Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Danger of Making Extremists "Heroes"

Not to beat a dead horse, but I am savoring watching many in the Republican Party scramble to distance themselves from Cliven Bundy and his band of crazy gun nut supporters.  It seems that time and time again the GOP embraces a lunatic - Sarah Palin immediately springs to mind as does Michelle Bachmann - who is not dealing with a full deck and either (i) has no business holding any public office or (ii) should never be embraced as a public hero.  Seemingly, the GOP doesn't seem to learn that as often as not, the "hero" it has embraced turns out to be an embarrassing nut job. Perhaps the phenomenon is a symptom of how untethered from reality the GOP base has become given that it is now so heavily populated by Christofascists and members of the Tea Party, a majority of whom are Christofascists and white supremacists hiding under a different name.  A column in the Washington Post looks at this GOP tendancy to embrace extremists and end up sullying the party brand in the process.  Here are highlights:

Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy knows how to start a stampede.  After Bundy, who became a right-wing hero for his refusal to acknowledge the authority of the federal government, wondered aloud about whether “Negro” people were “better off as slaves,” conservative figures who had celebrated his cause rushed to distance themselves from him.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had condemned the federal government’s attempt to enforce court orders against Bundy: “Offensive.”

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who had declared Bundy’s followers “patriots”: “Appalling and racist.”

And Sean Hannity, who had led a Fox News campaign that made a hero of Bundy: “Beyond repugnant.”

Bundy boosters are right to be appalled, but they should not be shocked.  The anti-government strain of thought that Bundy advanced has been intertwined with racist and anti-Semitic views over several decades. Not all people who resist the authority of the federal government are motivated by race, of course, and not all racists are anti-government. But there is a long symbiosis between the two.

Among those who rallied to Bundy’s defense in Bunkerville, Nev. — the supporters Heller labeled patriots — was Wiley Drake, an Internet preacher affiliated with the “Oath Keepers” movement. According to reports from the scene, Drake told a crowd of Bundy supporters that they shouldn’t bow to the “half-breed” President Obama.

Bundy’s notion of state supremacy . . . is a variant of states’-rights claims that go back to the Civil War and were revived in the segregationists’ opposition to civil rights laws. Because the federal government has been the protector of minority rights, states’ rights have long been used to justify discrimination.

Specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks anti-government and hate groups, says that Bundy’s sentiments align closely with those of the “Posse Comitatus” movement, founded . . . . on a belief that the levers of national power were controlled by Jewish bankers.

If you flirt with extremists, you’re eventually going to end up with strange bedfellows. Chris McDaniel, opposing Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi’s Republican primary, withdrew from being the keynote speaker at next month’s “Firearm Freedom Day/Tea Party Music Fest” conference when it was reported that the same conference was also touting the participation of a seller of “white pride” merchandise.

In Florida, Rep. Ted Yoho (R) had to backtrack after telling constituents that he couldn’t say with “100 percent” certainty that the Civil Rights Act is constitutional because “a lot of things that were passed are not constitutional.”

Various others, including Nevada’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, had been similarly critical of the federal government. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Tuesday said the federal government was “using the jackboot of authoritarianism to come against the citizens.”  By Thursday, Cruz’s office was calling Bundy’s racism “completely unacceptable.” 

And yet completely unsurprising. 

Yes, there are extremists on the left too, but it seems Democrats are more likely to think twice before running to embrace them without ever think about checking into with whom they are climbing into bed.  The GOP needs to think before cuddling up to crazies and haters.

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