Charles Pierce on the ‘mythical moderate Republican’

tea-party-crazyI 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, yes, there is a tale told on the [Alex Jones’] InfoWars right that the president’s plot to destroy Charleston with a “false flag” nuclear detonation was foiled a while back.)

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.

22 responses to “Charles Pierce on the ‘mythical moderate Republican’

  1. 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.

    Thought it needed to be reiterated. And, “Well done.”

  2. Steve, your illogic never fails to amuse me. You’re not following the logic here, especially that so well expressed by Donna. If what you say is true, Steve, logically we would have sane people in government proposing and passing sane legislation in education, medicine, civil rights, etc. But we do not. Ergo, the majority is not sane since isn’t democracy by definition a rule by majority. If our laws reflect the will of the right wing then by deduction the right wing is bat shit insane. I’ve tried logic, coercion, cajoling, pleading, et al, with the right wing, most of whom I see daily. Nothing works with the insane right, especially since Faux News wipes out anything logical. My shrink mum used to say that only a frontal lobotomy can cure religious nonsense and any belief in deep illogical ideologies.

    • Politics and logic?!? When did logic ever apply to politics? Politics is the constantly warring dynamic of differing points of view on how best to run a society or civilization. It is 99% raw emotion because people feel their politics in their gut and they take it seriously. Any attempt to overlay that conflict with some pretense of “logic” is a fool’s errand.

      That is why I have been arguing about the “Myth of the Moderate Republican”. They do exist, but (as you as so fond of saying so often) cognitive dissonance keeps the posters here from recognizing them. It is all part of the “demonization” process. They believe the GOP is not just wrong, it is evil. They are comfortable with that template and they filter everything through it. And that is why they have to depend on Obama to do everything by executive fiat…they can’t they sell their bill of wares to the majority of the American people who know better. It never occurs to them to consider the possibility that there may be something of substance in what the GOP offers.

      I occasionally quote from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. He wrote it several centuries ago, but his advice on how to defeat an opponent is as relevant today as it ever was. He constantly emphasizes ways to know your enemy because if you don’t, you can’t defeat him. He warns against creating an image of your enemy because you can’t defeat a ghost.

      The Democrats on this blog are trying to defeat a ghost, and they have no interest in knowing the opposition.

      • Politics for the majority of people left and right is not pure emotion. It is something they pay attention to briefly when they vote and not daily. That is how we have our current lawmakers, both in this state and in the country. Lack of interest, lack of understanding about how things work. And here in AZ, which many midwesterners now call home, the R after the name is all they look for. Dems reap blame too for not voting.
        How else could AZ have so many RW extremists in the lege?

        • That is not true. People may not think about politics all that much, but when they do, it becomes emotional. That is why politics and religion are usually banned topics at family get-togethers. If those subjects come up, the conversations will invariably become heated. Challenge someone’s politics or religion and see what happens to emotions. Read the posts on this website. All of that passion and those exclamation marks don’t arise from a calm, dispassionate and reasoned approach to politics. Political discussions are always filled with passion and fervor because people feel their beliefs, and not just think about them. People may try and put on a front to show they are calm, logical and reasoned, but it doesn’t take long to pierce that veil and see the intensity with which they believe what they believe.

          No, Patricia, you are very wrong about this.

  3. Gone the way of the dinosaurs. Moderate Republicans are now kicked out of their own party for being too liberal ( read: sane) Ask David Frum. Bob Dole.

    http://thinkprogress.org/election/2014/04/07/3420087/house-moderates-pac/

    And this: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/3079:goodbye-to-all-that-reflections-of-a-gop-operative-who-left-the-cult

    A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

    A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn (“Government is the problem,” declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).

    This is what you support, Steve? Really?

    • No, I am not an extremist, I am a moderate Republican. A creature that none of you seem to think exists. I am in favor of gay marriage and gay adoptions. I supported the concept of “Obamacare” as proposed originally because I thought it wrong that some who needed health insurance couldn’t get it. I supported Obama’s plans to extricate our troops from the Middle East. But I still hold conservative principles.

      You speak of the distrust of government going back to the early 1960s. Do you remember who the original “don’t trust the government” voices were back then? They were the counter-culture movement…the hippie liberals who attacked the establishment Republicans for all the ills of the world. As history has shown, a large number of these malcontents entered government service in order to change things. By the Reagan era in the 1980s they were having a profound effect executing their agendas and we conservatives had taken notice of just how much damage we thought they were doing to our Nation, our culture, our economy, and virtually every facet of our lives. That was the birth of the modern conservative movement.

      I only mention that because you were upset that Republicans don’t like Government. I wanted to point out that Democrats, too, had their period of not liking government. The difference is that Democrats rightly determined that big government is the best way to push their agenda, even on an unwilling audience. Republicans rightly determined that, as George Washington once observed, government is like fire, very useful and necessary, but also very dangerous and potentially destructive.

      Which brings me to the last question you asked: Do I want the same thing as the extremists in my Party. No, I don’t want all the things they do. But I do approve of many of the things they do. You see, I feel I have to protect my Country and it’s people from extremist Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed. And, yes, they are extremists. There is nothing the left has come up that they didn’t support. Let me ask you: Is there anything in the Democrat Party Line that you don’t support? Does that make you an extremist?

  4. American Vendetta

    On the bright side, Glen Beck just left the Republican party! Oh wait, it was because it wasn’t extreme enough.

  5. I found myself chuckling as I read this latest posting from you. It is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black. A large amount of immoderate language used to decry the lack of moderation in the GOP. Do you ever read what you write? About 99% of what you write can only be described as extremist invective. Given that you have to work across both sides of the aisle to push legislative items, I understand that you need to hide your identity and show a moderate face to the world while hiding the devil of extremism inside. What I don’t understand is why anyone would subject themselves to such Jekyl and Hyde pressure for so long. It has to wear on you.

    The truth is there are moderate Republicans. It is far to easier to demonize your opposition than to invest the time and energy to truly know them, but you do yourself a disservice in following that line of reasoning. In the “Art of War”, Sun Tzu wrote “You must know your enemy as you know yourself.” I would postulate you are rather clueless about Republicans in general because you force them into a mold you have created. Whatever you read, see or hear is filtered through preconceptions to fit the mold. You can see nothing positive in them because you are incapable of seeing anything positive in them.

    • Donna Gratehouse

      “The truth is there are moderate Republicans. It is far to easier to demonize your opposition than to invest the time and energy to truly know them, but you do yourself a disservice in following that line of reasoning. In the “Art of War”, Sun Tzu wrote “You must know your enemy as you know yourself.” I would postulate you are rather clueless about Republicans in general because you force them into a mold you have created. Whatever you read, see or hear is filtered through preconceptions to fit the mold. You can see nothing positive in them because you are incapable of seeing anything positive in them.”

      What an absurd statement. I live in Arizona. I know plenty of nice Republicans, including many who think of themselves as “moderate”. They are good neighbors, friends, and members of their families. They give to charity and whatnot. They also happen to do this one thing that is objectionable: Voting for politicians who deny climate change and evolution, who gut education and social safety net programs, who invade the wrong country to advance a misguided neoliberal hegemonic crusade, who attack women’s reproductive rights and LGBT people’s rights, who attack the basic civil rights and right to live of black and brown people, etc. They blanch at being conflated with all of that yet they vote for all of it.

      I do know them very well. They are my fellow middle class white people. They do this one thing that I find to be messed up. They can handle my telling them that. They are grown people who are intelligent and fully capable of making up their own minds. Those who think I should coddle them are the ones being disrespectful.

      • It is obviously not an absurd statement because your entire followup comment reaffirms what I said. You do NOT see Republicans as individuals who hold different viewpoints on different subjects. You see them only as a monolithic block of evil guilty of all the “crimes” you listed. In your view, there is no differentiating Republicans from one another…they are ALL alike in their goals and ambitions.

        As I said, you don’t really understand who the opposition is. It is one of the reasons why Democrats often struggle in understanding Republicans. You presume to already know and are surprised when what you anticipate happening doesn’t.

        Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that there are Republicans who match that image you portray, and they embarrass me. But they are not THE Republicans, nor are they even a majority of Republicans.

        • They certainly are the majority in the Congress and our legislature. Both budgets reek of RW. We’ve been in the RW corner for so long, most Americans don’t even see it. Like the frog in boiling water. The low information republicans just keep voting for someone with an R after their name, because that’s what they’ve always done. Your Grand old party, however, became the Greedy Old Party starting with Ronald reagan, our first puppet president.
          We’ve had 3 decades of trickle down, 3 decades of charter schools, and plenty of evidence they don’t work. The GOP needs a major overhaul.

          • If the GOP has had 30 years of successfully pushing it’s agenda, then what is the motivation to change? They could not possibly have done that for so long without the approval of the majority of Americans.

        • Donna Gratehouse

          “Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that there are Republicans who match that image you portray, and they embarrass me. But they are not THE Republicans, nor are they even a majority of Republicans.”

          I disagree that they’re not the majority but it’s irrelevant even if true. A voter could disagree with most of what Cathi Herrod stands for, but if he voted for Doug Ducey he voted for her agenda. Period, full stop. Why my pointing that basic fact out to people is giving them the vapors is curious to me.

    • AZ BlueMeanie

      Well, let’s unpack this, shall we? In what way am I an “extremist”? For pointing out the uncomfortable truth that the modern day Tea-Publican Party has been hijacked by its far-right fringe and no longer bears any resemblance to your father’s GOP?

      The policy positions I argue for, based upon public policy polling, have broad public support. By definition that would make my policy positions “centrist” and “mainstream.” You have posted that you agree with a number of the policy positions I have argued for, ergo, does that also make you an “extremist”?

      You claim to be a “moderate” Republican, but what actions have you taken to prevent the Republican Party from being hijacked by its far-right fringe? Please identify who, exactly, is a moderate Republican in the Arizona legislature? Let me help you out: by the end of the first week of April, every Republican member of the Arizona legislature will have voted in lockstep for each of the nullification/secession bills from the Tenth Amendment Center, all of which are patently unconstitutional; every Republican member of the Arizona legislature will have voted for the insane gun bills from the Arizona Citizens Defense League, including the one that surrenders Arizona’s sovereignty to other states and purports to strip Arizona citizens of their constitutional right to initiatives and referendums; and every Republican member of the Arizona legislature will have voted for the anti-abortion bill from the Center for Arizona Policy that includes a provision for a medical procedure which is not approved by the FDA or any legitimate OB/Gyn Association, and which poses a threat to the life of the mother. So, pray tell, who exactly is the “moderate” Republican in the Arizona legislature?

      And what about Arizona’s GOP delegation to Congress? With the exception of an occasional moment of lucidity from Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona’s GOP delegation in Congress tends to vote in lockstep as well. Sen. John McCain is in a category all by himself, as a rank embarrassment to the state of Arizona.

      If you are a “moderate” Republican, you have failed miserably in preventing the Republican Party from being hijacked by its far-right fringe. Worse, you have admitted to enabling these far-right fringe extremists by voting for Republicans out of “tribalism,” voting for the (R) behind the name on the ballot. It is the “moderate” Republican enablers of the far-right fringe in the GOP who are the problem, not the Democrats for whom you harbor such anger and resentment.

      If you are genuinely a “moderate” opposed to the Republican Party having been hijacked by its far-right fringe, you have an obligation to fight them and to take your party back. Engaging in denial and getting upset with Democrats for pointing out what is obvious to everyone but you solves nothing.

      If you really cared about your country, you would join with Democrats in fighting these radical, extreme and dangerous ideologues. Be part of the solution, stop being part of the problem.

      • ”The policy positions I argue for, based upon public policy polling, have broad public support.”

        If that is true, why is it so hard to gain public support for candidates that also support those positions? You and I do share opinions on some of the bigger issues of our time and those issues seem to be doing okay in the public forum. However, some other issues upon which we do not agree are not doing so well in the public forum which makes me think they do not hold wide popular appeal.

        ”Please identify who, exactly, is a moderate Republican in the Arizona legislature?”

        I have acknowledged that elected Republican officials are not necessarily moderate in their views. But, that doesn’t mean there are no moderate Republicans. On key issues, I don’t see Democrats often offering up many moderate candidates, either. There were a couple in the last election and they received my vote. We agree 100% on John McCain…that doddering old dinosaur is an embarrassment to Arizona regardless of his Party affiliation. I consider his decline a shame because I held him in high regard in his early years.

        Anyway, even though I don’t approve of it, I understand why some extremist Republican legislators became that way and why it is so frustrating for Democrats. When it was “my Father’s Republican Party”, they were constantly “negotiating” with Democrats under Democrat terms. That is, Democrats would offer legislation demanding 100% of the pie. Republicans would offer counter-legislation offering 15% of the pie. They would then agree on 30% of the pie. The next year, Democrats came back demanding the rest of the pie. Republicans would offer another 15% and they would compromise on some more of the pie. And so it would go until Democrats got everything they wanted. After several years of this, it became obvious Democrats did not negotiate in good faith and there was less and less willingness to negotiate. It’s sad because now because both Parties are intransigent and little gets done of any real value.

        • AZ BlueMeanie

          You are confusing public policy polling with voting. The majority of Americans do not vote, which is a national disgrace. They will, however, answer questions from a pollster. Do not confuse electoral victories, by historically low voter turnout, with support for the policy agenda of the GOP. The GOP agenda, on issue after issue, polls poorly. This is why Americans feel we have a government that does not respond to their needs and desires. it is their fault for not voting.

          Your description of the negotiation process is completely wrong, and smack of the crap I hear on FAUX News. Compromise means both sides give something to get something, no bill gives one side everything they want. That’s why it is called compromise. The “half a loaf” strategy is employed by both political parties, I assure you. Been there, done that.

  6. Donna Gratehouse

    And I had two people chiding me this week for offending Republican voters by stating the simple truth about them, which is that they vote to harm other. That was so uncivilized of me and I was doing damage to the ongoing project of “outreach” to them.

    • And I will bet that when you told those Republicans, you did so in a courteous and polite manner and not at all snarky or offensive, right?

      • Donna Gratehouse

        Actually, I stated it in a straightforward manner on my Facebook page, which is mostly read by liberals. And if you’re more offended by having it pointed out to you that the party you regularly vote for is swarming with nasty bigots than you are by the fact that it is swarming with nasty bigots, then there is nothing I can possibly say to sway you.

        • Well, frankly, if they went onto your Facebook page to challenge you, they deserve whatever response you gave them.