Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hatred in America and the future of the GOP


I know I'm not the first person to notice how mean the GOP has become ever since the Tea Party started calling the shots. Now, you may say that none of this will matter, at least electorally, because so many people are sufficiently frightened about their own future that meanness is okay with them. I just don't think so. I not only choose to believe that the majority of people want to see themselves as compassionate, but that they will become very uncomfortable with too much ugliness in politics and shrink from those who seem to encourage it.

So, what has led Steve Benen and others to point out the current unpleasantness in the GOP? Here are just a few examples from recent GOP presidential debates: 

Wolf Blitzer posed a hypothetical scenario to Ron Paul, asking about a young man who makes a good living, but decides to forgo health insurance. Then, tragedy strikes and he needs care. Paul stuck to the libertarian line. "But congressman," the moderator said, "are you saying that society should just let him die?"

And at that point, some in the audience shouted, "Yeah," and applauded. 

Even Rick Perry said afterwards that he was "taken aback" by cheers from the crowd on this one.

Speaking of Perry, his defence of his policy in Texas to provide educational opportunities for the children of illegal immigrants made him a target of a crowd that normally loved everything he had to say. It seemed for a moment that they might advance on him

What's more, note that in last week's debate, the mere observation that Perry has signed off on the executions of 234 people in Texas, more than any other governor in modern times, was enough to generate applause from a different GOP audience.

Come to think of it, Perry didn't seem overly worried about that response.

I'm just saying that the kind of red meat that these radical conservatives seem to want is, I believe, going to be too much for those all important swing voters, and, I think, the GOP establishment knows it and is worried about it.

This isn't about differences in attitude about policy. People do disagree about what we should do about the uninsured, and the death penalty, and the children of illegal immigrants. But the spitefulness, the, let's call it what it is, the hatred expressed in outbursts like the ones noted above are not only an indication of a warped sense of values, but they are held by people who most of the rest of us would rather not be near, given a choice.

We can disagree about what to do about difficult problems, but, as human beings, we should recognize the tragedy in so many of these situations and not cheer or seethe at the predicament of others.

It's not surprising that the Tea Party, as a movement, is increasingly unpopular with Americans. If we wake up soon enough we may even realize in time that this sort of vicious individualism is not who we are as a nation.

That's what I hope.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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