We’ve spent a lot of time over the last ten years reading about the extremism that has sprung up in the Republican Party in the last few decades, and for the most part we’ve treated it with the scorn that it deserves.
Steve M has a good post on how the Very Serious People are finally beginning to take notice of the fringe folk who are occupying seats of power and those who aspire to follow them, and Charlie Pierce tells the Democrats that ignoring or trying to make nice with them will lead to a bad end.
From Mr. Pierce:
The great failing of the Democratic party over the past three-and-a-half decades has been the party’s failure to take political advantage of the obvious prion disease that has afflicted the Republican party since it first ate all the monkey-brains in the mid-1970’s. Whether this was out of cowardice, incompetence, or an overly optimistic view of the inherent sanity of the electorate, is no longer an issue. The failure to make the Republican crazee the Republican party’s standing public identity has encouraged the increased spread, and the increased virulence of the prion disease, with disastrous consequences for the rest of us. Why, in the name of god, would you not call Michele Bachmann crazy? Because it might offend the people who vote for her? It’s supposed to offend those people. Those people beg to be offended, and, by doing so, you at least inject into the discussion the notion that the Republican party has thrown its marbles gleefully to the four winds. A few elections later, that may become the general opinion. After all, the Permanent Republican Majority wasn’t built in a day.
He points to the apparent lead that Iowa senate candidate Joni Ernst holds in her bid to replace Tom Harkin, noting that her views on certain issues such as climate change and international relations seem to be channeled from the urine-soaked screamer on the corner of Biscayne Boulevard and the MacArthur Causeway. And yet the Democrats are afraid to call her out for being a radical wingnut. Why?
Because if they do, they’ll be labeled as the haters. The Republicans have mastered the culture of victimhood. Everything they’re accused of is turned on its head. The Tea Party holds up racist signs comparing the president and his family to simians and when reasonable people object, the GOP whines about “the race card.” When fundamentalist Christians seek to deny gays and lesbians the equal rights promised by the Constitution, they claim their “religious freedom” is being stomped on. They raise such a stink about their faux hurt fe-fe’s that no one dare call them out on it because it only makes the whining worse. Also, the Republican Sound Machine has become very good at accusing the accuser of being the one with the radical and dangerous ideas, something they learned very well sixty years ago from the junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy.
But Democrats would have to do this right. Don’t call these people “crazy” — you have to establish that they’re dangerous. These people can’t be described as comical or eccentric — they have to seem like people you’d cross the street to avoid, because you don’t know what they’ll do.
This has to be done in the solemn warning tones Republicans use when they want to scare your grandparents on Fox. But if the press won’t do its job, will heartlanders take the word of mere Democrats? People who, by definition, have inappropriate ideas and suspect patriotism?
It’s tempting to ignore people like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, but when people who share their beliefs get elected, it’s going to be too late.