Any group of any kind is only as legitimate as its loudest, dumbest, most destructive member. When this rule is applied to today’s Republican Party, well, shit. America’s doomed. Let’s call a spade a spade: the official party of the right wing has become the party for ignorance, the party for imposed desperation, the party for small affluence and widespread poverty, the party for theocracy, the party for serfhood and feudalism, and most importantly the party that cannot exist without an ocean of second-class citizens. It’s not even that good at enacting its much-professed ideals of fiscal responsibility and anti-bureaucracy anymore. And somehow, this party tends to get its way.
What pisses me off most about all this is that the Republican Party is now the party of the insane. The political buzzword used to be the naïve, idealistic Bleeding Heart Liberal, but with the infestation of the Tea Party into Republican politics, today’s political jackasses tend to be Heart Attack Conservatives, people who care less about facts and self-interest than they do about having a platform to screech and hate.
The worst thing about the real life internet trolls of the Tea Party is that they’ve become a black hole in the public discourse. They’re the loud, disruptive kids in class who derail the teacher and prevent everyone else from learning. Scratch that; they’re the loud, disruptive kids in class who infect everyone else in class until all that’s left is a classroom full of shrieking idiots drawing dicks on the blackboard. And like all things zombie-related, there’s a huge audience that hangs on their every act of faux-rebellious douchebaggery.
The obvious victims of this outbreak are gays, Mexicans, Muslims, women, the poor, the compassionate, and the sane. But I’m wondering if an equally important victim of the unhinging of the right wing is the right wing itself.
I’ve been watching the looming embarrassment that is the 2012 presidential election cycle, in which the few Republicans who are gearing up to run against Obama are doing their best to out-crazy one another. It’s awful. Only in a politically retarded landscape as ours could a batshit vampire lady like Michelle Bachmann gain any sort of credence among those who don’t sleep in padded cells. Worse still, we have one of the richest men in the world, Donald Trump, running on a platform of lowest common denominator and howling about Obama’s birth certificate in a thin attempt to slum with the crazies. At the moment, these people are the front-runners, which to me speaks ill of America on the whole, not just the Republicans.
It might be satisfying to anticipate the Wagnerian spanking the Republicans will receive in 2012 if these candidates are the best it has to offer, but I can’t shake this sense of something approaching disgusted pity for them. (The image in my head is of how I’d react to a shit-covered schizophrenic who just punched me in the mouth, if that helps.) I’ve never, ever liked the Republicans, but when there’s an election, I expect each party to put forth the most competent candidate they have to offer. I demand real Republican candidates, not crackheads who would have been laughed out of any other race in history.
The problem is ultimately larger than the right wing. The public doesn’t want competence or ability; they want elected officials whom they can have a beer with, representatives who are just folks, rulers who are just like them. Let me say, at the top of my text lungs, that the Beer Standard is the most bullshit criteria in politics (and not just because I’m a vodka drinker). I don’t want elected officials to be just as good as everyone else. I’d like them to be a damn sight better.
I never believe that a political pundit is as nuts as he or she appears to be. I guarantee that if the Beer Standard wasn’t the law of the land, most of our Republican candidates for president wouldn’t be locked in this quagmire of Tea Party-calculated psychosis. Our country might have a good deal more self-respect.
I might be wrong, though. Maybe it is a good thing that the worst of the right wingers have gained the overconfidence to expose themselves as the repressive cavemen they are. I know that time gives things that were intolerable in the present a sort of respectability in the past (see: George W. Bush, the Backstreet Boys), but the McCarthy, Goldwater, and Reagan Republicans weren’t any more saintly for not having to appease all the raving lunatics. It’s not as though most of the Tea Party’s cells, despite their claims to be grassroots movements, aren’t corporate funded screechshows. The tactics may have changed, but maybe the right wing is running the same plan as ever.
Yet assuming that the madness of the last decade isn’t an insidious Republican conspiracy to keep people angry and distracted, it’s not the liberals who must be the key players in curbing the Tea Party. In his conflicts with the wild and populist movements during his presidency, Nixon appealed to a “silent majority” of sober, conservative Americans to stand up and be heard. That’s precisely what is called for in this moment – a real conservative movement, comprised of people more concerned with policy over polarization, which will stand up and put the Tea Party infants (and, ideally, the Republicans they rose up against) back in their cribs. The liberals can laugh and mock and loathe all they want, but ultimately it is the right wing which is responsible for cleaning up its own mess.