Republican Blowback

Ken AshfordObama Opposition, Sex/Morality/Family Values1 Comment

I (among many) have been noting the extreme rhetoric exhibited by the right wing pundits and Fox News.  Jon Stewart brought his A game last night to address this:

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To give you a sense of just how BAD Fox News has become with its paranoia, even the host of the extreme right wing blog Little Green Footballs is taking notice.  And conservative columnist Michael Cohen warns:

Populist agitators such as Beck are nothing new, particularly in times of economic instability — and they aren’t restricted to the right. During the Bush years, liberal anger over the administration’s policies bred bizarre conspiracy theories of its own, like accusations that the Sept. 11 attacks were an inside job. [NOTE from Ken: I don't think those people were liberal — more likely libertarian — but in any event, none of the them had an hour on television, or radio, every night]

However, Beck’s paranoid style is seeping into the discourse of conservative politics, which should be of concern to Republicans. The charge that President Barack Obama is a socialist, first raised in the 2008 campaign, has become a de rigueur epithet heard not only on talk radio but in the halls of Congress. Calls by China to consider replacing the dollar as the global reserve currency have been met by bizarre warnings from congressional Republicans that the Obama administration wants to scrap the greenback for a new global currency. Thirty-four House Republicans have even signed on to a constitutional amendment that would prevent this from occurring, though no such proposal is being considered.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has joined in, decrying the Obama administration’s proposed changes to charitable tax deductions as a “clear” effort to “replace people’s right to worship together with a government-­dominated system.”

The Republicans find themselves caught between two countervailing forces: the need to craft a policy agenda that appeals to middle-class Americans and the need to maintain the support of an angry base of voters that is alienated from, and suspicious of, the new president. 


Over the years, the GOP scored political benefit by playing on the resentments and fears of voters, but after the wreckage of the Bush years, Americans seem more interested in solutions than scapegoats. Conspiracy-laden rhetoric is unlikely to resonate far beyond the party’s core base of supporters. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine many Americans trusting a party so deeply influenced by its most extreme fringe.

If anything, catering to the far right risks becoming a millstone — a cheap way to score political points without having to do the critical spade work necessary to rebuild the party. As the GOP’s much-derided recent budget submission (which continues the party’s mantra of tax cuts, good; government spending, bad) demonstrates, there is still significant work to be done.

Republicans need to make a decision: Are they going to cater to the paranoid fears of self-styled “truth tellers” like Beck, or are they going to present a substantive policy alternative to Democratic rule? For the good of the party, and the country, let’s hope it’s the latter.

[UPDATE:  Kos has a must-read on the bizarreness of the rightwing paranoia]

This paranoia is no more clear than from many GOP politicians.  Take for example, Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa, one of Congress' most right-wing members, who told conservatives this week that the state should be in a position of "promoting marriage," but if gay people can get married, it will lead to the downfall of civilization.

Speaking at an anti-abortion event in eastern Iowa Monday night, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, warned that legalized same-sex marriage would lead to a complete dissolution of society and religion.

"I will tell you that I first came into this political arena with the belief innocent human life was the most important thing that I could be involved in," said King, a Kiron Republican who represents the 5th Congressional District in western Iowa. "I still believe that is the most important value. But I also recognize that if we don't save marriage, we can't remain pro-life.

"The values we have we pour through marriage into our children and into the next generation. Our religious values. Our values of faith. Our values. Our work ethic. Our entire culture comes through a man and a woman joined in holy matrimony, being blessed with children and pouring those values into the children and then living vicariously through them as they go off and we are blessed with grandchildren."

To hear these people, you sometimes wonder where they are coming from.  It's as if, in their minds, the institution of traditional marriage actually prevents homosexuality.  As if the only thing standing between "our values" and a world full of Richard Simmons and kd langs is the fact that everyone is "supposed" to marry someone of the opposite sex.

The question has been asked countless times in online forums, on TV, and in blogs…. and there has been no answer: "Exactly HOW does even a single gay marriage lead to a breakdown of one, two, or the majority of opposite-sex marriages?"