Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Over the Cliff

The Orcosphere’s war on children rages on:

In an article in the New York Times, Michelle Malkin defends her assault on the Frost family by turning it into an attack on the Maryland SCHIP program and saying that using a 12-year-old kid as a spokesperson for their program makes him fair game; the same sentiment Karl Rove used when he leaked Valerie Plame’s name to the press.

“The bottom line here is that this family has considerable assets,” Ms. Malkin wrote in an e-mail message. “Maryland’s S-chip program does not means-test. The refusal to do assets tests on federal health insurance programs is why federal entitlements are exploding and government keeps expanding. If Republicans don’t have the guts to hold the line, they deserve to lose their seats.”

As for accusations that bloggers were unfairly attacking a 12-year-old, Ms. Malkin wrote on her blog, “If you don’t want questions, don’t foist these children onto the public stage.”

Ms. Malkin can get away with this because she knows that while the righties have used children as props for everything from stem-cell research to Social Security reform, the Democrats and the progressive blogosphere are not going to hunt down the families of those children, stalk their workplaces, put their addresses on the internet, and send them death threats via e-mail and the telephone, and if they did, they would be shunned and chastised by their allies. Yet this is the tactic that the righties are using on the Frosts, and Ms. Malkin herself has done this in the past. (Ironically, when some leftist bloggers posted her personal information a couple of years ago, she had a meltdown. Sauce for the goose and all that…)

Ezra Klein sees this as not just an isolated case but a sign that the right wing has gone over the cliff.

The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics. It is beyond politics. It was done to Scott Beauchamp, a soldier serving in Iraq. It was done to college students from the University of California, at Santa Cruz. Currently, it is being done to a child and his family. And think of those targets: College students, soldiers, children. It can be done to absolutely anyone.

This is not politics. This is, in symbolism and emotion, a violent group ritual. It is savages tearing at the body of a captured enemy. It is the group reminding itself that the Other is always disingenuous, always evil, always lying, always pitiful and pathetic and grotesque. It is a bonding experience — the collaborative nature of these hateful orgies proves that much — in which the enemy is exposed as base and vile and then ripped apart by the community. In that way, it sustains itself, each attack preemptively justifying the next vicious assault, justifying the whole hateful edifice on which their politics rest.

It is a blessing and relief that these mobs, as of yet, do nothing more than smear, that the blood they exult in is figurative and the inflicted harm is emotional or occupational. But they are howling, braying, thirsty mobs nonetheless, and their frequent, communal savagings of chosen representatives of their enemies is ugly and unsettling. It’s impossible not to wonder when the first one will drive by a house, and then decide to ring the doorbell, and then. Indeed, it’s already come damn close.

John Cole at Balloon Juice notes that the Frost family is, by every definition, the perfect Republican family:

If you look through this family’s dossier, it appears they are doing everything Republicans say they should be doing- hell, their story is almost what you would consider a checklist for good, red-blooded American Republican voters: they own their own business, they pay their taxes, they are still in a committed relationship and are raising their kids, they eschewed public education and are doing what they have to do to get them into Private schools, they are part of the American dream of home ownership that Republicans have been pointing to in the past two administrations as proof of the health of the economy, and so on.

In short, they are a white, lower-middle-class, committed family, who is doing EVERYTHING the GOP Kultur Kops would have you believe people should be doing. They aren’t gay. They aren’t divorced. They didn’t abort their children. They aren’t drug addicts or welfare queens. They are property owners, entrepeneurs, taxpayers, and hard-working Americans. I bet nine times out of ten in past elections, if you handed this resume to a pollster, they would think you were discussing the prototypical Republican voter. Hell, the only thing missing from this equation is membership to a church and an irrational fear of Muslims and you HAVE the prototypical Bush voter.

They are, however, not without fault. They are unable to afford insurance through normal means (and now that they have pre-existing conditions, probably couldn’t get traditional insurance anyway), and managed to get several of their family members injured in a traumatic accident. And, it appears, those are the big blind spots for compassionate conservatism. That, and the real big sin- allowing themselves to advocate for a policy that the Decider was going to veto. Here it is, so you can see their grievous sin that requires they be destroyed…

It is at this point when it becomes pretty obvious that we have gone far beyond the point of reasoned debate and civil discourse. This is no longer a question of whether or not a popular and successful insurance program for middle class children should be expanded or vetoed or a debate about the role of government in providing health care. That has been lost in all the sound and fury which, to their credit, the progressives have left pretty much to the righties; all the lefties have done is stand back and watch in wonder at the viciousness of the attacks from the Free Republic and their minions.

This is also a precursor to the election if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. The attacks on the Frosts and Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” flap is just the right wing clearing their guns, and it’s a parody of outrage bordering on the comical. I used to think that if Hillary Clinton was the nominee and elected that it would lead to nothing but four years of this kind of crap and that nothing would get done. Now I’m not so sure; the right wing has become this screaming mass of ineffectual outrage to the point that they’re actually fun to watch just for the entertainment value. Meanwhile the grown-ups will get down to work and get things done, leaving the kids to squabble it out in the sandbox.

One can only hope.