I have done numerous posts over the years about the “mythical moderate Republican” — the endangered species who lives only in the fervid imagination of media villagers who really truly want to believe that a moderate Republican still exists today, like back in the days of their father’s GOP. Holding onto such fantasies from their childhood does them and their readership no favors. In fact, it is dangerously misleading.
The modern-day Tea-Publican Party is ideological, radical, and extreme. Just look to the Birchers, Neo-Confederate secessionists, and theocratic Dominionists who predominate in the Arizona legislature. It was not all that long ago that these people were considered the far-right fringe of the GOP, and unelectable. Now they are the “mainstream” of the GOP. That should terrify everyone.
Charles Pierce of Esquire debunks the myth of the moderate Republican in Everything In Moderation: The Vanished (And Largely Mythical) Republican Middle:
Already, we have the greatest video of the 2016 presidential election cycle. Rick Santorum — And have I mentioned recently what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is? — was down in the home office of American Sedition for one of those mock “summits” designed to lift the wallets of terrified caucasian separatists. A lady got up in the audience, opened her mouth to speak, and huge bats flew out.
Why is the Congress rolling over and letting this Communist dictator destroy my country? Y’all know what he is and I know what he is. I want him out of the White House; he’s not a citizen; he could have been removed a long time ago…Ted [Cruz?] told me I’ve got to wait for the next election. I don’t think the country will be around for the next election. Obama tried to blow up a nuke in Charleston a few months ago! And the three admirals, and generals. He has totally destroyed our military. He’s fired all the generals and all the admirals that said they wouldn’t fire on the American people.
And what does Rick Santorum, a leader of his party, have to say to this crazy person? Does he suggest she seek help? Does he summon the police, an ambulance, a fire hose spraying liquid Thorazine? No, he says this.
“I’m not a sitting member of the Senate, so I’m not taking blame for any of that stuff.”
A real profile in courage, this guy.
This is the party that
modern movement conservatism has built, brick by brick, one indulged lunatic at a time, over the past 60 years. I leave the details to Rick Perlstein, but there is no question that this was a conscious choice made over time by one of the only two political parties that we have allowed ourselves. It began with the decision to side with the remnants of American apartheid. It continued with the decision to ally itself with the most virulently retrograde elements of American Protestantism. It was energized by the tragic historical truth that this stuff is an effective means of gaining political power. The thinking became more and more magical. The rhetoric became more and more unhinged. The willingness of the Republican party to tolerate an almost limitless amount of sheer public lunacy has led us to this moment, where the only answer Santorum dares give to a woman who believes the president intended to nuke an American city was to say that he wasn’t in Washington at the time.
There is no Republican middle any more. Pundits go searching for it and never return. Their bleached bones are found two years later in a ditch surrounding an Iowa cornfield, or their entrails are discovered hanging from a pine tree in northern New Hampshire as a warning to anyone else who dares undertake the quest. Just over the past few days, we have seen two alleged Republican “moderates” take positions that, a decade ago, would have marked them as fringe nuisances.
There is Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois, who finds himself entangled in the brilliant Republican gambit of using a bill designed to halt human trafficking as a Trojan horse for some truly oppressive anti-choice legislation. Called on this obvious chicanery, on which he himself has called bullshit, this is what allegedly moderate Republican Senator Mark Kirk said:
“[Senate Democrats] are making the same mistake that Democrats made in the 1850s when they defended slavery,” he said. “We should all be neo-abolitionists here, to make sure that there is no right in America to enslave others using the Internet.”
The distance between Kirk’s historical analogy and what that lady in South Carolina believes the president is conspiring to do is not vast at all.
Then, there’s Jeb (!) Bush, the choice of what is alleged to be the Republican “establishment,” winner of the “money primary,” calling for the outright abolition of the federally mandated minimum wage.
“We need to leave it to the private sector. I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this. This is one of those poll-driven deals. It polls well, I’m sure – I haven’t looked at the polling, but I’m sure on the surface without any conversation, without any digging into it people say, ‘Yea, everybody’s wages should be up.’ And in the case of Wal-Mart they have raised wages because of supply and demand and that’s good. But the federal government doing this will make it harder and harder for the first rung of the ladder to be reached, particularly for young people, particularly for people that have less education.”
Spoken like a man identified on his birth certificate with an account number instead of a name.
As it happens, I’m reading The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark’s terrific book about the run-up to World War I. We marvel today at the utter blind stupidity with which the European powers stumbled into a cataclysm. Centuries from now, historians, probably working on houseboats floating above what used to be Delaware, are going to look back at this period in our history and wonder how we tolerated a political party gone so completely mad, much less how we continued to empower it, election after election. They are going to marvel at how all the institutions designed to check the spread of the madness refused to look at it and call it what it is. These people are going to think American democracy was some sort of weird contagion that overcame the country, like ergot infecting the nation’s wheatfields. They’re going to believe we all just went crazy and ate ourselves.
Wake up, America, before your democracy is only a memory.