Fear Factor

At the Daily Beast today, Mike Tomasky boils off a lot of the words being thrown around and gets to the dark heart of the default-drive conservative reaction to the Boston bombings, and, well, pretty much everything disturbing that ever hits the news:

Conservatism, I fear (so to speak), can never be cleansed of this need to instill fear. Whether it’s of black people or of street thugs or of immigrants or of terrorists or of jackbooted government agents, it’s how the conservative mind works. I don’t even think it’s always cynical and manipulative; conservatives often do see enemies under every bed. But that doesn’t mean they’re there, and it most definitely doesn’t mean the rest of us ought to make law and policy based on their nightmares.

Tomasky, of course, is reacting to the instantaneous efforts of a lot of conservative gabbers (and supposedly Great Big Adult policymakers like Lindsey Graham) to turn the Boston bombings into the occasion for a grand revival of the post-9/11 politics of fear. When you consider that in the course of the last few years conservatives have also brought back “welfare wedge” politics, hysteria over a “crime wave” that subsided two decades ago, cultural panic over the decline of the traditional family, and even the Red Scare, it’s a fair indictment. It would be less legitimate if we could hear a few more conservative dissents from the general refrain that Barack Obama and his secular-socialist supporters are plunging America hellward and disarming the country when it faces a death struggle against Muslims, North Koreans, dusky “looters” and “thugs” and lily-livered elitists complicit in the Suicide of the West.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.