When Republicans began questioning President Obama’s birth certificate four years ago, it seemed at first like a petulant reaction to a lost election, a flush of nativist and racist anger that would diminish over time. But the preposterous charges never went away. As this election cycle shows, many in the Republican Party continue to see the president as the center of a broad and malevolent liberal conspiracy to upend the truth.Read the rest here.
To live and seethe in that world of conspiracy theories means rejecting any form of objective reality. When unemployment numbers make the administration look good, they are obviously “cooked.” When poll numbers put Mr. Obama ahead, they are skewed. Birth certificates are forgeries. Safety-net programs are giveaways to supporters. Health insurance reform is socialism. And campaign donation disclosure is antibusiness.
It’s an upside-down version of life, and it is not innocuous. When desperation leads political critics of the president to discredit important nonpolitical institutions — including the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office — the damage can be long-lasting. If voters come to mistrust the most basic functions of government, the resulting cynicism can destroy the basic compact of citizenship.
It is rare in the extreme for me to be able to say that I substantively agree with an op-ed piece in the NY Times. But while I have major issues with some of the entities they name in here, like the Federal Reserve, their main point is a fair one. The political right is drifting into an alternate reality of dark conspiracy theories that appears largely motivated by a visceral hatred for President Obama. Throughout the course of history there have always been a certain amount of kooks and nut jobs that populate the political fringe. But when the nuts take over one of the two major political parties we have a serious problem.
In 1960 the John Birch Society accused President Eisenhower of being a conscious agent of The International Communist Conspiracy. This obviously lunatic pronouncement was immediately and vociferously denounced by almost every respectable member of the conservative movement lead by the late William F. Buckley at his National Review magazine. The result was that the extremist element on the right was isolated and began a rapid decline into political irrelevance. That isolation and irrelevance lasted until the election of Bill Clinton when it began to slowly regain strength and a certain amount of respectability in conservative circles. Today right-wing extremism has gained a level of power in American politics not seen since the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920's. Republican members of Congress and US Senators are afraid to call out the Birther nuts for fear of political retribution. Some are openly sympathetic with to this extremist insanity.
I don't know how far this is going to go, but I am increasingly alarmed by a movement that made it possible for a Republican candidate for president to ask aloud during a campaign speech, to wild cheers, whether or not the time had come for a second amendment solution to Barack Obama's presidency. When that sort of thing is happening we have reached a dangerous point in our political society. My question is where are the voices of reason in today's GOP?