Just when I thought the Republican Party couldn’t lower its standards any further, we’re treated to the spectacle of audience members cheering — cheering — at a recent Republican presidential candidate debate where Gov. Rick Perry mentioned the high number of executions in Texas.
Whatever one thinks about capital punishment, to enthusiastically applaud another’s death is nasty, callous and frightening. Sadly, those three words seem to sum up the direction that the Republican Party has been heading for 30 years. It started with the self-righteous and hypocritical “family values” campaign of the 1980s, led by philandering “do as I say, not as I do” Newt Gingrich. The process has accelerated since 9/11, when the Bush-Cheney administration’s brand of paranoia gave rise to a sprawling, secret security state that should scare the average American.
Now, sadly, we have the tea party. Cranky, bellicose, provincial and proud of it, its members would once have constituted the misanthropic “Know Nothing” fringe of the Republican Party. Instead, they’re now leading the party by the nose — blustering, bullying, and bellyaching every inch of the way — and holding us all hostage to their “bring it on” and “take no prisoners” mentality. They remind me of the wild-eyed segregationists of the 1960s who were so enamored of their worldview that they suffered not a moment’s shame when spitting on or beating up peaceful demonstrators, on camera no less. (In today’s version, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell seem to share the role of Bull Connor.)
Tea partyers appear to be convinced that this country is theirs alone. The economic well-being of a few hundred million fellow citizens doesn’t matter one jot, not when Congress can be held up at gun by a fake debt ceiling “crisis” and other smug displays of political brinksmanship. Such antics are disgusting when millions of Americans are hurting.
It’s time for tea partyers to hop off the high horse. The rest of us do matter. As do decent manners. The democratic process. Rational public discourse. Intelligent compromise. And the greater good.
Bring it on.