Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CODE RED. The Ole Perfesser gets mad at Josh Marshall's essay on the violent tendencies on the right. Oh yeah, says the Perfesser, what about Ken Gladney and the Kennedy assassination? It's not an edifying discussion.

Actual violent political gestures are thankfully rare these days, and I don't see that they have a significant number of defenders even in the overheated environment of the blogosphere. We do see some half-assed shooty-shooty posts sometimes. I don't worry much about those leading to violence, but I do think they feed, and feed on, another tendency that is dangerous in a different way.

Each side has people who will, when exiled from power, get a little paranoid about the people who aren't. I was suspicious of Bush, but generally refrained from calling him a Nazi, except in jest, and I am famously shrill and unreasonable. About some other people's ideas I have been less circumspect. I am not immune from nor averse to a little hysterical speech.

The sort of thing that's going on now with the right is different in one regard: imputations against Obama of alien ideology -- commie, Nazi, whatever -- aren't coming exclusively from the cheap seats (though there's plenty of that). Representative Michele Bachmann talks about re-education camps. Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich talk about Obama as a euthanasiast. Congressman Paul Braun says Obama's planned expansion of federal volunteer groups like the Peace Corps is "exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did." Republican National Committee leaders tried to get Chairman Steele to escalate his denigration of Democratic policies from "collectivist" to "socialist" -- and he finally got the message. Jeb Bush says he doesn't know whether Obama is a socialist. Senator Jim DeMint says, "we’re about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy." Etc.

This isn't Code Pink -- this is Republican political leadership. They're endorsing the idea that the policies of the duly elected government are not just wrong, but fundamentally illegitimate. That's why I'm disinclined to parse the funding and provenance of the tea parties and health care town halls -- what difference does it make how much FreedomWorks has to do with these eruptions when the leaders of the opposition have already declared Obama, in effect, a foreign agent?

The real danger is not violence but political dementia. The default if not official position of the opposition is that the party in power is literally the enemy of the American way of life. This also soaks up the birther, Obama-is-a-Muslim, and other cults born of a desire to negate the results of the last election. The guys who think Obama was born in Kenya may not get their citizen grand juries credentialed, but they have the comfort of knowing that their comrades don't acknowledge Obama as a real American President, either.

When the hollering started and some of these guys claimed it mean that America had conclusively rejected the Obama Presidency after seven months, I thought they were just exaggerating for political effect. Now I begin to think they really believe it. And so we find ourselves trying to right a badly listing ship of state with a large percentage of our countrymen convinced that their first order of business should be to throw the rest of us over the side.

One bright spot: the Perfesser is going on about Black Panthers in defense of the gun issue, still apparently oblivious to the historical fact that it was the Panthers that made Ronald Reagan a gun controller.

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