When political movements move beyond their useful stage and devolve into extremism, ad hominem attacks, conspiracy theories and exaggerated accounts of wrongdoing, then those movements are in their dying days.
Thus it is with the conservative Republican movement.
While the right-wing wave has swollen and crashed since 2012, this year’s presidential mash-up is a textbook, laboratory, peer-reviewed example of the party’s continued descent. Don’t get me wrong; there will still be a Republican Party, and a strong, rational one is vital to our political system. It will just look very different by 2020.
Each of the candidates left in the race, after Rick Perry’s shocking! (not really) exit last week, is painting the United States as a declining, morally bankrupt, ineffectual, soft country. They are blaming President Obama for all the country’s ills, although they do have a particular section of real estate in Hell reserved for the Supreme Court justices who affirmed marriage equality and upheld the Affordable Care Act. Twice. And they’re saying that the country is lawless and unsafe because our law enforcement officials are now hesitant to act because they don’t want their body camera videos to end up on YouTube. You can see the frustration and anger in the candidates’ faces and feel their campaign rage at every turn.
And all of this is occurring amidst an improving economy, a rising stock market (for the most part), declining unemployment numbers, improved consumer protections and a health care landscape that is taking care of many more people at a more affordable price. Do we have work to do? You bet, but part of the problem is the GOP itself. They continue to protect the coal industry by using the phrase “clean coal” in a way that probably has George Carlin contemplating the deliciousness of the contradictions while spinning in his grave, they continue to deny the practical effects of global warming and its origins in man-made pollutants, they criticize Obama’s foreign policies with no discernible platform of their own except to defeat terrorism, and they just can’t come to grips with the fact that they’ve lost the marriage equality argument. Twice.
The problem, of course, as they see it, is Barack Obama. Like Bill Clinton, the conservative right-wing doesn’t really see Obama as a legitimate president. That’s why you have the arguments over his birth certificate and whether he’s a Muslim or whether he created the high gas prices in 2009 and the low gas prices now. And whether he’s secretly in league with the Iranians and that’s why the agreement was so soft on them or is the real reason because he hates Israel. These dark conspiracies, which are given full lighting by the conservative press remind me of the JFK assassination conspiracy theories, but instead of choosing one of those to believe, you’d have to believe all of them. That would make Dealey Plaza awash in Cubans, mobsters, American military personnel, Communist spies and lovers who were jilted by women who had affairs with the president. The problem now is that the right-wing believes that all the accusations against Obama are true.
And did I mention race? I know, I know; that’s bad form, especially given recent contemporary race relations in our country. Forget I even mentioned it.
This week Republican debate will feature all the candidates telling us how terrible the state of the country is and how their angry, knee-jerk responses will make it sunnier and better. All we need to do is build the wall, police it, chuck out the undocumented, lower taxes, allow religious exemptions for whatever we happen to not agree with, destroy all the unions, and tell women that they have to carry every pregnancy to term no matter what the circumstances. That’s the ticket to a happier, Reaganesque revival, right?