Thursday, February 02, 2012

Gingrichism and the Republican Party

The conventional wisdom, in this case one with some firm base in reality, is that Willard "Mitt" Romney will win the Republican nomination for the Presidency.

The general election will almost certainly be a tough, competitive one. This is the first Presidential election in the "Citizen's United" era. That disgraceful Supreme Court decision vastly increases the means for the wealthy to buy control of the political process, even as democratic forms are maintained. Not that Republicans are sticking with strict democratic forms. The various voter-suppression laws and tactics that have become standard operating procedure for the Republicans will also be widespread. The Southern segregation system was heavily based on voter-suppression tactics. This stuff is straight out of the segregationist playbook. The segregated South maintained democratic forms, as well, though the substance was very different.

Charlie Pierce reminds us how much Newt Gingrich has influenced the Republican Part of today, even though it's unlikely to crown him with a Presidential nomination, in Gingrichism Will Go Down with Gingrich, Damnit! Esquire Politics Blog 01/31/2012:

Over the past couple of days, Gingrich has been haring chaotically all over Florida, his attacks on Willard Romney becoming more and more virulent. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Just yesterday, he ripped Romney for once vetoing funds that would have been used to provide kosher meals to Jewish nursing-home residents in Massachusetts (Really, Willard? What a putz.) and for not allowing Catholic hospitals the "conscience" parachute to deny rape victims emergency contraception. These actions, said Gingrich, evinced "a lack of concern for religious liberty." (Translation: mormonmormonmormonmormon....) The spokesman for the Gingrich super-PAC called Romney "a disgraceful and despicable candidate," which at least proves that the spokesman has learned well from the master.

This is the loud, clattering end of the Gingrich style in American politics — a technique of attack politics in which you can say almost anything about almost anyone today, and it doesn't matter if you said something different yesterday, and it doesn't matter if you are stone guilty of exactly the same thing of which you are accusing the other person, and it doesn't matter if what you're saying is even remotely tethered to the truth. All that matters is that you are saying it. Today. With all the contemptuous brio you can muster. This is what Newt Gingrich taught a generation of Republican politicians.
One of the interesting symptoms of today's Republican culture warriors is that their images of the dirty hippies antiwar protesters of the 1960s. Some of their images of the same bear some superficial relation to actual history. Others are more in the category of urban folklore, perhaps treasured all the more because of that. One of the favorite in the latter category is the tale of hippie girls spitting on soldiers and protesters calling veterans "baby-killers". So far as anyone has been able to determine, the spitting story is purely imagined. And the "baby-killer" epithet was normally directed at policy-makers when it was used, as in the chant, "Hey, hey, LBJ/How many kids did you kill today?" Except of course for someone like war criminal Lt. William Calley, who Nixon turned into a hero for hardcore culture warriors of the time by commuting his sentence, which was based on his deliberate, systematic murder of unarmed men, women and children - yes, including babies - at My Lai/Sơn Mỹ village.

But "baby killer" has become a routine accusation of abortion opponents, not only against staff at abortion clinics but at policymakers, as well. Pierce caught Newt in an ugly version of this in Florida:

Gingrich stated his opposition to all forms of embryonic stem-cell research, calling for a re-instatement of a ban that was lifted by the Obama administration. He also expressed some doubts about certain practices involved in in vitro fertilization. So far, so wingnut. ... So far, so campaign. But what sent the speech spiraling into an intellectual no-fly zone was the motive ascribed by Gingrich to the scientists who developed, and who currently practice, stem-cell research.

In working with stem-cells, Gingrich said, these scientists were enabling "the use of science to desensitize society over the killing of babies."

Breathtaking.

You could argue that stem-cell research represents hubristic overreach on the part of the scientists. You could argue that those scientists are fundamentally amoral and that they are only in it for the pot of gold that waits for whoever finds a way to use stem cells to cure some horrendous disease. ...

But consider, for a moment, what Gingrich said. He accused these scientists not of hubris or cupidity, and he did not accuse them of idly casting aside the philosophical considerations of their work. He is saying that these scientists, and their work, are deliberately engaged in a campaign to make the "killing of babies" easier in American society, that their grand design is not fame and fortune, nor ridding the world of terrible illness, but, rather, that they are in service to a dark agenda to turn America into some kind of futuristic child-killing dystopia. I'm sorry, but this is just nuts. I mean, I've heard the argument that climate scientists have invented the "hoax" of global climate change in order to get rich, but that's a nursery rhyme compared to what Gingrich is dealing out here.
This is your Republican Party on Oxycontin (aka, hillbilly heroin, chief Party ideologue Rush Limbaugh's one-time drug of choice).

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