BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
Some observers declare that the Republican Party has been hijacked by extremists. Others argue with that premise. They say that the Republican Party has gone along as a willing hostage with the radicals and extremists it has taken into its tent. Our vote here would come down on the latter side, with the possible caveat that party leadership and mainliners are so inept, impotent, or cowardly that they have been putting up no resistance to the extremists.
As it has tried unsuccessfully to meet the insatiable demands of its lunatic fringe, and lacked the courage to resist, the party has followed sheepishly down the primrose path of toward moral and intellectual bankruptcy.
Individual Republicans feel that they will be shunned and cast out of leadership if they do not coddle, and even encourage, the thugs and kooks around them – as well as the stars of right wing media. Perhaps some see the espousing of violence and hoodlum tactics as the road to a return to a position of political power which they lost to democrats in 2008. Seeing the tactics some were willing to use against the democrats during the summer of disorderly Town Hall meetings, perhaps mainstream Republicans are fearful of becoming the target of such hooliganism themselves.
Republicans certainly showed no character and no courage in openly challenging the disorderly, disrespectful, and threatening members of their Tea Party people as they engaged in despicable conduct outside the Capitol last week. Members of the majority party were called names, including racial and homophobic epithets, and even spat upon by tea party protestors outside the Capitol as they ran a rowdy, taunting gauntlet to enter the building. [Can you imagine the elderly, dignified black congressman, a veteran of vicious abuses as he once marched with Dr. King in Selma, being spat upon and called the “N” word by these kooks?]
Instead of admonishment, some Republicans spoke to the protestors, encouraged them, and even appeared on the Capitol balcony to wave, endorse, and encourage their conduct. Some Republicans made positive comments to the media, generally bestowing on that group of angry, unruly hoodlums the distinction of representing “the American people,” who they said were angry about the health care bill. My word!
Inside the House Chamber another Republican congressman added his name to an infamous list started by Joe Wilson, who yelled, “You lie!” Lubbock Republican Randy Neugebauer yelled at Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak, “Baby Killer!” Of course, both apologized, but they both went right out and advertised their misconduct as a way to raise money from fellow republicans who oblige by sending contributions to encourage further misbehavior. This reminds us of the praise of “hero” some offered to the man who flew his airplane into the IRS building recently, killing one worker. Any party that does or condones this no longer deserves a place at the table in civil discourse.
Since the historic vote, the media have observed a concerted, somewhat coordinated effort among right wing Republicans to terrorize their opposition in the Democratic Party. Democratic congressmen have been getting lunatic calls threatening them and their family, their offices have been vandalized in various parts of the country, and they have reason to fear actual harm from an orchestrated effort at domestic terrorism. Right wing web sites and talk radio guests have been advocating throwing bricks through office windows and otherwise demonstrating distaste for Democrats.
Some Republican leaders have actually encouraged such inflammatory conduct, generously using loaded words and signals in their releases. Sarah Palin spoke of “reloading,” “targets,” and used “cross-hair gun sights” in her material. This is despicable. Apparently she is trying to validate her identity, “Going Rogue.”
Actually much of what is being done and said has gone way past the level of free political expression, and it has become criminal and treasonous. How far does this have to go before law enforcement steps out and takes some of these rogues by the arm and off to jail? Why do we tolerate the use of our media by the likes of Glenn Beck on Fox News to foment rebellion?
While Republicans would like for us to believe that their opposition to health insurance reform has nothing to do with racism, a closer look at those most affected by lack of health insurance would tend to undermine that assertion. It turns out that only 10% of white people don’t have health insurance, while about 20% of black people don’t have it, and a whopping 30% of Hispanics are without insurance. Thus, it is clear that lack of health insurance coverage hits poor people and non-whites the worst. Could it be that Republicans are just not motivated by the plight of the poor and non-white in our society if it costs taxes? Is that why this issue took such a racial turn?
Republican leaders have done nothing to call off the mad dog element within their party. Instead of calling them out, telling them they are not wanted in a civil political party, they are praised and encouraged. Of course, lip service is paid to non-violent expression of political views, but in no way do they actually declare that violence, threats, hooliganism, racial epithets, and the like will no longer be tolerated in the party.
A very sobering Harris Poll came out last week. In a survey of self-identified Republicans only, it turns out that 67% believe that President Obama is a socialist, 57% believe that he is Muslim, and 38% believe he has been using Hitler tactics.
Folks, these numbers are scary. It shows the level of success the wild rhetoric of media and party extremists have had on party regulars. They actually believe all this stuff. It matters not that these beliefs contradict the facts. It matters not that these are irrational ideas and notions. It might be that the real “mainstream” of the Republican Party really is this group of kooks and radicals.
Have we been operating under an illusion in thinking the Republican Party is even capable right now of civil discourse of any meaningful kind?
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer
Editor’s Note: Since Dr. Vineyard’s writing, the Harris Poll cited in it has come under some criticism. See the Columbia Journalism Review’s Out On A Limb blog entry http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/out_on_a_limb.php for details.