Yet another entrant today in the sore winner/Republicans-are-ruining-everything-about-the-Democrat-run-government category from pop sociologist and would-be Teddy Kennedy biographer Neal Gabler:
The tea-baggers who hate President Obama with a fervor that is beyond politics; the fear-mongers who warn that Obama is another Hitler or Stalin; the wannabe storm troopers who brandish their guns and warn darkly of the president's demise; the cable and talk-radio blowhards who make a living out of demonizing Obama and tarring liberals as America-haters—these people are not just exercising their rights within the political system. They honestly believe that the political system—a system that elected Obama—is broken and only can be fixed by substituting their certainty for the uncertainties of American politics.
As we are sadly discovering, this minority cannot be headed off, which is most likely why conservatism transmogrified from politics to a religion in the first place. Conservatives who sincerely believed that theirs is the only true and right path have come to realize that political tolerance is no match for religious vehemence.
Unfortunately, they are right. Having opted out of political discourse, they are not susceptible to any suasion. Rationality won't work because their arguments are faith-based rather than evidence-based. Better message control won't work. Improved strategies won't work. Grass-roots organizing won't work. Nothing will work because you cannot convince religious fanatics of anything other than what they already believe, even if their religion is political dogma.
And therein lies the problem, not only for liberals but for mainstream conservatives who think of conservatism as an ideology, not an orthodoxy. You cannot beat religion with politics, which is why the extreme right "wins" so many battles. The fundamentalist political fanatics will always be more zealous than mainstream conservatives or liberals. They will always be louder, more adamant, more aggrieved, more threatening, more willing to do anything to win. Losing is inconceivable. For them, every battle is a crusade—or a jihad—a matter of good and evil.
There is something terrifying in this.
Please do read the whole thing–it gets worse.
I am reminded of my Bloggingheads debate the other day with Michelle Goldberg. She said she couldn't think of a single rational argument against Obamacare, positing that its critics love the status quo, and when I countered that there are plenty of rational, constructive critiques of Obama's plan from people who think the status quo sucks, including Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, she said that it was really a shame because she loves that supermarket but can never shop there again.
It is so, so much easier to believe that your debate opponents are insane terrorists than it is to learn anything about the best of their arguments. And doing so in the name of rationalism and civility? Priceless.
When an entire major party has excused itself from meaningful debate and a thoughtful U.S. senator like Orrin Hatch no longer finds it important to make sense and an up-and-comer like Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty attacks the president for giving a speech telling schoolchildren to work hard in school and get good grades, one starts to wonder if the country wouldn't be better off without them and if Republicans should be cut out of the health-care system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off health care to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.