Why Do I Pay Attention to Crazies and Wingnuts?

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By Bob Cesca: A friend on Twitter and Facebook sent me the following photograph.

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Hang on tight. Yes, Orly Taitz appears to be running for U.S. Senate. The lawyer/dentist/Birther/mental patient is taking a stab at the Republican primary nomination on June 5 to run against Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein in the Fall. And there's always a shot she could win. A very thin one in her case, but, then again, you and I live in a reality-based universe while a staggering percentage of Americans still believe the president wasn't born in the United States -- and worse, they believe he forged his birth certificate. About one-fourth of American voters believe the president was born outside of the United States. Couple that with some far-right views and other assorted racist dog whistles and Taitz could have a shot.

After all, Mitt Romney continues to embrace former Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump (yes, he was the frontrunner in the early months of the campaign) who happens to agree with Taitz's racially-motivated nincompoopery.

Weirder things have happened in American politics.

I should note that this column today isn't about Birthers. It's about crazy political people in general and, specifically, why I write and talk about them regularly.

Crackpots ascend to higher office almost every year. Voters have elected a broad assortment of weirdos and fringey wackaloons in this country and they always will. Jesse Ventura was the governor of a state. Allen West, Steve King, Michele Bachmann and Louis Gohmert are all sitting members of the House of Representatives despite their Crazy Caucus memberships. Unwavering racists like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms held multi-term seats in the Senate. Sarah Palin rose to governor of Alaska without much national notice, then ascended to what could have been a heartbeat away from the presidency.

And this is why I talk about and expose crazy people in politics. Unless we are constantly vigilant about the looniest freakdogs on the scene, there's always a chance they could sneak under the radar and -- PLOP! -- land in Congress. Or the White House. And Orly Taitz is running for U.S. Senate.

Friends and colleagues regularly tell me that I shouldn't pay attention to Drudge or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or the other usual suspects. I'm giving them more publicity, they say. They'll never go away, they say. Ignore them and they'll go away.

I would absolutely love to if, in fact, any of these people weren't influencing or directly voting upon the laws of the United States, thus impacting millions of people including me. Limbaugh, in particular, sets the agenda for one of the two major political parties, and that party happens to control the House of Representatives with a very tight filibustery grip on the Senate.

They want us to ignore them so they can obstruct and sabotage the business of the nation, while further entrenching far-right views among active voters. However crazy and mendacious and unhinged they might seem, people -- important people -- are listening. Time and time again, ballot initiatives and utterly paleoconservative amendments slip under our noses without a sound until it's too late. It happens like this: the insanity starts on Drudge, then AM talk radio picks it up (look at the computer monitor behind Rush Limbaugh), then Fox News Channel, then Congress. While we're ignoring them at each level, they're planning on the destruction of everything we've accomplished in the last four years. And worse.

Yes, I know.

We'll never convert the most vocal disciples of the far-right. They're all suspicious of everything we say and they'll never believe a word. Liberal media conspiracy, etc. But it's not those people we should be alerting.

If we talk enough about the crazies on the right, our debunkery and memes often seep osmotically into the traditional press via the blogs and social media. They're paying attention, whether we acknowledge them directly or not. From there, it's the independent undecided voters watching the news who are ultimately on the receiving end -- and it's that group we ought to be fighting to convince.

There's much to be said about circulating solid memes and framing to fellow progressives for the purposes of winning the "water-cooler wars," but the people who decide elections these days are the insufferable moderates who just can't make up their mind until they're in the booth. So whenever and however we can, we should help them along. At least, that's what I try to do whenever I take a figurative stab at the usual Cuckoo's Nest of political and punditry defectives.

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