The Republic of T.

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World’s Craziest Conservatives?

It would be funny, if only it wasn’t reality. That’s what I thought when I came across this while perusing videos on my iPhone recently.

It’s a pretty good compliation of the recent insanity. It’s good political satire. If it was an obvious parody, I could laugh. But it’s not. And as good as it is, the video doesn’t begin to capture the breadth and depth of the present political insanity. (After all, there’s only so much one can cram into three minutes or less.)

There’s no shortage of this stuff. Case in point: there’s been even more insanity, in the few days between watching this video and publishing this post. In fact, there’s enough material for a television show kind of like The Smoking Gun’s "World’s Dumbest." (It could even be a kind of jobs program, that does for has-been, D-list conservatives pols what the Smoking Gun series has done for entertainment-world celebrities of the same varieties.)

Here’s what I was able to compile.

As you can see, there’s no end to this stuff. I finally had to stop gathering it if this post was ever going up, even though I know there’s stuff I did’t include.

Here’s what I couldn’t capture on video:

There. That gets us as far back as the beginning of summer — the point at which I drew an arbitrary line, because I couldn’t keep going indefinitely. (If I had the time, I could. The material is there.)

The point of compiling all of this isn’t to continue the "Stupid Republicans" meme, or to be dismissive of tea party types. Quite the opposite, actually. The point is that they should be taken seriously, as they are quite serious about what they believe, and all of the above is a mere preview of what we can expect if this brand of radicalized conservatism wins in November.

The point is one made by the two videos bookending the collection above: This is how they will govern.

Progressives — us complicated people who believe in "creating a world that works for everyone" — need to remember this much, no matter how frustrated, disappointed, or even angry we are about reforms that aren’t everything that they should be and that the country needs them to be. The inmates haven’t just taken over the asylum. They have breached its gates, organized, and are now threatening to take over the government.

What’s changed is that the nutcases on the right are capable of beating a sane Republican incumbent by 42 points if they step out of line. Believe me, every member of the GOP in Congress is aware of this fact. They have to eat chicken dinners with these people and ask them for money. Arlen Specter knew his goose was cooked as soon as he saw the reaction to Sarah Palin. In fact, it was the selection of Sarah Palin to be a vice-presidential candidate that put this Tea Party movement into overdrive. Up to that point all their energy was being put into Ron Paul’s delegate-deprived run for the presidency. McCain made the single most irresponsible political decision since a lame-duck James Buchanan sat silently while half the country seceded from the Union.

But I’m getting off my point. My point is that, while Scher is correct to point out the Tea Party is merely the latest incarnation of the right’s rage at being governed by a Democratic President, and to point out their overall numbers are small, he’s wrong to give the impression that we’re not dealing with something extremely dangerous. Because, if you haven’t noticed, the Republicans are voting in absolute lockstep, and they’re dancing to the Tea Partiers tune. They are terrified of opposing them. And even when they do oppose them we see outcomes like Rand Paul crushing the establishment candidate in a socially conservative (i.e., not a libertarian) state.

I’ve never seen a fringe movement take control of a party’s soul and mind like this before. I was hoping that the governance of Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and Karl Rove was the worst the right could offer, but it’s not even close. The Republicans have been cynical so long that they’ve been taken over by the duped.

Actual Republican congresspeople (with a handful of exceptions) have no interest in the Tea Party’s priorities. Want proof? Read the Mission & Platform just passed by Maine’s GOP. It’s cuckoo land. And that might be the saving grace for this country, because the establishment GOP doesn’t intend to become the party of Rand Paul. They just want to use that energy to get back into power and take the gavels back from the Democrats. But, first of all, we just saw what ‘reasonable’ establishment Republican politics can do to our country, so we can’t take much solace from the fact that that establishment is taking their cynicism to eleven by playing footsie with these people. Secondly, a bunch of the new Republicans elected this November are going to be certifiably Michele Bachmann-insane. And just like with the Republican Class of 1994, sixteen years later some of the people will be governors and senators.

They might just be the "world’s craziest conservatives," but they could be "coming soon to a Congress near you," if progressives — out of frustration, despair, or a lack of enthusiasm — decide to "sit this one out." Because I can guarantee you, the tea-party types and the far right fringe won’t. As Bill pointed out, the current overheated right-wing fringe movement called the Tea Party has deep roots.

Was GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham correct when he told the New York Times Magazine that the Tea Party would "die out" because "they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country"?

It would be nice if that were the basis on which political parties and movements survived or collapsed. But the Republican Party did not have a coherent vision for governing the country between 2001 and 2008, and it is still around. (Michael Steele notwithstanding.)

The Tea Party can easily survive on blind hatred for responsive government, revulsion of shared responsibility, rampant misinformation and conspiracy theories.

How do I know? Because it has survived for decades.

The Tea Party is nothing new. It is merely the latest incarnation of the right-wing fringe that predictably overheats whenever a left-of-center reformer is elected to the presidency. It was the John Birch Society and the National Indignation Convention in the early 1960s, the Moral Majority and other "New Right" groups in the late 1970s, and Rush Limbaugh’s "dittoheads" and the militia movement in the 1990s.

The name has changed, along with a few other details, but the movement is the same one that rises up every time we take a step closer to "a world that works for everyone," the same movement that "stands athwart history yelling stop" every time a progressive movement brings America closer to living up to all it promises to be on paper for all of its citizens.

That the same old movement has reared its head again suggests we’ve had more victories than perhaps we’re inclined to acknowledge, due to a progressive tendency to always seek more justice, more inclusion, more equality, etc. Clearly we’re not "there" yet, but we’re close than we were and we have an opportunity to get even closer.

Unless. Unless we throw our hands up in frustration at the winding route and painfully slow pace and decide not to make the trip at all.

That would separate us from previous progressive movements that made it possible for someone like Barack Obama to be president, and someone like Hillary Clinton to make – Hillary Clinton’s Concession Speech" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgi_kIYx_bY">18 million cracks in the glass ceiling that will someday shatter — taking with it another barrier between us and "there," our destination of "a world that works for everyone." None of which would have happened if our progressive forebears had given up when they set out for "a world that world for everyone" and ended up with a piece of the world that worked a bit better for some than it did before.

In short, we wouldn’t be at this juncture if they had abandoned their fellow citizens and future generations — us — to an opposition that declare "no further" and promised to push back what gains had been made. Can we, in good conscience, abandon those whose lives will be made worse if today’s reactionary conservative movement grabs the reins and turns their battle cry of "Hell no" or – Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) Gets Heated During Speech on Health Care Reform" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UyVgUIVI8A">"Hell, no you can’t" into policy. Can we in good conscience abandon 15 million unemployed Americans to the will of a movement and politicians who withhold the unemployment benefits they need for basic necessities, to score political points?

We’re dealing with a movement that is as dangerous as it was generations ago — and not in terms of violence, threats of violence, or justification of both — but in terms of what it means for Americans now and for generations to come if todays radicalized, reactionary conservative movement succeeds in grabbing power in the midst of a crisis, bringing more pain to more Americans, and inflicting likely permanent damage on our economy, culture, and society.

All that’s required, to borrow a quote from "the father of modern conservatism," is for us to do nothing.

This November, I’ll probably go to the ballot box with the words of my late father ringing in my ears. He and my mom stressed to us the importance of voting, of taking part in the political process — however frustrating and dispiriting it may be at times — and not "sitting it out." They knew whereof they spoke, because they saw their country change from an America where they could not vote to one that enshrined their right to vote in law, and they knew the long fight required to get there.

I reach voting age in the 1980s, having grown up in the Reagan era, and seen the south where I grew up turn a deep shade of "red." So, I knew what my father meant when he said to me, "Always vote. If you can’t find someone to vote for, find someone to vote against, but vote." That was how he’d managed to keep going back to the polls, by framing his choice in terms of which candidate or which policies might do the least harm, if not the most good.

But this year I’m going to frame my vote (my volunteer activities and donations) as support for "the world as it should be" or "a world that works for everyone" and the candidates and policies that will get us, if not all the way there, then closer than we were before 2008 and closer than we are now — instead of framing my vote against "the world’s craziest conservatives."

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