Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Party of Bullies

Today's Republican Party has a major feature I don't recall it having when I was young--basically the Eisenhower through the Reagan era, with the real turning point being when Newt Gingrich led the campaign that booted the Democrats from complacent control of Congress for a long time previously.

That feature is bullying. It has become the part of bullies.

My spouse isn't a bully and never was. The Republicans I attend church with are pretty much all the polite, civilized Republicans I remember from my youth. But that's here in Silicon Valley, in a college town in California.

I see a very different Republican Party in Congress, in the South (at least from my vantage point here), and elsewhere.

By bullying I mean using tactics of intimidation on opponents--trying to cow them into silence and submission.

I mean people shouting insults at the President of the United States from the floor of the House and from accredited right wing "journalists" at press conferences.

I mean the tactics used in town hall meetings across the country during the national healthcare debate, when perhaps a dozen would seat themselves around the auditorium and shout out insulting "questions" at the congressman speaking, but one at a time, sitting down promptly so they couldn't  be ejected, giving the impression of more opposition than there was.

I mean the tactic of interrupting liberals in TV talk shows mid-sentence and then just talking over them when they try to complain, and burying any host who objects in a blizzard of emails and calls to sponsors and bosses, accusing the host of left wing bias unless he lets the right wing participant(s) run roughshod over the other(s).

I mean the leaders of the party in Congress and state legislatures consistently talking about President Obama using all the demagogues' tricks, encouraging the rank and file not to believe they have an honest disagreement about governing philosophy--but to treat him as an object of derision and hatred, alternately, depending on occasion.

It even extends to state lawmakers mandating trying to intimidate women from getting abortions through tactics like forcing them to submit to having machinery inserted into their vaginas before they can get the abortion.

Liberals certainly didn't like Bush II but they usually didn't adopt the tactics of the bully to show their opposition, except to mob college campus auditoriums to prevent right wing speakers from speaking--which I thought was both vile and stupid in equal measure.

Liberal congressmen did not shout insults at President Bush when he was addressing Congress. Liberal pundits did not shout over conservatives on talk shows. Liberal reporters didn't insult President Bush at press conferences. By and large the Democratic Party's officials observed the normal rules of conduct I thought were generally accepted in our society. Grassroots leftist movements have of course adopted violent tactics, from the Weather Underground through animal rights nut cases and the people who glitter-bomb right wing opponents, along with the radical fringe of the Occupy movement.

The difference is that none of that is supported by the Democratic leadership, who consistently deplore it and urge liberals to not do any of that stuff.

But the polarized radicalism of the far Right that has taken over the Republican party has only stopped at physical far. Except, of course, for bombing healthcare clinics that provide abortions and murdering gynecologists who provide abortions and sending constant death threats to others.

It all doesn't seem coincidental. It parallels the methods used by another party in another country in the last century--fomenting a constant simmering state of rage against political opponents among the party's rank and file, using extremist characterizations of political opponents to justify abandoning the rules of civilization that enable us all to live in the same country, side by side, peacefully.

Bullies. Self-righteous, rude, swaggering, sneering, contemptuous, anti-intellectual, angry and getting angrier. Led to this outpouring of our animal side by the Republican Party's leadership.

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