The Summer of Hate provides a watershed moment for “reasonable Republicans”
I’m not a Republican, but I know many people who are. I have GOP friends, co-workers and family members, and for that matter I used to be a Republican myself. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, to be sure. But it’s true.
It’s no secret that I don’t agree with the GOP on much of anything these days, but there’s kind of an odd element to my conversations with Republican acquaintances lately: a lot of them profess significant disagreement with the platform and policies of their party, too.
Taken in a vacuum, this is hardly surprising. After all, America is the land of disagreement, and there aren’t any parties out there that are acting in significant accordance with my views. So individual Republicans at odds with their party and with others in the party? Makes perfect sense.
We don’t live in a vacuum, though. We live in a complex series of interrelated contexts, and in context the reservations of my Republican friends merit further scrutiny. For starters, those who aren’t on the bus with our current media-enabled popular revolution seem to be the majority.
For these folks I have a word of advice: you have some ugly problems, and they need confronting today.
Republicans vs. the Republican Party
We recently had a little round-and-round here over Sara Robinson’s article on “Fascism in America.” Sara argues, persuasively and with detailed evidence, that the Republican Party represents a looming fascist threat for the United States. She doesn’t use the term “fascist” as a casual pejorative; she uses the word in a specific way and she defines precisely what she means by it. A couple of our readers took exception, with our friend Lara Amber (a very smart, progressive mind, by the way) finding something personal in the analysis:
Most Republicans are nice people, they aren’t “racist, sexist, repressed, exclusionary, and permanently addicted to the politics of fear and rage.” (Nice way to shut down any discourse with anyone across the aisle by the way, way to go Sara! -sound of head hitting desk).
My response there, which I stand by, was that Robinson wasn’t talking about the individuals who comprise the party, but was instead describing its official apparatus. To be sure, the GOP has members who are guilty of everything Robinson says in that passage, and probably more, but I don’t read her as overgeneralizing to the extent that Lara believed. Still, Lara is like me – there are Republicans in her life, good people whom she respects and cares about. So the tendency to say “hey, wait a damned minute” is perhaps understandable.
But herein lies the proverbial rub: as Lara herself notes, the GOP is currently experiencing something of a leadership crisis. Right now its visible leaders are (to Party chair Michael Steele’s dismay) primarily media nutbags and hatespewers like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. It’s also being “led” by a variety of well-funded astroturfers and “activist” organizations – these are the invisible hands manipulating the strings of the teabagger revolution, the birther conspiracy and the faux-ragers who have invaded the townhall health care “debates” – and fueled by the Fair & Balanced® press. You have occasional appearances by political luminaries like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman (who’s now saying she’ll run for president if Jesus asks her to – where’s Sam Kinison when you need him?) and plenty of yammering by Congressweasels in the pockets of the insurance industry who are desperately trying to distract us from opinion polls showing that a vast majority of citizens want real health care reform built around a public option. And so on, and so on.
If you were asked to rebut Robinson’s characterization of the GOP – “racist, sexist, repressed, exclusionary, and permanently addicted to the politics of fear and rage” – there’s not a lot of evidence out there in the public eye this summer that would serve you very well. So let’s take all this and see if we can summarize in a way that we can more or less agree on. How about this:
The Republican Party leadership is currently dominated by reactionary and corporatist voices that are not in line with the beliefs and values of a significant percentage of the party’s members.
(Yes, I’m more than aware that the Dem leadership is corporatist and out of step with what a good number of its members believe, too. We’ll deal with that another day.)
The second problem facing my GOP friends is even more troubling. In short, your party, your voice and your official political agenda are being hijacked by the most ignorant, unsavory, hateful and toxic elements in American society. Some examples:
- A woman yells “Heil Hitler” to an Israeli describing the benefits of his nation’s health care system.
- Gun-packing thugs “exercising their rights” near Obama rallies. (Thanks to Brandon for this link.) Here’s some more armed intimidation.
- By the way, that last dog-and-armored-pony show was orchestrated by a radio host with militia ties. This particular patriotic’ approach to defending the Constitution apparently involved plotting to blow up federal buildings. You know, like that other patriot, Timothy McVeigh.
- Former GOP Congressman Virgil Goode is making the rounds speaking to hate groups.
- Let’s not forget the murder – in church, no less – of Dr. George Tiller.
- And let’s not forget that other right-wing media consumer (Hannity, Savage, BillO) who walked into a “liberal” church and opened fire.
- By the way, these folks have the Constitutional right to carry guns and intimidate you, but you don’t have the right to put a bumper sticker expressing your beliefs on your car.
- Gordon Liddy is still roaming free, by the way.
- More examples of the cradle-to-grave crazy here…
- God wants gays, Barney Frank and Barack Obama executed.
- Just remember, violence is inevitable, and it’s Obama’s fault.
I could go on. But do I need to?
If you’re a reasonable Republican, all this has to trouble you (and I’ve heard enough Republicans say that it does to know that I’m not imagining things). The issue isn’t that all GOPpers are like the fruitcakes running loose here in the Summer of Hate. In truth, this silliness is the work of a minority that isn’t big enough to do much damage at the ballot box. So since they can’t win using the techniques prescribed by law – you know, campaigning, voting, that sort of thing – and since their opinions are shared by so few (again, national polls on health care say over 70% of Americans favor a public option, for instance), they’re trying to get their way by being the loudest. By resorting to rhetorical misdirection and deceit when reason and fact are so thoroughly stacked against them. By pitching the most obnoxious tantrums. By resorting to base terror, intimidation and thuggery. By playing on the media’s insatiable thirst for noise.
The worst part, from the perspective of the rational Republican, is that a lot of these barking loons probably aren’t even members of the party (although the money behind their organized, choreographed hissy fits certainly is). Of course, at least one GOP lawmaker seems more than willing to welcome the lot of them aboard, and the average citizen may not expend the energy necessary to differentiate all the players aligned against Obama.
If you don’t control your image, your image will control you. – Dennis Green
If you are, in fact, an educated Republican who prefers to deliberate your way to conclusions thoughtfully, these are dangerous times. Because thanks to the way the system is rigged – and let’s understand who rigged it this way and why – most of what you hear through Big Journalism channels is inaccurate, at best, and most of what you hear through alternative channels is noise, at best. And those who do have something intelligent to say? Well, there aren’t many cameras pointed in their direction. Reason and fact aren’t as exciting as townhall cage matches.
I spent a lot of years (beginning in the early 1980s) saying, to any coherent Christian who’d listen, that they’d better get serious about taking back their religion from the jihadists on the right. Now I’m saying it to every Republican who was offended by what Sara Robinson wrote and who is watching the Summer of Hate unfold with a little unease.
You need to find a leader and take back your party – either that or walk away from it in ways that make your disapproval unmistakeably clear. You may think these people don’t speak for you, but they are speaking in your name, whether you like it or not. And at the moment, nobody is doing anything to correct the notion that everybody to the right of Barack Obama is a rabid hyena.