Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sotomayor And The Five D's

As we head into the second day of the Sotomayor hearings (and one where the real questioning will begin) keep in the back of your head another valuable observation from Digby:
Steve Benen capably deconstructs Ron Fournier's offensive little exercise in mind reading the Sotomayor hearings and he mentions one line that I found particularly revealing of Fournier's (and probably Jeff Sessions')mindset:
[F]or example, the audience heard Sotomayor thank her family this morning, and tell the Judiciary Committee, "If I introduced every one that's family, we'd be here all morning." Sounds like a person who appreciates her large family? Not to Fournier, who re-interprets the comment for the rest of us: "I may not look like all of you but, trust me, I'm no different than every other family-loving American. I'm surrounded by people who love me."
Does Sotomayor really look different from all of "us?" She's a middle aged woman with brown eyes and dark hair, which describes a rather large portion of the population. She looks as American as anybody in that room. Of course, any member of the human species could be equally described that way. "American" isn't an ethnic or racial identity --- unless you are a privileged white person who thinks that anyone who doesn't look like you is an interloper (not to mention an untrustworthy, anti-family freak.)
Us Versus Them is a game the Republicans have been playing for a long, long time, since the dawn of civil rights and class warfare, but one thing hasn't changed: "Them" are always the bad guys, trying to destroy "our" way of life, "our" country, "our" values. It's the Five D's: Declare, Divide, Demonize, Dehumanize, Destroy.
  • Declare the criteria you don't like about Group X that makes them different.
  • Divide the people into Us Versus Them.
  • Demonize the other group as the Enemy.
  • Dehumanize them by classifying their actions as something horrific.
  • Destroy them with the people cheering you on.
It's been the heart of the GOP for a very long time. The tactic is wildly effective, especially when you can accuse the other side of engaging in the exact same behavior as part of Demonize and Dehumanize (and it makes it difficult when fighting back not to fall into the trap of engaging in that behavior yourself, especially in a format like a blog where you have the podium all the time.)

And yet, given the constant assaults on groups that disagree with them, you have to start assigning these behaviors to some people in the GOP anyway, if only to recognize what is going on so that you can deal with it. Part of the problem is that fighting back inevitably leads to the "staring at the abyss" moment where the abyss stares back, and you risk becoming what you have fought against. It's by no means limited to the GOP. I've seen people go over that edge, and it's not pretty. I've gotten close myself.

Still, it's something to think about, if only to recognize when the GOP is doing it. Watch for it in today's hearings, how Republicans will eagerly use the 5 D's against her.

[UPDATE 9:41 PM] The hearings have resumed. Walter Pincus is covering it live at TPM.

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