Home > Politics > Dealing with the Crazies

Dealing with the Crazies

So now all of America has seen what the left has been saying all along, that Paul Ryan will say anything to gain acceptance from his radical right wing fundamentalist base. Even Fox News was amazed at the utter disregard Senator Ryan has for the facts when he was inciting his crowd at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night. Sadly, this seems all too familiar.

Mitt Romney has been accused of changing his mind to appeal to whichever group he is talking to, but to his credit, over the last year of campaigning, he has settled on some stances that he is taking into the final weeks of the campaign.

So I have to ask, why would a former governor, a businessman, and longtime public figure take an entire year to make up his mind on issues that shape his run for President? Someone with his background should not be incapable of making up his mind. And once he has decided on a platform, why would he choose a running mate who stands up and lies to excite a crowd?

The answer, sadly, is what seems to be shaping American politics in this century: accommodating the radical wing of your party.

In the election cycle of 2000, Al Gore decided Ralph Nader was too far to the radical left to be considered a real threat. Nader split the Democratic block and George Bush won.

In 2008, John McCain was starting to lose the enthusiasm of the radical right wing of his party. So before they split off and pulled a Nader on him, he chose Sarah Palin as a running mate. At first the plan worked. The far right came back into the fold. But Palin turned out to be such a loose cannon that she drove middle of the road undecided voters over to the Democrats and Barack Obama won the election.

This may happen again with Paul Ryan. Sarah Palin scared people with her flippant attitude. Being exposed as a liar should be seen as even worse.

But before we get too excited about Senator Ryan’s mendacity, we should consider where the radical wings of each party are pushing the rest of politics.

At the moment the radical left is grousing about how slowly the economy is recovering under President Obama, and how it appears too many concessions were made to the big banks. Barack Obama has always been a pro-business economics wonk. I think the radical left hoped he would somehow come around after they joined in the effort to get him elected and now they are disappointed that he did not. But they are scared enough of the Romney ticket that no one is talking schism within the Democrats.

On the other hand, the Tea Party has made it very clear they will walk if they are not appeased. They created their own party name and have elected their own candidates, separately from and in some case in opposition to the Republican Party. The Republican Party must take them seriously, or they will destroy any chance Republican candidates have.

One would hope the folks who run the Republican Party could find a way of educating their radical wing voters on the values and ideals and solutions that mainstream Republicans have always embraced. That seems to have worked for the Obama team in 2008. That plan seems to be holding the Democrats together in 2012. This is clearly not working for the Republicans.

It’s not working because the radical right, the self-named Tea Party has adopted a mob psychology. Facts don’t matter to them. Being called a liar is endearing to them as a sign of bravery. Even contradictions in their own positions do not concern them. They only care about vilifying anyone who is not one of them and doing whatever it takes to ensure they win.

Even being told they are being played as patsies by the richest power players in the world does not change their mind. Exceptionalism, provincialism, racism, sexism, tribalism, these are powerful gut-level motivators that ignore facts like how their policies will destroy their own livelihoods and drive even more money into the corruption they so vocally protest.

So what do you do when a mob has taken away a big chunk of the votes you need to get elected? You can’t just firehose them the way would disperse an actual mob. By definition you can’t reason with a mob. The only plan being attempted in American politics today is to try to appease them, to allow them a voice in your camp, to throw them bones if those bones aren’t too crazy.

It is a great irony that zombies are currently such a popular theme in American fiction. I’m afraid the Republicans are going to wake up one day and find their efforts to appease the Tea Party will have amounted to inviting the zombies in to eat you.

In other countries such schisms lead to the creation of a multiparty system. We have the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party and any number of others, but they have always been little more than platforms for narrow issues to find a public voice.

Letting the Tea Party split off would mean a lot of Democrats winning elections in the short term. On the other hand, it would allow the Republican Party to see just how many followers they have. Personally, I am sure many Republican voters are not happy with the concessions being made to the Tea Party. They only continue to vote Republican because the only thing worse than the compromises is letting the Democrats win. It is also very likely that many middle of the road voters who have moved over to the Democrats since the rise of the Tea Party would come back to the Republicans if they jettisoned the radical wing.

Wouldn’t it be better, wouldn’t it be more in keeping with a democracy, if folks had political parties that promoted issues and solutions the people actually support, instead of having to accept distasteful compromises because they are the lesser of two evils.

I propose that America is headed to a three party system. Getting there will not be easy. At the end of the day I would like to think the Tea Party would have small enough numbers that they would stop winning elections. They would unfortunately continue to be a drain on Republican votes. In the best of all possible worlds, enough right-leaning Democrats would rejoin the Republican party that the Democrats and Republicans would each get half of the remaining pie, say 45/45/10. I could live with that. The mob would still have its voice, they just couldn’t damage the rest of us by winning anything. Containment instead of appeasement. And the rest of us, who care about facts and lies, can get back to having healthy arguments about how to actually govern and improve the world.

So I’m a dreamer.

Categories: Politics
  1. September 2, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I hope that no American will waste his franchise and throw away his vote by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant.
    John F. Kennedy

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