When exactly did conservatives in America go completely insane and start barking at the moon?
It must have been while I wasn't looking. I mean, I'm old enough to remember when being a conservative in this country meant having a well-defined platform of ideas - ideas based squarely on the facts at hand. I can't say I've ever had much truck with many of those ideas, really. The facts at hand can be interpreted a number of ways, and while I respected their positions I never saw much merit in the interpretations conservatives made of those facts. To be blunt, even as a child many of their positions struck me as obvious nonsense, and having spent the better part of the last quarter century studying American political history I now hold many of the same opinions for much more sophisticated reasons.
I've never had much patience for states' rights people, for example, since history has been fairly clear on the fact that your rights are far safer in the care of the federal government than they are with the states. Read James Madison's Federalist #10 if you want to know the reasons why. Madison provides a powerful insight into modern politics for someone writing over two hundred years ago. It took the federal government to get rid of slavery, guarantee free speech and curb the power of the rapacious few over the rest of us. Further, it was the federal government that took the formaldehyde out of the milk supply, built the interstate highway system, and kept people from starving during the Great Depression.
On the other hand, not all conservative positions have run afoul of my "nonsense-o-meter." I'm not particularly averse to the use of the military when the situation requires, though as with any instrument it needs to be used well or it can hurt the user more than the target. And fiscal responsibility - long a conservative war cry - was always something I thought ought to be practiced by governments, though whether that meant cutting spending or raising income was open to debate. If you want a program, you should be willing to raise the taxes to pay for it. If you're not willing to do that, maybe you don't want it that badly. Either way, keeping the budget balanced should be the goal, at least in the absence of a compelling emergency such as a complete economic meltdown or a major war THAT YOU DIDN'T START.
But over the last decade or two, it seems to me that the right wing of American society and politics has taken the Crazy Bus to Treasonville.
I'm not even going to get into the sheer idiocy of what passes for public policy on the right wing these days. While probably more dangerous to the country's well being in the long run, it doesn't rise to the standard of treason. It's just malicious stupidity, and that's legal.
As a scholar of the Constitutional era, I do not use the word treason lightly. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the United States, not the outdated inconvenience to power that conservatives seem to think it is, and as such its words need to be taken seriously. In Article 3, Section 3, it says that "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
It does not mean, as a number of conservative mouthpieces seem to think, "advocating policies with which the present writer disagrees."
I spent most of the last eight years being called unAmerican and a traitor to my country because I could clearly see that the Bush Lite administration was a train wreck. It took the largest budget surplus in human history and turned it into the largest budget deficit in human history in less than three years, even without counting the war in Iraq, which was fought off-book until the Obama administration decided that federal spending ought to be public information. Part of the reason Obama's deficit looks so bad is that for the first time in eight years we have an honest account of expenses. The Bush administration took the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and declared it invalid, on the grounds that warrantless wiretaps were just so darned convenient. It did its level best to subvert the Separation of Powers through selective enforcement of the law. It knowingly started a war on false pretenses, and then botched it so badly that my grandchildren will probably be serving there. And that's just the things I can think of off the top of my head. A little research would yield more, but it would also depress me for days and so I won't go there.
Throughout this debacle, conservatives kept up the drumbeat of "treason," telling me that my simply noting these things was betraying our founding principles, when in fact it was confirming them. Telling me that I was weakening our country, when in fact I was strengthening it. Becoming more shrill, more screechy and more insane by the day until finally it became impossible to believe anything they said. Bush, Cheney, DeLay, Bachman, Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck - the list goes on and on, and I wouldn't trust them to tell me the weather, let alone run the country or judge my actions.
Noting that the emperor has no clothes does not count as treason in this country, no matter how many times conservatives have tried to tell me otherwise. Trying to become an emperor might, but that's a call that I'm not about to make here. Another rant for another time.
I'm not accusing the Bush administration of treason. The fact that he was, without question or even serious competition, the worst President in American history - and in a nation that elected James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding that is quite an achievement - makes him, well, the worst President in American history. That's not treason. That's just maliciously stupid.
Sarah Palin, in her continuing quest to become the mouthpiece of the far right wing of the Republican Party, is not a traitor. She's a quitter. Yes, that's pretty well documented by now. She's also a liar, as evidenced by her refusal to give up on the whole "death panel" thing even though it has been conclusively disproven. I've read that section of Obama's proposal myself - it's not there, and no matter how many times she says it or how many times conservatives try to believe it, it's still not there. She's also got a head full of ideas that would take the country generations to recover from should they ever get a chance to be practiced in the real world instead of the conservative echo chamber that is her universe these days. But none of that is treason. It's just maliciously stupid. And that's legal in this country.
But since Obama was elected, Teh Stoopid has turned to treason.
High ranking Republicans in Texas and Georgia have called for secession, on the admirably grown-up grounds that they are no longer getting their way and therefore deserve to take their marbles and go home. Secession is treason - it is levying war on the United States, and should be punished swiftly and severely. Why those people have not been shot, I do not know. No Republican to my knowledge has disavowed these calls, despite the fact that they originated from within their own party, from people high up in their own organizations. Perhaps this ought to be looked into. You can't help having idiots on your own side, but you really ought to try to differentiate yourself from them if you can.
Death threats against the President have increased over 400% since Obama was elected, according to MSNBC.com. Threatening to kill the President is treason - it is levying war against the United States, and should be punished swiftly and severely. These threats have been bandied about quite openly by conservative leaders, none of whom to my knowledge have disavowed them. They seem to draw some perverse pleasure from them, really. Such good Americans they are, delighting in treason. It reflects well on their party. Or well reflects. Whichever.
Conservative bloggers - some of them in quite "respectable" websites - have openly called for a military coup against Obama, again on the grounds that they are no longer getting what they want and deserve to take their marbles and yours as well. I've read this nonsense, and it sickens me. That these people assume that the legitimately elected President of the United States is simply an obstacle to be removed so that they can continue to follow the failed policies of their favorites is an outrage. It is treason - it is levying war on the United States, and it should be punished swiftly and severely. To my knowledge, none of these bloggers has been rebuked by anyone in the Republican Party despite the fact that they are using the Republican name to gain credibility for their platform. I know if people used my name to make such statements, I'd want to take that name back and clean it off.
And on, and on, and on.
A report published in April 2009 by the Department of Homeland Security - not the most left-wing group in the government, really, no matter who sits in the Oval Office - notes that right-wing extremism has risen considerably in the last year. But things didn't reach this point overnight. There was no switch that suddenly flipped over in early November last year and changed these people into the dangerous fools they are. No, this sort of thing takes time to develop - it has to fester in the dark and humid corners of society for years, or even decades.
When did this happen?
When right-wing militias popped up in the 1970s and 80s? When the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed by right-wing bombers? When it became okay to threaten the life of a President, as Jesse Helms did to Bill Clinton?
And it isn't a matter of "well, both sides have their lunatics." No, it's not, and I would appreciate it if conservatives would stop talking that nonsense right now. Right wing extremism has been far more violent than left-wing extremism in this country for decades, according to statistics compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It's the conservative side of the aisle that houses the biggest threats to my country these days, and there is simply no equivalent on the left anymore - hasn't been since the mid1970s and doesn't look like one's coming down the pike anytime soon either. There are no left-wing militias in this country anymore. There have been no left-wing bombings in decades. There were far fewer threats against the President made by left wing extremists during the entire Bush Lite administration than right wing extremists since November of 2008, and those were often disavowed by responsible people on the left in a way that has not happened when the shoe is on the other foot.
This all has to stop.
But it won't, not until conservatives take ownership of their lunatic fringe and clamp down on it.
The vast majority of conservatives aren't traitors - they are simply people who have ideas about how the country ought to be run that are different from the ideas currently in power. Ideas that haven't worked very well over the last few decades when they have held power, but ideas that are part of the mainstream of American belief nonetheless. These people need to stand up for their civility and their country. Right-wing extremists already know the rest of us non-conservatives think they're scum, so they won't listen to us. But if the people they hope to convert - the conservatives out there who still argue real ideas based on real facts, who understand that politics is about winning and losing and that next time out they might win, who know that levying war against the United States is treason and are horrified by the thought - if those people stand firm against this tide, then there is hope.
But not until then.
I'm not sure why this issue has ticked me off so much today of all days, but there it is.