Great speech by Al Gore on the politics of fear… wouldn’t it be great to have an educated president again?

Fear drives out reason.

It suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction.

It also requires us to pay more attention to the new discoveries about the way fear affects our brains…

The root word for democracy – “demos” – meant the masses of common people, who were an object of fear in the minds of many of our country’s founders.

What they wanted was an orderly society in which property would be safe from arbitrary confiscation (remember the Revolutionary War was in significant measure about taxation).

What they believed was that a too pure democracy would expose that society to the ungoverned passions of what today we call “the street:” of people with little to lose, whose angers could be all too easily aroused by demagogues (note the root, again) and turned against those with wealth.

So the Constitution of which we are so proud is really an effort – based at least as much on fear as on hope — to compromise and balance out the conflicting agendas of two kinds of Americans:

those who already have achieved material success, and those who aspire to it: those who are happy with the status quo, and those who can only accept the status quo if it is the jumping off place to something better for themselves.

That tension can never be fully resolved, and it is perfectly clear at the present moment in the profoundly differing agendas of our two major parties.

Neither has the fear that underlies these differences gone away, however well it may be camouflaged.

Somewhere along the line, the Republican Party became merely the name plate for the radical right in this country.

The radical right is, in fact,

a coalition of those who fear other Americans:

as agents of treason;

as agents of confiscatory government;

as agents of immorality.

This fear gives the modern Republican Party its well-noted cohesiveness and its equally well-noted practice of jugular politics.

Even in power, the modern Republican Party feels itself to be surrounded by hostility: beginning with government itself, which they present as an enemy; extending to those in the opposition party; and ultimately, on to that portion of the country whose views and hopes are represented by it – that is to say, to virtually, half the nation.

Under these circumstances, it is natural – perhaps tragic in the classical sense – but nonetheless natural – for the modern Republican Party to be especially proficient in the use of fear as a technique for obtaining and holding power….

In many ways, George W. Bush reminds me more of Nixon than any other previous president.

Like Bush, Nixon subordinated virtually every principal to his hunger for reelection.

He instituted wage and price controls with as little regard for his “conservative” principals as Bush has shown in piling up trillions of dollars of debt.

After the oil embargo of 1973, Nixon threatened a military invasion of the oil fields of the Middle East. Now Bush has actually done it.

Both kept their true intentions secret.

Like Bush, Nixon understood the political uses and misuses of fear.

After he was driven from office in disgrace, one of Nixon’s confidants quoted Nixon as having told him this:

“People react to fear, not love.

They don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true.”

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