By Robert Becker
What if disruptive fringes, propelled by delusions they “won” battles like the debt ceiling, figure the time was never better to smash through remaining 20th C. stop signs? Got a better explanation for the deluge of regressive throwbacks who defy learning from failure, whether non-trickle-down economics, less taxes mean more jobs, education by rote, morality from the Bronze age or heavy-handed militarism – now and forever?
Wingnut crusades don’t poll well, offend the majority, are politically unfeasible and put a Tea Party kiss of death on unelected tribal voices. That, plus a gang of primary candidates who test all human credibility, augurs well for a progressive turnaround. Naturally, arrogant ideologues overplay their cudgels, fail at rewriting history all the while bashing impregnable, time-honored rights. Thus, ultra-conservatives war not only against the middle class and majority rule (beyond Senate gridlock), but minority voting rights, private sexuality, consumer protection, birth control, and medical/retirement security for seniors.
Unless we’re beyond hope (not today’s subject), one imagines the pendulum swinging back, the result of extremism that weekly grows more demagogic and wide-ranging. In hindsight, I mark the opening schism from late ’11, when the right suicide-bombed the debt ceiling. Has not its demise since then gone from bad to worse? Four months dramatizing their own vast contradictions – right, “small government” buys infinite guns and drones while spying in bedrooms and medical offices? Check out the list of sacred cows besieged: sexuality (old men decide all), marriage (gay and otherwise), education (dump evolution, teach creationism), taxation (simply evil), and American’s great strength, socio-economic mobility (at low points).
Piling On the Failures
Let us delight when ideologues in a bubble misread blunders as breakthroughs. Are not fanatics most exposed when over-confident (“Now we will crush liberals on the run”), and what better explains all those cliffs off which they’re a-leaping? Take Rick Santorum, more threatening to Romney without broadcasting his medieval Catholic fundamentalism. Quite simply, today’s rightwing wreckage – that revitalizes a wobbly incumbent – proves what happens fringes take Barry Goldwater’s worst advice: “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! . . . moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
And immoderate demagoguery is writ large: more (!) tax cuts for billionaires, bomb Iran on a theory, more discredited smears (Obama the alien, socialist Muslim, terrorist betrayer of America), corrupt (somewhat impeded) state voting curbs, all in all wars against minorities, immigrants, family planning, and women (men, too, for birth control = sex). Then, topping a parade of missteps, this week another prehistoric Ryan budget rears its head, as progressive Mike Luz sums up, “the most radical, repeal-the-20th Century budget document I have read in 30 years of politics.” Or 50.
Overall, when cosmic ironies collide with serial hypocrisy, time to check the half-time score. The non-stop, laugh-gaffe GOP primary plays on, an ugly slugfest with a comic-opera cast of barefaced frauds brawling with tiresome thugs. That travesty echoes Goldwater’s bias, too, as three primary extremists get scuttled by an epic flip-flopper unsure which sketch to etch this week. That amalgam explains the lowest GOP primary turnout in decades, other than fundamentalists, and they scorn all-important centrists as weak-kneed moral punks aligned with evil Democrats. Great work, guys.
Empty Shell for Pitchfork Party?
More long-term than the Etch-a-Sketch gaffe – clearly the greatest unforced dope slap so far – is the ironic finale that awards the pitchfork party of outraged, true believers a creepy shape-shifter they can’t stand (Mormon, elitist rich guy, barely angry, big fat liar). Thus high comedy turns high farce, captured in Santorum’s bizarre Obama endorsement: “we might as well stay with what we have instead” of risking the Etch-A-Sketch candidate. Three million born-agains just cringed, going AWOL in November.
Satirist Will Durst caught the contradiction, “Mitt hasn’t lost this nomination. Yet. But neither is he winning. His Super PAC is buying it for him like a dented TV console at an Everything For A Dollar Store year-end sale.” And the fun doesn’t end on the Republican side, for when Romney wins, we’ll have a donnybrook between well-heeled flip-floppers no more principled than any other “devout non-ideologues.”
So, while Obama fans howl today over Etch-a-Sketch hysteria, beware the painful, crossover imagery for this “anti-war” candidate who morphed in a splendid war-loving president, ex-Constitutional law instructor betraying that gem, or the environmental-sounding critic of predatory corporatism producing no unified energy plan, let alone adult supervision of finance, mortgage, drilling, mining, ranching, logging or reclamation operations. Unlike Bush, horribly staying the course, this president within months of inauguration shook his magic toy screen and started from scratch.
We need not equate everything Romney with everything Obama, as certainly their donors and constituencies vary considerably. But considering ours is supposedly an Era of Ideological Extremism, what greater irony than this year’s “great watershed election” pits two ultimate, flexible “pragmatists” catering to the fleeting, frightened, FOX-drubbed centrists?
No Moderation, No Virtue
Nothing here assumes the right won’t get more extreme, indeed count on it, simply that over-reach looks to boomerang. Haven’t high negatives on Republicans lifted Democratic boats, Obama’s and senatorial combatants? If Rethuglicans push the Ryan budget hard, armies of seniors will make clear they greatly prefer getting Medicare and Social Security to worrying about deficits. Profound assaults on women – redefining rape, vaginal violations, defying at passing the Violence Against Women Act – cannot but turn millions for years against the rampaging GOP (God Over Politics) mob.
In fact, liberals are winning culture wars, especially on gay marriage, Planned Parenthood, or separating church from state and vice versa. The sane don’t see college as elitist, instead still the prime engine driving the American dream in high-tech times. Throw in the worst GOP primary field, even AFTER the worst ones crashed, headed by a tin-eared tycoon loaded with offshore riches and a predatory corporate past. Why, things are so bad McCain-Palin are beginning to look better and better for conservative stalwarts.
And there’s even a glimmer this White House will not go down without a fight. This week Secretary Jay Carney blasted defenders of the Ryan budget as “deliberately ignorant,” suffering “severely diminished capacity.” For once, an Obama minion found compelling language that pinpoints the nexus of ignorance meeting derangement. More of the same. Great benefits accrue were Republicans again shown up as discredited, failed leaders, especially against a vulnerable incumbent. Excuse the optimism but this week I bring good news.
P.S. I know full well lemmings don’t leap into the sea en masse, though apparently overpopulation drives them to drown in waterways, thus the cliché. The metaphor is truer than the science, alas.