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Not So Funny After All

I've been writing roughly once a week for months now about the insane circus that is today's Republican Party

I’ve been writing roughly once a week for months now about the insane circus that is today’s Republican Party, mostly to make fun of them. It’s difficult to do otherwise; how does one write seriously about people like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and GOP Chairman Michael Steele? Try it sometime: failure is all but guaranteed.

Our most recent example of this phenomenon: Sarah Palin, again. The former Alaska governor and terminal dead weight around Campaign McCain went on with Barbara Walters to push her new book and covered herself in whatever the opposite of glory is. One topic she addressed was the recent cover of Newsweek featuring her wearing a tight red shirt and short-shorts that showed lots of leg. “I found it a wee bit degrading,” she said of the cover, which makes you wonder why she chose to pose for it looking like something out of a James Bond scuba-diving scene. You’d also wonder why she had more trouble with the picture than with the giant block-lettered headline that read, “HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE SARAH? SHE’S BAD NEWS FOR THE GOP – AND FOR EVERYBODY ELSE, TOO,” but then you’d remember that logic does not apply on Planet Teabag, and move on down the road.

See what I mean? Making fun of these people is like shooting very large fish in a very small barrel. You just can’t miss.

The problem, however, is that people like Palin stopped being funny a while ago. The prominence they enjoy in our political discourse is so far out of whack with their abilities and intentions that it vastly exaggerates their influence over a variety of very serious matters that affect each and every one of us. The British have the Monster Raving Loony Party, who are a joke and exert no real influence, and we have the Republican Party, filled with monster raving loonies who exert a tremendous amount of influence because the news media thinks we are a nation of people who like to look at car accidents on the highway, which, by and large, we are. We’ve been well-trained by 20 years of shock television to mistake clowns and jesters for serious people, and because of that mistake, these people’s deranged opinions and deformed ideas get taken seriously.

Press play to listen to author William Rivers Pitt read his column, “Not So Funny After All”:

Press play to listen to author William Rivers Pitt read his column, “Not So Funny After All”:

The recent victories in Virginia and New Jersey cannot mask the fact that the Republican Party is in deep distress. The so-called “Teabaggers,” organized by the likes of Glenn Beck around spurious claims that Obama is a noncitizen socialist who wants to kill your grandmother – and really, that’s it for them, in a nutshell … plus, he’s black, but don’t tell them that, because it gets them upset – are now the most muscular and active bloc of the GOP. They just made a run at the NY-23 House seat and managed to derail a Republican candidate they deemed too liberal. They are preparing to make a run at Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s 2010 Senate campaign, because he accepted Obama’s stimulus money to keep his state from sliding into the sea, and has been tagged by the ‘Baggers as not being enough of a true conservative. Smart money says the ‘Baggers won’t limit themselves to Florida and New York, either; they smell blood in the water, and are swimming straight for it.

In the short run, this kind of intra-party warfare does nothing but help the Democrats in 2010, especially if the ‘Baggers keep knocking off viable Republicans in the primaries and handing victories to Democrats, which is precisely what happened in the NY-23 race. But then what happens? If the far right manages to completely take over the GOP, then the lunatics will finally be in complete control of the asylum. They will get coverage on every major news network, and they will be mistaken for serious people who should be listened to because, well, they’re on television, right?

Internet society, as it grew, spawned something that came to be known as Godwin’s Law. Basically, the Law dictates that the longer a discussion grows, the more likely it is that someone will make some sort of comparison or association to Hitler, the Nazis and fascism. It also states that whoever uses these to buttress an argument automatically loses that argument. Ergo, caution must be taken when discussing the Teabagger phenomenon, because they absolutely beg to be compared to Brownshirts and angry, brainwashed crowds with arms extended in grainy pre-war film footage. We aren’t there yet, not by a long chalk, but there are far too many examples in history of groups once considered comical becoming powerful over time, and the results have never been pretty. We are not even a year removed from two presidential terms where these exact people represented the ideological core of the government, and the damage they wreaked will take generations to undo.

As digby recently noted on the excellent Hullabaloo blog, “I’m not saying that we should panic. These people are politically weak in their own right. But when I see the liberal gasbags on TV blithely dismissing this as if it’s impossible that Americans could ever fall for such lunacy, I feel a little frisson of alarm. I’ve read too many accounts of people who, 80 or so years ago, complacently made the same assumption. And the whole world found out that under the right circumstances even the most civilized nations can throw in with the crazies.”

These people have been dangerous before, all too often, and have the capacity to be dangerous again. If any additional evidence of this is required, look no further than the rally in Washington, DC, being planned by Gary Cass of something called the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission against the new legislation President Obama recently signed to bolster anti-gay hate crime laws. The rally organizers intend to denounce the new law, and then protest it … by inciting the crowd to commit hate crimes against gay people.

Beyond that are the bumper stickers that have become all the rage, pardon the pun, on the Teabagger circuit. They seem harmless enough; a two-tiered message reads “Pray for Obama” on top, with “Psalm 109:8” below.

Psalm 109:8 reads:

May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.

Psalm 109:9 reads:

May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.

No, not so funny after all.

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