The desolation of the Republicult: The GOP vs reality
The driving force of the Republican Party has always been the fear of an uncertain future and the yearning for a more idyllic, almost fictional past. Forced to confront the harsh realities of the globalized modern era, Republicans often resort to lies and misrepresentation to interpret events, except over the last half-century and especially the last decade the lies Republicans tell themselves have veered more toward fantasy and delusion. This is a phenomenon that seems to mostly stricken conservative Republicans yet has bled into every aspect of the party’s politics.
It’s not uncommon to compare your political opponents to whoever the nation’s enemy happens to be at any given time. FDR, JFK and Clinton were all called Communists by their Republican contemporaries. President Obama has risen to power in an age of extremism, a threat not just from religious extremists in the Middle East, but from Republican right wing extremists at home. This is how a man with an exotic background and the middle name Hussein has been imagined by many on the right as a psuedo Muslim dictator. But the 21st century Republican schism regarding how the US interacts with the Muslim world didn’t begin with Obama’s election. It was a byproduct of a decade-old circus of mistakes, false assumptions and lies.
Much has been written about the intelligence failures leading up to the September 11th attacks; however, the failure lies not at the feet of the intelligence agencies but with the Administration that repeatedly ignored their warnings. This doesn’t indicate some intentional conspiracy as 9/11 Truther and libertarian Ron Paul supporter Alex Jones would have us believe, but it does point to the conservative ideology that government governs best when it governs least.
This is terribly dangerous and over the last decade has proved to be ruinous. If you believe government is a hindrance on a country’s functions, you will naturally do a poor job of governing its agencies. In the summer of 2001 the Bush Administration saw the warnings of an eminent attack by Al Qaida as a smoke screen and distraction directed by Saddam Hussein. There is no reality in which this is true, except in the minds of the officials who were in charge of government at that time. Even after the capture of high profile Al Qaida agents and their subsequent torture, the Bush Administration continued to press for the imagined connection between that terrorist organization and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. In 2012, after hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, 4,000 dead American soldiers and over 1 trillion dollars spent, 64% of Republicans still believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
After 8 years of simmering Bush Administration-induced-Islamic-fear, one would think that American conservatives might mellow a bit. But then America elected its first African- American president. Congresswoman and former Republican presidential frontrunner Michele Bachmann, along with other House members, claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated the State Department and the top levels of the US government through their intermediary Huma Abedine, a longtime Hillary Clinton aide and wife to Jewish former Congressman, Twitter connoisseur, and 2013 NY mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner. The conspiracy continued until both Senator John McCain chastised Bachmann on the floor of the Senate and the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement denying her wild claims. When fundamentalist militants and terrorists are denying your position, you have lost the argument. Bachmann still sits on the House Intelligence Committee.
Baffling fictional stories have been used by Republican lawmakers as an excuse to oppose any democratic proposal in Congress. For every Democratic policy there is a Republican conspiracy for why not to engage in debate. They are continuously driven away from solutions and evidence. The scary thing to remember is that for every perceived national villain in Congress, there are thousands of their constituents back home who believe in and agree with everything they say. And that more often than not, the hate and nonsense they spew isn’t the exception but the rule, and a strange code that millions live by every day.
While an internal Justice Department investigation was busy determining that the would-be Fast and Furious scandal had originated in the ATF Tucson field office, the 112th Republican Congress was forming a tale, conceived and nursed in the internet fever swamps, and repeated by elected members that the ATF’s gunrunning operation, controlled by the Obama administration, was meant to increase gun violence on the border with the intention of pushing for more stringent gun control legislation. Darrell Issa and Bachmann were not alone in spearheading their own conspiracies. Senator James Inhofe has been claiming for years that global climate change is an international conspiracy. He has traveled around the world to promote this debunked and crazy theory. He is not alone in his refusal to agree with the majority of the world’s scientists that climate change is real. In 2010, 53% of Republicans believed that global warming was a hoax. They continue to believe this while polar ice caps melt at an alarming rate and the world continues to boil around them.
Congressman Todd Akin rocketed to national prominence in the months before the 2012 election when he said aloud what many other conservatives believe: that women have some kind of superhuman ability that allow them to prevent their bodies from becoming pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape”. This was not just one idiotic statement but a common urban legend among conservatives that is part of a broader effort that continues to deny women’s health and rights even in cases of rape and incest.
Republicans’ denial of science doesn’t stop at climate change or women’s health. It has consistently extended to the practice of teaching creationism and the promotion of ineffective abstinence-only education in schools. Republican Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia recently claimed that evolution and the Big Bang Theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.” These comments would not be as dangerous if Representative Broun didn’t sit on the House Science Committee, and if 58% of Republicans weren’t young earth creationists. Representative Broun will be running for a Senate seat in 2014.
At what point are there too many examples of fringe craziness that there becomes an overriding narrative that Republicans are simply inventing their own reality? This is already reflected not just by Republican lawmaker’s statements but strange polls. 46% of the GOP believes that President Obama is a Muslim. 63% believe that is he’s socialist. 24% say he may be the Antichrist. 51% think the President was not born in the US. 44% think armed revolution may be necessary. So after all of this, it should come as no surprise that Republicans continue to believe that tax cuts and deregulation don’t produce crippling deficits and a dangerous business culture that threatens the global financial system.
These are the same people that believe voter fraud is an existential threat to American democracy and that President Obama won both of his presidential elections through some sort of vote rigging shenanigans. Even after admitting that the voter purges in advance of the 2012 election were a cynical ploy to depress the Obama vote, Republicans still push the lie that they want to protect the vote. The voter purge of 2012 may help Republicans win in off year elections, but given the demographic shift coming in the next 50 years; it’s a recipe for permanent electoral minority status. It’s also an admission that they can no longer compete for hearts and minds based purely on the merits of their unraveling arguments and that they have to resort to stacking the deck in order to stay viable.
When someone is losing a fight they often resort to more savage and desperate behavior. This is how Republicans have transformed, if only in their minds, the president from a center-left technocrat into a radical, socialist, Muslim. How liberal donor George Soros has become a spooky puppet master of the Democratic Party. How American liberalism becomes far-left communism. How insurance covered end-of-life consultations turned into “Death Panels.” How the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts became “redistribution of wealth,” how Bill Clinton was responsible for Bush’s intelligence failures leading to the September 11th attacks. How ”Bush kept us safe.” How Bush is somehow responsible for Obama’s successful mission to kill Bin Laden.
The new Republican Party’s synchronicity has broken apart from the rest of the spinning political existence, and at no time in recent memory was this on better display than the 2012 Republican Convention. The party platform itself was a smorgasbord of insanity. It referred to the stealth jihad of Sharia Law, the fictional effort to replace the Constitution with Islamic law. It rejected the nonexistent agenda of the UN to erode American sovereignty and impose a “global tax.” It aimed to reinstitute the Gold Standard. It opposed the creation of race-based governments in the US, because that is a threat, apparently. This was not a Tea Party meeting in the summer of 2010 but the official party platform for the 2012 convention. The rest of the convention was the normal display of Uber-American, xenophobic, paranoid fantasy that went well past exaggeration and misrepresentation.
But it all came to a crashing halt and strange climax when Clint Eastwood took the stage an hour before Romney was to deliver his nomination speech. The moment of their greatest coup in getting an A-List actor and personification of rugged American individualism to deliver their party message turned out to perfectly and sadly encapsulate what the party had become. Its faded glory. Its past, its present, its legacy and its ruin intertwined. Eastwood’s improvised conversation with an empty chair and imagined President Obama quickly descended into a sad sideshow, eclipsing Romney himself, laying bare a man and political party that had been bested by time; with no message, agenda or plan for the future. There is no reason to have a governing philosophy for the future when you think you have arrived at your future’s end. All that was left was the stalled, broken swagger of what once was and what is no longer.
In the hall and across the country it played as pitch-perfect gospel to the already-converted and long since insane. To the rest of the country it just looked like another old, white, millionaire talking to an empty chair; resulting in a bizarre messaging disaster of epic proportions not seen before and never to be witnessed again. Within weeks, in at least two states, empty chairs were witnessed hanging in people’s front yards.
The pathos inside the party has warped and fragmented into a neo-Christian form of America-worship that eschews any outside information and interaction. It abides no dissension or views not in line with their odd tenets. Heretic members who stray are excommunicated and labeled RINOs (Republican In Name Only). They are constantly under siege and set upon by the “liberal media” and secular culture. These are not the actions of a modern political party. They are the desperate and peculiar behavior of a cult that denies the outside reality of math, science and objective facts.
The Tea Party purge of moderates is almost over and the fanatic takeover is nearly complete. Their policies are gone and there is no longer any method to their madness. With the overwhelming bipartisan passage of comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate and the stomping the Republican ticket took in the last presidential election, passing the Senate bill is a no-brainer. Its passage is essential to the party’s survival. Resistance by House Republicans to even consider the Senate bill has created a “kamikaze caucus” that seems intent on killing not just reform but the party’s long term chance of embracing the emerging Latino voting bloc. The immigration debate offers the Republicans their last best hope to keep from becoming the electoral equivalent to a suicide cult.
Today there are only a handful of possible future leaders left in what was once the Grand Old Party. Former Governor and Obama administration Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman spoke a lot of truth during his ill-fated 2012 presidential run. Perhaps the most poignant of all was when he echoed the old Teddy Roosevelt position that, “Conservation is conservative.”
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has repeatedly tried to push his party toward a more modernized immigration policy. But the best case of a Republican politician speaking truth to crazy is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. When he was seeking to appoint Sohail Mohammed, a man Christie had known for years, to the Superior Court, conservatives rebelled and warned of creeping Sharia Law in New Jersey. Christie countered with what is probably one of the most simple and profound critiques of his party in the last decade: “It’s just crazy, and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”
Mohammed was sworn in as a judge in July 2011 becoming the second Muslim Superior Court Judge in New Jersey.
The Republican Party informs half of our political understanding and is essential to our American identity. It makes us half of who we are as citizens. The party needs new leaders and new ideas adapted to the modern world. Not cult leaders. The Republican Party as it exists today is dead within a generation. It must modernize and realize that there is a conservative case to be made for legalized marijuana, abortion, immigration reform and gay marriage. The party must change and modernize or it will pass into history with the Whigs and Know-Nothings. They fail the test of time. The Republican Party must adapt and grow or refuse and die.