A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
A post I’ve discovered on Daily Kos, from almost exactly a year ago, has gotten to the heart of the problem, more succinctly and concisely than I have yet to put it. One needn’t even look past the title to find its insight: “An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America.” This is the bone-deep problem with the extremist elements on the right, and a trait by which those known as “extremist” can be defined: their hatred for Obama and what he represents takes precedent over anything and everything, including the well-being of the nation, the economy, the health of the citizenry, and on, and on. This is the root of their obstructionism, from which stems all the actions they’ve taken, and even seems at times to be obstructionism for its own sake – they oppose whatever Obama does and says simply by virtue of him doing or saying it. Opposing him is what they stand for, is what defines them, and is their overwhelming and superseding goal.
And they have just about said as much. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is a big player in the Republican party, is widely quoted as having said, two years into Obama’s first term, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.”
Number one priority.
(Full disclosure: This post is actually a reincarnation of a piece I posted a couple days ago, regarding and re-posting the same Daily Kos article. I had read the Daily Kos piece and rode the reverberations from the chord it struck in me to my computer and subsequently into the blogosphere, getting a little caught up in the self-righteousness of the moment. After a few hours, I thought better of it and took it down. I don’t like doing this – self-censorship seems disingenuous, like I’m trying to hide a part of myself. But despite it being chock-full of equivocation and justification - in an attempt to soften the sharp vituperation of the Daily Kos piece and reconcile it with my own beliefs - I still felt my post deviated in tone and sentiment from the voice I am trying to build on this blog. So I’ve rehashed it, and am trying to present it again in a truer form.)
From the Daily Kos piece (which I am refraining from re-posting in its entirety, as it takes a tone and rhetorical form that I try to avoid on this blog – though I do include some excerpts – and by which I mean to signify that I agree with its sentiment without endorsing its at-times-combative language), posted on January 9, 2012:
Now that you have thrown everything and the kitchen sink at President Obama and it still hasn’t worked you are panicking. Obama’s approval ratings are still near 50% despite your best efforts to undermine the economy and America’s recovery at every step you can. You tried to hold the American economy hostage to force America into default on its’ debts, debts that YOU rang up under Bush, so you could blame it on Obama and it failed. You’ve used the filibuster more than any other Congress ever, going so far as to vote against providing health care access to 9/11 first responders. You remember 9/11, don’t you, it’s that thing you used to lie us into a war in Iraq, and then when Obama killed Bin Laden and ended the war in Iraq you told people that he hates America and wants the troops to fail. You monsters. You hate Obama with a passion, despite the fact that he is a tax cutting, deficit reducing war President who undermines civil rights and delivers corporate friendly watered down reforms that benefit special interests just like a Republican. You call him a Kenyan. You call him a socialist. You dance with your hatred singing it proudly in the rain like it was a 1950′s musical.
As I’ve said from the beginning, I have no problem with people who don’t like Obama. I have plenty of criticisms of him myself, and there are plenty more to be made. But the actions of those who would do anything they could to see him fail, even if it means detriment to the country in the process, demonstrate a complete absence of good judgement and perspective, replaced by a hateful obsession that is in the best interest of no one. They hate Obama more than they love America, and they maintain a dark and ruthless vendetta against him, the reasons for which are darker still.
Bear in mind, I am not condemning the entirety of the Republican party. If you read the Daily Kos piece carefully, you’ll see that neither is its author. I most certainly do not ascribe the motivations described above to the entire party. But the faction that can be accurately described as such has grown in recent years from a small fringe minority to an increasingly vocal and effective influence on the rest of the party, the workings of government, and the recent Republican candidate for president (and as I’ve written before, much of my aversion to Romney came from the idea that to vote for him is to vote for the party he represents, and to let one in opens the door to the greater influence of all of them, particularly with such an easily-influenced candidate as Romney).
Recent instances of the anti-Obama cult phenomenon are myriad and plentiful, but if you need one, here is a good example:
“The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.”
A clearer example of a threat has yet to be uttered. This was said by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), as reported by Forbes and, you know, everyone, in an effort to once again take the debt ceiling “hostage,” as they did in 2011. The threat, which Obama characterized as a “dangerous game,” is intended to force Obama into a compromising position and coerce him into acquiescing to whatever the Republicans want, which includes eviscerating Social Security and Medicare (in much the same way as they refused to pass anything, such as a 9/11 First Responders health bill, until tax cuts for the rich were extended in 2010). John McQuaid, in the same Forbes article, characterizes it as such:
This is irresponsible. Cornyn is basically trying to force Obama to take political risks the GOP itself is unwilling to take (that is, outline entitlement cuts and restructuring), while directly threatening the economic chaos that would ensue when the government stops meeting its obligations. It threatens an actual, immediate catastrophe as a condition for dealing with a thus far distant, thus far imaginary one.
There is no good policy rationale for this radical approach. The economy is slowly recovering; threatening to submarine that recovery serves no one. The broader problem is, though, that this kind of crazy stunt has now become business as usual. As Alec MacGillis writes, in the months leading up to the 2011 debt ceiling fight, the idea of debt hostage-taking was seen as nearly unthinkable. Then, suddenly, it became routine, an ordinary part of the Washington game.
As the Republican Party has moved to the right, its policy goals have become simultaneously more extreme and more vague, to the point of incoherence. Combine this with the decline of shared rules and limits on behavior. More crazy, dangerous stunts are inevitable, and will be seen as business as usual. (Unless, maybe, the media decide to persistently point out just how crazy and dangerous they are.) And, in all likelihood, very little of substance will actually be accomplished.
Winning in a standoff with Obama is more important than solving the problem. Again from the Daily Kos piece:
[...]you spend like drunken sailors when you are in the White House, but if it is a Democrat then suddenly you cheer when America doesn’t get the Olympics because it might make the black President look bad.
The truth is, though coming from a liberal-leaning foundation, I find myself aligning more and more rightward on domestic policy issues – favoring states rights over federal rights, individual rights over the rights of the group, a belief in one’s right and ability to defend oneself – as I discover more about both policy and process. Plenty of my ideas are bound to be contradictory, and I’m still searching for and building a cohesive body of personal belief. Above all I believe in moderation, that extremism should be avoided, and I take a keen interest in both sides of every argument (there are always at least two sides, that is). I’m mentioning this because the manifesto quoted above explains why, despite some views and despite an increasing personal ambivalence regarding President Obama, I could never be a Republican, as the party currently stands. It is also why the Republican party is in crisis and why they were so soundly beaten in November, whether they know it or not. I could never ally myself with a party that includes the sort of people described above, with their skewed priorities and culture of extremism and hatred.
I wish this wasn’t the case. I sincerely hope, as I have written before, that the blow the GOP took in November will serve as a much-needed wake-up call, and will force the larger body of conservatives to cut lose and shove off from the fringe extremists (i.e. the Tea Party). It is also possible that once the extremists see a more centrist-leaning trend in the GOP, they may separate on their own – one might say “self-deport” from the Republican party – to form a third party, and thus resume their irrelevancy. I would prefer the former but will take the latter. Until then I cannot help but oppose them.