The trouble with Republicans

posted 11 November 2008

A couple of recent incidents in the wake of Obama's election have left me wondering just what the hell is wrong with Republicans. Consider this one, talking about Obama's recent "gaffes":

Obama thinks he is a good talker, but he is often undisciplined when he speaks. He needs to understand that as President, his words will be scrutinized and will have impact whether he intends it or not. In this regard, President Bush is an excellent model; Obama should take a lesson from his example. Bush never gets sloppy when he is speaking publicly. He chooses his words with care and precision, which is why his style sometimes seems halting. In the eight years he has been President, it is remarkable how few gaffes or verbal blunders he has committed.

In fairness, if you subscribe to the definition of a gaffe as being "when a politician accidentally tells the truth", then perhaps it's true that George W. Bush was remarkably gaffe-free, because he never told the truth about anything, although I suspect he only gets partial credit because he doesn't seem to even know what the facts are half the time, so he can hardly communicate them to us. However, no verbal blunders whatsoever? How do you rationally express that opinion?

Then there's this little invocation of Godwin's law:

It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, [Obama is] the one who proposed this national security force. I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may -- may not, I hope not -- but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism. That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."

Leaving aside the amusing conflation of Marxism -- a theory which mainly relates to economics and the means of production -- with Hitler-style fascism, this raises a more serious question: is this guy for real? Does he live in the same reality we live in? Does he truly, genuinely believe that Obama's backing of a proposal to establish a civilian corps for nation-building in foreign countries, an idea put forward by George W Bush, constitutes fascism? How can you rationally deal with someone like that? Is our national dialogue going to turn into this:

Left: So we have this new economic plan...
Right: Stealing food out of the mouths of our children! SOCIALISM!
Left: Uh... okay? What's wrong, exactly? Would you like us to change someth--
Right: FASCISM!
Left: Look, we're just trying to negotiate with you here...
Right: APPEASEMENT! Never negotiate with terrorists!
Left: But you're not terrorists...
Right: Now they're accusing us of being terrorists! POLICE STATE!
Left: Sigh. Fine. We'll ignore the economy for now. Can we do something about health care?
Right: KILLS BABIES!
Left: Great.

Now, I know that the right is not alone in having its share of crazies. Especially in San Francisco, where I live, you run into a lot of vegan peaceniks who seriously accuse the republican administrations of times gone by of inventing AIDS and distributing crack to inner cities while planning 9/11. The difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is that in the republican party, the crazies are the ones in charge. Also, note that I say Republicans, not conservatives. There are lots of calm, rational conservatives. But they are not in charge of the Republican party.

It makes it hard to see how everyone's best friend, Barry Obama, is going to bring about the kind of bipartisan unification we are all hoping for. How do you negotiate rationally with someone who is not rational? How do you have an argument about policy with someone who does not even share the same frame of reference, far less the same assumptions about the cause and nature of the problems?

I don't know. But I sure hope Barack does.