Old Topic Update: Authoritarianism In American Politics

I didn’t want to be so direct at our meeting on this topic, but  to me the mainstreaming of extremism in our routine political discourse is the most important political development of the past 10 years.  I know it’s hard for a non-partisan political discussion group like ours to acknowledge this elephant in the room, but at least on-line I can link to some of the evidence that we may be entering a new and more than a little frightening political phase.

Hey —  we’re only mimicking the blackout of this topic in the news media, which is afraid of it.  That’s one reason I posted earlier a list of news/politics oriented sites that do not self-censor like this.

And those sites don’t even track the right-wing day-to-day and report what gets said, over and over, day after day.  Others do (here, here, and here).  It’s not just talk.  This article sums it up pretty nicely.

“The speed with which conservatives went from zero to hysterical in 2009 was impressive, but it’s the mainstreaming of sheer madness that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. As [another columnist] noted, “[A]ccusations that once were beyond the pale — not just talk of Nazis and Marxists but intimations of tyranny, revolution and bloodshed — are now routine.”

And they’re common, not just among fringe media personalities and activists, but with the Republican Party establishment [emphasis added by DG].

It’s tempting to think there will be eventually be a Joseph Welch moment, but no one in the party seems willing to step up and acknowledge that Republicans shouldn’t follow the orders of unhinged zealots. On the contrary, they’re afraid to disappoint the radical base, which may in turn undermine the GOP’s “enthusiasm gap” edge.

And so the Republican Party shows no meaningful qualms about becoming the party of conspiracy theories (“Birthers,” Gulf oil spill was deliberate), wild-eyed accusations (ACORN, “re-education camps,” Gestapo-like security forces, New Black Panther Party), and radical policy positions (a five-year spending freeze to address a global economic crisis, the belief that tax cuts pay for themselves, a freeze on federal regulations, willful ignorance about energy, health, and education policy, the entire Sharron Angle/Rand Paul platform).

Rage and paranoia are not an attractive combination, but they’re driving the GOP talking points and the larger political discourse. So, when a member of the Republican leadership talked about the GOP emulating the Taliban, no one in the party deemed this controversial. When Republicans regularly compare U.S. leaders to Germany in the 1930s, the party mainstream barely bats an eye. When GOP policymakers openly discuss the prospect of state nullification of federal laws, no one in the Republican ranks steps up to say, “Good Lord, these people are mad.”

…The point isn’t that political radicalism is new; it’s clearly not. Rather, the key development over the last 18 months is the ways in which right-wing extremism has gone mainstream — with the consent of the Republican Party, which sees the electoral benefits of blind rage and fear.

Later I’ll focus more on November and the prospects for a Republican takeover and what policies they say they will pursue if they are returned to power.


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