Sunday, August 8, 2010

Conservative politician vindicates TheRaven

Perhaps you thought TheRaven had too much fun at the expense of all those sincere Tea Party folks.

Perhaps you don't agree that Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, Inhofe, et al lead the risible class or that their followers are even more contemptible.

Well, guess what?

A republican congressman from South Carolina now understands. This fellow has a 93% approval rating from the American Conservative Union and he recently lost a primary to a Tea Party candidate. In fact, he got thumped. The final tally ran more than 2:1 in favor of his opponent.

Meet Bob Inglis, a soon to be unemployed, conservative Christian, Republican congressman.

Congressman Inglis unburdens himself in this interview published by Mother Jones. The interview confirms of our worst fears about the Tea Party. If you thought the Tea Party was just innocent silliness, please, don't read any further.

"They (campaign doners) were upset with me" Inglis recalls.

"They are all Glenn Beck watchers

About 90 minutes into the meeting, as he remembers it, They say, 

"Bob, what don't you get?"

"Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn the U.S. into a Muslim nation.'

Inglis didn't know how to respond.

Give Inglis credit for decency. He had previously encouraged constituents to cease watching Glenn Beck. He also called on Joe Wilson to apologize for his unseemly outburst at the President. He's a Christian who actually practices the teachings of Christ. He notes that calling Obama a socialist would violate the 9th commandment.

While he was campaigning, Inglis says, tea party activists and conservative voters kept pushing him to describe Obama as a "socialist." But, he says, "It's a dangerous strategy to build conservatism on information and policies that are not credible...This guy is no socialist.

The Tea Party demographic skews toward older, white voters. One-third of South Carolinians aged 65 or older didn't complete high school vs. 22% who have attained higher education. Sixteen percent of South Carolina's 45-64 age group (one in every six people) also didn't complete high school. South Carolina is not a well-educated state. (Click here for charts covering all age groups)

If the Tea Party attracts a disproportionate number of credulous, uneducated people, we'd expect to hear some really strange myths and superstitions. What did Bob Inglis, the "firebrand conservative", hear from voters?

Shortly before the runoff primary election, Inglis met with about a dozen tea party activists at the modest ranch-style home of one of them. Here's what took place:
I sat down, and they said "on the back of your Social Security card, there's a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life's earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks."
I have this look like, "What the heck are you talking about?" I'm trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative.
So they said, "You don't know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don't know this?!"
And I said, "Please forgive me. I'm just ignorant of these things." And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

Has Inglis seen the light?

Inglis has criticized Republican House leaders for acquiescing to a poisonous, tea party-driven "demagoguery" that he believes will undermine the GOP's long-term credibility. And he's freely recounting his frustrating interactions with tea party types, while noting that Republican leaders are pushing rhetoric tainted with racism, that conservative activists are dabbling in anti-Semitic conspiracy theory nonsense, and that Sarah Palin celebrates ignorance.

You might be thinking that Inglis is just another politician who lost and this is nothing but sour grapes. Perhaps, but his conservatism is genuine and his story has the ring of truth.

"I hated Bill Clinton. I wanted to destroy him. Then I had six years out (after leaving Congress in 1999) to look back on that, and now I would confess it as a sin. It is just wrong to want to destroy another human being and to spend so much time and effort trying to destroy Bill Clinton—some of it with really suspect information."

Even though Inglis had previously won six congressional elections since 1992, perhaps his story is pertinent only to South Carolina.

"We're being driven as herd by these hot microphones—which are like flame throwers—that are causing people to run with fear and panic, and Republican members of Congress are afraid of being run over by that stampeding crowd." 

Inglis says that it's hard for Republicans in Congress to "summon the courage" to say no to Beck, Limbaugh, and the tea party wing. "When we start just delivering rhetoric and more misinformation...we're failing the conservative movement," he says. "We're failing the country." 

Yet, he notes, Boehner and House minority whip Eric Cantor have one primary strategic calculation: Play to the tea party crowd. "It's a dangerous strategy," he contends, "to build conservatism on information and policies that are not credible."

Republican weakness in the face of mass ignorance shows that political machines can't learn new tricks. The Democrat party followed an old playbook by nominating Al Gore in 2000. Bill Bradley would have been the inspired choice. Eight subsequent years cause anyone who remembers Bradley to wonder what could have happened if the Dems had a clue. The Democrat party subsequently doubled down with John Kerry, a politician even more lacking in personality, charisma and credibility than Al Gore. The Democrats co-own the 43rd President. It took an unknown outsider to turn the Democrat machine in a new direction.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. Instead of feeble Democrat attempts at the moral high-ground we have the Republican party drowning in its own quicksand. Decades of cynical appeal to so-called values created an environment ripe for takeover by media demagogues. Having traded away legitimate positions for swift-boat style politics, the Republicans are now in no position to appeal to reason over racism, ignorance and hate.

Can it get worse?

Inglis points out that some conservatives believe that any issue affecting the Earth is "the province of God and will not be affected by human activity. If you talk about the challenge of sustainability of the Earth's systems, it's an affront to that theological view."

A lot worse.


UPDATE: 8/26/10 - Timothy Egan weighs in at the New York Times with a pitch-perfect critique of American ignorance. Early in the 21st century, we're reliving the 19th. A growing number of people who think for a living are climbing on TheRaven's bandwagon, for a War on Stupid.

1 comment:

  1. How does TheRaven pull that wagon?

    Anyway, did you see the vid Goldblog posted of California Congressman Bob Filner under attack from both the TeaPer and his supporters?

    Freakin' awful.