In one of the more controversial posts I’ve written (or at least one that got me a lot of hate email), I described how “hatred is the Republican base“:
The Washington Post recently reported about the failure of the anti-segregation amendment to pass in Alabama (it was essentially 50-50). According to the CNN exit poll, 73% of Alabama voters were white. Assuming that the vote to keep the segregationist amendment was negligible among non-whites, this means that 68.5% of whites voted against the anti-segregationist amendment (or for segregation).
One of the lame excuses given was that some people voted against the amendment because there was the potential that someone might use it in a court challenge to increase school funding (and taxes)-as if this would be a bad thing given the miserable educational performance of Alabama. In other words, the vaunted “values” voters decided to choose money over righting of the defining evils of the Southern experience. Besides, how many whites didn’t vote their pocketbooks, but instead actually are in favor of segregated schools? 20%, 30%, 40%….
We’ve heard ad nauseum, mostly from Republicans, that the Republican base is religious. That simply is a lie: the true, hardcore Republican base is bigoted and racist. If racist whites stayed home, the Republicans would not win elections. That’s why Republican presidential candidates make pilgrimage to Bob Jones University. This is the fundamental moral corruption at the heart of the Republican Party. Hatred is the Republican base.
The problem with hatred is that it never stays contained–it spreads like a contagion. Not only has the hatred spread to other minorities such as Muslims and gays (with the occasional bout of anti-Semitism), it has now been unleashed on a twelve year-old boy and his family who were featured in a Democratic ad explaining how S-CHIP provided the medical care that he and his sister needed. Ezra Klein writes (bold original; italics mine):
This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he “really” needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.
The shrieking, atavistic ritual of personal destruction the right roars into every few weeks is something different than politics. It is beyond politics. It was done to Scott Beauchamp, a soldier serving in Iraq. It was done to college students from the University of California, at Santa Cruz. Currently, it is being done to a child and his family. And think of those targets: College students, soldiers, children. It can be done to absolutely anyone.
This is not politics. This is, in symbolism and emotion, a violent group ritual. It is savages tearing at the body of a captured enemy. It is the group reminding itself that the Other is always disingenuous, always evil, always lying, always pitiful and pathetic and grotesque. It is a bonding experience — the collaborative nature of these hateful orgies proves that much — in which the enemy is exposed as base and vile and then ripped apart by the community. In that way, it sustains itself, each attack preemptively justifying the next vicious assault, justifying the whole hateful edifice on which their politics rest.
There is nothing wrong with anger at injustice: when faced with injustice, anger is the appropriate emotion. But when anger reduces you to demonizing other people over what is essentially a funding policy debate, that is too far. The only question is why did it take this incident, as opposed to the entire Southern Strategy to reach the understanding that Klein did?
Pseudo-update: I wrote this post last night, but, today I read this in the NY Times about the sliming of Graeme Frost:
Republicans on Capitol Hill, who were gearing up to use Graeme as evidence that Democrats have overexpanded the health program to include families wealthy enough to afford private insurance, have backed off.
An aide to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, expressed relief that his office had not issued a press release criticizing the Frosts.
Despite of all the bloviating about the coarsening of American society and such (particularly from the Right), it is worth noting that rat-fucking a twelve year-old is still beyond the pale.