truth slip out and for connected reasons, published a document that included the following statement:
If you’re thinking ‘WTF?’, I can’t blame you. But clearly, the Republicans had thought ahead, and realised that a Voter ID law was going to be subject to legal challenge on the basis that it was a de facto discrimination ‘on account of race or color‘, and wanted the law repealed to prevent the legal challenge if they implemented such a law in Texas.
That one is bad, but at least the Republicans don’t say why they want to repeal the law, so they’re being a little subtle. The next one, also by the Texas Republicans, doesn’t even have the merit of any kind of subtlety:
Yes, seriously. The Republicans oppose the teaching of ‘higher order thinking skills’ and ‘critical reasoning skills’ because they might change behaviour and challenge carefully ingrained ‘fixed beliefs’ and obedience to authority.
You couldn’t make it up! I’d recommend watching the video from which I took these snapshots:
as the comments and reaction of the presenter are worth seeing.
It’s not just that they think in private that they want to keep people stupid and unthinking because that makes them more likely to vote Republican, but that they’re stupid and arrogant enough themselves to actually say it publicly, that says so much about the right-wing mentality.
UK right-wingers tend to be just a little more subtle – perhaps more of the UK public generally has a little more of those darned ‘critical thinking skills’ – but the underlying attitudes and goals are largely the same.
Mr Turzai and the Texas Republicans wanted to ‘pull a fast one’ in order to exclude voters and improve their chances of winning in spite of their recognisably odious policies and morals. Here in the UK, the Conservatives are fuming because the LibDems are (if only out of pique) to help vote through a set of boundary changes that would be so favourable to Tory electoral prospects that they amount to part of a coup attempt.
The Texas Republicans oppose thinking skills because their worldview and policies are so abhorrent that only the easily-deceived or morally-bankrupt can agree with them. Here in the UK, we have Michael Gove’s determination to impose a fragmented school system and a return to a national curriculum based on parrot-like learning of a narrow set of facts, including a history curriculum that is almost exclusively about dead, white, male establishment figures. Is there really any doubt that his motivations are the same – to deaden critical thinking and inculcate students with a respect for the authority of the Establishment and for its worldview?
The Tories we are currently forced to suffer under are a little more urbane than the US version. A £25k a term public-school education will do that for you, at least. But their aims and (lack of) moral depth are no less detestable.
I hope you did have a little fun with the videos and quotations. But the underlying message, and the lessons for anyone here in the UK who actually cares about the wellbeing of everyone and not just a privileged minority, are deadly serious, and we need to recognise the Tories for what they are and do everything we can to make sure that others aren’t fooled by their base tactics.