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Ann Coulter Republicans

John Steinberg - Raw Story Columnist

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Manna is now being airlifted into Democratic hands. Will they have the will to use it?

In an apparent (and successful) attempt to raise the profile of her new book, Ann Coulter went off. Again.

Arch-conservative commentator Ann Coulter likes to shock, but she turned stunningly malicious in her new book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism." She referred in it to four outspoken widows whose husbands were killed in the 9/11 attacks as "self-obsessed women" and "witches" who are taking pleasure in their husbands' deaths.

The widows, all from New Jersey, had gained attention for pressing the Bush administration to establish the 9/11 commission - an achievement that apparently rubbed Ms. Coulter the wrong way.

The author, who is on tour promoting her book, wrote: "And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies?"

And lest you think that this sawed-off shotgun of a human being backed off after seeing the damage done:

At her appearance at the Book Revue in Huntington, the rail-thin blonde was unapologetic.

"No, I won't apologize. Yes, the 9/11 widows are witches and harpies," she said.

Raw Story readers will most likely know that Ann Coulter has been the far right's designated brawler for some time. She's the one who called Max Cleland "lucky." Who said that John Walker Lindh should be executed "in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too." The one who said "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." The one who said "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee." The one who said that Congressman John Murtha was "the reason soldiers invented 'fragging.'"

When Michael Moore had the gall to confront Americans with the footage of our deer-in-the-headlights 9/11 President in 2004, Republicans were quick to force Democrats to distance themselves from such blasphemy. They savaged as "Michael Moore Democrats" all who would not disown him. That cleft has contributed to the alienation of the grass roots of the party from those who chose respectability over populism.

In the fetid, malodorous bog that is the Republican ecosystem, in contrast, Coulter has found a warm, comfortable home. That place is as the basso profano in the tragicomic conservative opera buffa - the villain who gives voice to the evil the others feel but dare not speak. Coulter has completely adapted to the feedback loop that characterizes her surroundings: the more outrageous her rhetoric, the more media attention she gets. The more attention she gets, the more books she sells, and the more she gets paid for her lecture tour appearances, and so on. A "godless" Darwinian process has thus prevailed: survival of the foulest.

Republicans (as well as their Stockholm-Syndromed counterparts in the press and the Democratic establishment) refer to the left blogosphere as a "fever swamp," yet the sulfurous venom that spews from Coulter's orifice creates nary a peep of Republican unease. Neither Universal Press Syndicate nor a single newspaper has dropped her syndicated toxin. And why should they? She sells papers, and blogospheric outrage is but a distant thunder for them.

Coulter's ascendance is a manifestation of a deep and serious problem that has been building for many years. Republicans have been extraordinarily successful in casting large swaths of the Democratic loyalists as lepers. Democratic leaders have largely concurred in that diagnosis, and have been running away from their own supporters for more than a decade. As Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg recently pointed out, the Democrats are so cowed they have acquiesced in the demonization of the word "liberal," which now battles for lead pariah status with the dread acronym "ACLU." In short, the greedy, venal wing of the Democratic Party has been cut loose from its only source of strength and differentiation from the greedy venal wing of the Republican Party. The cleavage has been devastatingly effective. Yet no serious attempt has been made to create a similar schism between fringe Republicans and those who stress fitness for polite company.

If the pundit-class Democrats were waiting for an engraved invitation to that party, it just arrived.

The question, "Are you an Ann Coulter Republican?" should confront every Republican running for every office in the land, from President to dog catcher. Every Democratic candidate should accuse his or her opponent of being in favor of poisoning Supreme Court Justices and killing Congressmen. At every opportunity, every Republican should be made to answer: "Do you agree with Ann Coulter that the 9/11 widows are witches and harpies?" And George W. Bush, Tony Snow, Dick Cheney, Laura Bush and Barney (the only lapdog with a good excuse) should be confronted with these questions as well.

Republicans have been able to maintain a Kabuki symbiosis with all manner of cave-dwellers by speaking in an elaborate, dog whistle-like code. They hold racists, homophobes and rapture acolytes close enough to keep their votes without ever having to either publicly embrace or disavow such extreme viewpoints. That relationship with white-sheet America has been essential to their electoral strategy for decades.

But Ann Coulter has furnished us with a turn-key solution. We can now easily put them in the logical fork they should have been forced into years ago: disavow Coulter's vile, sub-human ravings, or embrace them. If they distance themselves from her, they risk alienating the mouth-breathers who demand such red meat as the price of their loyalty. If they embrace her, they lose significant swaths of the middle - the decent folks who are the reason Republicans talk about Dred Scott and "state's rights" rather than criminalizing abortion and gutting civil rights laws.

Which chess piece will Republicans sacrifice? I suspect it will vary. New York Governor George Pataki is one of the few Republicans to come out against Coulter, but that's a freebee - 9/11 happened in his state, and he appears to have no higher ambitions. Deep southerners in local races will probably embrace her. But what will John McCain do? I don't see how he can answer that question and still become President. Rudy Giuliani? He has already shown he'd rather run into a burning building. Bill Frist would prefer to declare himself to be in a persistent vegetative state. The list of high-profile Republicans desperate not to confront the Coulter question is very long.

Many lefties wonder why we give Coulter the prominence she so clearly craves. They think we lose by raising her profile. But I think she is exactly the hate-contorted face we want on the Republican Party. We need to make Ann Coulter the third rail of Republican politics, just as Michael Moore was for Democrats two years ago. (They can be equally significant as symbols; there is obviously no comparison in talent or accuracy.)

How will the Republicans choose? It matters little, so long as we force them to go one way or the other. Humanity lines up against her. But if they prefer to align with her, perhaps we can finally have an honest confrontation between an unmasked, rabid radical right and the rest of us.

John Steinberg is a Senior Recidivist with the Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony. He bloviates regularly @ www.bluememe.blogspot.com.

Originally published on Thursday June 22, 2006.

 


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