Sunday, September 27, 2015

Be Afraid: Extremists Are Taking Control of the GOP

While in many ways the Republican Party has become and extremist sectarian party, things may be about to get much worse with the coming departure of feckless John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  Now, swamp fever addled "movement conservatives" - read Christofascist religious fanatic extremists - backed members of the House are likely to push for even more extreme batshitery, including shutting down the government and force a debt default.  A piece in Salon looks at the frightening turn of events that may be in the near future if these lunatics get their way.  Here are excerpts:
Movement Conservatives just claimed the head of House Speaker John Boehner. His political death was the price of preventing a catastrophic government shutdown after Movement Conservatives in Congress tied the very survival of the United States government to their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. Movement Conservatives are gunning for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next. We should be very afraid. Boehner and McConnell are not wild-eyed lefties. They are on the very far right of the American political spectrum: fervently pro-business, antiabortion, opposed to social welfare legislation. But they are old-school politicians who still have faith in the idea of American democracy.

Movement Conservatives do not. They want to blow up the government and remake America according to their own radical ideology.

Eisenhower worried deeply about the rise of authoritarian governments. He worried about fascism, communism and religious extremism overseas, but he was also deeply concerned at the rise of Movement Conservatism in America.

Mass movements ultimately need a disaffected population, Hoffer said, people who are either economically or culturally dispossessed. Those isolated individuals need to feel part of something bigger than themselves. They need to believe they can regain their previous relevance. Properly primed, such followers will throw themselves behind a leader who promises to return them to power.

The easiest way to unify followers was with hate. Leaders of such a movement identified a villain. These villains were usually the weakest members of society, making them easy to attack. And each attack on these new “enemies” fed contempt for them. Followers of a movement made more and more outrageous claims about those they demonized. Eventually those villains became so dehumanized that movement members would kill them, believing such atrocities were vital to reclaiming a glorious future for their nation. At this stage, followers were immune to facts or logic. Indeed, arguing with them only entrenched them in their beliefs, because the sign of a true believer’s faith was that it stood firm in the face of overwhelming opposition.

In the 1960s, Movement Conservatives created a cast of villains. The Brown v. Board decision in 1954 and President Eisenhower’s use of troops to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957 enabled Movement Conservatives to resurrect old white fears that government activism was simply a way to funnel white tax dollars to African-Americans. Black people threatened America by forcing the government to redistribute wealth, thus inserting communism into the very fabric of the country. In 1968, Nixon made this Movement Conservative argument part of the established Republican Party when he resorted to the Southern Strategy. 

By the time of the George W. Bush administration, Movement Conservatives controlled the Republican Party, and they abandoned reality in favor of their simple story line. A member of the Bush administration famously noted to journalist Ron Suskind that “the reality-based” view of the world was obsolete. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” this senior adviser to the president told Suskind. “When we act, we create our own reality.”

That is exactly what today’s Movement Conservatives are doing. After the last Republican debate, astonished observers noted that many of the candidates’ assertions were flat-out lies.

They tell followers that America has fallen apart because enemies— minorities, women and liberals– have poisoned the government. Only a Movement Conservative leader can purge the nation of that poison and return America to its former greatness. Donald Trump, who currently commands a significant lead, is the salesman who puts it most clearly. . . . He tells them a story in which Christianity is under siege, President Obama is a foreigner, and that immigrants—who actually commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans– are criminals.

But Trump is not an outlier. Jeb! says that black people vote for Democrats to get “free stuff.” Mike Huckabee insists that the United States is criminalizing Christianity. Bobby Jindal promises to “fire” Congress. Ted Cruz hints that President Obama is a Muslim and warns that no Muslim should be president. All of the candidates demonize undocumented immigrants.

The fantasy world of Movement Conservatives is no longer fringe talk. The leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination embrace it. They are playing to a chorus of true believers, and they are preaching what that choir wants to hear. They are following the same pattern Eric Hoffer identified as the path to authoritarianism. Last week, 43 percent of Republicans polled said they could imagine a scenario in which they would back a military coup. This week, Movement Conservatives in Congress knocked off a conservative speaker because he refused to sacrifice the American government to their demands.

We should be very frightened indeed. If we are not careful, John Boehner’s will not be the only head on the block.

People need to wake up to the stark danger these fanatics pose.  For too long they have used racism, false patriotism, and hate to dupe people into supporting their toxic agenda.  They need to be unmasked and defeated.

No comments: