Dwindling Shelf Life of Right-Wing Extremism

tea partySometimes it’s all about the waiting.

When a delusional psychopath bursts into, say, a school, has a gun pressed against the head of a hostage, when he’s screaming threats of carnage as the hostage negotiators arrive on the scene, sometimes it’s a matter of the negotiator just waiting it out, talking him down, making no sudden moves until the psychopath surrenders or the SWAT team bursts in. In a perfect world, nobody is hurt. And when it comes to right-wing extremists (which, these days, is most of the Republicans in the House, a chunk in the Senate, and a good swath of Republican governors) it’s a similar scenario.

Republicans’ capacity for damage and destruction, like that of the psychopath, is tremendous; after all, the hallmark of a psychopath is a lack of conscience, lack of empathy, lack of caring about others, all characteristics Republicans play out every single day with their efforts to deny rights to the LGBT community, cavalierly separate food-insecure families from food assistance, deny undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, deny women the rights to their own bodies, endorse torture and pretend to worry endlessly about voter fraud to deny minorities voting rights. It’s fairly clear that Republicans simply don’t like gay people or poor people or brown (or black) people or sexually active women or Democratic voters, but they take it one step further, into the zone of punishing people they don’t like. And, as we’ve seen, that punishment can be severe.

As we know, Republicans have been in a psychopathic hostage-taking mode ever since 2008, when President Obama was first elected; they’ve been in the grip of Obama Derangement Syndrome, with symptoms ranging from minor delusions to melt-downs to blind fury to psychopathic rage. And yet, many of the things which have consistently and predictably tripped the triggers of right-wingers have a shelf life that’s nearing expiration.

When the tea party emerged on the scene as a response to our first black president being elected in 2008 (as Kevin Drum of Mother Jones noted, “Its birth certificate says that the tea party was born one month after Barack Obama’s inauguration”), it seemed this misanthropic group would be around forever; like a bad penny, or Sarah Palin, or the energizer bunny, its energy for destruction and determination to wreak havoc seemed endless.

And yet, here we are, almost halfway through President Obama’s second term, and the tea party has pivoted, turning its slashing claws toward the GOP and losing ground. The agenda it set in 2008 – with its one major victory being the sweep of Republican wins in the 2010 mid-terms because Dems, complacent in their presidential victory, fell asleep at the switch – has been rejected. Its candidates lost (Allen West, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdoch), its extreme policies have not been successful, mainstream Republicans shy away, and its reputation has become tarnished beyond repair.

Today, only 8% of the population identify as Tea Party members, and only 30% of Americans view it favorably. As Froma Harrop of RealClearPolitics commented, “Give the tea party people a boomerang, and moderate Republicans will get hurt.” The Tea Party was fueled by, first, the advent of our first black President, and later by the horror of envisioning his second term. Both have become done deals; the shelf life of the Tea Party is nearing its expiration date.

Birtherism, fueled by garden-variety racism and the white man’s terror of being usurped, was all the rage for what seemed an endless time; even Romney was making birther jokes during the 2012 election cycle. And yet, now, mainstream Republicans pooh-pooh it. From Colin Powell (RINO though he may be) to Karl Rove to extremist Michele Bachmann to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Republicans have scrambled to put distance between themselves and the birther movement. It’s not because they suddenly believe in the President’s creds: No. But with the President halfway through his second term, the birther movement’s shelf life has exceeded its expiration date.

Sure, we continue to witness right-wing freakouts about LGBT issues: Gretchen Carlson and Michelle Malkin just can’t wrap their silly little heads around transgender restrooms, Peter LaBarbera is still vainly trying to tell people the “truth” about homosexuality, and there’s a whole culture of right-wingers who still seek to define marriage as “one man/one woman.”

But nobody’s really listening any more.

While these numbskulls were sitting in Fox News studios, lamenting the heterosexual-dominant days of old, DODT was repealed, DOMA was overturned, a majority of the population became at least okay with gay marriage or civil unions, and states merrily went about their business of legalizing gay marriage. The shelf life of anti-gay rhetoric is nearing its expiration date.

Even those rabidly and irrationally opposed to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” – the Act that Congress, not the President, passed, incidentally) see their expiration date looming, as January 2014 is nearly upon us and more ACA goodies are scheduled to be introduced to a waiting, albeit perhaps skeptical, public. In fact, Republicans don’t deny that the shelf life of anti-Obamacare rhetoric is limited, and that repeal attempts are doomed.

The proof is in the pudding: The House has tried 40 times to repeal the ACA, and forty times it has failed; the ACA has the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval; the exchanges are being readied; and people are already enjoying some of the benefits Obamacare offers. The President has taken to the streets to bash Republicans for attempting to deny healthcare coverage to 30 million people.

The government shutdown Republicans are threatening unless Obamacare is defunded is treacherous territory for the Republican Party, and mainstream Republicans are rejecting that plan; in fact, Senator Richard Burr of N.C., certainly no liberal, called the notion of a government shutdown the “dumbest idea” he’d ever heard of. The shelf life of anti-Obamacare efforts will, in January 2014, effectively hit their expiration date.

julie driscollIt’s been a hard slog but, although it’s not quite over yet, the shelf life of right-wing extremism is nearing its expiration date. The Benghazi and IRS “scandals” passed their expiration dates and were taken off the shelves, the birthers were swept aside for newer, shinier products, the tea party has been relegated to the back of the dusty bottom shelf where they hope nobody looks at expiration dates at all.

Sometimes, it really is all about the waiting.

Julie Driscoll
The Examiner

Friday, 16 August 2013

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