If many of the Republican 2016 presidential nominee contenders sound crazy and ready for a mental asylum, it's actually a symptom of a much more widespread problem: the overall insanity of much of the GOP base where ignorance is worn like a badge of honor and facts and objective reality count for nothing. Add to that the virulent hatred of the GOP base towards Barack Obama largely because of his skin color and one gets a truly toxic brew. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the sad state of affairs and why crazy talk wins points with the party base. Here are highlights:
Was he under the influence of Koch? Or was it evidence of a deeper disorder?
Whatever the cause, something made Scott Walker give birther to another round of conspiracy theory over the weekend. The Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential candidate, appearing at a gathering of conservative donors hosted by the billionaire Koch brothers, said he couldn’t be sure President Obama is Christian.
The furthest Walker would go was to “presume” that Obama is what he claims — and not the Kenya-born Muslim we all know him secretly to be.
To most folks who have heard Obama talk about his Christian faith, or heard him sing “Amazing Grace” at a South Carolina church, this is crazy talk. But Walker’s answer was a logical appeal to the Republican primary electorate.
Fifty-four percent of Republicans last year said they thought that “deep down” Obama was a Muslim, and 29 percent said they didn’t know, according to a poll by political scientist Alex Theodoridis, who writes for The Post’s Monkey Cage blog.
Walker’s encouragement of the Muslim myth was another case of a dynamic that could be problematic for the eventual Republican presidential nominee: Saying zany things is rational strategy.
Chris Christie talking about his wish to punch a teachers union in its collective face? Ted Cruz saying the Obama administration is becoming the “world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorists”? Mike Huckabee talking about Obama marching Israelis to the “door of the oven”? Rand Paul declaring that highly taxed people are “half-slave”? Or Donald Trump, who still doesn’t know whether Obama was born in America, insulting everything from Mexican immigrants to John McCain’s war record?
Paul, the libertarian candidate in the GOP field, explained the Trump appeal on CNN: “This is a temporary sort of loss of sanity, but we’re going to come back to our senses and look for somebody serious to lead the country at some point.”
He’s right about the insanity part. But it may not be temporary. The gap between those who vote in GOP primaries and the rest of the electorate is growing.
In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, from mid-July, fully 88 percent of Republicans said the country is on the wrong track, close to the record-high 93 percent for Republicans in late 2011. So many Republicans think the country is on the wrong track that it may be causing them to come off the rails.
In 2008, there was a 33-point gap between the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who thought the country on the wrong track, and a 12-point gap between Democrats and independents. Now, the corresponding gaps between Republicans and the others are 46 points and 19 points.
This Republican sliver of the electorate, growing isolated and angry, is inclined toward exotic views. Trump, rather than causing the insanity Paul speaks of, is exploiting it.
While Jeb Bush alone tries to keep his head, others have responded to Trump by raising their own levels of crazy. Graham, who justifiably calls Trump a “jackass,” warns of the Iran deal empowering “religious Nazis.” Cruz says that “data and facts don’t support” global warming. Rubio says Obama “has no class.” Huckabee suggests he might use federal troops to block abortions.
This is what it takes — not only to trump Trump but to appeal to the peculiar tastes of the Republican primary electorate.
My Republican ancestors must be rolling over in their graves. And when did this sickness first begin to take hold? When the Christofascists hijacked much of the party base. They remain a metastasizing cancer in the GOP.