Cranking up the crazy way beyond 11
The Republican party primary race has been noticeable for the crazed one-upmanship on display by the candidates, competing with each other to say the most astoundingly absurd things to the point that the whole things seems like some massive performance art project. It is clear that part of the cause has been the pressure from highly vocal segments of the party’s base and its media enablers that seem to be pushing the party further and further into insane territory. Why is this?
Matt Taibbi tries to understand the process by which this kind of crazed rhetoric came to be commonplace. He thinks that this is due to the so-called social-conservatives steadily broadening the search for whom to blame for not returning America to some mythic golden age that never actually existed.
Here at home, all liberals, gays, Hispanic immigrants, atheists, Hollywood actors and/or musicians with political opinions, members of the media, members of congress, TSA officials, animal-lovers, union workers, state employees with pensions, Occupiers and other assorted unorthodox types had already long ago been rolled into the enemies list.
Given the continued troubles and the continued failure to return to good old American values, who else could possibly be to blame? Where else could they possibly point the finger?
There was only one possible answer, and we’re seeing it playing out in this race: At themselves! And I don’t mean they pointed the finger “at themselves” in the psychologically healthy, self-examining, self-doubting sort of way. Instead, I mean they pointed “at themselves” in the sense of, “There are traitors in our ranks. They must be ferreted out and destroyed!”
This is the last stage in any paranoid illness. You start by suspecting that somebody out there is out to get you; in the end, you’re sure that even the people who love you the most under your own roof, your own doctors, your parents, your wife and your children, they’re in on the plot.
When Jeb Bush begins a statement with “I used to be a conservative” and proceeds to voice concerns about hearing appeals to fear in the Republican debates, you know that the party has gone over the cliff. Even Pat Buchanan, of all people, thinks that Republican party is over-reaching on the so-called moral issues.
Taibbi did not use this example but I think that Rick Perry’s campaign began to implode not because of his lousy debating skills but when he said in a debate on September 22 (to boos from the audience) that those who opposed his relatively lenient attitude towards undocumented people in Texas ‘did not have a heart’. That was his unforgivable heresy. His support plunged from 23% to 12% in the week following and he never recovered. His infamous ‘Oops’ debate moment came much later on November 19, when his campaign was already in deep trouble. It merely delivered the coup de grace.