Friday, October 10, 2008

Right-Wing Rage

Greg Sargent reports for Talking Points Memo on the increasingly hostile atmosphere at McCain-Palin rallies. He notes that major media outlets have begun to report this story (e.g. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico) but are leaving an important part out.

This is a welcome development, and the stories are pretty good. But the news orgs are still dancing around the central story here: That McCain and Palin themselves are largely responsible for what's happening.

* The McCain campaign is going well beyond raising questions about Obama's association with Ayers, repeatedly insinuating that Obama is currently in league with a current terrorist.
* Palin has repeatedly accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists."
* McCain himself has embarked on an effort to paint Obama as a vaguely sinister enemy within, with lines like this: "Who is the real Barack Obama?
* When a McCain supporter at a rally yesterday
ranted that the country is being taken over by "socialists," and called Obama and Nancy Pelosi "hooligans," McCain didn't utter a peep of protest, and basically agreed.

CNN's David Gergen and Time's Joe Klein have both noted how dangerous and irresponsible this is. The strongest warning to McCain comes from Frank Schaeffer in The Baltimore Sun.

You have a choice: Go down in history as a decent senator and an honorable military man with many successes, or go down in history as the latest abettor of right-wing extremist hate. John McCain, you are no fool, and you understand the depths of hatred that surround the issue of race in this country. You also know that, post-9/11, to call someone a friend of a terrorist is a very serious matter. You also know we are a bitterly divided country on many other issues. You know that, sadly, in America, violence is always just a moment away. You know that there are plenty of crazy people out there. Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.

This has been building for a long time. The hard-core right-wing base in this country seems to be composed of people responding to the sweeping social, cultural and economic changes of the past few decades with confusion, anger and fear. These emotions have been consciously and consistently stoked and exploited by right-wing politicians and media. The message is that not only are political opponents mistaken, they are also immoral, foreign and evil. Opponents are scapegoated and dehumanized.

Unfortunately, these emotions tend to block reason and bring with them a powerful sense of entitlement. The radical right has had control of all branches of government through most of the Bush administration. Undone politically by incompetence and corruption, they have blown their opportunity to extend control. The "damage to the Republican brand" is self-inflicted. The increasing likelihood of losing the White House this year after losing Congress in '06 seems to be causing a massive temper tantrum.

I agree with Gergen, Klein and Schaeffer that this could well move past ugly and become dangerous. Now is the time for McCain and Palin to prove the validity of their "Country First" slogan with some timely and responsible leadership. Based on their actions (or lack of same) to date, I am not optimistic.

UPDATE: I am glad to be proven wrong, at least momentarily, by John McCain's attempt to stop the behavior his campaign helped incite at today's town hall rally in Minnesota. Ezra Klein of The American Prospect comments:

McCain deserves real credit for staging a public intervention against the partisanship of his own base. But it's not an easy position he's in... McCain should either end the rhetoric producing these fears or accept his role as the instigator. But he cannot be both the cause of, and solution to, the problem.

--Ballard Burgher

No comments: