Monday, September 21, 2009

Fear factor

By Mustang Bobby

One of the excuses used by the GOP when explaining the teabaggers and the nasty rhetoric from the right wing is that a lot of Americans are scared about what's happening to the country and that people do extreme things when they're scared. That may easily be, but it's also pretty easy to say that when you have been the ones doing the scaring. Just a few examples:

- Dick Cheney, the former vice president, is going on TV and saying the current president isn't keeping the country safe.

- Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate for the Republican ticket in 2008, makes up the concept of "death panels" in the healthcare bill out of thin air. (And she's the one who admonished the media to "stop making stuff up.")

- Glenn Beck calls the president a racist, and he's second only to the biggest mouth in radio saying the same thing.

- Members of Congress are on the record as saying that they aren't sure the president is a native-born citizen and therefore may not really be the president.

- Governors and members of Congress are telling rallies that healthcare insurance reforms -- unlike Social Security, Medicare, the interstate highway system, the FDIC, the FCC, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the ban on late-term abortions -- are unconstitutional intrusions of the federal government into states' rights and therefore they should secede from the union.

Did I leave anything out? And then they are preaching this to a cultivated audience of a portion of the base of their party that they know already has a tenuous grasp on reality, including those who cannot accept the fact that the world might be more than 6,000 years old and the earth revolves around the sun. They get them chanting slogans and using terms like "socialist," "communist," and "fascist" interchangeably, and then they do what they are best at: making people afraid. To quote President Andrew Shepherd from The American President, they are "interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections."

And that, ladies and gentleman, is all they care about. If the Republicans were truly interested in reforming healthcare, they would have been out there with a 1,000 page bill last spring. If they were truly interested in fixing the economy, they would have come up with a budget that was more than four pages of talking points with no dollar amounts. And if they were truly interested in having a civil discussion about bipartisan solutions and putting an end to the vitriol at their town hall meetings, they would have distanced themselves from the birthers and the deathers and the gun-toting whack-jobs with the same amount of full-throated denunciation that they demanded from Mr. Obama over Rev. Wright and Van Jones. But when you've got nothing to offer, fear and loathing is the easy way out, and it works so well. Be afraid of the new, the different, the unknown, the Other. It makes for great news coverage -- not to mention science fiction -- and it sometimes wins elections.

To continue on with President Shepherd's theme, we've got serious problems and we need serious people to solve them. Showing up at the debate with a rodeo clown and former governor who decided she'd rather make more money on a book tour than lead her state is not serious, and it takes an amazing amount of cynicism and perverse pride to think that the American people are gullible enough to buy it.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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