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Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Wingnut Convention

Hail Bush, my minions. Rove speaks at wingnut conference

Among the believers
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, where rabid Bush-worshippers learn that liberals hate America and that we really did find WMD in Iraq.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Michelle Goldberg

Feb. 19, 2005 | WASHINGTON -- It's a good thing I went to the Conservative Political Action Conference this year. Otherwise I never would have known that, despite the findings of the authoritative David Kay report and every reputable media outlet on earth, the United States actually discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, vindicating all of George W. Bush's pre-war predictions. The revelation came not from some crank at Free Republic or hustler from Talon News, but from a congressman surrounded by men from the highest echelons of American government. No wonder the attendees all seemed to believe him.

The crowd at CPAC's Thursday night banquet, held at D.C.'s Ronald Reagan Building, was full of right-wing stars. Among those seated at the long presidential table at the head of the room were Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Dore Gold, foreign policy advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and NRA president Kayne Robinson. Vice President Dick Cheney, a regular CPAC speaker, gave the keynote address. California Rep. Chris Cox had the honor of introducing him, and he took the opportunity to mock the Democrats whose hatred of America led them to get Iraq so horribly wrong.

"America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd," he crowed. Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq." Apparently, most of the hundreds of people in attendance already knew about these remarkable, hitherto-unreported discoveries, because no one gasped at this startling revelation.

And why would they? Like comrades celebrating the success of Mao's Great Leap Forward, attendees at CPAC, the oldest and largest right-wing conference in the country, invest their leaders with the power to defy mere reality through force of insistent rhetoric. The triumphant recent election is all the proof they need that everything George W. Bush says is true. Sure, there's skepticism of the president's wonder-working power among some of the old movement hands -- including the leaders of the American Conservative Union, which puts CPAC on. For much of the rank and file, though, the thousands of blue-blazered students and local activists who come to CPAC each year to celebrate the völkisch virtues of nationalism, capitalism and heterosexuality, Bush is truth. They don rhinestone W brooches and buy mouse pads, posters and T-shirts showing the president as a kind of beefcake Uncle Sam, with flowing white hair and bulging muscles threatening to rend his red, white and blue garments.

It's not only liberals who have noticed that Bush's most committed followers are caught up in the fact-filtering force field of a personality cult. In January, Paul Craig Roberts, assistant secretary of the treasury during the Reagan administration and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal's far-right editorial page, published a damning column in the progressive Z Magazine about fascist tendencies in the conservative movement. "In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush," he wrote. "Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush … Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy."

Which of course, will lead to their ultimate failure.

Part of this is war hysteria, part the last gasp of a dying movement. The extremism of conservatism comes from the lack of ideas. Ending social security is their last great idea. The attack on the new deal is their ultimate and final ideology. There isn't any thing more. And extremism breeds more extremism.

We sometimes forget that they are a minority and in all of the red state bashing, that there are plenty of Republicans who want nothing to do with this Lenninist way of doing politics.

Chris Cox is either a liar or revealing state secrets, since the US doesn't even have the capacity to hunt WMD in Iraq anymore. Those units are now tasked to hunting the resistance, ineptly, but that's their job all the same. My bet is on liar.

But I think liberals have to take a far, far more aggressive stand against these slanders. Some wingnut accused Atrios of hating America, a charge they won't make against Kos because he's a vet. My feeling is that if they make those statements publicly, some of them need to be sued witless. Treason is a crime with a specific criteria, it's not just a cheap way to say they hate Bush.

My stand is clear: if some wingnut accuses me of treason in public, he better have some proof or they get a lawyer letter the next day. The lack of rationality here is scary. When an editor of the WSJ editorial page recoils from their comments, it's something to be concerned about. Not because they're going to form mobs and beat people in the street, but because it makes political discourse that much harder. Much of this is armchair rage. These people organize with words, not beer-drinking clubs who's members march in the streets with flags. A lot of people mistake their words for action, and they are not. When people use cheap words like fascist, it means they have little idea of what a fascist state is. As long as these people keep talking in public, their danger is in the acceptance of their ideas by the larger public. Which is part of a democratic debate. It is when they abandon the political process and embrace extrajudicial violence with no reaction from the government, that it's time to worry and leave. If the CPAC meeting was held in secret, then led to a violent march through Anacostia, then it's time to really worry about the fate of democracy. As long as they play by the rules of the system, they can be challenged and defeated. The one thing we cannot do is laugh at their wingnuttery.

Which is why I laugh when people talk about the values of the US has changed. Compared to what? 1964, when you couldn't marry someone of a different race or go into the Met Musuem if you were black? I mean, Vancouver is a beautiful city, but moving there because of these people is what I consider an overreaction. There is a reason we don't vote on rights. Because at no time would most people vote for them. Once you put it to a vote, expect the status quo to win. Courts protect our rights, not voters.

Too many people took all those votes for Bush to heart as if it was some kind of personal rejection. It wasn't. Some was driven by homophobia and more importantly, the inability to fathom change. I don't think many people oppose gay marriage because they hate gays, but because they find it counterinutative. They've been told their entire lives that marriage was a heterosexual rite, not a political statement, which is what marriage is.

Other people supported Bush because of the illusion he creates of plain speaking. Or because he was president during wartime. Not because they're idolitors who worship the ground he walks on. He's no FDR, that's for sure.

There is a hard core who thinks Bush walks with Jesus. But there are many more people who voted for him because they thought he represented stability during troubled times. Of course, the nasty suprise of Social Security theft is waking people up. The GOP loves to say that the Dems are out of touch, but this plqan, which is also anti-inuative to most people, requires people to assume a level of risk they are clearly uncomfortable with. Bush talks about the glory of the markets, well, most people don't make money in the market and it scares them.

There is a limit to political trust and Bush has walked right into it. While they may trust him about the war, they will not trust him about things they understand. Bush's weaknesses are magnified by this fight. He cannot do this with handpicked audiences and bullying Dems. The stakes are too high and the plan too risky, one even Republicans are trying to avoid supporting.

posted by Steve @ 10:34:00 AM

10:34:00 AM

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