In light of recent events, Paul Krugman notes
that right-wing hate has become a serious threat:
But with the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion fanatic, closely followed by a shooting by a white supremacist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the analysis looks prescient.
There is, however, one important thing that the D.H.S. report didn't say: Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.
Now, for the most part, the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. haven't directly incited violence, despite Bill O'Reilly's declarations that "some" called Dr. Tiller "Tiller the Baby Killer," that he had "blood on his hands," and that he was a "guy operating a death mill." But they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.
Stoked by bigotry, religious intolerance, willful ignorance, and belligerent nationalism have turned many on the right into mean and hateful ideologues. The cultural and intellectual 'wars' are furthered by demagogues ranting about the evils of liberalism, the welfare state and those who would seek to remove god from their society. Michael Rowe observes the party-split in, "Death at the Holocaust Museum and the Degradation of the American Dialogue."
The difference between John McCain and Sarah Palin became clearest to me in the middle of the campaign last summer.
At a town hall meeting, McCain was confronted by an elderly woman who told McCain that she was a supporter of his because Obama was "an Arab." McCain was clearly uncomfortable, and it was patently obvious why. It had nothing to do with McCain's feelings about Arabs. It had to do with an old-school Republican accidentally moving the rock, and coming face to face with what actually lived beneath it. He recognized that the woman was making an unambiguously racist statement about his opponent, and he was mortified to be asked to answer it. Even though McCain famously and horribly bungled his answer ("No ma'am, he isn't. He's a decent family man.") I knew when he meant. He was addressing the intended racial slur and disavowing it, however badly.
In that moment, I felt deeply for my Republican friends who, on some level, must also be experiencing the embarrassment and discontent of recognizing that their party had been hijacked by racists and religious fanatics who derided education and achievement as "elitist."
But the alarms about just how bad things are even being rung by some 'conservatives.' Joe Scarborough, former Replubican Member of Congress and talk-show host on the Today Show:
I don't know if it was the death of the old Republican party. Maybe the next election will be the death of the old Republican party. Are Republicans going to wake up? Are they going to realize that not only do they need Dick Cheneys in the party, but they need Colin Powells in the party? They need to expand--I mean we should want everybody in the party that we can get and not have a harsh ideological test. That's what I talk about in the book. We all run around talking about Reagan, Reagan, we've got to be more like Reagan. Well, we've got Reagan's ideology down, smaller government, less taxes, but we forget Reagan's temperament. We have to have a better temperament. We can't be shrill. We can find the middle of America. Ronald Reagan, everybody's quoting Ronald Reagan. Palin was quoting Ronald Reagan --
Rowe explains just how poisoned the discourse has become:
There was a time when intellectual honesty was not considered unpatriotic; when compassion for, and understanding of, your fellow man was a sign of strength, not weakness. There was a time when the phrase Have you no shame? meant something, and the First Amendment was not used as toilet paper to wipe up the excremental verbal degradation of vulnerable segments of the American population. A time when it was expected that citizens would understand the difference between free speech and irresponsible speech. Somewhere along the line, a cancerous segment of American popular culture and media cunningly exploited the long-standing, honorable American "cowboy" motif and mentality. They grafted cruelty, divisiveness, and ignorance to it, making the two appear indistinguishable, and natural allies. And they are neither, or at least ought not to be.
There is no Environmental Protection Agency to measure hate pollution in national dialogue, and no mechanism in place to warn us when the poisonous rage spewed into the national consciousness by shock-jocks, poisonous television pundits, megachurch leaders, and oh-so-subtle politicians, has reached dangerously toxic levels.
Much like the other crazed political parties of the historic past, many Republicans seem determined to assign subhuman status to a large group of their own citizenry. Perhaps a starting point for the 'conservatives' wanting to get out of the gutter would be to stop casting your lot once and for all with the same ignorant, racist fools whose complete lack of ability to think either critically or rationally, have damned near turned your party in the crumbling and dangerous ruin that it has become.