Here is the beginning of, and some excerpts from, a great column from Johann Hari
that I've already mentioned elsewhere
on this site, but which deserves to be noted again.
The Republican Party Is Turning Into A Cult
Something strange has happened in America in the nine months since Barack Obama was elected. It has best been summarized by the comedian Bill Maher: "The Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved to a mental hospital."
The election of Obama -- a center-left black man -- as a successor to George W. Bush has scrambled the core American right's view of their country. In their gut, they saw the US as a white-skinned, right-wing nation forever shaped like Sarah Palin. When this image was repudiated by a majority of Americans in a massive landslide, it simply didn't compute. How could this have happened? How could the cry of "Drill, baby, drill" have been beaten by a supposedly big government black guy? So a streak that has always been there in the American right's world-view -- to deny reality, and argue against a demonic phantasm of their own creation -- has swollen. Now it is all they can see.
Since Obama's rise, the US right has been skipping frantically from one fantasy to another, like a person in the throes of a mental breakdown. It started when they claimed he was a secret Muslim, and -- at the same time -- that he was a member of a black nationalist church that hated white people. Then, once these arguments were rejected and Obama won, they began to argue he was born in Kenya and secretly smuggled into the United States as a baby, and the Hawaiian authorities conspired to fake his US birth certificate. So he is ineligible to rule and the office of President should pass to... the Republican runner-up, John McCain.
These aren't fringe phenomena ...
These claims have become so detached from reality that they often seem like black comedy. The right-wing magazine US Investors' Daily claimed that if Steven Hawking had been British, he would have been allowed to die at birth by its "socialist" healthcare system. Hawking responded with a polite cough that he is British, and "I wouldn't be here without the NHS." Frank Laffer, the right-wing economist lauded by David Cameron, claimed on CNN that it would be a disaster if the government got its hands on Medicare, the program providing healthcare for the elderly, paid for entirely by... the government.
This tendency to simply deny inconvenient facts and invent a fantasy-world isn't new; it's only becoming more heightened. It ran through the Bush years like a dash of bourbon in water. When it became clear Saddam Hussein had no Weapons of Mass Destruction, the US right simply claimed they had been shipped to Syria. When the scientific evidence for man-made global warming became unanswerable, they claimed, as one Republican congressman put it, that it was "the greatest hoax in human history", and all the world's climatologists were "liars". The American media then presents itself as an umpire between "the rival sides", as if they both had evidence behind them.
It's a shame, because there are some areas in which a conservative philosophy -- reminding us of the limits of grand human schemes, and advising caution -- could be a useful corrective. But that's not these what so-called "conservatives" are providing: instead, they are pumping up a hysterical fantasy, that is only a thin skin covering raw economic interests and base prejudices.
For many of the people at the top, this is mere cynical manipulation: one of Bush's former advisors, David Kuo, has said the President and Karl Rove would mock evangelicals as "nuts" as soon as they left the Oval Office. But the ordinary Republican base believe it. They are being cruelly manipulated into opposing their own interests through false fears and invented demons. Last week, one of the Republicans sent to disrupt a healthcare town hall started a fight and was injured -- and then complained he had no health insurance. I didn't laugh; I wanted to weep.
Indeed, if you spend any time with American right-wingers -- as I have, reporting undercover on events like the National Review cruise and the Christian Coalition Solidarity Tour of Israel -- you soon find that your arguments don't center on philosophy. You have to concentrate on correcting basic factual errors about the real world.
There are many substantiating links in the above which I was too lazy to copy over -- please visit the original article
to see them.
The one I did reproduce points to an article I've noted elsewhere
, and merits special attention.
[Added] I am definitely stealing his last line (not quoted here). This notice shall make me immune from any charges of plagiarism.