In my experience one of the great pleasures of modern life is to scan rightwing comment threads after a post about Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh. At least since Palinmania! the same scene replays itself almost every time. For a while the commenters mostly agree that liberals are worse than cancer. Sadly, the happy reverie breaks as soon as some well-meaning board regular gently suggests that lining up behind such obvious idiots may prove less than useful, even taking into account that they piss off liberals. Inevitably commenter X (let’s call him ‘David Frum’) supported Republicans all his life and voted for Bush twice, for all the good that does him. Without fail the thread devolves into a prolonged search for why X can be dismissed.
Almost invariably the true believers bring up a wingnut litimus test that I call The List. D.F. must simultaneously oppose abortion (always), support torture, wiretapping and aggressive war, question evolution and doubt global warming, fear muslims, hate taxes and really hate government healthcare. If D.F. fails a single point on the list then he’s clearly a bogus conservative, anathema and unwelcome to taint the pristine boards with his heterodoxy. The question of the day (e.g., did Sarah Palin harm the ticket) usually makes a guest appearance on The List, conveniently anathematizing anyone who disagrees with the putative topic of the thread.
The List has a life outside of the internet. Christopher Buckley, Colin Powell and, of course, David Frum faced more or less the same thing IRL. Heterodoxy is schism. That the DFs are perfectly right, and that true believers torment them for trying to save their own party* is what makes it so funny to watch.
In a deeper sense the funniest part of all is how little of The List is recognizably Republican. Other than the bit about taxes not one of those bedrock Republican principles stretches farther back than the Reagan administration. Not only are most of these points younger than most Republican voters (judging by recent polls, also younger than most of their kids) but more than half, for example the unprovoked wars and government surveillance stuff, would make William F. Buckley or Barry Goldwater spin so fast that their graves could change the rotation of the Earth.
What’s going on is kind of simple, and kind of terrible if you’re a Republican. Almost every bullet point on The List doesn’t come from the party’s core purpose. That would be protecting the money class from the danger of social mobility via Social Security, healthcare and progressive taxation. At this point almost all of The List comes from tactical decisions that Republicans made over the years to pad their vote share.
The muslim hate stuff would puzzle Republican leaders from Reagan to Norquist, and government surveillance and extralegal torture would probably kill Goldwater again. The story of the religious right is especially chuckleworthy. It dates from the Reagan era, when Republicans freaked out over Carter and MLK Jr. and made a cynical deal with some fringe religious leaders like Pat Robertson, whom they considered chumps to be milked for votes. Eventually ‘chumps’ claimed enough of the party to start demanding, and getting, more than insincere lip service, though that era is fairly recent. Naturally one of the first things that they demanded and got was Terri Schiavo. Brava.
The terrorism parts on the list are particularly comical, maybe because they’re so new. Scan the 2000 Republican party platform for relevant words. Bin Laden? Al Qaeda? Nada. Terroris* returns three hits**. Compare that with twenty hits for Iraq. It is even interestinger that al Qaeda blew up our buildings while Condoleeza Rice was in the middle of a speaking tour arguing that, contra Richard Clarke, Iraq was the looming imminent threat that Americans should pee their pants about. The torture and muslim hate stuff is just the usual ass-covering overreaction when a diminished person gets caught by surprise with his pants around his ankles.
Lunatics running the asylum has become cliche, but that is exactly what happened here. Republicans made a series of short-term grabs for this constituency or that for the votes to repeal the estate tax, kill Social Security and increase taxes on the poor/middle class, but somehow the chump constituencies got hold of the keys and took over the main office. Now the money class doesn’t trust Republicans and a drooling hodgepodge of xenophobes, nativists, torture fans, religious fanatics, racists and militiamen camped out in the cafeteria kicked Christopher Buckley to the curb.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
No, f*ck that. It is hilarious. I wish the GOP could keep dying forever.
(*) The Bush admin made a closet industry out of persecuting heretics out of their job and sometimes siccing the famously objective Ashcroft/Gonzales DoJ.
(**) If you want to find plans to deal with the actual people who attacked us, look here.