speaking of the reactionary mind, i was listening this morning to thomas frank, who has a new book called pity the billionaire, trying to explain the fact that the country moved dramatically right during the economic downturn, culminating with republican victories in 2010. frank deploys the robin-type (see below) (and commonplace) conceit - conservatism is merely the defense of economic privilege. from there the argument runs mechanically: so an average-type person who is a conservative is voting and advocating against their own interests. so the position is irrational (that's what rationality means). so it can only be the result of the average person's ignorance, manipulated by the evil forces of power. frank is writing a book, in other words, to explain the (to him) otherwise unaccountable fact that people actually do disagree with the politics of himself and his circle, which are, it seems, self-evidently true.
now this is a pathetic style of argument for a number of reasons. it merely assumes that frank's positions are true; indeed, one might say that it is the opposite of an argument; it has less than no rational weight. what it means is: anyone who disagrees with me is, obviously, deranged, ignorant, or evil. not only does that beg the question, it constitutes an a priori destruction of the very possibility of having an argument: that is, you begin with the premise that no one can rationally disagree with me, thomas frank: you begin with a sheer set of slanders on your opponents' intelligence or attribute their disagreement with you to their personality disorders or the alleged fact that they've been brainwashed. obviiously, listening to people like that is ridiculous or useless or actually dangerous. you refuse to take the people whose opinions you are discussing seriously as human beings or as potential partners in dialogue.
and this style of argument bespeaks the insularity of the people that make it: evidently they are talking only to themselves. obviously, it cannot be intended to persuade, only to insult. that it represents a kind of elitism is an undertstatement: not only do i get to diagnose your poltical opinions as a mere disorder, i also purport to speak in your interest, on your behalf. try getting that into comportment with leftist egalitarianism, and you've really got an impressive mess. that you could speak this way to and about people, and then be puzzled that they find your attitude almost unbelievably arrogant, pompous, self-righteous, and dangerous to their interests as they themselves construe them, is rather astonishing.
frank says what he finds as laughable as anything is that tea partiers took to referring to academic and washington elites (well, and wall street bankers) as 'the ruling class.' to people like frank, it's self-evident that such people are not the ruling class, which is the capitalist ownership class, because the left still hasn't made it out of 1848. but really this 'ruling class' business is complicated, isn't it? and if you don't think that, say, poor people can be abused or disempowered or dispossessed by agents of the state, your universe is theoretical. there are overlapping ruling groups in the economy and in the state.
that is precisely why tea partiers and occupiers could find common ground, which is an impossibility for people like frank who, laboring under an ideology, regard the left=right split as fundamental, and hence tea party and occupy as opposites. but the left/right, state/capital spectrum never had much purchase on reality, and certainly does not now.