There’s no dispute (at least in my mind) that when it comes to defining a “real” Republican, the inmates are running the asylum. Thanks to the highly visible and highly concentrated minority best represented by habitual viewers of FOX News, listeners to Rush Limbaugh, and subscribers of The Blaze, the party has found itself sunk in dangerous ground, rather like an ostrich that has not only buried its head, but done so in a nest of ground wasps.
Nevertheless, not all Republicans—even traditionally conservative Republicans—are alike. Though you may personally disagree with their approaches, many have sane and rational goals: better education, a capable military, energy independence, responsible immigration policies, and parental rights, for example. Others, however, are far more interested in promoting so-called “facts” and “logic,” used invariably to prove that Obama plans to invade Texas while John Kerry sucks up to the Iranians.
We’ve always known this, of course, and yet too often the concept of “Republican” is collapsed so that thoughtful men we happen to disagree with are conjoined with the latter category, the far-right extremists.
Just yesterday two discrete yet coincidental events served to remind me of this fact.
I was sitting in a hotel room in Hartford, Connecticut where I had journeyed for an early-morning meeting. On my way in I’d grabbed a copy of USA Today, that sort-of newspaper that now seems resigned to existing mostly as a traveler’s freebie. I grab it mostly for the puzzles in the “Life” section, but generally skim through the whole thing. It’s there, after all.
The article that caught my eye was a profile of freshman representative Rod Blum, an Iowa Republican whose approach to his new job is decidedly quixotic. “I think people are really, really tired of what they perceive to be the ruling class,” he said.
You’d be forgiven for assuming he was talking about Obama and/or Hillary Clinton, but he wasn’t. He was talking about himself and his peers. So in addition to a number of traditional GOP issues (which you can review here), he has introduced or co-sponsored some decidedly unpopular legislation, including:
- An end to lawmakers’ access to first-class travel and luxury car leases.
- An end to congressional pensions.
- A lifetime ban on becoming a lobbyist.
- Balanced budgets, via the “Penny Plan.”
- Term limits.
These are actions many might expect from, say, Bernie Sanders, but not from a conservative Iowan, one who also supports repealing the ACA, wants to lower tax rates, and voted for a very conservative version of the federal budget. Still, I think most people would be hard-pressed to call him crazy, even if you don’t like all that he stands for.
For true “crazy,” allow me to share the day’s second event. As I was driving north on Route 84 from Connecticut back into Massachusetts, I passed a car with a large sign attached to it. It referenced someone called “The Rabid Republican,” and offered anyone traveling alongside the opinion that Benghazi was planned and executed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who then lied about it. (Note that the sign didn’t accuse anyone of ineptitude, mind you, but the exact opposite: a conspiracy planned and executed.)
I repeated the words—rabidrepublicanrabidrepublicanrabidrepublican—several times in order to make sure the phrase passed from short-term into long-term memory, and when I got home I went searching for it, quickly finding the Rabid Republican Blog. (Note: I’m not providing a link, as I don’t want to do anything to boost or support the site’s SEO standing.) The first thing that struck me when the page painted was the drawing of a large and rather angry-looking eagle perched atop a stylized star-and-shield banner, an apparent de facto requirement for any so-called patriot’s site.
A quick look at the “about” section offered this information:
Since early 2009 we've been exposing, bashing and mocking traitors, Democrats, and Socialists. We're unabashedly pro-life, pro-2A [2nd Amendment], pro-Constitution, pro-TEA Party, anti-Common Core, and anti-Obama; – because we understand the price that was paid, – both by heroes and by common folk in time, sweat, blood, and tears to give us a free country.
The site is primarily a series of brief yet wacked-out pieces based on the news of the day. We find out, for example, that Obama is responsible for an “inept retreat from Iraq,” the “courting of Iran,” and the “total bumbling of al Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram.” The authors also suggest that Bruce Jenner might be planning to donate his gonads to Obama (since Obama doesn’t have any and Jenner doesn’t want ‘em anymore—seriously… I’m not making this up), and that we should fully expect that the left wing will blame the Nepal earthquakes on fracking.
All of that pales, though, next to this truly repulsive headline:
Texas 2, Muslims 0. Good Shooting. Guys!
The purveyors of this political porn also consider themselves “real” Republicans. I can’t imagine all but the very few and the very extreme agreeing. I certainly can’t imagine Representative Rod Blum doing so.
The bottom line is this (notwithstanding any No True Scotsman argument): Real Republicans want a lot of the same things everyone wants, they just differ (though strongly) with how best to get there. That doesn’t make them “nutjobs” or “wingnuts,” or even worse. People like Rod Blum help to prove that point. On the other hand, there are true crazies out there (potentially dangerous crazies), and they hurt us all. When we collapse “Republican” into one group, when we paint all with a single brush, we fail to isolate those who would truly cause us harm. In fact, we likely give them strength by offering them the credibility that goes with the shelter of a big tent.
Author’s note: For those curious as to the makeup of the GOP, I recommend this article. Approximately 20% of the GOP is comprised of highly conservative/evangelical people, much lower than most would think based on their relative degree of activism. Of this 20%, I would expect that only a subset would find themselves regular readers of the Rabid Republican. In addition, this 2013 survey found that the majority of Republican (and Republican-leaning) people disapproved of the direction in which the party was headed.