By Chez Pazienza: One of the realities of modern politics that I've never been able to get my head fully around is the desperate desire of the right to revel in the suffering of its political adversaries. I get that I shouldn't be surprised by it, since it's the traditional behavioral pattern of most schoolyard bullies, but it's still always seemed staggeringly unproductive -- not to mention dangerous for the country -- to rally around a cause or candidate solely because doing so "pisses off liberals." Things like hypocrisy, the naked contradiction of previously embraced views and the potential detriment to self-interest don't even enter the conservative thought process these days so long as something provides an opportunity to point and laugh. I think this goes to the argument that modern conservatives seem to be interested only in power for power's sake, while just about everyone else across the political spectrum is interested in actually governing; it doesn't matter if they act like children because they're not really in it to make a difference anyway. Mitt Romney is, in many ways, the living embodiment of this cynical political ethos -- or at the very least the current world champion of exploiting it.
I can now fully admit to my own naievete in thinking that after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the right would go away and lick its wounds for a while before coming back sheepishly as a somewhat chastened and neutered political movement. On the contrary, it took all of a day-and-a-half of petulant sulking for conservatives to roar loudly and push full-speed-ahead with delegitimizing the new president and insisting that the reason for a Republican loss was simply that their candidate, John McCain, wasn't extremist enough to give the American people what they obviously really wanted. The eventual result is what we've been forced to suffer through as a nation for the past four years: utter, incomprehensible insanity; unofficial demonization and an official policy of obstruction the likes of which this country has never seen, all in the service of ensuring that Barack Obama is a one-term president. The establishment Republicans have stated in almost no uncertain terms that they will sabotage any progress and burn the country to the ground if it means they can hang it around the neck of Obama and retake the White House in 2012. The Tea Party insurgents, meanwhile, can't even be bothered to camouflage their personal disgust for Obama, whom they regard as nothing short of a pretender to the throne. The enabling, exploitation and elevation of any and every lunatic conspiracy theory casting the president as a phantom menace bent on destroying America makes their position crystal clear.
For some time now, on the Bob & Chez Show podcast that I do with Bob Cesca, I've regularly brought up this little phenomenon, what appears to be the GOP's willful sowing of craziness and discord -- its taking hostage of the entire country -- in an effort to make Americans so exhausted that they'll just give up and return a Republican white guy to power. The message seems to be a combination "good cop-bad cop" routine, with the right saying in one breath, "See? See how insane Barack Obama has made things? Don't you wish everything would just go back to normal? All you have to do to make it happen is give us what we want. Here -- here's a crayon and a legal pad. Just write the name 'Mitt Romney' down on it and that awful music that blares every 20 seconds will stop." If you need proof that this is the case, just listen to assholes like John Sununu, who publicly and with the kind of straight face only a sociopath can muster, called Barack Obama the most racially divisive president in American history. Because it's Obama's fault that a good portion of the right has lost its mind over a black president; if he'd just been whiter, none of this would have happened. It's shooting a guy in your living room then castigating him for getting blood on your rug. It's blaming the victim (which, judging by the outrage some conservative lawmakers have drawn with respect to their views on rape, shouldn't really surprise anyone).
And that's what brings me back to my original point.
Last week, Bill Maher did a really great "New Rules" segment on his HBO show where he made the case that by supporting Mitt Romney for president, you're unwittingly bestowing credibility on every fringe element that has rallied around him and to which he's pandered: the birthers, the racists, the anti-intellectuals, the climate change-deniers, the creationists, the end-timers, the gay rights opponents, the rape-equivocators, basically every nut-job that currently plants him or herself firmly under the modern Republican tent. Maher's view, and I agree, is that these people don't deserve to have their outlandish beliefs and conspiracy theories lent credence by the American public. But there's more to it than that. The other thing that inadvertently comes with a vote for Romney is a reward -- a reward for all the chaos and obstruction and governmental hostage-taking the GOP and its conservative acolytes have engaged in and propagated over the past four years. If you vote for Romney, you're essentially telling the right that its insidious brand of politics works, and the potential political repercussions of that validation could be far-reaching and can't really be overstated. You're giving the bully exactly what he wants and so you can be damn sure he'll beat you up again, over and over.
I have no desire to point and laugh at Republicans and the right in general come November 7th. I don't want to see them lose because I'm a child who thinks this is all a big, funny game and who wants to rejoice in seeing my enemies in tears. I think that the current incarnation of the Republican party is bad for the country not strictly because of its views but because of its scorched-earth politics and the fact that it's recklessly aligned itself with the most deranged, uncompromising elements at the far end of the political spectrum.
What we've seen from the right over the past four years shouldn't be rewarded under any circumstances.