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If the GOP wants to resurrect itself, it needs to cure its addiction to hate and bigotry

By pams
Thursday, June 11, 2009 17:44 EDT
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Joan Walsh at Salon has a piece up, “Can right-wing hate talk lead to murder?”, that features her appearance on Hardball where she discussed the climate of hate featured as entertainment by the likes of Limbaugh, O’Reilly and the rest of that motley crew who are now scurrying like rats in the wake of the murder of George Tiller and the white supremacist shooting at the Holocaust Museum yesterday that resulted in the murder of a security guard.

I tried to choose my words carefully. Unless it’s shown that either man had accomplices, we have to be clear that the men responsible for those murders are the ones who pulled the trigger. Still, it’s hard not to think about the extreme right-wing rhetoric, especially about Barack Obama, and whether it could conceivably lead to more right-wing violence. You can see whether I succeeded here (more text follows the video):

The range of crazy ideas about Obama is broad and wide: He’s a secret Muslim, he’s going to take our guns, he’s even the anti-Christ! James von Brunn just happened to be a “birther,” one of the nuts who believe that Obama wasn’t born here, his birth certificate is fake, and he thus isn’t eligible to be president. I thought it was strange and maybe a little ominous last summer when suddenly Obama was labeled a “socialist” and a “Marxist”; Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are arguably more liberal than Obama; why did he get tagged with that sinister, subversive, alien ideology? It seemed linked to the fact that he’s just so … different from other politicians, so easy to marginalize and, frankly, demonize.

Then came Rush Limbaugh with his sexual fears about having to “bend over and grab the ankles” for a black president. Soon Limbaugh was saying he hoped Obama fails; last week he said Obama was more dangerous to our country than al-Qaida, our terrorist enemy who has killed thousands of Americans. Could that conceivably inflame someone marginal and isolated to act against a president who’s more dangerous than terrorists?

Joan goes on to mention Bill O’Reilly’s constant on-air vilification of the recently assassinated abortion provider as “Tiller the Baby Killer” and comparison of the doctor to Nazis and the amoral stoking of the “Angry, Disenfranchised White Man” by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Lindsey Graham and the GOP’s Michael Steele by suggesting that the Sotomayor nomination means a white man can’t get a break in today’s society.

Are statements like this directly responsible for the murder of Holocaust Museum security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns? No. What the mainstream GOP has to take responsibility for is the fact that its continued reliance on the politics of division that gives extremist views safe harbor. Race, gender, class, sexual orientation/gender identity, and religion have constantly been used to win votes. The appeals to the lowest common denominator — ignorance and fears of the “other” displacing white male supremacy, God and family in no uncertain terms attracts a demographic we saw on display at the McCain/Palin rallies — bold, hateful, openly racist people who proudly stood before the cameras emitting bigotry as a badge of honor. And they were standing outside a rally for the Republican, not the Democratic candidate.

Below the fold, look at the video evidence that the party has capitalized on the worst instincts in people. Did the GOP stop using those tactics and decrying the bigotry? Well John McCain made a feeble attempt to do so when his town halls became out-of-control embarrassing spectacles for the well-heeled country club wing of the party.

You might recall that McCain was strongly booed at his concession speech by the angry crowd for asking that they unite behind the new president.

You see, the GOP country club set desperately tries to ignore the party’s base of theocrats and ignorant bigots, and they kept surfacing over and over in the mainstream media last year, proud voters for McCain/Palin. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, I’m sure they were saying to themselves. But the party made its pact with this devil long ago. The ghosts of the Southern Strategy, Lee Atwater, and my late Senator, Jesse Helms, continue to haunt the party. As long as this kind of imagery continues to be defended by the GOP as benign…

The Elizabeth Dole campaign against Kay Hagan hit such a low point in terms of coddling haters, that it desperately overreached with its “Godless” ad that even Lou Dobbs, Ed Rollins tore up the party hacks for it:


Rollins: “There is a long history of despicable ads run by Republicans led by Jessie Helms which is I’m sure is now running Elizabeth Dole’s Campaign.”

Needless to say, Dole lost. But has this helped the GOP understand the appeal to bigots is hurting them? I don’t think so, because look at the defense and denial that anything about tactics like these is wrong, let alone whether the party is responsible for coarsening the debate and feeding already-wound-too-tight fringe elements who take these messages as license to kill. If there were no place in either party for messages like this, perhaps we could move on in this country to the issues that do matter.

I don’t understand why the GOP doesn’t rid itself of the very messages that drive the mighty middle away; it’s a party in the midst of remaking itself, it should seriously consider dropping the bigot appeals if it wants to have a future and get back to basic conservative principles that are consistent. (The problem is, that would anger the Base).

That’s the argument presented by black GOP consultant Raynard Jackson in his latest column (sent via email). The answer is the party is in such desperate, self-defeating straits that it needs time on the couch; it has to rid itself of its addiction to fear and smear:

Republicans and Cognitive Dissonance

by Raynard Jackson

In layman’s terms, cognitive dissonance is the inability to see what one doesn’t believe. Republicans have been suffering from this psychosis for many, many years. Below, I will play the role of “political” psychiatrist and try to help the patient work through their issues.

The sole purpose of any political party is to win elections so they can implement their policy agenda. So, if that is the raison d’etre, the Republican Party is in bad shape.

They want to win elections, but earlier this week on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh called President Obama a “fool.” Earlier this week at a major Republican fundraising speech, actor Jon Voight called President Obama a “false prophet.” In a recent editorial, former high ranking State Department official in the Reagan administrations, Frank Gaffney wrote, “The man (President Obama) now happy to have his Islamic-rooted middle name featured prominently has engaged in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain over Czechoslovakia at Munich….

There is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.”

They want to win elections, but they issue these highly personal attacks on the president of the United States. Regardless of your views on his policies, most Americans think our president should be shown respect in our public discourse. These personal attacks on the president are antithetical to Republicans winning elections. But, they are so blinded by their dogma, they refuse to accept the fact that he won the election. The inability to see what they don’t believe.

Gaffney compared President Obama to Hitler; Newt Gingrich called Sonia Sotomayor (nominee for the Supreme Court) a racist; Laura Ingraham (radio talk show host) criticizes the president for taking his wife out to dinner and a Broadway play. Republicans are supposed to be a principled party. But, their rhetoric is not consistent with any of the party’s stated principles. The inability to see what they don’t believe.

Republicans are supposed to be the party of less government and more individual freedom, until it conflicts with a belief they want to force others to accept. They want less government, but then want the government to tell a woman what she can/can’t do in the privacy of her doctor’s office. They want more individual freedom, until Terri Schiavo’s husband wants to take his wife off life support. The inability to see what they don’t believe.

True enough, President Obama inherited a plethora of problems from a Republican president and years of a Republican controlled Congress (they controlled 6 of Bush’s 8 years). But, in the nearly five months in office, there is no disputing the fact that President Obama has increased the size and scope of government, increased the federal deficit, and is threatening to raise taxes. If the Republicans will take their medication for their psychosis, President Obama has presented them an easy way of getting back to Republican principles.

One of the most effective means of treating cognitive dissonance is with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to influence dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure.

President Obama and the Democrats have presented a great opportunity for Republicans to present their governing vision to the country. But, they must first decide whether they are going to continue the idiotic name calling or present a serious alternative to the president and his party.

Republicans claim they don’t like what President Obama and the Democrats are offering. So, therefore it is incumbent upon Republicans to make their case directly to the American people. Republicans must first and foremost define who they are and what it means to be Republican.

What is the legitimate role of the government in dealing with the financial crises? How will a Republican prescription affect the economy? If we are the party of law and order, why has there been no move to prosecute (or institute more congressional oversight based on Republican principles) corporate executives who violated their fiduciary obligations within their companies?

Americans don’t necessarily want more government regulation, but they do want the assurance of knowing that our government is creating an environment where we can believe that a corporation’s financial documents are honest and accurate. What is the Republican plan to make this happen?

What is the Republican solution to the tectonic shift in the political landscape? We can get 100% of the conservative white vote and still lose every national election. What is the Republican approach to building coalitions within the Black and Hispanic communities? And it cannot be based on irrelevant issues like abortion, affirmative action, or “reverse racism.

Detailed answers to the above questions will be a good start towards the Republican Party working through it’s cognitive dissonance. This type of disorder has to be treated over the long term, therefore, it’s imperative that the party honestly reflect on these questions and then put together a realistic plan. Implicit in this plan is the fact that President Obama (and the Democrats) won the election, he is an American citizen, he is a Christian (not Muslim) and he deserves to be respected.

If Republicans are willing to accept these premises, then there is the possibility of getting beyond this cognitive dissonance. If not, we will relegate our party to irrelevancy.

***

All of this reminds me a lot of a post from last year “Filing the Edges off of Racism,” where I excerpted Portly Dyke over at Shakesville. She noted that the increasing bile being spewed on the air by right-wingers gives comfort to those on the fringe who harbor even more virulent views — the MSM that they respect is validating their beliefs.

But as a society, even well-meaning progressives are finding ways to excuse statements that would have never flown a couple of decades ago. I had a similar reaction to Portly Dyke when she started hearing this excuse…PD:
I entered a conversation about whether a white news commentator might not have known that suggesting that other golfers “lynch him (Tiger Woods) in a back alley” was a racist comment worthy of public sanction.

Among the various arguments I read was this one: Given the commentator’s age, she might not really understand the charged context of the word “lynch” in reference to a person-of-color.

And somehow, vaguely, in the back of my mind, I remembered a time when I could not imagine that I would be hearing this argument from progressives.

…I could remember that, in the 80′s, even though there were still many, many confrontations with the MSM and mainstream culture, and much consciousness-raising yet to be done, I didn’t think I would have been having this very basic argument about using the word “lynch” (or arguing about whether rape was “gray”, or “gag gifts” featuring detached female body parts were “just a joke” rather than sexist) — with progressives.

…My problem with filing off the edges of our outrage at such racist words and actions is just that — it’s filing off — it’s erosive — and the problem with erosion is that if you let it go on long enough, you’ll eventually wind up with nothing at all.

The edges are so filed down on the “benign” aspects of racism that the label is reserved only for extreme violence against a POC, or extreme cases of institutionalized bigotry that cannot be ignored.

 
 
 
 
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