30 years ago, American conservatives were in the ascendancy. The devil-worshipping hippies were banished to the fringes of American culture, selling organic food and practicing yoga. The former liberal mainstream of the Democratic party had suffered the body blow of the Kennedy assassination and had seen their great society eaten alive by the war in Vietnam. Incredibly, they had escaped the shadow of Watergate and elected their most promising president in decades.
It was all downhill from there. What followed was a wholesale abandonment of conservative ideals and political decency and a dismembering of our culture through cronyism, deceit and the willingness to exploit the trust and in some cases simple laziness, of others. Iran Contra gave way to the savings and loan debacle, During the Clinton Era, we lived through the Lewinsky affair and the conservative derailment of health care reform. The 2000 Florida recount, the most incompetent presidency in history, the criminal negligence of the Iraq war and the response to Hurricane Katrina have been preludes to an even more base right wing movement, bordering on thuggery.
There is the birther movement. It is as if the gods of politics took the intellectual skills of the militia movement and combined it with the careful fact-checking of a Fox News editor. They picked up exactly where the nativist racism of McCain's campaign left off.
The conservative opposition to health care reform appears to have taken a page out of Bull Connor's playbook. The leadership have been stoking fears of their conservative middle-class support by promulgating obviously false claims that the elderly will be euthanized under the President's plan. We are told that your newly emasculated doctor will have to kiss the ring of a swarthy, continental bureaucrat in order to give you aspirin for your spinal injury. Surgery? Don't be ridiculous, Surgical resources will be free and available for sexual reassignment and terminating the lives of unborn children and rationed for everything else.
Rush Limbaugh (I'd like to hear his comments on the plan's pharmaceutical provisions) invokes Hitler in his opposition to health care reform. The on-air meltdowns and rants of Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly sound eerily similar to those of the Reverend Jim Jones. Listen to this, this and this. Check out the extremely entertaining Remix of Beck's meltdown here. Michael Sheuer, a regular on Beck's program, came as close as anyone should to advocating a terrorist attack on America to advance his own political goals. These people make us yearn for the steady voices of reason like Bob Dornan, Pat Buchanon and other 1980's right wing leaders. Who would have thought that Ann Coulter and Michael Savage (who's real name is Michael WEINER--pronounced "whiner") would seem like "the sane ones"?
This country is clearly in uncharted waters. These antics will probably be looked back upon with a head scratch and be given no more attention than they deserve. There is clearly a danger, however, that they could lead us down the path of political violence and social disruption. Hopefully any health care reform package will include full psychiatric coverage.
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