The Lunatic Fringe

Do you remember the incident, two years ago, as the presidential election campaign was winding down, an old lady at John McCain rally got a hold of the microphone and said she didn’t trust Barack Obama because “he’s an Arab.”

Senator McCain pulled the mike away from her and said, “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”

We all shook our heads and clucked our tongues that things could have come to such a sorry pass. Mr. McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin, however, had crossed and recrossed the country, implying Mr. Obama was a friend of terrorists and extremists, so we weren’t shocked when the crazy old lady came to roost at the McCain rally.

Two years, later Sen. McCain, while he never found his way back to the straight talk that once endeared him to many, at least managed to knock off the campaign-style attacks, something Ms. Palin is incapable of doing or perhaps even understanding. Now, sane people are the ones having the microphones snatched away by crazies. What was the lunatic fringe two years ago is now dead center of the Republican Party platform and because that party brooks no dissent, everyone has to go along and say, “Yeah… sure, that stuff’s OK by me.” (This includes Karl Rove, who got smacked down by the thought police for calling Christine O’Donnell “nutty.”)

Last month, Forbes magazine printed a bizarre five-screen act of character assassination by Dinesh D’Souza which sought to explain Obama administration policies in light of the drinking habits of the father Mr. Obama never knew. Instead of the round scorning it deserved, fellow traveling wackos like Newt Gingrich expanded on the theme.

Today’s news reports the second assault in a week on a 23-year-old woman who opposed a GOP candidate (not the same woman or candidate). In Walla Walla, Washington, Victor Phillips struck Christie Stordeur outside a Republican Party office. Ms. Stordeur opposes the Senate candidacy of Dino Rossi.

Monday, Lauren Valle suffered a concussion when she was pinned to the ground and kicked in the head by Rand Paul county coordinator Tim Profitt in Lexington, Kentucky. (Disclosure: Ms. Valle is an activist who has worked with Greenpeace, although I don’t think I’ve met her. All these kids look alike anymore.)

The people who run around in costumes (Hang on, folks, the weekend you’ve been waiting for is nearly here!), screaming about the Constitution are taking to the airwaves to defend the beatings of women who attempt to exercise their First Amendment right to speech.

Let me get back to the lunatic fringe for a second. The phrase was coined by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt to describe anarchists who believed in “propaganda by deed” – or symbolic acts of violence designed to provoke a revolution against the sitting government. Sound familiar?

Last week, the New York Times pointed out that not only have 95 percent of Americans gotten a tax cut since Mr. Obama’s been in office, a similar number – fewer than one in ten – didn’t realize their taxes had gone down.

Are Americans really that stupid (or crazy)? Of course not. The problem is that they have been lied to, both by the national Republican Party and its corollary 24-hour news channel, Fox. If you lie and repeat the lie and amplify the lie (and the hapless Democrats can’t do anything to counter it), then it’s inevitable that voters will head to the mid-term polls under a cloud of utter fabrication.

All of which is bad enough, but where will we be by the last week in October 2012?

© Mark Floegel, 2010

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