It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Republicans. Trounced in November’s election, faced a popular president, and a voting public that seems to have rejected their conservative politics, now they’re stuck with Rush Limbaugh as the de facto head of their party.
No matter how much they deny it, the parade of conservative politicians kissing up to Rush after daring to criticize his rantings makes it pretty clear who’s in charge.
The thing is, it’s not just Rush.
One thing is certain: martial arts movie star Chuck Norris does not like President Obama. Not at all. Not one little bit. Norris dislikes Obama so much, in fact, that he discussed running for the office of president of Texas, which doesn’t exist, as part of a larger move by him and a variety of other right-wing groups to overthrow the American government and return honor and decency to the country.
No, really, he said all that, and more. Read it yourself if you don’t believe me. The best part is where he writes, “Remember the Alamo!” Great stuff.
…There’s more. The owner of right-wing web forum Free Republic, Jim Robinson, was recently forced to post a truly deranged piece of apologia regarding the attention his web site recently earned from the Secret Service. “Unfortunately,” wrote Robinson, “we are saddled with a communist sympathizer in the White House. I don’t know whether or not he’s an actual card carrying commie, but he’s definitely an America-hating, anti-capitalist Marxist leftist who thinks communism is the way to go. So now comes the problem. If you feel it’s your duty to call Obama a traitor and use salty language in your proposed resolution, ie, suggest the commie be keelhauled, walked off the plank, run up the yardarm, tarred and feathered and run out of Dodge, etc, etc, etc, you may be facing a visit from your friendly Secret Service.”
“Keep,” wrote Robinson in closing, “your powder dry.” Yeah, O.K., good thinking.
…Last month, Fox News celebrity Sean Hannity ran a poll on his web site. It asked readers what kind of revolution they’d prefer: military coup, armed rebellion or war for succession? “#3 seems most realistic,” opined Hannity, “since it does present an opportunity for more homogeneous states to sort of capitalize on their homogeneity. However, it would likely lead to mass migrations of the minority partisans out of the rebel states. Of course, that may be fine with those states. Yet it seems that the ultimate paradox in any rebellion for freedom from within is that the ultimate goal is to impose the will of the rebels on everyone else through force. It seems the very foundation of representative democracy is ****tered if we accept that we exchange the power of ideas for the power of the sword upon each other. Nevertheless, I am still very interested in your own preferred form of revolt.”
That page has since been removed from Hannity’s web site, surely due to some technical glitch, but before it was taken down, “armed rebellion” appeared to be the most popular choice of the three.
…Earlier this week, right-wing loudmouth Glenn Beck asserted during his radio show that President Obama’s lifting of the ban on embryonic stem cell research would open the way for the genetic development of a new master race. “So here you have Barack Obama,” said Beck, “going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research, and then some, fundamentally changing – remember, those great progressive doctors are the ones who brought us Eugenics. It was the progressive movement and it was science. Let’s put science truly in her place. If evolution is right, why don’t we just help out evolution? That was the idea. And sane people agreed with it! And it was from America. Progressive movement in America. Eugenics. In case you don’t know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening. So I guess I have to put my name on yes, I hope Barack Obama fails. But I just want his policies to fail; I want America to wake up.”
One assumes this forthcoming master race will enjoy minds of greater volume and depth than Mr. Beck’s, because, well, people just can’t get much dumber than this. It would be a profound waste of genetic material if we went out and created some master race that, like Messrs. Beck, Hannity and Robinson, was incapable of rational thought or speech. Just an idea.
There is even more out there like this, from all over the place, with each seemingly trying to out-weird the other. So, yeah, it appears a fair portion of America’s hard-right population, along with most if not all of their spokespeople and commentators, have been driven absolutely, positively bat-poop crazy by the election of and policies by Barack Obama.
And those who haven’t, have been driven right out of the republican party. Christopher Buckley is probably the biggest name, but the split became apparent with the nomination of Sarah Palin as the GOPs VP candidate last year. As the inevitable and now infamous Palin media interviews started up, so did a number of Republicans – appalled by what she and her nomination represented – calling for her to step down.
The problem is, they were fighting a fire that had already been lit (or re-lit, if you consider the “Southern Strategy”), and purposely so, by the GOP during the most recent Bush administration, and fanned with culture war rehtoric and spectacles (like the Schiavo affair) that – in light of the current crisis – seem like costly distractions.
David Frum is just the most recent to have been burned by those flames. It’s almost easy to feel sorry for Frum, who looked around and – seeing how thin the ranks of the reasonable Republicans have become – took up the banner for one more quixotic charge in to the brick wall of today’s brand of conservatism.
It wasn’t a fight I went looking for. On March 3, the popular radio host Mark Levin opened his show with an outburst (he always opens his show with an outburst): “There are people who have somehow claimed the conservative mantle … You don’t even know who they are … They’re so irrelevant … It’s time to name names …! The Canadian David Frum: where did this a-hole come from? … In the foxhole with other conservatives, you know what this jerk does? He keeps shooting us in the back … Hey, Frum: you’re a putz.”
…Levin had been provoked by a blog entry I’d posted the day before on my site, NewMajority.com. Here’s what I wrote: President Obama and Rush Limbaugh do not agree on much, but they share at least one thing: Both wish to see Rush anointed as the leader of the Republican party.
…And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence-exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word-we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time.
Actually, if those cheering CPACers are rebroadcast for a long time – and they almost certainly will be, on televisions and computer monitors across the country – they will only be the latest and least sensational installment in an ongoing series. Because they don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know from the videos of the party faithful outside of McCain-Palin rallies across the country.
On the night of the election … I struck an impromptu conversation with one of my fellow bloggers covering the night’s events at NPR. She grabbed a video camera, and we tried to recreate the conversation, because something I said resonated with her.
It was this. I don’t know when it happened, and it’s probably impossible to tell. But at some point during the campaign, the election shifted towards being about more than just choosing a president. Maybe it was the candidacies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – made possible by the progressive movements that have worked to extend America’s promise to more Americans, often against the will of a great many of their fellow citizens. Maybe it was Obama’s speech, openly addressing the race issue that had bubbled (barely) below the surface of the campaign up to them. Maybe it was the cumulative effect of never ending wars, a collapsed economy, and rising inequality. Maybe it was the fact that where the 2006 had its “Macacca Moment,” this election had a million of them.
Whenever it happened, and whatever the catalyst was. At some point, we weren’t just choosing a president anymore. We were deciding what kind of country we want to be.
The videos were intended to show what Americans (I hope) rejected on November 4th.
It’s not just Rush, and it didn’t start with the McCain-Palin ticket’s decision to play to the basest of their base, or the GOPs decision to put all of its eggs in the “20% basket” of the base that helped keep George W. Bush’s approval ratings in the double digits. At the same time that this base was being fired up, the chickens came home to roost at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church, and rhetoric of the right wing media machine rightfully shared part of the blame.
“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.”
Vester: You say you’d rather not talk to liberals at all?
Coulter: I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days.
So for those of you who haven’t read any of my five best-selling books: Liberals are driven by Satan and lie constantly.
“I’d say something about John Edwards, but if you use the word ‘faggot’, you have to go to rehab.”
“We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee. … That’s just a joke, for you in the media.”
“Patriotic Americans don’t have to become dangerous psychotics like liberals, but they could at least act like men. ”
“I don’t know if he’s [Bill Clinton] gay. But [former Vice President] Al Gore – total fag.”
“Governor, why wouldn’t anyone want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, unless they detested their own country or were ignorant of its greatness? ”
“Is it you hate this president or that you hate America?
“‘I hate America.’ This is the extreme left. There is a portion of the left – not everybody who’s left – that does hate this country and blame this country for the ills of the world…”
“So I’m saying, for the sake of the nation, I think you Democrats should stay home. For you there’s no reason to vote.”
“I’ll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo: every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress. ”
“[Liberals] teach our children multiculturalism rather than American culture, revisionist history rather than American history, the thinly disguised religion of secular humanism and extreme environmentalism rather than capitalism. They train our young to criticize America, not celebrate it. They welcome condoms into the classroom but ban God and the Ten Commandments. They encourage tolerance for the teachings of the Koran but not for the teachings of Jesus Christ. They oppose the Pledge of Allegiance, tell us that ‘God is dead,’ that ‘Christianity is for losers,’ and that evangelical and Catholic conservatives are more dangerous than radical Islamic militants. They tell us that fuel-burning SUVs are bad for America, but flag-burning SOBs aren’t. But they are wrong. And it is time to ask: Why, particularly in time of war, should we entrust the education of our children to people who loathe and ravage so many of out core values and traditions?”
“[T]hey can have the Gay Scouts if they want, if they don’t like the values of the Boy Scouts.”
“This is the moment to say that there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of ’em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the [House] speaker.”
“The Clintons have a cat, but their nanny has a dog.”
“They are 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?” [To a caller who said black people need to be heard.]
“…If you want to know what America used to be – and a lot of people wish it still were – then you listen to Strom Thurmond.”
“The NAACCP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.”
“I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus – living fossils – so we will never forget what these people stood for.”
“In order for me to believe that God was sending America a message, I would need to be shown that the people who died Tuesday were all members of the NOW gang, or abortionists, civil libertarians, et cetera.” [9-18-2001]
“Because we are sympathetic, we are compassionate people, we have responded by letting our government literally feed these people to the point of obesity. At least here in America, didn’t teach them how to fish, we gave them the fish. Didn’t teach them how to butcher a – slaughter a cow to get the butter, we gave them the butter. The real bloat here, as we know, is in – is in government.”
“[I]t sounds just like the DNC (Democratic National Committee) is writing his scripts now.” [On a videotape released by then Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqwi.]
“And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.”
“Everybody got it? Dissent, fine; undermining, you’re a traitor. Got it? So, all those clowns over at the liberal radio network, we could incarcerate them immediately. Will you have that done, please? Send over the FBI and just put them in chains, because they, you know, they’re undermining everything and they don’t care, couldn’t care less.”
“I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out, and I wouldn’t have rescued them.”
“Americans will respect your beliefs if you just keep them private. ”
“I’ve been to Africa three times. All right? You can’t bring Western reasoning into the culture. The same way you can’t bring it into fundamental Islam.”
“That’s my advice to all homosexuals, whether they’re in the Boy Scouts, or in the Army or in high school: Shut up, don’t tell anybody what you do, your life will be a lot easier.”
“You want to have two guys making out in front of your 4-year-old? It’s OK with them. A guy smoking a joint, blowing the smoke into your little kid’s face? OK with them. And I’m not exaggerating here. This is exactly what the secular movement stands for.”
“Evil cannot be “treated” – nor should it be. Evil has to [be] confronted and destroyed and it matters not why the evil is in play. Society has no obligation to try to rehabilitate evil.”
“Conservative people tend to see the world in black and white terms, good and evil. Liberals see grays. In any talk format, you have to pound home a strong point of view. If you’re not providing controversy and excitement, people won’t listen, or watch.”
“Many parents are worried in America about the gay agenda and indoctrination of their children to see homosexuality in a certain way.”
“I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels.”
“If anyone understood what Hindus really believe, there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies.”
“How can there be peace when drunkards, drug dealers, communists, atheists, New Age worshippers of Satan, secular humanists, oppressive dictators, greedy money changers, revolutionary assassins, adulterers, and homosexuals are on top?”
“When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany. Many of those people involved with Adolph Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals-the two things seem to go together.”
“Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”
“Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up.” [Speaking about bombing the State Department]
“Oh, you’re one of the sodomites…You should get AIDS and die, you pig. How’s that? Why don’t you see if you can sue me, you pig? You’ve got nothing better to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it.”
“I am a White Male. You see, liberals had destroyed my future to make a future for less qualified people. My babies were crying…”
“And I say also, No. 2, to the politicians, I warn you personally. You will not be re-elected. If you take to the streets with the vermin who are trying to dictate to us how we should run America, even though they’re not even entitled to vote or be here, you’re going to be thrown out of office. The people will throw you out of office. There are not enough of them to re-elect you. You will be out of a job. You will not have a living. You will be hunting for a job. Maybe, you’ll be picking the vegetables.”
“You know something; I’m voting for Bush, I just made up my mind. There’s nothing in this for me. I’m a white male, I’m a white, male, married heterosexual – I don’t want the Democrats. Everywhere I turn, there’s another hot coal in my eye. For example, today’s DNC calendar of public events included lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender meeting, the disability meeting, the ethnic meeting, the American Indian meeting, the Asian/Pacific Islander meeting, the Hispanic meeting, and the African American meeting – God bless ’em, they’re entitled to their meeting, I’m entitled to my vote, they’re not my party, end of story. And that’s it. I’m not voting for a party of ethnic minorities and women and immigrants. I will not do it. And if I thought for a moment that they had changed their direction, if I thought for a moment there was a new Democrat Party that was more centrist and more focused on the real issues of today, I would have considered, well, maybe sitting the election out, or voting for Kerry – no, I’m not. ”
“I can guarantee you [liberals], you wouldn’t be in business too long. I can guarantee you you’d be arrested for sedition within six months of my taking power. I’d have you people licking lead paint, what you did to this country.”
“To fight only the al-Qaeda scum is to miss the terrorist network operating within our own borders… Who are these traitors? Every rotten radical left-winger in this country, that’s who.”
“But the question is what’s good enough for you? You wanna live in a country like this? Where a gang of liberal judges hijack any law they don’t like? And hold you hostage to it? They make homosexual wedding the law of the land, when 90 percent of the American people find it repugnant! And sickening! And disgusting! And don’t wanna accept it! And don’t wanna live in a degenerate nation!”
“Carl Levin and Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, The New Yorker, CBS have destroyed the war effort against terror. And if, God forbid, a suitcase bomb goes off you’ll know who to blame. I’m – hey I’m not going to mince words, there’s no grey zone here. It’s black and white, it’s them versus us and the enemy within on their side.”
“I don’t know why we don’t use a bunker-buster bomb when he comes to the U.N. and just take [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] out with everyone in there.”
“My fear is that if the Democrats win [in the November midterm elections], and I’m afraid that they might, you’re going to see America melt down faster that you could ever imagine. It will happen overnight, and it could lead to the breakup of the United States of America, the way the Soviet Union broke up.”
“I want you to let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good.”
“America should function as a Christian nation.”
“The world will not know how to live or which direction to go without the Church’s Biblical influence on its theories, laws, actions, and institutions.”
“Overnight you’ll have the court saying…homosexual marriage is a protected right. I would callit a bliztkrieg of the homosexual juggernaut. It’s not an erosion. It’s a frontal assault on decency and morality.”
“If the militant homosexuals succeed in their campaign”
It is not just Rush. Back in 2007, it was Ann Coulter, calling John Edwards a faggot and causing conservatives concern. (Even my ultra-conservative hometown paper dropped Coulter, but only to turn around and add Michelle Malkin.) But she’s still popular enough with conservatives to sell her books, and there’s a reason why.
The Coulter/Hannity/Limabugh-led right wing is basically the Abu Grahib rituals finding full expression in an authoritarian political movement. The reason people like Rush Limbaugh not only were unbothered, but actually delighted and even tickled by, Abu Grahib is because that is the full-blooded manifestation of the impulses underlying this movement – feelings of power and strength from the most depraved spectacles of force. The only real complaint from Bush followers about the Commander-in-Chief is that he has not given them enough Guantanamos and wars and aggression and barbaric slaughter and liberty infringement. Their hunger for those things is literally insatiable because they need fresh pretexts for feeling strong.
And that is where Ann Coulter comes in and plays such a vital – really indispensible – role. As a woman who purposely exudes the most exaggerated American feminine stereotypes (the long blond hair, the make-up, the emaciated body), her obsession with emasculating Democratic males – which, at bottom, is really what she does more than anything else – energizes and stimulates the right-wing “base” like nothing else can. Just witness the fervor with which they greet her, buy her books, mob her on college campuses. Can anyone deny that she is unleashing what lurks at the very depths of the right-wing psyche? What else explains not just her popularity, but the intense embrace of her by the “base”?
It’s not just Rush, though he’s doing pretty much the same thing.
Limbaugh has been plowing the field of moral outrage for decades, but unlike Billy Sunday and the other hot-headed radio preachers who cashed in on social resentment in the Great Depression, Limbaugh threw out God. With no religious tradition to anchor himself, he can swing wider. Anything Limbaugh judges against is condemned, not by scripture, but simply by him being pissed off. Whatever Limbaugh hates — however petty, personal, and arbitrary his animus — is ipso facto wrong.
…The Limbaugh effect fueled the anti-morality of the Bush years. Under ordinary morality, the wretched plight of illegal immigrants, for example, must be considered along with the fact that they are breaking the law. Being poor, illiterate, and desperate, their human condition makes them more sympathetic than ruthless lawbreakers would be. But under anti-morality, if you hate immigrants because they are foreigners who don’t look American enough, the argument is over. Your anger strips away tolerance, sympathy, and regard for “the other.” Hence the almost imperial bearing of Limbaugh, the bland certainty that because he never stops being angry, he never stops being right.
…By any sane account, Rush Limbaugh is dead weight when it comes to finding a solution to anything. Like Sarah Palin, his spiritual bride, he lurks in the shadow of the human psyche, expressing the dark anger, resentment, jealousy, and vindictiveness that society can never escape. …
It’s not just Rush Limbaugh, but in recent years the GOP itself – in the policies it’s promoted and the pundits and politicians that it’s elevated to national status to become its standard bearers (remember, the elevation of Sarah Palin to the national ticket in 2008 gave birth or at least a new name to a “Palin Wing” of the Republican party, causing “civil war” within the party, and all but guaranteeing we haven’t heard the last of her) – has chosen to appeal to that very same “dark anger, resentment, jealosy, and vindictiveness,” that Deepak Chopra may say we can never escape, but at this juncture can ill afford.
All of this began even before Obama took office. In his broadcast on Jan. 16, Limbaugh told listeners he had been asked by a major publication for a 400-word statement about his hopes for the new administration:
I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “OK, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words. I need four: I hope he fails.” … See, here’s the point: everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff: “Oh, you can’t do that.” Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here … I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.
Notice that Limbaugh did not say: “I hope the administration’s liberal plans fail.” Or (better): “I know the administration’s liberal plans will fail.” Or (best): “I fear that this administration’s liberal plans will fail, as liberal plans usually do.” If it had been phrased that way, nobody could have used Limbaugh’s words to misrepresent conservatives as clueless, indifferent or gleeful in the face of the most painful economic crisis in a generation. But then, if it had been phrased that way, nobody would have quoted his words at all-and as Limbaugh himself said, being “headlined” was the point of the exercise. If it had been phrased that way, Limbaugh’s face would not now be adorning the covers of magazines. He phrased his hope in a way that drew maximum attention to himself, offered maximum benefit to the administration and did maximum harm to the party he claims to support.
But Limbaugh, in that case, was giving voice to what the actions and (and inaction) of conservatives have been saying since Americans began feeling the pinch of the economic down turn. Before him it was Phil Gramm, with his “nation of whiners” comment. Rush was almost eclipsed by the now famous Rick Santelli Rant.
They’re not policymakers, but the consevative policymakers aren’t much better. In the face of a financial sector and entire industries about to crash, conservative politicians seriously asked “For the sake of the altar of the free market system, do you accept a Great Depression?”, because they’d rather “let the markets crash,” and let the auto industry “drop dead” (and the jobs that would go with it).
Most recently the Republican governors of some the states hit hardest by the economic downturn – where unemployment is high, but unemployment benefit funding is drying up – have rejected stimulus funding that might help people who are hurting in their states. And the best answers they can offer their constituents would laughable but for the economic pain they’re responding to.
CALLER: I hope you all are not playing politics with this. People in South Carolina are hurting. You know how unemployment rates are high right now and going up higher. We are running out of money in the unemployment bank – we need money for that, the people that need help. And I’m one of them, I can’t get no help. […]
SANFORD: Well I’d say hello to Charleston because its home and I’d say hello to this fellow this morning and say that my prayers are going to be with him and his family because it sounds like he is in an awfully tough spot.
“Clueless, indifferent or gleeful in the face of the most painful economic crisis in a generation”? Sure sounds that way.
The silent, do-nothing indifference of the George W. Bush administration in the build-up to and beginning of the current crisis would almost be a comfort, compared to the brand of “Drop Dead” Conservatism that’s all the GOP seems to be left with.
High on delusion, denial, and derision, it’s the face of a conservatism unequipped to recognize – let alone meet – the challenges America and the world now face, and blind to the possibility drowning itself in irrelevance. It’s the face of a conservatism that, facing the failure of its ideology, has more anger than answers.
No, it’s not just Rush. It’s a whole movement and a whole political philosophy that the GOP has to find the will and strength to reevaluate if it wants to find a way out of the wilderness soon. Otherwise, hard as it may be to imagine, the party may have much, much bigger problems than Rush Limbaugh.